COVID-19 Updates & Resources

2nd Essex District Community Resources

April 3 COVID-19 Update:

STATE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Legislature passes bill to provide immediate relief to municipalities and others during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis

On 4-2 the House and Senate passed H.4598 – An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19. This legislation extends the state income tax filing deadline for residents, addresses disruptions in municipal tax collections and permitting, and allows licensed restaurants to sell certain alcoholic beverages with food take-out and delivery orders, among other provisions.

A full summary of the bill is as follows. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.

  • Allows an annual town meeting to be delayed beyond June 30th in the event of an emergency that poses an immediate threat to health or safety that prevents the completion of the business of the delayed town meeting on or before June 30 if the Governor has declared a state of emergency with respect to the emergency. 
  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator during a weather-related, public safety or public health emergency, in consultation with local public safety or public health officials and the board of selectmen, to recess and continue a town meeting previously called to a time, place and date certain not exceed 30 days.  
  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator to renew the declaration of recess of town meeting and continuance period for up to 30 days at a time but not more than 30 days following the date of rescission of a state of emergency declared by the Governor. 
  • Requires a local public safety or public health official designated by the board of selectmen of a town to submit a report to the Attorney General providing the justification for the initial declaration of recess and continuance of a town meeting. 
  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue, if a declared emergency prevents the adoption of an annual budget by a town or district by the June 30 preceding the start of the fiscal year, to approve expenditures of an amount sufficient for the operations of a town or district during the month of July not less than 1/12 of the total budget approved by the town or district in the most recent fiscal and allows the authority to continue for each successive month while the emergency continues to prevent the adoption of a budget. 
  • Allows, for the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 and 60 days thereafter, a public corporation, to conduct an annual or special meeting of the shareholders solely by means of remote communication. 
  • Allows, for the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 and 60 days thereafter, participation by remote communication at any non-profit corporate meeting of the members to constitute presence at such meeting if certain conditions are met. 
  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue to authorize the appropriation from the available balance of a town’s or district’s undesignated fund balance or “free cash” as a funding source for the town’s or district’s fiscal year 2021 expenditures if the adoption of an annual budget in a town or district is delayed beyond June 30, 2020, as a result of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency. 
  • Allows a city, town or district to amortize over fiscal years 2021 to 2023, the amount of its fiscal year 2020 deficit resulting from the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, as described in the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency. 
  • Allows a city or town, for fiscal year 2021, to expend from each revolving fund an amount not to exceed the amount authorized to be expended in fiscal year 2020 until the city or town adopts an annual budget for fiscal year 2021 and at which time, requires the legislative body of the city or town to vote on the total amount that may be expended from each revolving fund in fiscal year 2021. 
  • Suspends all time periods within which any municipality is required to act, respond, effectuate or exercise an option to purchase during and for a period of 90 days after the termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency. 
  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or town, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, to extend certain local tax payment deadlines in accordance with this act. 
  • Prohibits a city or town from terminating an essential service of a resident, including, but not limited to, water, trash collection or electricity, for nonpayment of taxes or fees with a due date on or after March 10, 2020, made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020, if the nonpayment resulted from a demonstrated inability to pay due to circumstances related to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus; provided that the inability to pay shall include a demonstrated financial hardship of a resident, which may include, but not be limited to, loss of employment, serious illness of someone within the home or death of someone within the home. 
  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or the prudential committee or commissioners of a district, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to waive the payment of interest and other penalty in the event of late payment of any excise, tax, betterment assessment or apportionment thereof, water rate or annual sewer use or other charge added to a tax for any payments with a due date on or after March 10, 2020 and made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020. 
  • Extends the filing deadline for all tax returns and payments for the 2019 calendar year otherwise due on April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020. 
  • Allows an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic beverages or only wines and malt beverages on premises, during the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to sell wine or malt beverages only for off-premises consumption subject to certain conditions. 
  • Exempts from the caps on hours worked and earnings received during the state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 (i) any person who has been retired and who is receiving a pension or retirement allowance from the commonwealth, a county, city, town, district or authority; and (ii) any person whose employment in the service of the commonwealth, county, city, town, district or authority has been terminated by reason of having attained a specified age without being entitled to any pension or retirement allowance. 
  • States that, for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020 as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus:  
    • an application for a permit shall be deemed duly filed and accepted as of the date of the filing by the applicant, if filed with and certified as received the receiving entity; 
    • a requirement of a statute, ordinance, bylaw, rule or regulation that a hearing commence within a specific period of time after the filing of an application or request for approval of a permit is suspended as of March 10, 2020 but shall resume 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency;  o a permit in effect or existence as of March 10, 2020, shall not lapse or expire and the expiration date of the permit, or time period for meeting a deadline or for performance of a condition of the permit, shall toll during the state of emergency;  
    • no permit shall be considered granted, approved or denied due to a failure of the permit granting authority to act within the time required by law provided that the permit granting authority acts within 45 days of the termination of the state of emergency; 
    • a permit granting authority may schedule or reschedule on 1 or more occasions the hearing or decision deadlines on a permit application provided no such date or deadline is rescheduled for more than 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency;  o suspends the requirement that a permit be recorded with the registry of deeds or filed with registry district of the land court within a certain period of time after its issuance in order to remain in force and effect or as a condition to exercising the permit; 
    • a permit granting authority, during the state of emergency, may conduct meetings and public hearings remotely, consistent with the Governor’s order entitled “Order Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, § 20” issued March 12, 2020; and  
    • a permit granting authority may issue decisions on permit applications for which duly held public hearings or meetings have been held. 

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

DOR Issues technical information release on personal and income tax filings

The Department of Revenue issued a Technical Information Release (“TIR”) which announces that Massachusetts personal income tax filings and payments originally due April 15, 2020 are now due July 15, 2020. In addition, the Department will waive any late-file and late-pay penalties that apply to corporate excise returns and payments due April 15th, 2020 that are filed and paid by July 15, 2020. The TIR also explains the relief provided with respect to individual estimated tax payments.

The full information release can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/technical-information-release/tir-20-4-tax-filing-and-payment-relief-for-personal-income-and

Creation of COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative for contact tracing

The Baker-Polito 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.

Led by the administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center, Partners In Health will coordinate closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Contact tracing will be combined with the state’s efforts to increase testing and will provide support to people in quarantine in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Partners In Health will provide staff and contribute technical expertise in community tracing. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority (CCA) will stand up a virtual support center and maintain connectivity, while the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) will maintain data, guides and processes. Accenture, a leading global professional services company, and Salesforce, a global leader in CRM, are implementing support center capabilities for the CTC’s tracing purposes.

The Collaborative will deploy nearly 1,000 contact tracers throughout the state to connect with COVID-19 patients and their contacts to support Massachusetts’ efforts to track and contain the virus.

AAA Northeast customer service announcement

Effective Monday, April 6, 2020, AAA Northeast will close all its locations for at least two weeks. AAA Northeast locations will be open on Saturday, April 4th for appointments only. All AAA Pioneer Valley locations are currently closed.  No date has been announced for reopening.

Attorney General resource on debt collection

The Attorney General’s office compiled an FAQ regarding debt collection practices. The full FAQ can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/faq-emergency-debt-collection

Update on Nursing Home Testing Pilot Program

The Commonwealth implemented a pilot project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The pilot is operating under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge, and samples will be collected by trained personnel from the Massachusetts National Guard. Prior to this launch of this program, the only way for nursing home residents to be tested would be to be transported to a hospital or physician’s office. Launched earlier this week, the program is ramping up to full force, with 16 members of the MA National Guard deployed, with an additional 45 added to the team in the next couple of days. A call center has been established to provide a single point of contact for nursing and rest homes seeking help with testing. As of Thursday morning, the program has tested 280 individuals and with a plan to reach more people in the coming days.  New guidance is being issued instructing facilities with onsite medical staff to swab their own residents, with the National Guard providing sampling kits, helping the testing team reach as many homes as possible.

Battelle N95 Decontamination system scheduled to be operational

A Battelle N95 decontamination system is scheduled to be operational in the Boston area on Monday April 6, thanks to Partners Healthcare. The Battelle system uses FDA-approved N95 decontamination technology. It will be the fourth site operational in the U.S. The Battelle owned and operated system will be hosted by Partners HealthCare at the currently vacant Somerville K-Mart adjacent to I-93. Permitting on the site is being finalized. The system can decontaminate up to 80,000 masks per day, which should cover all demand in Massachusetts.  The principal benefit of this system is that it is fully staffed, industry grade, and brings a level of QA that will allow hospital teams to concentrate on other priorities. 

DCR Postpones Shoreline Fishing Within Watershed Properties

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is postponing the start of shoreline fishing at Quabbin Reservoir, Sudbury Reservoir, and Wachusett Reservoir from Saturday, April 4, 2020 until Saturday, May 9, 2020. Additionally, the opening of the boat launch areas for fishing within the Quabbin Reservoir is also postponed until Saturday, May 9, 2020

April 2 COVID-19 Update:

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Order closing state beach parking areas; select state parks to open early

Governor Baker issued an emergency order requiring all coastal beach reservation parking areas managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to close effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 to reduce large concentrations of people at beaches during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020, DCR will open select seasonal state parks early and expand access at other parks to provide additional open space opportunities for residents to enjoy and alternatives to popular state parks throughout the Commonwealth. The full list of seasonal state parks is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-seasonal-park-locations-0

The full order on state beaches is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-beaches-order

Coastal parkways that provide access to state beaches will also be closed to both parking and dropping off passengers. State beaches will remain open and available to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.). A link to find specific parking and traffic restrictions is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-coastal-beach-parking

State parks and associated parking areas remain open at this time; however, the public is asked to visit state parks and other open space properties that are located near their homes to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses, and bathroom facilities will remain closed until Monday, May 4, 2020.

