APRIL 4, 2020
Today marks the end of the fourth calendar week where Massachusetts has been under a State of Emergency because of the coronavirus outbreak. Here's an update from our State House office.
Our top priority this week was securing passage of legislation filed by Rep. Connolly and Housing Co-Chair Kevin Honan to impose a moratorium on residential evictions, commercial evictions, and residential foreclosures for the duration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency and for 30 days after the emergency ends.
We are pleased and grateful to report this legislation passed the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon. More coverage of this effort to protect renters, homeowners, and our local businesses can be found here on our State House blog and in the Cambridge Chronicle or the Somerville Journal. The bill now moves to the State Senate, and Rep. Connolly is hopeful it will reach the Governor's desk early next week.
Calling on Governor Baker to shutdown all non-essential construction and do more to protect workers
On Thursday, Rep. Connolly led an effort with nearly 40 other state and city officials to call on Governor Baker to take further action to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts by: 1) shutting down all non-essential construction work; 2) creating a process for workers and the general public to request that a certain job or service be removed from the "Essential Services" list, and 3) issuing a stronger Stay-At-Home Order.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Building Trades Council has unanimously voted to call on Governor Baker to shut down all nonessential construction as well, and the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters is now calling on it's 10,000 members to stage a walkout on Monday, citing safety concerns relative to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
A version of Rep. Connolly's letter calling on Governor Baker to be more aggressive in taking steps to "Flatten the Curve" and save lives was recently published in the Somerville Journal and another version was published in DigBoston. In addition, this effort was also covered in this television segment on NBC10 Boston and this television segment on WFXT 25.
Status of the MCAS Test
Rep. Connolly stands in solidarity with teachers' unions and all concerned parents and students who are now calling for the cancellation of MCAS testing this year. It's an easy call for us because we are skeptical of high-stakes standardized testing to begin with.
In addition, we can provide an update and some additional context on this issue: As it stands, there are federal requirements to do standardized testing in grades 3 through 8 and at least one year in high school.
In response to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic, the Baker Administration recently applied for a waiver from the federal government to avoid these requirements, and in filing the waiver request, Commissioner Riley explicitly argued that it was not possible to administer the MCAS this year or to hold schools accountable for the results due to the extensive school closures brought on by the State of Emergency.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Thursday evening passed legislation in an informal session that would allow the Commissioner to cancel the MCAS. For his part, Rep. Connolly would have been happy if the legislation had outright canceled the test — and he would be happy to see the Senate advance language to outright cancel the MCAS when they take up the bill next.
At the same time, we can also appreciate there are a lot of moving pieces here, so while we share in people's serious concerns regarding the MCAS this spring, we also think that given the entire context of the situation, it seems everything is moving in the direction of the MCAS being called off this year.
Rep. Connolly will continue advocating for this outcome and will remain vigilant in finding opportunities to ensure it happens, and we are always interested in hearing any concerns or things others may be hearing about this topic as well. There's more about this issue in yesterday's Boston Globe.
State Policy Updates
- The order closing non-essential businesses has been extended from April 7 to May 4, click here for FAQs and the updated list of essential businesses. Updates include guidance around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Such businesses may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.
- The order limiting gatherings to ten people or less has been extended from April 7 to May 4.
Public Health Updates
- According to the Massachusetts Tracking Site, 62,962 tests have yielded 10,402 confined cases of COVID-19. This site is updated daily at 4pm. This includes 130 in Cambridge and 94 in Somerville. Please note, due to testing capacity, the number of true cases is likely higher. For the latest National case counts and other pertinant information, visit the CDC website.
- Yesterday the administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. This initiative is a collaboration between the administration and Partners In Health, and is the first of its kind in the nation. The initiative will focus on tracing the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients, and supporting individuals in quarantine, and builds on the efforts already underway from the Command Center to leverage public health college students to augment the contact tracing being done by local boards of health. Click this job posting if you would like to apply.
- The Commonwealth is implementing a pilot project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The pilot will operate under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge.
- To further support the Commonwealth’s health care workforce, the Department of Public Health has issued an order designed to provide on-demand licensing and re-licensing for certain health care professionals. The Order expedites licensing for professionals with licenses in good standing in other states, and professionals who have allowed their Massachusetts licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing.
- The City will will open the War Memorial Recreation Center and Field House at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School near Harvard and Inman squares to shelter the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis. To read the City Manager's statement, click here.
- Grant applications are available for a new Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The program is designed to provide short-term working capital assistance to enable the viability of the business and retention of jobs during the severe interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A "Payment Mailbox" has been installed in the rear of City Hall, 795 Mass. Ave. for taxpayers who wish to make payments (checks and money orders preferred) directly to the City. Individuals using the “Payment Mailbox” option should ensure that their payments are in a sealed envelope, contain a payment stub, and include the bill number, parcel ID, or other identifying information, including a phone number on their check. Individuals can use the “Payment Mailbox” to make Real Estate, Water/Sewer, Excise, Parking Ticket, or other payments.
- On Saturday, March 28 a Moratorium on Eviction Enforcement in the City of Somerville was established for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. The order, which applies to both residential and commercial evictions and goes into effect immediately, prohibits the physical act of eviction within the city limits so as to provide for the health, safety and stability of those who live in and serve our community. It also includes orders that the in-person showing of rental units to prospective new tenants or others.
- The start of street sweeping has been pushed back to Wednesday, April 15.
- Textile recycling (in the pink bags) is suspended until further notice, Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off days are suspended until further notice, E-Waste drop-off is suspended until further notice, and Rain Barrel Pick-Up Day is canceled, but the vendor will contact anyone who has placed an order.
- For questions, real-time COVID-19 information, resources, and referrals in multiple languages dial 211.
- To receive updates from the State on your phone, text COVIDMA to 888-777.
- If you need help with medical insurance call the Health Care for All Hotline at 1-800-272-4232.
- For help making healthcare decisions regarding COVID19 based on any symptoms you might be exhibiting, visit this tool from Buoy - please note this should not act as a substitute in case of emergency.
- To apply for unemployment benefits visit this website, then give us a call. Step by step instructions can be found here in English and here in Spanish. The Department of Unemployment Assistance will be offering virtual town halls, to sign up and see the latest schedule click here.
Ways to Help
- The Department of Public Health is seeking volunteers with any level of medical, or allied medical support experience. If you would like to sign up, click here
- Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment
to donate blood or components as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-
800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
- To donate goods for use in Massachusetts' response to the COVID-19 public health emergency click here
- To provide information about goods you are looking to sell to support Massachusetts' COVID-19 response efforts click here
- To adapt your business to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) click here
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. We are always available via phone or email, please see Connolly.house for contact information, and be advised that our State House office line is being forwarded to our work-from-home spaces.