COVID-19 Update # 25 From Representative Dykema

April 11 Coronavirus Update

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I hope you were able to get outside for some fresh air.  While some of the larger parking facilities at state parks and beaches are closed to ensure social distancing, there are still many local trails where you can get a taste of the outdoors and the relaxation that comes with exercise and sun. This website has some great ideas for local walks and hikes.

Coronavirus Testing and Response

Source: State House News Service
  • There are 22,860 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 2,120  hospitalizations and 686 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • For a breakdown of cases by county, age, and now race/ethnicity, check here
  • This data is also now available in a dynamic model.
  • The State Public Health Laboratory and private testing facilities have now conducted over 108,776 tests for COVID-19. At this point, over 7,000 tests are being conducted on a daily basis.

Health Care

  • Front line grocery workers have been prioritized along with first responders for COVID-19 testing. Grocery workers can be tested, regardless of whether they are symptomatic, by appointment at one of the two specially dedicated drive-through test sites for first responders in Foxborough across from Gillette Stadium and at the Big E in West Springfield. Workers should make an appointment through their supervisor. 
  • The Governor has authorized the activation of an additional 3,000 National Guard soldiers to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response, raising the total authorization to up to 5,000 members statewide. Guardsmen and women may be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing and related duties and providing support to cities and towns. 
  • Health care professionals and others with area expertise looking to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 either by volunteering or applying for COVID-19 specific work can now search for opportunities at one location: https://mass.gov/joincovidteam.

Education

  • After passage of legislation and authorization from the federal government, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education formally waived the MCAS requirement for the current school year.

Legislation 

  • A bill has been filed to require the administration to disclose more statistics and information about the impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes.
  • The legislature has established a conference committee to reconcile two versions of legislation (H.4615 and S.2631) that prevent evictions and foreclosures during the state of emergency.
  • Legislation has been filed to decrease the number of signatures candidates for US Congress and US Senate are required to submit in order to get on the ballot for September’s primary and the general election in November. 

Small Business

  • The MetroWest Chamber of Commerce is offering a free webinar on April 17th at 10am to provide information to businesses on effective ways to use social media during COVID-19. Interested parties can register online

Resources for Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income

COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families. There are a number of state resources and supports available to support workers who may find themselves unemployed or otherwise income-constrained during this uncertain time. 

For your convenience, you can find a guide of resources and information at: https://carolyndykema.com/covid19-state-resources/.

New Guidance on Unemployment Assistance


Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation:

  • What is it? An additional $600 per week for those collecting unemployment.
  • When is it in effect? For all weekly unemployment claims from March 29 to July 31.
  • Next steps: No additional action is required from those already receiving unemployment assistance. New claimants will automatically receive this benefit once approved.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance:

  • What is it? Unemployment benefits for those who would not normally be eligible – including self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and “gig economy” workers.
  • When is it in effect? For all unemployment claims beginning February 2, ending prior to December 26.
  • Next steps: The state is working as quickly as possible to put a system in place to process what is expected to be a large volume of new claims. The system is scheduled to be online by April 30, at which time applications can be submitted online. Once a claim is approved, benefits will be paid retroactively to February 2 to those who qualify.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation:

  • What is it? A 13-week extension to the normal 26 weeks of benefits per calendar year that Massachusetts residents in the unemployment insurance system receive for those who have exhausted their existing benefits.
  • When is it in effect? For anyone who has exhausted benefits and is still unemployed during weeks between March 29 and December 26.
  • Next steps: No action at this time. Those who are eligible should continue to check for updates as the state is still awaiting federal guidance.

DUA is experiencing roughly 18x the normal volume of unemployment claims, and they have rapidly increased their customer service staff from 50 employees to over 600 remote employees working 7 days a week. Despite this increase, I know that this process may still cause frustration and anxiety for those waiting on responses to claims or resolutions of issues. As claim volumes continue to rise and new populations become eligible, the department is working to address the many logistical challenges that this crisis has created.

For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/update-massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-announces-guidance-on-cares.

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