DCR will also be limiting the amount of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks. DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should consider visiting a different location or returning at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. You can see all state parks here: https://www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks

DCR advises visitors of state parks to:

  • Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people;
  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals
  • Participate in only non-contact recreational activities;
  • Practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds; and,
  • Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

To centralize COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, DCR recently developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

Command Center outlines projections for anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases

The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the outbreak in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment.

Modeling and Projections

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. The full Advisory Board can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-covid-19-response-command-center-advisory-board-of 

The model’s latest projections estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The models show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5% of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to work to significantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.

In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an additional 750 – 1000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alternate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. The Administration has identified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other smaller locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized. 

The Command Center is also securing 1000 beds in capacity for step-down care options in nursing facilities for stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hospital to make room for those with higher medical need.

The full Command Center projection chart is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-command-center-projections

DCU Center in Worcester to Be Used as a Field Medical Station

A field medical station with more than 200 beds is scheduled to be set up at the DCU Center in Worcester. The DCU facility will be the first of three temporary field medical stations the Commonwealth is working to set up after requesting and receiving approval from the federal Strategic National Stockpile. The Commonwealth is actively identifying other sites and partners for the two other facilities. UMass Memorial Medical Center will manage the facility, which will be staffed by a partnership including the City of Worcester, UMass Memorial, and others. UMass Memorial will lead the day-to-day running of the facility with support by state and local partners upon set-up. Medical stations, like the one being deployed to Worcester, are required to set up in facilities of at least 40,000 square feet to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and include beds, supplies, and a cache of medicine for basic care. Logistics for this field medical station will be coordinated between the City, UMass Memorial Health Care, and state and local agencies. 

April 1 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL ACTIONS

Massachusetts funding allocations from federal CARES Act

The Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS) has analyzed the funding from the federal CARES Act in terms of state by state allocations.

Massachusetts allocations of CARES Act funding is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GJ9W1QGYtcUqLJHDnrArqjLEQFlvS9uP_4ReY7KC_II/edit?usp=sharing 

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATE

Registry of Motor Vehicles further extends renewal deadlines

The RMV announced that effective April 1, 2020, all of the passenger plate registrations that have expired in March or will be expiring in April have been extended for 60 days. Registrations that expired in March have been extended until May 31st and registrations that expire in April have been extended until June 30th.  Registration renewals can continue to be performed online at Mass.Gov/RMV during this time. Customers seeking to do so in-person will not be able to make an appointment and should delay their visit to a Service Center at this time.

In addition, the RMV recently has implemented key changes to service delivery and organizational protocols as follows:

  • Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the RMV has implemented a strict no walk-in policy at a limited number of Service Centers that remain open to the general public. Service for necessary in-person transactions is available by appointment only. Customers should visit Mass.Gov/RMV to make a reservation at an open Service Center or find information on over 40 transactions that can be conducted online, by phone, or by mail.
  • All Driver’s Licenses, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits, including Commercial Licenses & Permits, that have expired or are expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, have had a 60-day extension applied to the current expiration date and do not need to be renewed at this time.  This does not apply to customers whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their Driver’s License, ID card, or Learner’s Permit. CDL Medical Certificates that expire on or after March 1st until April 30th will be extended until June 30th to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers.
  • The annual motor vehicle safety and emissions inspection stickers that expire on March 31 and April 30 have been extended 60 days and all motorcycle inspection stickers originally set to expire on May 31 must be inspected by June 30. The RMV is also extending the time during which newly registered vehicles must be inspected based on the purchase date.
  • In addition, the RMV has suspended all road tests through April 12th. Class D and M Learner’s Permits knowledge exams have been suspended indefinitely. Commercial Learner’s Permit tests are available to be taken at the Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers during normal business hours and commercial road tests continue to occur. 

For details on these extensions and additional information on RMV services and the RMV’s response to COVID-19, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.

Enrolling in Health Connector for people who recently lost coverage through their job

The Health Connector has created resources for people who revently lost health insurance through their job and are now applying for health insurance through the Health Connector. 

 English Health Connector brochure: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverage-after-a-job-loss-eng.pdf

Spanish Health Connector brochure: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverage-after-a-job-loss-esp.pdf

March 31 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES

US Senate’s small business owner’s guide to the CARES Act

The US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship prepared the following document featuring explanations of relevant provisions of the CARES Act for small businesses. The guide is available here: https://www.sbc.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/9/7/97ac840c-28b7-4e49-b872-d30a995d8dae/F2CF1DD78E6D6C8C8C3BF58C6D1DDB2B.small-business-owner-s-guide-to-the-cares-act-final-.pdf

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Extension of non-essential business closures

Governor Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 4. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people until May 4th.

The Administration updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” list today, which is based on federal guidance that was updated earlier this week. The new list will go into effect tomorrow, April 1, at noon.  While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Some of the updates to the essential services list include:

  • Clarity around the supply chain that supports other essential services
  • Adding health care providers like chiropractors and optometrists
  • Expanding the types of workers providing disinfectant and sanitation services

The full essential services extension order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-31-2020-essential-services-extension-order

The full list of essential services is updated here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services?n

 A COVID-19 Essential Services FAQs created by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services-faqs 

Guidance to hotels, motels, and short term rentals

As part of the updated essential business list, DPH issued new guidance today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Based on this new guidance, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals 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 full hotel and motel guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-31-2020-hotel-motel-guidance

Stay at Home Advisory remaining in effect

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker directed DPH to issue a stay-at-home advisory, and the Governor announced today that the advisory will remain in effect. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19  should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible

The Stay at Home Advisory can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory

Executive Branch Employee Guidance

The Baker-Polito Administration extended the guidance issued to Executive Branch employees on protocol during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure state government can continue to provide key services while protecting the health and safety of the public and the Executive Branch workforce. Under the guidance, all employees performing non-core functions who are able to work remotely should continue to do so until May 4. 

Some Executive Branch services and walk-in offices remain open, but residents are encouraged to use online services when available. For the status of in-person Executive Branch office locations, please clickhere: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-status-of-executive-branch-office-locations

USDA reimbursements to schools operating as meal sites

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved DESE’s request to waive the requirement that school meal sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of school lunch program participants are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Therefore, all school districts that are distributing meals during school closures related to COVID-19 and are focusing the distribution of these meals to children and teens in need of them are now eligible for USDA reimbursement. 

Free virtual classes for Advanced Placement students

The College Board is offering free virtual classes for Advanced Placement students in addition to at-home AP testing.The exam will only include topics and skills that most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. Information about what will be covered on this year’s AP Exams is listed here: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update

Students and teachers can attend free, live AP review courses here: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates#free-ap-classes

These mobile-friendly classes will be recorded and available on-demand so teachers and students can access them any time and will focus on reviewing the skills and concepts from the first 75 percent of the course. There will also be some supplementary lessons covering the final 25 percent of the course. 

The AP exams will only be given remotely this year, and the College Board is working with partners to address any barriers to technology that students might face. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity in order to take an AP exam, please reach out to the College Board directly to let them know here: https://collegeboard.tfaforms.net/74 

Schools served by the Advanced Placement (AP) STEM and English Program implemented through Mass Insight Education can contact Wesley Chen at wchin@massinsight.org for information on additional AP programming support.

March 30 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

US House of Representatives FAQ on CARES Act

The US House of Representative published an exhaustive FAQ on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The FAQ can be found here:https://8333c73b-c725-46ee-8168-5a834cc82cbf.filesusr.com/ugd/d7f078_828578e9c7184454ad9efd7d2eab7f13.pdf

Federal Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts COVID-19 Response

The White House and FEMA announced that the President has issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that will make federal disaster assistance available beyond what was included in the Emergency Declaration declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020. More information from MEMA can be found here, and a description of the programs that accompany this declaration is below:

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-federal-disaster-declaration

Public Assistance Program 

Under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program within the Major Disaster Declaration, affected local governments, state agencies and certain private non-profit organizations statewide will be reimbursed for 75% of their costs associated with response and emergency protective measures. The eligible emergency protective measures include non-congregate isolation and quarantine costs for homeless individuals and families as well as first responders as well as other types of properly documented costs.

Individual Assistance Program

Under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program within the Major Disaster Declaration, Crisis Counseling Assistance will provide funding for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to assist individuals and families in recovering from the psychological effects of the COVID -19 outbreak through electronic phone and chat technology. 

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will provide webinars and other information about the process for applying for the Public Assistance Program to municipal and state officials and eligible non-profits. 

BAKER ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS 

Launch of online portal to donate or sell personal protective equipment

The Baker-Polito Administration announced an online portal where individuals and companies can easily donate or sell personal protective equipment (PPE) including:

  • N95/N99 masks (respirators)
  • Surgical/procedure masks
  • Facemasks with integrated shields
  • Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Protective suits/gowns
  • Booties/shoe covers
  • Headcovers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitizing wipes

More information about this PPE procurement and donation program is here: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-ppe-procurement-and-donation-program

The program also provides an entry point for local manufacturers to get more information on adapting their businesses to produce more equipment here in Massachusetts, an effort being led by the administration’s recently established Manufacturing Emergency Response Team, co-chaired by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, and Mike Tamasi, President and CEO of AccuRounds, a precision components manufacturer located in Avon, MA.

For information on adapting a business to produce PPE, please email the Manufacturing Emergency Response Team https://masstech.org/M-ERT

If you are a manufacturer with PPE, please submit a form here: https://massgov.formstack.com/forms/procurement_form 

To complete the form to donate PPE, click here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/covid-19-donation-program

Mass Medical Society partnership to match health and medical volunteers

The Baker-Polito Administration has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to match health and medical volunteers with communities and health care providers based on skill sets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses. 

Health care professionals interested in volunteering can sign up here: mass.gov/health-services-covid-19-volunteer-form 

Department of Public Health list of testing sites for those with clinical referral

DPH has posted a new list of COVID-19 testing sites for individuals who have a clinician’s referral. If someone thinks they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should first call their health care provider. If that clinician thinks a test is appropriate but are unable to offer one at their own health care facility, they can provide a referral that the individual can use to schedule a test at a site nearest to them. A referral and appointment are necessary.  

