COVID-19 Update #4 and 5 From Representative Dykema

New Updates as of March 21st#5

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 mass.gov/coronavirus. For previous updates visit carolyndykema.com/covid19.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE VIRTUAL TOWN HALLS

If you have questions about the process for filing an unemployment claim, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance will be hosting virtual town hall meetings. Participants will get step-by-step instructions on filing an unemployment claim and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Applicants should file for benefits at https://www.mass.gov/unemployment-insurance-ui-online

The first virtual town hall will be held this Sunday, March 22nd, at 3:30pm. Sign up to participate at 

www.mass.gov/unemployment/townhall. A Spanish language town hall will be held on Tuesday at 9am and additional language town halls shortly thereafter. 

A new website with a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook can be viewed here.

Coronavirus Testing and Healthcare

  • Today, the state Dept. of Public Health reported that 5,277 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Massachusetts since Feb. 29 by the state public health lab and 2,246 by commercial and other labs. 112 new cases announced today brings the total number of cases in Massachusetts to 525.
  • Gov. Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh are in conversations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers around identifying, retrofitting, and using college dorms, closed nursing homes and other facilities as extra medical treatment capacity.

Education

  • Governor Baker announced Saturday that the state has more than 300 locations ready to provide emergency child care for health care providers, grocery store employees, and other essential workers beginning Monday. More information will be on the Dept. of Early Education and Care website tomorrow morning.
  • Governor Baker has issued an executive order extending licenses for certain licensed professionals, including licensed educators. The order states that a license that is “in good standing” as of March 18, 2020, and that has expired or will expire during the state of emergency, is now extended and will remain valid until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency.

Transportation 

  • The MBTA announced Saturday morning that buses and street-level trolley stops will begin to use rear-door boarding in an attempt to limit contact between drivers and passengers during the coronavirus outbreak. Passengers with accessibility needs, including seniors, can still use the front doors, but all others will be asked only to use the back doors to enter buses, Green Line above-ground trains and the Mattapan Line trolleys. Visit mbta.com/coronavirus for full details.

Nutrition Assistance

  • If you or your loved ones are experiencing food insecurity during this time, the Greater Boston Food Bank has an online food pantry locator tool covering 190 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts. Visit https://www.gbfb.org/need-food/ for more info.
  • If you have the means and would like to donate to your local food pantry, please see the local food pantry contact information below.

New Updates as of March 20th – #4

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

  • Attorney General Maura Healey released emergency regulations today prohibiting price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Previously under the state’s consumer protection law, the only existing regulation related to price gouging addressed the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products.
  • Secretary Sudders announced that MassHealth is immediately suspending the redetermination process for MassHealth and Connector subscribers and ensuring that all those previously eligible continue to have care.
  • Under new guidance, many healthcare facilities are successfully piloting telehealth services for both physical and mental health, providing new options for care in a safe environment. 
  • The Governor has filed for a federal waiver that will, if approved, allow fast tracked enrollment in MassHealth, facilitate service delivery, and allow for non-traditional health approaches such as use of temporary tents for health delivery. It will also allow out-of-state providers to provide care and PAs to provide care independently.
  • Last night the Governor activated the National Guard. The Guard will assist with logistics and support 24/7 operations related to coronavirus response efforts. They may also fill in for municipal public safety employees who may need to be quarantined.
  • If you or anyone you know has access to or is able to manufacture protective and other medical equipment (including face masks, shields, and ventilators), please contact our office. UMass Memorial-Marlborough has put out a request for supplies and/or distribution sources.
  • Statewide, MassBio has put together a Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub to solicit donations of medical supplies. More information available here. In the past 24 hours, 200 organizations including dentists and universities have responded with donations and more are needed.

Workforce and Unemployment

  • Today the IRS announced that all federal tax filings for those making less than $1 million per year will receive a 90-day extension; this moves Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. Click here for more information.
  • The President announced this afternoon that he is directing the Secretary of Education to suspend repayment of all federal student loans for at least 60 days. More information will be available soon.
  • The Governor announced today that protections will be released in the coming days relative to renters and mortgage holders. Court closures mean that no foreclosures will advance through the courts until at least April 21. 
  • Earlier this week, the state Housing Court announced that all non-emergency evictions would be suspended in the coming weeks. More info here.

Small Business

  • The Lt. Governor announced today that due to overwhelming demand for the new small business emergency loan program, $10m is being added to the fund for disbursement. Visit here for more information on the application process.
  • The Dept. of Revenue has supplemented its previous announcement relative to meals and excise tax deferrals, and today announced that it will waive late file and late payment penalties for meals and room tax obligations, in support of restaurants and hotels. For more information on DOR actions, visit here.
  • The U.S. Small Business Association has released guidance for applying for Economic Injury Disaster Loans after Massachusetts received federal approval earlier this week. Please visit the SBA’s Disaster guidance web page: www.sba.gov/disaster for more info. Small business applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications to mail in forms at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. 

Nutrition Assistance

  • If you or your loved ones are experiencing food insecurity during this time, the Greater Boston Food Bank has an online food pantry locator tool covering 190 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts. Visit https://www.gbfb.org/need-food/ for more info. More information on our local food pantries can be found below.
  • If you have the means and would like to donate to your local food pantry, please see the local food pantry contact information below.

Other Services

  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles has announced a series of staggered extensions to expired vehicle registrations and inspections. If your car is due for inspection in the coming months or has failed an inspection, find more info here.

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