COVID-19 Update #3 From Representative Dykema

New Updates as of March 19th

Below is a summary of the most recent efforts to respond to the wide range of needs in our communities. For a summary of previously issued guidance and state restrictions related to the coronavirus epidemic, visit here.

Coronavirus Testing and Healthcare Access

  • MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, is in line to receive an additional $1.08 billion under a federal coronavirus relief package that was finalized Wednesday. In increasingly uncertain economic times, ensuring that MassHealth has the ability or enroll newly-eligible families and serve its existing population is critical. Read more here.
  • The state is rapidly increasing its ability to test for COVID-19 in public and private labs. As of 4pm today, at least 3,158 Massachusetts residents have been tested (resulting in 328 confirmed cases), and state officials are hopeful that by next week, we can be conducting close to 3,500 tests per day. 

Workforce and Unemployment

  • I have received several inquiries from constituents about the availability of unemployment assistance for self-employed or independent contractor workers. At this time, it’s my understanding that assistance is not available until the President makes a disaster declaration for Massachusetts, or the entire country, authorizing disaster unemployment assistance. However, I recognize that ensuring support for those who may face unemployment is a pressing concern.

Small Business

  • The federal Small Business Administration approved the Governor’s request to grant emergency disaster relief loans to small businesses. Now, all small businesses and non-profits in Massachusetts (previously only 5 counties) are eligible for low-interest loans up to $2 million. Applications can be found here.
  • Today, the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission has issued guidance extending the credit terms for liquor licensees on all invoices issued on or after Jan. 18. The deadline to pay these invoices will be extended from 60 to 90 days.
  • Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil have suspended service disconnections due to non-payment for residential and business customers for the duration of the crisis.

Education

  • The Department of Early and Secondary Education has successfully obtained a federal waiver to allow schools located in areas of high food insecurity to continue offering meal services while closed. Many schools have adopted local “grab and go” policies for students needing free or reduced-price lunches.
  • To find a listing of all sites offering meal service to Massachusetts children during times of school closure, visit https://meals4kids.org/schoolclosure.

Child Care

  • Effective Monday, March 23rd, the Department of Early Education and Care has ordered the suspension of all child care operations for EEC-licensed facilities until April 6th (aligned with K-12 closures). The Department is working on developing a system to provide emergency child care services to families frontline health and safety personnel. More info can be found here.
  • Interested licensed providers looking to participate in the emergency child care program can begin the expedited approval process through this online form.

Other Services

  • The Legislature has written to the state Commissioner of Banks formally requesting that the state offer financial hardship emergency protections to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, including ordering the suspension of evictions, foreclosures, and debt collection practices. While this is an ongoing dialogue between the Legislature and the administration, you can read the letter in full here.
  • During these stressful times, it’s more important than ever to reach out if you need help. You can access the statewide Call2Talk program for mental health, emotional support, and suicide prevention by dialing 2-1-1. Call2Talk is also available by calling 508-532-2255 or by texting C2T to 741741.

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