The list is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19#is-there-a-list-of-places-where-i-can-get-tested-for-covid-19-if-i-think-i-have-symptoms?

Attorney General compiled list of COVID-19 resources

Attorney General Maura Healey has created a website with links to all of the Attorney General’s office’s COVID-19 resources. The website is here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/resources-during-covid-19

Orders expediting the onboarding of health care volunteers

Last week, the Administration launched an initiative to recruit volunteer medical professionals to support hospitals as the Commonwealth continues to expand medical capacity. Since launching the initiative, more than 1,800 volunteers have already signed up, reflective of the Commonwealth’s world-class health care workforce. 

To support expedited onboarding of these volunteers, the Department of Public Health has issued an order authorizing the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management to perform a CORI check on any volunteer who registered through the volunteer portal without a notarized CORI acknowledgement form. The Order requires any entity performing a CORI check pursuant to the Order to implement sufficient compensating controls to reasonably verify an individual’s identity, including inspection of a photographic form of government issued identification via teleconference.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/cori-notary-order

Order on on-demand licensing and relicensing for health professionals

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. This order applies to a wide range of health professionals: registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, advanced practice registered nurse, dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistant, pharmacist, pharmacy technician, nursing home administrator, physician assistant, respiratory therapist, perfusionist, genetic counselor, community health worker and emergency medical technician.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-29-2020-maximizing-available-health-care-providers-order

Order waiving certain regulations to expand capacity by transferring long-term care facility residents

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with long-term care facilities to establish dedicated skilled nursing facilities to care for individuals infected with COVID-19. The initiative will offer an alternative location where individuals who are stable but still need medical care can be transferred to recover, relieving pressure on hospitals and opening up hospital beds for the treatment of patients with the greatest medical need. The Administration has received federal approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for this initiative.

The Department of Public Health has issued an order waiving certain MassHealth regulations regarding the transfers and discharge of long-term care facility residents, for the limited purpose of safely transferring and discharging all residents living in a long-term care facility that is intended to be used as a designated COVID-19 facility.  

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/masshealth-moving-residents-order

A letter to providers outlining the program is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-27-2020-long-term-care-facilities-letter

Order extending financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services

Governor Baker issued an order providing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) administrative flexibility to extend financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services that serve EOHHS clients, including members of MassHealth. The financial relief may be in the form of temporary rate adjustments, supplemental payments, and new rate and payment methodologies that reflect the modified ways services are being delivered. These measures will be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. This will allow EOHHS to extend critical financial support to:

  • Providers that are facing extraordinary demand due to the COVID-19 emergency, while, at the same time, have lost significant revenue because they have had to cancel other procedures and appointments;
  • Providers that are necessary to keep vulnerable individuals safe in their homes or residences and out of more acute settings like hospitals; and
  • Human service providers that have been forced to respond to the unanticipated circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic by altering the way they deliver services and the hours and scope of these services.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-30-2020-hhs-rates-order

Order on shareholder meeting physical space requirements 

Under Massachusetts law, public companies can permit shareholders and their proxies to participate in annual or special shareholder meetings by remote communication, but they are also required to hold a meeting in a physical space that shareholders can attend in person. Given the challenges of meeting such requirements while non-essential workers are required to stay home and gatherings are limited to 10 people, Governor Baker today issued an order adjusting this meeting requirement. The Governor’s order permits public companies to hold annual or special shareholder meetings completely by means of remote communication, until 60 days after the end of the state of emergency. Additionally, if a public company has already sent written notice to its shareholders of an annual or special meeting to be held in a physical location, this order allows that company to notify its shareholders that the meeting now will be held solely through remote communication without mailing another notice, provided they issue a press release, send email notice where possible, and take other reasonable steps to notify their shareholders of the change.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-30-2020-virtual-shareholder-meetings-order

Department of Transportation messaging on 14 day out of state self-quarantine

In an effort to support the new guidelines on travel and transportation announced today by the Baker-Polito Administration, MassDOT is utilizing its video messaging boards to alert out-of-state travelers coming into Massachusetts from other states to self-quarantine for 14 days immediately upon arrival.  

MBTA service updates to The RIDE

The MBTA has announced temporary updates to the T’s paratransit service, The RIDE, in a continuing effort to prioritize safety, protect the health and safety of the T’s customers and workforce, and to preserve the continuity of transit services for those who must travel for purposes that are absolutely necessary. These temporary changes were made in consultation with The Riders’ Transportation Access Group, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and include the elimination of shared RIDE trips, temporarily extending RIDE eligibility and postponing eligibility appointments, adjustments to booking windows, updates to subscriptions, and a reduction in transfer trips.  

Details on these changes are available at www.mbta.com/coronavirus and www.mbta.com/TheRide

American Red Cross Facing Severe Blood Shortage

The COVID-19 virus has caused the cancellation of blood drives across the Commonwealth. There is an urgent need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Support is needed to communicate to your residents that the need is urgent, and donating is a necessity to supply the hospitals with the blood our neighbors require. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state. Identifying donation sites is vital to meet the demand as we go forward. Local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products.  

To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.  

Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  

March 27 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES

The United States Congress approved the CARES Act. A summary of the legislation is as follows:

 Direct Economic Stimulus Funding to States, Territories, Local Tribal Government

  • Provides $150 billion to states, territories, local and tribal governments to use for expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 in the face of revenue declines, allocated by population proportions.
    • The amount of funds distributed is population-based. The minimum payment a state will receive for fiscal year 2020 is $1.25 billion
    • 45% of the funds received by the state are reserved for local governments, with populations exceeding 500,000
      • Accessing these funds requires a certified request to the U.S. secretary of Treasury
      • This certification must include a signature by the chief executive of the local government stating that the planned uses are consistent with certain requirements
      • NCSL believes any funds remaining from the above-mentioned 45% set aside for localities revert back to the state
    • $3 billion set aside for District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa
    • 8 billion for tribal governments
    • What expenditures are eligible for these funds?  
      • Necessary expenditures incurred due to COVID-19 (more below)
      • Expenditures that were not accounted for in the most recently approved budget, as of the date of enactment
      • Expenditures must have incurred between March 1, 2020, and ends Dec. 30, 2020

Direct Payments to Citizens

  • Authorizes direct payments for citizens with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 for individuals, or $150,000 for married couples
    • Individuals in this range get $1,200, and married couples get $2,400
    • Extra $500, per child younger than age 17
    • Payments phase out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes over $75,000 ($150,000 for couples)
    • No one with AGI over $99,000 would get a payment ($198,000 for married couples)
    • Money is expected to be sent out by April 6

Expanded Unemployment Benefits

  • 360 million for Department of Labor to invest in programs that provide training and supportive services for dislocated workers, seniors, migrant farmworkers and homeless veterans
    • Includes funding for implementing new paid leave and unemployment insurance benefits
  • Unemployment insurance (UI) enhancements
    • Unemployment insurance is expanded from three to four months,
      • Allows for temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week, which can be received in addition to other state and federal unemployment assistance
      • Expands unemployment benefits to part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers
      • Allows employers to receive an advance tax credit from the Treasury instead of having to be reimbursed on the back end
      • $260 billion investment into the unemployment insurance program
      • Creates regulatory authority to implement the tax credit advances

Emergency Relief and Taxpayer Protections

  • Department of Treasury is authorized to make emergency loans, loan guarantees and other investments in support of eligible businesses, states and municipalities that do not, in the aggregate, exceed $500 billion

Labor Provisions

  • $19.57 billion to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for equipment, tests and support services. 
  • $1.5 billion to Economic Development Administration (EDA) for economic adjustment assistance to revitalize local communities going forward
  • $5 billion for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to enable states, counties and cities to respond to economic and housing impacts caused by COVID-19, including the expansion of community health facilities, child care centers, food banks and senior services. 
  • $10 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for operating costs.
  •  $17 billion for the SBA to cover six months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans. Rent, mortgage and utility costs now eligible for SBA loan forgiveness

FEMA

  • $45 billion for Disaster Relief Fund to cover immediate needs of state, local, tribal and territorial governments
  • Reimbursable activities may include medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures and community services nationwide. This amount includes:
    • $25 billion for major disasters declared for certain states under the Stafford Act (not yet in MA)
    • $45 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to expand information technology and communications capabilities and build capacity in response coordination efforts
  • Disaster Relief Fund dollars for COVID-19 are made available to states via the March 13 national emergency declaration and subsequent state declaration requests.

Homeland Security/Disaster Relief

  • 1 billion for the Defense Production Act for increased access to materials necessary for national security and pandemic recovery
  • $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants for emergency management activities in state, local, territorial and tribal governments to support coordination, including communications and logistics
  • $9 million is provided to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency for supply chain and information analysis, and for impacted critical infrastructure coordination
  • Personal Protective Equipment, including:
    • $100 million for the nation’s first responders via Assistance to Firefighter Grants.
    • $178 million for DHS front-line federal employees
  • $200 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program to provide shelter, food and supportive services to individuals and families in sudden economic crisis
  • $100 million to the Transportation Security Administration for enhanced sanitation at airport security checkpoints, overtime and travel costs, and the purchase of explosives trace detection swabs
  • $141 million for the Coast Guard to activate Coast Guard Reserve personnel and for building capacity and capability for information technology systems and infrastructure to support telework and remote access
  • Extends Real ID deadline for full implementation by states from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021

Health Provisions

  • $140.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services. 
    • Will include the following: 
      • $127 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, including:
        • $100 billion for grants to hospitals, public entities, not-for-profit entities and Medicare and Medicaid-enrolled suppliers and institutional providers
        • Helps cover unreimbursed health care-related expenses or lost revenue as a result of COVID-19
        • Includes $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile, which can be used to buy ventilators and other medical supplies. 
        • $11 billion for vaccine, diagnostics and other medical needs with $3.5 billion to help advance construction, manufacturing and purchasing of vaccines and therapeutic delivery
      • $250 million to improve the capacity of facilities in order to respond to medical events.
      • $275 million to expand services and capacity for rural hospitals, telehealth, poison control centers and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Also, allow community health centers to use fiscal year 2020 funding to maintain or increase staffing and capacity to address COVID-19.
      • $4.3 billion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to assist with agency efforts on public health preparedness and response including funding to state and local public health responders and reimbursements. 
        • There is also $500 million designated to invest in public health data surveillance and infrastructure modernization to help states in developing COVID-19 tools.
      • 425 million to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for mental health and substance use disorders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic with certified community behavioral health clinics receiving $250 million. SAMHSA gets $50 million for suicide prevention, and $100 million in flexible funding to address mental health, substance use disorders and providing resources to youth and the homeless during this time.
      • $200 million to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with $100 million to support additional infection control surveys for facilities that house populations that are at high risk from contracting and having severe illness from COVID-19.

Human Services

  • $6.3 billion overall to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). This funding will go to a number of human services programs including $3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to provide immediate assistance to childcare providers.
  • $45 million in grants to states for child welfare services.
    • As ACF increases flexibility in services for the most vulnerable, the legislation will help backfill this response by providing $45 million to family violence prevention and services including for family violence shelters and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Funding for the most  vulnerable will also include $25 million for immediate assistance to programs providing services and housing for runaway and homeless youth. The Administration for Community Living will also receive $955 million to provide resources for aging and disability services programs including senior nutrition, home and community-based supportive services, family caregivers, elder justice and independent living.
  • $1 billion to the Community Services Block Grant to help local community-based organizations that provide a wide range of social services and emergency assistance for those with the highest need.
  • $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help families and provide assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, and weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.

Defense

  • $10.5 billion for the Department of Defense, primarily for the protection of members of the armed forces, their families and military retirees from the coronavirus. Includes funding for specific efforts that leverage unique capabilities of the Department of Defense to contribute to a whole-of-government response to the pandemic. 
    • $1.4 billion for deployments of the National Guard. This level of funding will sustain up to 20,000 members of the National Guard, under the direction of the governors of each state, for the next six months in order to support state and local response efforts.
  • $932 million allocated to the Army National Guard for response efforts both domestically and internationally.
  •  $557 million allocated to the Air National Guard for response efforts both domestically and internationally.
  • $70 million to the Army Corps of Engineers

Technology/Health Care/Biomedical

  • $75 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to make fiscal stabilization grants to public television and radio stations facing declines in non-federal revenues, which will help maintain programming and preserve small and rural stations threatened by declines in non-federal revenues.
  • Funding for the VA to expand capacity of IT networks to address the demand in services and broaden tele-health capabilities. 
  • Directs the secretary of HHS to consider ways to encourage the use of telecommunications systems, including for remote patient monitoring and other communications or monitoring services by clarifying guidance and conducting outreach.
  • $6 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for measurement science to support viral testing and biomanufacturing.
  • $60 million for Industrial Technology Services, including support to manufacturing for development of biomedical equipment.

Education

  • $30.75 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to coronavirus to be distributed as follows:
    • Elementary and Secondary Education: $13.5 billion is available for formula-grants to States based on following formula: 60% of the funds are  distributed based on relative number of 5- to 24-year-olds in state. 40% of the funds are distributed based on relative number of kids younger than 21 as defined by section 1124(c) of ESSA. States will then distribute 90% of funds to local educational agencies (LEAs) based on their proportional allocation of ESEA Title I-A funds. State education agencies can reserve up to 10% of funds for emergency needs as determined by the state. Funds to LEAS can be used for  coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for and coordinating during      long-term school closures; purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students served by the local educational agency; and additional activities authorized by federal elementary and secondary education laws.
    • Governors: Each state will receive a share of $3 billion for governors to allocate at their discretion for emergency support grants to LEAs and institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have been most significantly impacted by the coronavirus.
    • Higher Education: $14.25 billion for emergency relief for Institutions of Higher Education to respond to the coronavirus. 90% of funds via a formula base, 75% on its share of Pell FTE and 25% on non-Pell FTE, excluding students who were exclusively enrolled online prior to coronavirus.   At least 50% of institutional funds must provide emergency financial aid grants to students that can cover eligible expenses under a student’s cost of attendance, such as food, housing, course materials, technology, healthcare and childcare. Remaining institutional funds may be used to defray expenses for IHEs, such as lost revenue and technology costs associated with a transition to distance education.


Agriculture

  • 14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to improve COVID-19 effects
  • $9.5 billion in additional assistance for livestock and specialty crops, such as fruit, vegetables and nuts. Funding would also be available for dairy producers, and producers who support local food systems such as farmers markets and schools
  • $25 million to the USDA’s Rural Development Grant Program for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, as well as $100 million to the USDA’s ReConnect program to help ensure rural Americans have access to broadband
  • $20.5 million to the Rural Business Development Grant Program to support business and industry loans

Energy

  • $28 million to Department of Energy and $99.5 million to Office of Science to support research on the coronavirus
  • $3.3 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission


Transportation

  • $25 billion for nation’s transit systems. Distributed through existing formulas including the Urbanized Area Formula Grants and Formula Grants for Rural Areas using the fiscal year 2020 apportionment formulas. Funds are eligible to cover operating expenses of transit agencies related to the response to coronavirus.
  • Approximately $1 billion dollars to Amtrak to ensure continued operations along the Northeast Corridor and long-distance routes. States will also receive a portion of this assistance to help meet their match obligations on state-supported routes.
  • $250 million for the Federal Railroad Administration to provide safety equipment and assistance to inspectors
  • $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans to the airline industry managed through the Treasury Department. Assistance includes requirements on airlines that would place limits on certain financial actions until loans are repaid.
  • $3 billion to airline contractors who provide ground staff and catering support to airlines
  • $4 billion to cargo carriers
  • $10 billion in grants to air carriers and contractors ensure continued operation during a likely sustained decline in air travel

Interior

  • $453 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus, including for public safety and justice programs, welfare assistance and social services programs, and other tribal government assistance
  • $20.6 million for the Bureau of Reclamation

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • $2.25 million to help Environmental Protection Agency prepare and respond to the coronavirus, of which $1.5 million should be used to research methods to reduce the risks from environmental transmission of the coronavirus via contaminated surfaces or materials
  • Includes $770,000 for the Hazardous Substances Superfund to prepare and respond for the coronavirus.

Justice-Related

  • $850 million in Byrne/JAG funding formula grants to states for continuation of criminal justice programs
  • $2 million for justice information sharing technology. Expands videoconferencing abilities for prison health care and criminal proceedings

Elections

  • $400 million in election security grants to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus in the 2020 federal election cycle. States must provide an accounting to the Election Assistance Commission of how the funds were spent within 20 days of any 2020 election.

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Baker-Polito Administration Announces Travel Guidelines and New Health Care Resources To Support COVID-19 Response

Travel guidance and self-quarantine: 

Beginning March 27, all travelers arriving to Massachusetts are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. This guidance will be displayed as posters at service plazas along 1-90 eastbound, distributed as flyers at major transportation hubs and on posted on highway message boards. Visitors are instructed not to travel to Massachusetts if they are displaying symptoms. Health care workers, public health workers, public safety workers, transportation workers and designated essential workers are exempt from this requirement.

Early medical school graduation: 

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel have coordinated with Massachusetts medical schools to facilitate early graduation of their qualified fourth-year students to allow graduates to support the health care workforce during the COVID-19 response. This coordinated effort includes Boston University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

Emergency limited medical licenses: 

The Board of Registration in Medicine will provide medical school graduates who have matched as an intern, resident or fellow with a Board-approved Massachusetts health care facility or training program with Emergency 90-Day Limited Licenses to practice medicine to ensure that our health care workforce is prepared during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

To qualify, medical residents must fill out an application to be approved by the program or facility, and once approved, residents will receive the emergency license and be able to start when their program begins. This Emergency Limited License will allow medical staff to provide support while the regular screening progresses, and it is not a substitute for the regular Limited License process.

Launch of Buoy Health Care tool to check symptoms: 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of Buoy Health’s new online resource for residents to check their symptoms and connect with the next appropriate health care resource. This tool does not replace emergency medical care, but it may be used as a support for residents during the COVID-19 outbreak to connect them with appropriate health care resources if they display coronavirus symptoms.

Buoy Health’s online 24/7 tool is free for Massachusetts residents and uses current COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Visit Buoy.com/mass to learn more and use the tool.

 Order on Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and prescribing: 

The administration has issued a public health order to provide APRNs in good standing with greater flexibility in their prescribing practices. This order includes the following updates:

  • Certified nurse midwives will be allowed to continue to prescribe as already authorized.
  • Authorizes APRNs who have at least two years of supervised practice experience to prescribe without physician supervision
  • Authorizes APRNs with fewer than two years of supervised practice experience to prescribe with physician supervision, but without the normally required written guidelines.

Read the order here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-26-2020-advanced-practice-registered-nurses-order

MassHealth waiver approved by federal government: 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved, in part, the Baker-Polito Administration’s 1135 waiver to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers and better deliver critically needed health care services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS has approved the following items of the waiver:

  • Enrollment of out-of-state providers and easing other provider requirements when enrolling in MassHealth.
  • Allowing providers to be reimbursed for care in alternative, unlicensed settings
  • Suspension of prior authorization requirements and extending pre-existing prior authorizations through the emergency.

Health care professional volunteers partnership: 

To support ongoing COVID-19 emergency response efforts, the Baker-Polito Administration has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to match volunteers with our communities and health care providers based on skillsets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses, and the administration is asking health care professionals interested in volunteering to sign up at MAResponds.org.

State Income Tax Filing Deadline Being Extended to July 15

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced an agreement to extend the 2019 state individual income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15 due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This income tax relief is automatic and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms to qualify. 

Legislation will be filed in the near future to finance the extension, and accompanying administrative changes will be implemented through the Department of Revenue. Specifically, the legislation will authorize the Commonwealth borrowing flexibility to manage deferred revenue this fiscal year and repay it in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2020. 

Individuals with questions or concerns regarding taxes can contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at (617) 887-6367 or send a secure e-message through MassTaxConnect: https://mtc.dor.state.ma.us/mtc/_/

The full announcement is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-announces-state-income-tax-filing-deadline-being-extended-to-july-15

Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing tool for COVID-19

MCDHH has created a visual tool to help hospital staff, medical personnel, first responders, and service providers communicate with hard of hearing and Deaf individuals and patients during this unprecedented crisis.  The tool is here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-card

Major disaster declaration request made to federal government

Governor Baker today submitted a request to the federal government for a Major Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts. If approved, this declaration would provide the Commonwealth additional federal assistance beyond what was included in the Emergency Declaration declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020. The disaster declaration request includes a request for FEMA’s Public Assistance Program, which would make financial assistance available to cities and towns, state agencies, and certain non-profits statewide. The disaster declaration request also requests FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance to help support residents in need during this unprecedented incident. 

The full letter is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-26-2020-federal-disaster-declaration-letter/download

Department of Public Health orders on pharmacy, determination of need, and nurse staffing

 The Department of Public Health has issued three emergency orders to support the health care system’s response to COVID-19:  Pharmacy Practice: To ensure pharmacists are able to fully support the health care system’s response to COVID-19, this emergency order makes several changes regarding pharmacy practice, including expedited approval for pharmacists licensed in other states to practice in Massachusetts, and allowing the remote processing of prescriptions by pharmacy technicians. 

Read the Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/pharmacy-practice-order

Determination of Need

This order exempts health care facilities from the requirement that they submit a Notice of Determination of Need for certain activities that will support their response to COVID-19. 

Nurse Staffing: 

To ensure hospitals have the flexibility they need to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, this emergency order exempts hospitals from certain nurse-staffing requirements, while requiring that they must ensure that staffing levels remain adequate to meet patients’ needs, and staff is trained and competent to meet the needs of their patients.  Read the Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/nursing-staff-order

EOEEA & EOHED order on permits not expiring or lapsing

Governor Baker issued an emergency order that provides that a permit will not expire or lapse during the state of emergency for most permits issued by agencies within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The order also pauses deadlines for these agencies to decide or hold hearings on permit applications. The clock on those deadlines will resume 45 days after the end of the emergency. It also ensures that no permit is automatically issued because an agency is unable to make a decision on a permit application during the emergency.

Hotline for Personal Care Attendance services

The Administration worked with the advocacy community and union partners to implement solutions to ensure access to PCA services for individuals with disabilities and older adults during this public health emergency. MassHealth created a hotline through MassOptions for MassHealth members to call if they are in need of services, and updated its policies to streamline the hiring process and allow more flexibility for PCAs to work more hours.  PCA services are essential services that support individuals with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, grooming, bathing, ambulating Consumers can call 1-844-422-6277 to be connected to home health services in their region. 

Division of Insurance orders on drug benefits and publicizing COVID-19 information

Attorney General emergency regulations on price gouging and debt collection

The AG’s Office has promulgated two emergency regulations around: price gouging and debt collection.

One new regulation, 940 CMR 35.00, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits creditors from engaging in methods of debt collection that can require people to leave their homes or have in-person contact, including filing new lawsuits against Massachusetts consumers, visiting their homes or places of work, or repossessing their cars, among other protections. The AG’s emergency regulation also prohibits debt collection agencies and debt buyers from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to consumers.

This emergency regulation will remain in effect for 90 days or until the conclusion of the declared state of emergency.

The AG’s emergency debt collection regulation contains protections that apply to all creditors and prohibits them from deceptive practices in pursuing the payment of a debt during the COVID-19 emergency, including:

  • filing any new collection lawsuit; 
  • garnishing wages, earnings, properties or funds; 
  • repossessing vehicles; 
  • applying for or serving a capias warrant;
  • visiting or threatening to visit the household of a debtor;
  • visiting or threatening to visit the place of employment of a debtor;
  • confronting or communicating in person with a debtor regarding the collection of a debt in any public place.

The AG’s emergency debt collection regulation also prohibits debt collection agencies and debt buyers from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to Massachusetts consumers for the next 90 days, unless the state of emergency ends before that time.

The second regulation is an amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18, filed today with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits 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. 

Lastly, the AGO is asking residents to report price gouging of products, including PPE, to our office. Individuals can file a complaint online at mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint. If individuals are unable to file online, they can call our Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.

DESE Guidance to school district regarding payments for contracted services

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent the below guidance to school district:

In response to questions I have received about payments while schools are closed, I am writing to provide further recommendations to districts relating to: (1) tuition payments for resident students enrolled in certain public school programs; (2) tuition payments for out-of-district day or residential special education programs; (3) payments for contracted special education related service providers; and (4) outsourced operational services, such as school transportation.

1. Tuition payments for collaboratives, non-residential vocational enrollments, recovery high schools, Horace Mann charter schools, and inter-district tuition agreements

Given the expectations that schools will continue to provide services to students even while physically closed and that Chapter 70 aid will continue to be distributed based on prior year enrollment, it is our expectation that districts and municipalities with resident students enrolled in other Massachusetts public schools will continue to make all required tuition payments. This includes tuition for:

  • collaboratives,
  • non-resident Chapter 74 vocational enrollments,
  • recovery high schools;
  • Horace Mann charter schools, and
  • inter-district tuition agreements.

Cities and towns are also expected to pay assessments due to regional districts to which they belong.

Payments for Commonwealth charter school tuition, Commonwealth virtual school tuition, and inter-district school choice tuition will continue to be processed by DESE through DOR’s monthly local aid distribution.

2. Tuition payments for out-of-district day or residential special education programs and “circuit breaker” reimbursement

 It is our expectation that school districts will continue to provide tuition payments to day and residential special education programs to maintain this essential system capacity and promote continuity of service for students to the greatest extent possible. Most residential schools remain open, and day programs have agreed to continue providing learning opportunities and services to students remotely during this period. The tuition payments will be eligible for reimbursement under the circuit breaker program if they exceed the statutory threshold and are otherwise eligible.

3.Service payments for contracted special education-related service providers (e.g. external organizations and agencies that provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and other services to in-district students)

On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released a supplemental fact sheet addressing the risk of COVID-19 while serving students with disabilities. In this recent guidance, USED indicates that districts should continue to provide special education services to students with disabilities to the extent feasible and consistent with public health obligations.  Given the need to continue to provide some services, I recommend that districts work with providers to review and potentially amend the providers’ scopes of service to ensure vendor contracts reflect the necessary requirements to get these services up and running. For instance, districts could incorporate distance learning services as well as professional learning to prepare contract staff for distance learning or other available means of providing services. The need for this ongoing work to serve students (and to prepare contracted staff to do so effectively) should enable providers to continue to bill districts for services rendered.

4.Outsourced operational services

In addition to guidance already issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (M-20-11 and M-20-17), the version of the federal stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate on March 25, 2020 includes a provision that any state or school district that receives money from the Education Stabilization Fund established by the bill “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus.” That bill is scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 27, 2020.  To the extent consistent with that directive, we expect school districts to continue payments for outsourced operational services that are needed to ensure continuity of essential services when schools reopen. Such payments may be conditioned on negotiated changes to contracts in order to address unanticipated service needs during the state of emergency. These services include, but are not limited to, transportation, custodial, and food services, in addition to the day and residential special education programs noted above.

March 26 COVID-19 Update:

STATE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Senate passes scope of practice legislation

Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to expand the scope of practice for certain health care professionals for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This bill removes barriers to immediate care by granting certain health care professionals the authority to work at the top of their license, education and training to ensure that our health care system can meet the increased demand it’s currently seeing due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

An Act ensuring access to qualified health professionals, authorizes certified nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialists to practice independently and issue written prescriptions and medication as well as order tests and therapeutics. The bill limits this practice authority to nurses with two or more years of supervised practice, unless the Board of Registration in Nursing determines that a reduced supervised practice requirement is necessary to increase access to these nurses during the current state of emergency.

In addition, the legislation grants advanced practice registered nurses the authority to admit patients to mental health facilities for care and to restrain patients in cases where failure to do would create the likelihood of serious harm. 

The bill also enables pharmacists to better coordinate with health care teams and engage in a broad range of patient services beyond filling prescriptions. These services can include conducting health and wellness tests, managing chronic diseases, performing medication management, and administering immunizations. 

Finally, the legislation limits these scope of practice expansions to 90 days after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency. This time limitation enables the state to manage this unprecedented demand on our health care system by allowing health care providers to work to the full extent of their training and licensure, maximizing the work that all types of health care professionals can safely provide. This immediate workforce expansion will help meet the needs of patients during this public health crisis.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

DPH Stay at Home Advisory and safe practices guidance

The Department of public health Stay-at-Home Advisory for Individuals over 70 and for those with underlying health conditions; and Safe Practices for the General Public full order and guidelines are here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory-for-individuals-over-70-and-for-those-with

American Red Cross Facing Severe Blood Shortage

The COVID-19 virus has caused the cancellation of blood drives across the Commonwealth. There is an urgent need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the COVID-19 RESPONSE COMMAND CENTER DAILY SITUATION REPORT organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Support is needed to communicate to your residents that the need is urgent, and donating is a necessity to supply the hospitals with the blood our neighbors require. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state. Identifying donation sites is vital to meet the demand as we go forward. Local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products. To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or at email William.Forsyth@redcross.org. Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, are urged to make an appointment to donate 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). 

Order on waste haulers to ensure the continuity of recycling services

The Department of Environmental Protection issued an order relating to waste haulers to ensure the continuity of recycling services during the COVID-19 crisis.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-issues-order-to-ensure-continuity-of-waste-and-recycling

EOHED Provides list of essential business FAQs

EOHED has provided answers clarifying questions about which businesses fall within essential categories, as well as guidance on how essential businesses should continue operations. 

The full FAQs are here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services-faqs

MassHealth Launches PCA Help Hotline

MassHealth announced today that it has established a dedicated hotline through MassOptions to connect MassHealth PCA Consumers to services in the event their PCA is unavailable. Consumers can call 1-844-422-6277 and will be connected to home health services in their region. MassHealth has also updated its policies to temporarily suspend the PCA overtime cap and provide flexibility around home health aide training & certification requirements to streamline the hiring process and allow family members to be considered for hire.  There are currently over 36,000 MassHealth members receiving personal care attendant (PCA) services PCA services are essential services that support individuals with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, grooming, bathing, ambulating

DESE Guidance on to school district on remote learning

In coordination the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, DESE released the below guidance on remote learning to school districts:

I. Guiding Principles: Supporting Student Learning and Holistic Needs

Districts and schools must continue to focus on the holistic needs of the educational community:

The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff has been and must continue to be our top priority as an educational community. We are focused not only on physical health, safety, and nutrition, but also on social-emotional and mental health needs, which could intensify during this time.

This crisis disproportionately affects our most vulnerable students in terms of their physical and mental health, as well as academically. Equity needs to be a top consideration in local planning efforts, especially as districts and schools make plans to manage an extended closure. To support these efforts, DESE will issue further guidance on how best to support special populations, including students with disabilities and English learners.

Maintaining connections between school staff and students is paramount, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our school communities. These connections will provide natural conduits to guide districts and schools in addressing students’ specific needs.

At this time, districts and schools must also work to adopt a remote learning model:

Nothing can replace the in-person schooling experience, and we should not expect that remote learning can replicate the traditional school day.

At the same time, with school closures now extended, districts, schools, and communities have an obligation to engage students in meaningful and productive learning opportunities through an appropriately structured educational program.

Remote learning is not synonymous with online learning. Remote learning can take place in a multitude of ways, including by helping students engage with resources in their everyday lives and in the natural world around them. Remote learning also provides unique opportunities to further engage students in the arts or interdisciplinary work. Finally, we must be conscious of the effects of increased screen time and seek balance between learning through technology and remote learning that happens offline to support students’ curiosity and understanding.

II. Specific Guidance on Developing and Implementing Remote Learning

Planning for and implementing a remote learning model:

If districts/schools have not already developed a remote learning model, they should take time to engage in a thoughtful planning period with local stakeholders in order to launch in early April. This planning should include an assessment of the district’s or school’s capacity and resources to support a remote learning model.

Some districts and schools have already implemented remote learning plans, particularly those districts and schools that had previously developed the capacity to shift learning to a remote model. We strongly encourage all districts and schools to consider the recommendations in this guidance document, but ultimately, we recognize that individual districts and schools maintain local authority to design their remote learning models as they see fit.

Above all, we recognize that districts, schools, and teachers are best positioned to develop plans to meet their students’ needs and that these needs may change over the course of this extended closure.

Recommended remote learning model: 

We recommend that districts support students to engage in meaningful and productive learning for approximately half the length of a regular school day. We expect this learning to take place via a combination of educator-directed learning and student self-directed learning.

We strongly recommend that districts and schools focus on reinforcing skills already taught this school year and applying and deepening these skills. We recognize that in some cases, teachers and students may wish to continue with new material, particularly at the high school level. In these cases, districts should consider equity of access and support for all students.

The individual student experience will vary depending on student age, individual and family needs, access and capacity for remote learning (including access to technology and internet), and the ongoing health of students, families, and staff. 

Definition and scope of remote learning:

Remote learning can encompass a wide variety of learning opportunities. While technology can be a supportive tool, districts and schools should also consider ways that student learning can continue offline. This could include exploring the natural world, activities to support students’ local communities (with appropriate social distancing), and engaging, hands-on projects and artistic creations that stem from students’ own passions and experiences.[1]

Examples of remote learning tools include large-group video or audio conference calls, 1:1 phone or video calls, email, work packets, projects, reading lists, online learning platforms, and other resources to effectively engage with students. These tools could be used to deliver lessons, provide individual student support, provide resources (including instructional material and student assignments), connect students to each other and their teacher, and provide feedback on student work. Districts and schools should ensure all online learning platforms meet confidentiality and student privacy standards.

Components of a remote learning schedule:

We recommend the following routine and structure for remote learning, recognizing the need for flexibility for individual districts and individual students within them:

Opportunity to connect with one or more educators multiple times per week. For students who are at higher risk of learning loss, such as students with disabilities or English learners, we recommend that educators provide additional opportunities for connection.

Access to multiple hours per day of academic content directed by educators, which should focus on reinforcing skills already taught this school year and applying and deepening those skills.

Time each day for physical activity based on recommendations from educators.

Additional daily time for enrichment activities such as the arts (dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts). 

Feedback on student work and grading:

To the extent practicable, teachers should provide feedback on student work completed at home. That said, if districts and schools have not already implemented policies regarding credit-bearing courses (determining credit for academic work at home), we strongly recommend that academic content be graded as “credit/no credit” so as to incentivize continuous learning while acknowledging the challenging situation we face. Non-credit bearing courses, such as those for elementary and middle school students, could incorporate other incentives to keep students motivated to continue their learning. 

Before moving forward with any determinations of “no credit,” we strongly urge districts and schools to consider whether the students have had equitable access to learning opportunities during this closure, keeping in mind the variety of technology, health, disability, and language challenges that could occur.

We are grateful for educators’ continued dedication to their students and for caregivers who have embraced the challenges of helping students learn at home. We are all juggling unusual responsibilities. Although remote learning is new and challenging, we believe that students will benefit both from engaging with their caring school community and from continuing to learn.

March 25 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GUIDANCE & LEGISLATION

Paid sick leave included in new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) law

Generally, the FFCRA provides employees of covered employers the following:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at the employee’s regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $511 per day or $5,110 for the two week period) where the employee is unable to work, because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $200 per day or $2,000 for the two week period), because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $200 per day or $12,000 over the ten week period) where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Employers would receive a payroll tax credit for qualified sick leave wages and family leave paid by an employer in the amount of benefits paid (not to exceed the limits for pay) over the permitted duration.

Self-employed individuals qualify for an individual tax credit for qualified sick leave and family leave in the amount of $200 a day (or $511 for emergency paid sick leave for own quarantine or seeking own medical diagnosis) or 67% (or 100% for emergency paid sick leave for own quarantine or seeking own medical diagnosis) of average daily pay for self-employed individuals over the permitted duration, whichever is less

To learn more about the qualifying reasons for expanded family and medical leave and the calculation of pay, please visit the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights page. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave

The Wage and Hour Division provides information on issues employers and employees face during influenza, pandemics, or other public health emergencies, as well as their effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Please visit the WHD COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies page for additional information. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

A more detailed description of these provisions can be found here: https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/issue-brief/the-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-summary-of-key-provisions/

Note: The below referenced legislation is not yet law. As of Wednesday evening, the U.S. Senate has not voted on the legislation due to disagreement over the appropriate scope for unemployment insurance benefits. The summaries below provide an overview of the potential legislation.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act appropriations

The bipartisan coronavirus aid and economic relief agreement (which at the time this was written, had not yet been signed into law) provides new resources to help strained state, local, and tribal governments as they combat this pandemic; support for hospitals and health care workers on the front lines of this public health crisis; funding to purchase personal protective equipment and much needed medical equipment; support for law enforcement and first responders; funding for scientists researching treatments and vaccines; support for small businesses; support for local schools and universities; and funding for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs. 

Highlights include:

  • $100 billion for a new program to provide direct aid to health care institutions on the front line of this crisis—hospitals, public entities, not-for profit entities, and Medicare and Medicaid enrolled suppliers and institutional providers—to cover costs related to this public health crisis.   
  • $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile supplies of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies, which are distributed to State and local health agencies, hospitals and other healthcare entities facing shortages during emergencies.
  • $3.5 billion for BARDA to expand the production of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to help combat this pandemic.
  • At least $250 million to expand the Hospital Preparedness Program Support of emergency preparedness, including the National Ebola and Special Pathogens Training and Education Center (NETEC), regional, State and local special pathogens treatment centers, and hospital preparedness cooperative agreements.
  • $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains, enabling industry to quickly ramp up production of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical supplies, and billions dollars more for federal, state, and local health agencies to purchase such equipment. 
  • $4.3 billion to support federal, state, and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus, including for the purchase of personal protective equipment; laboratory testing to detect positive cases; infection control and mitigation at the local level to prevent the spread of the virus; and other public health preparedness and response activities.
  • $200 million for CMS to assist nursing homes with infection control and support states’ efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus in nursing homes.
  • $45 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide for the immediate needs of state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to protect citizens and help them recovery from the overwhelming effects of COVID-19.  Reimbursable activities may include medical response, personal protective equipment, National Guard deployment, coordination of logistics, safety measures, and community services nationwide
  • $400 million for FEMA grants, including :
  • $100 million Assistance to Firefighter Grants to provide personal protective equipment, supplies, and reimbursements.
  • $100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants which focus on emergency preparedness
  • $200 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program which provides shelter, food, and supportive services through local service organizations.
  • $200 million for CMS to assist nursing homes with infection control and support CMS and states as they work to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
  • $30.75 billion for grants to provide emergency support to local school systems and higher education institutions to continue to provide educational services to their students and support the on-going functionality of school districts and institutions.
  • $260 million for Navy operations and maintenance, including funds to support the deployment of the USNS Comfort hospital ship to New York City and the USNS Mercy to Los Angeles.
  • Nearly $1.5 billion for National Guard Support to States and territories to support Title 32 operations, which have been ordered to commence in New York, California, and Washington.
  • $3.5 billion in additional funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care assistance to health care sector employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.
  • More than $7 billion for affordable housing and homelessness assistance programs.  This funding will help low-income and working class Americans avoid evictions and minimize any impacts caused by loss of employment, and child care, or other unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19, and support additional assistance to prevent eviction and for people experiencing homelessness.
  • $25 billion in aid to our nation’s transit systems to help protect public health and safety while ensuring access to jobs, medical treatment, food, and other essential services.
  • $10 billion in grants to help our nation’s airports as the aviation sector grapples with the most steep and potentially sustained decline in air travel in history.
  • More than $6.5 billion in Federal funding for CDBG, the Economic Development Administration, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help mitigate the local economic crisis and rebuild impacted industries such as tourism or manufacturing supply chains.
  • Funding to strengthen response capacity and support tribal communities, including: 
  • $1.03 billion to the Indian Health Service to support tribal health care system response efforts;
  • $100 million more for the USDA Food Distribution Program for Indian Reservations;
  • $453 million to assist tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • $69 million to help tribal schools, colleges and universities through for the Bureau of Indian Education
  • $300 million more to the HUD Indian Housing Block Grant program.
  • $900 million for LIHEAPto help lower income households heat and cool their homes.
  • $15.85 billion for to help our nation’s veterans, including to help treat COVID-19, purchase test kits, and procure personal protective equipment for clinicians, and $590 million in dedicated funding to treat vulnerable veterans, including homeless veterans and those in VA-run nursing homes
  • $850 million in Byrne-JAG grants for state and local law enforcement and jails to purchase personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and overtime. 
  • $562 million to help small businesses by ensuring SBA has the resources to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to businesses that need financial support. This will help businesses keep their doors open and pay their employees.
  • $450 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program(TEFAP) to assist food banks across the country.
  • $425 million to increase access to mental health services in communities.
  • $400 million in election assistance for the states to help prepare for the 2020 election cycle, including to increase the ability to vote by mail, expand early voting and online registration, and increase the safety of voting in-person by providing additional voting facilities and more poll-workers.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act, now law, included $1 billion for state unemployment offices

The coronavirus reponse package included an additional $1 billion to help state unemployment offices handle the new influx of claims and expand their UI coverage to as many people as possible who could be eligible under state law.  DOL recently issued guidance on these funds. The guidance includes the state-by-state shares of these grants, linked below. Please note, there is a 60-day timeline on the first tranche of the two grants.

Internal Revenue Service tips and FAQs

The IRS recently went live with a website that provides tips for taxpayers and tax pros.  You can find that site here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-operations-during-covid-19-mission-critical-functions-continue 

The IRS also recently created FAQs regarding this year’s tax filing deadline extension. You can find that site here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/filing-and-payment-deadlines-questions-and-answers 

Social Security Administration telephone information and services

All SSA field offices are currently closed and as a result Americans should expect service delays. You can still reach the SSA by phone, however, and a link to identify your local field office is here: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp 

The Social Security Administration also recently published a website providing Americans with information related to their services during the coronavirus pandemic, and that website is here: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/

HHS awards $100 million to health centers across the country

On March 24, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $100 million to 1,381 health centers nationally through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020. 

The full announcement is here: HHS Awards $100 Million to Health Centers for COVID-19 Response

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Emergency order extending school closures and non-emergency child care programs

Governor Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. 

This order expands on previous orders issued on March 15 and March 18 suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs until April 6, and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs to serve vulnerable children and families of first responders and essential workers.

  • This closure extends one week beyond scheduled spring vacation week on most school district calendars.
  • The order does not apply to residential special education schools.
  • This extension will allow school administrators and educators added planning time to ensure students can complete course requirements, as well as provide teachers with time to expand remote learning opportunities.

Read the Orders here: K-12 School Order | Early Education School Order

DESE Guidance on remote learning

During this time, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is requesting that educators continue to develop and assemble high-quality educational materials to provide students with effective remote learning resources through the month of April. The Department is also creating a model for districts to use and modify in collaboration with local stakeholders to fit their school district’s needs, and will continue to work with schools to identify best practices for implementing effective remote learning.  

Remote learning encompasses a wide variety of learning methods, including both analog and online. While technology is an excellent tool, districts should also consider ways students can continue to learn offline. This could include exploring nature, activities to support students’ local communities (with appropriate social distancing) and engaging in hands-on projects and artistic creations that stem from students’ experiences.

Additionally, through a new partnership between DESE and WGBH, educational resources will be posted on the department’s website, and middle and high school students can access WGBH and WGBY educational programming on WGBH and WGBY on the WORLD channel from noon to 5 p.m.

Housing Stability for Vulnerable Populations: 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the following guidance for renters and homeowners:

  • DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers under their purview.
  • MassHousing is transferring $5 million to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for a COVID-19 Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) fund to assist families facing rent insecurity.
  • The Division of Banks (DOB) has issued new guidance to Massachusetts financial institutions and lenders urging them to provide relief for borrowers and will advocate for a 60-day stay on behalf of all homeowners facing imminent foreclosure on their homes.
  • DHCD is issuing guidance recommending that all owners of state aided low-income housing, including Local Housing Authorities and private owners, suspend both pending non-essential evictions and the filing of any new non-essential evictions.
  • Affordable housing operators are urged to suspend non-essential evictions for loss of income or employment circumstances resulting in a tenant’s inability to make rent.
  • This guidance urges operators to establish reasonable payment plans, notify Section 8 or public housing residents about interim income recertification to adjust rent payments, and to consider offering relief funding for residents ineligible for income reassessment.

Read the DHCD Guidance Here:

Guidance to owners of state aided low-income housing

Guidance to affordable housing operators

Notices and guidance regarding federal and state rental assistance programs:

The full guidance from the Division of Banks is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-25-dob-message-to-industry-regarding-mortgage-loan-borrowers-impacted-by-covid-19

DPH order on pharmacies and grocery stores and their employees

The Department of Public Health issued an order today which will require grocery stores and pharmacies to:

  • Provide at least one hour per day of shopping for adults over 60-years-old.
  • Offer sanitation options, such as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, as available, to clean shopping carts and points of frequent contact.
  • Appropriate social distancing policies, including a marked “Social Distancing Line,” beginning six feet away from all checkout counters.
  • Close any self-serve food stations.
  • Instruct store employees who are ill to stay home, and for stores to accommodate employees who fall in the high-risk category with alternative assignments to limit exposure.

The full pharmacy and grocery store order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-25-2020-pharmacy-grocery-order

Department of Environmental Protection statement on pharmacy and grocery store order

Sections of today’s Executive Order will assist our essential businesses, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, by prohibiting the use of reusable checkout bags for the duration of the state of emergency, as a precautionary measure. Essential businesses continuing to operate during this time, including those subject to local bans on single use plastic bags, may choose to use recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags.  They may not charge customers a fee for these bags.

As you know, plastic bags and plastic wrap should not be included with common household recycling. Given the precautions being taken, we ask that plastic bags be held onto at this time for future recycling at a drop-off location, which you can find here: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/

Please visit www.RecycleSmartma.org for tips on and answers to recycling questions.

Legislation filed to help municipalities, school districts

The Baker-Polito Administration filed An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and School Districts Resulting from COVID-19, which would provide administrative relief to state and local government entities impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including modifying local permitting processes, enabling municipalities to extend tax and finance deadlines, and extending deadlines for certain education requirements. 

A full announcement is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-files-legislation-to-address-challenges-faced-by-municipalities

DOI guidance on telehealth prescribing

The Division of Insurance issued guidance on using telehealth services for prescriptions without requiring a face to face visit. 

The full guidance is here: 

https://www.mass.gov/doc/alert-regarding-use-of-telemedicine-during-public-health-emergency-covid-19/download

Department of Transitional Assistance launches online application portal for TAFDC and EAEDC

DTA launched an online application portal to assist with applications for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) programs. 

The online portal is here: https://dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov/

March 24 COVID-19 Updates:

FEDERAL GUIDANCE

Department of Labor announced dislocated worker grants

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of up to $100 million for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address the workforce-related impacts related to COVID-19

The full advisory is here: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200318

Department of Housing and Urban Development moratorium on foreclosures and evictions

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.

The full advisory is here: https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_042

Department of Agriculture delivering one million meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to deliver one million meals per week to children in rural areas who are out of school.

The full announcement is here: https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/03/17/usda-announces-feeding-program-partnership-response-covid-19

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Full list of essential businesses during Stay at Home advisory

Following the Baker Administration’s 3-23 announcement of a Stay at Home advisory, the following guidance has been made available:

American Red Cross facing severe blood shortage

The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the COVID-19 outbreak. There is an urgent blood donation need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as for ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state.   

To schedule a new blood drive: contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or email William.Forsyth@redcross.org.  

Those who are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).  

Department of Public Health expanded daily dashboard, text message alerts

The DPH Daily Case and Testing Dashboard now provides additional data categories to provide the public more information on the outbreak in Massachusetts. In addition to County, Sex, and Exposure of confirmed cases, DPH is now providing an Age Group breakdown. As testing across the Commonwealth ramps up, DPH is also now providing more robust information about all the labs submitting test data, including total number of patients tested and total positive results. The dashboard is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring 

DPH also announced the launch of a new text-based notification system to deliver important information about the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response to Massachusetts residents.

The new messaging tool called “AlertsMA” will allow residents to subscribe to real-time notifications by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777.  After signing up, state and public health officials can send short messages and links to information directly to a resident’s cell phone or other mobile device.

Department of Public Utilities order temporarily prohibiting utility shutoffs

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order prohibiting investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill until the State of Emergency is lifted or the DPU determines otherwise. The announcement builds upon the DPU’s March 13 moratorium (https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-shutoff-moratorium-eversource-and-national-grid/download) requesting utility companies refrain from shutting off gas and electric service to residents across the Commonwealth. The new order will expand the moratorium to include any investor-owned utility customers, including industrial, commercial, and small business customers, during the State of Emergency.

The Order also prohibits investor-owned utility companies from sending communications that threaten to shut off gas, electric, or water service to any of their customers for failure to pay a bill or any portion of a bill the Companies issued to a customer. Any company that fails to comply with these orders may be assessed penalties of up to $1 million per violation.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/chairs-1st-set-of-orders-under-c-25-s-4b-re-covid-19/download

Department of Conservation and Recreation announces temporary closure of state park athletic fields and courts

DCR has temporarily closed athletic fields and courts, such as basketball, tennis, handball, pickle ball, and bocce, throughout the state parks system effective today, March 24, 2020 until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at which time the closure will be reassessed. Importantly, all state parks across the Commonwealth remain open and available for the public to visit. DCR reminds residents and visitors to avoid gathering in groups of ten or more people, maintain social distancing, and practice healthy personal hygiene to stop the spread of the virus.

Similarly, DCR has extended the closure of agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, and bathroom facilities until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, which will also be reassessed at that time. The temporary extension of the closure of these facilities is consistent with an emergency order issued by Governor Charlie Baker on Monday, March 24, 2020.

Furthermore, the agency will be removing trash receptacles throughout the state parks system to aid in the prevention of spreading COVID-19. DCR asks that all visitors of state parks adhere to a “carry in, carry out” trash policy during this public health emergency, and urges visitors to do their part to help protect our shared natural resources by leaving no trace and taking any trash with them.

DCR has developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 webpage, which centralizes COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, and the webpage can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

New Guidance Issued on prioritization and optimization of PPE

The Command Center, in partnership with MEMA, has developed new guidance on prioritizing and optimizing Personal Protective Equipment during COVID-19 Response. The full guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

The Command Center is aggressively pursuing every legitimate supply chain opportunity both internationally and nationally and is placing orders.  This includes coordinating with MassBio and MEMA to collect donated supplies through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub. 

Massachusetts RMV announcements regarding transition to suspension hearings by phone and online reservation system for required In-person transactions

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing several additional measures being implemented to prioritize reducing customer volumes in physical locations and maintaining proper “social-distancing” under Governor Charlie Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency:

 Appointment-Only Online Reservation System

 Effective now, Tuesday, March 24, an appointment-only reservation system is being implemented for certain necessary and required in-person transactions at the RMV’s eight open and operating Service Centers. These essential transactions include certain Commercial Driving License (CDL) transactions and some new registrations. Appointment reservation times will be available on a rolling basis up to two business days in advance on www.Mass.Gov/RMV in the myRMV Online Service Center under “Make or Cancel a Reservation.” Customers who make an appointment will be sent a confirmation email that they should be prepared to show on arrival. The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers will remain open to exclusively perform walk-in commercial transactions for CDLs and permits (CLPs), and CDL road tests continue to be administered.

Suspension Hearings and Reinstatement Procedures 

Effective Monday, March 23rd, the RMV implemented new protocols for suspension hearings. Applying for and initiating a suspension hearing to seek reinstatement will continue to require an in-person visit to an RMV Service Center, but the hearings are now being conducted by phone. 

At this time, customers will not be able to request a hearing under the appointment-only reservation system outlined above. Some suspended customers may already be able to complete the reinstatement process and payment online if all other outstanding requirements have been satisfied by visiting www.Mass.Gov/RMV and selecting “Pay my Reinstatement Fees.”

Hearings are being conducted at Boston/Haymarket, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester. Hearings at the Pittsfield RMV occur weekly on Wednesdays and are scheduled to resume on March 25th. No hearings will be conducted in Plymouth. Chemical test refusal (CTR) hearings are only held at Boston/Haymarket.

Customers arriving at these locations to request a hearing will be provided tickets on a limited first-come, first-served basis, depending on the availability of Hearings Officers at that location that day. Customers should bring copies of all necessary documents, depending on the type of suspension, to submit along with an application completed on-site. A Hearings Officer will call a customer directly to conduct their suspension hearing by phone. 

60-Day Extension of CDL Medical Certificates 

CDL Medical Certificates (Med Certs) that have expired or will expire after March 1st will have a 60-day extension applied to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers, during the State of Emergency.

Suspending Issuance of New REAL IDs and Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Knowledge Exams

On March 23rd, the federal government announced there will be a delay of the October 2020 REAL ID compliance deadline. Effective March 25th and until April 7th, the RMV is also suspending the issuance of new REAL IDs and knowledge/written exams for non-commercial learner’s permits, both of which are currently required, but non-essential, in-person transactions. As a reminder, all non-commercial Class D and M road tests for permit holders have already been suspended through April 6th. Renewals for standard driver’s license and ID credentials can be performed online at www.Mass.Gov/RMV along with more than 40 other transactions that can be conducted online, over the phone, or by mail.

For information about available services and additional steps the RMV has taken under the State of Emergency declaration, including the extension of expiring licenses / permits and vehicle inspection stickers, please visit:  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.

March 23 COVID-19 Updates:

SENATE LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

The Senate and House today passed legislation to help protect public health by providing cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities.  The bill now goes to the Governor.

The House also issued orders to reschedule two special state elections until June 2, 2020.  The Senate issued an order to reschedule two state special elections until May 19, 2020.

The legislation includes guidelines for public notification of rescheduled election dates, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots processing, and the display of sample ballots. The legislation:

  • Allows municipal governments to postpone caucus or certain elections scheduled before May 30, 2020 and reschedule the caucus or elections to a date prior to June 30, 2020.
  • Allows any eligible voter to vote early by mail for elections occurring before June 30, 2020.  More here: https://karenspilka.com/updates/2020/3/23/municipalelections

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Baker Administration  “stay at home advisory,” and order on essential services, closing certain workplaces, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people:

The Baker Administration issued an order mandating that effective Tuesday March 24, all non-essential businesses close physical workplaces to all workers, customers and public until Tuesday, April 7 at noon. The order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-23-2020-essential-services-and-revised-gatherings-order/download

The Baker Administration provided the following list of essential services:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download

To request designation as an essential business, please click here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request 

Department of Public Health guidance to hospitals regarding implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space:

DPH issued new guidance to hospitals regarding the implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

A full list of DPH guidance to hospitals can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives

DUA Virtual Town Halls on Unemployment Benefits:

In order to better meet the needs of residents whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19, the Department of Unemployment Assistance will continue hosting daily town hall meetings to help constituents achieve a successful unemployment claim. DUA will also take questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. 

Sign up information for the virtual town halls is available at https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-dua-virtual-town-halls

Attorney General offering webinars on housing rights and scams:

The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division is offering webinars to assist service providers and community members.

  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on landlord/tenant rights on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 10:30 AM. This webinar will be in Spanish.
  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on scams and identity theft on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 10:30 AM. This webinar will be in Spanish.
  • The Attorney General’s Community Engagement Division will hold a webinar on landlord/tenant rights on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 10:30 AM. 

More information is available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/office-of-attorney-general-maura-healey-webinar-week-tickets-99353709620.

Division of Insurance guidance to commercial carriers:

DOI issued an order instructing commercial carriers tol be appropriately flexible to help members maintain their existing coverage, including grace-periods and having staff available to explain the purchase COBRA. 

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-05-flexibility-in-the-issuance-and-administration-of-insurance-during-covid-19/download

Department of Agricultural Resources launches COVID-19 resource page:

MDAR has created a website with all COVID-19 resources relevant to agriculture. MDAR’s COVID-19 website is here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/covid-19-resources-for-agriculture

Department of Environmental Protection order to ensure continuity of waste and recycling collection:

The Baker Administration announced the issuance of an emergency order to ensure that intrastate waste and recycling collection and disposal will continue uninterrupted during the COVID-19 emergency. Due to the essential nature of these services and anticipated impacts due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Administration’s order provides relief from state and federal requirements that govern the hours of service allowed for commercial vehicle operators involved in waste and recycling transportation and collection, while maintaining important safety protections and measures. 

The Administration’s action will help support continuity of waste and recycling operations by helping to ensure availability of adequate staffing resources throughout this emergency, and is consistent with the State of Emergency declared by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The order will remain in effect until April 12, 2020 unless the Administration determines otherwise. 

Summary of Department of Elementary and Secondary guidance:

DESE has provided a summary of its COVID-19 guidance.

Web pages related to special education services:http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/covid19.html

Web pages related to educator preparation programs: http://www.doe.mass.edu/edprep/covid19.html 

Web pages related to college, career, and technical education: http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=25973

School meals: A link to Project Bread’s School Closure Meal Site Finder (https://meals4kids.org/summer)  is now on DESE’s COVID-19 page: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html At this point, federal reimbursement is only available for meals served in areas where at least 50 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Districts that are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Area Eligibility Mapper (https://www.fns.usda.gov/areaeligibility) to use census data to try to identify a location where they could serve meals and be reimbursed. Districts can also serve grab-and-go meals to eligible students even if those students make up less than 50 percent of a given school or district. However, those districts are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement. 

Academics: Students should be doing as much learning as possible while they are at home, and DESE is working to make this easier. Staff in the Center for Instructional Support have assembled a list of resources (http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/ed-resources.html) that districts can add to their own, and DESE is working with public broadcaster WGBH and its partner station WGBY to provide other resources. Educators have free access to PBS LearningMedia (https://mass.pbslearningmedia.org/) and the stations’ newly created online distance learning center (https://www.wgbh.org/distance-learning-center). In recognition of the fact that not every student has a computer and internet access, and in addition to existing programming, WGBH plans to expand its educational broadcasting from noon to 5:00 p.m. weekdays on the WORLD Channel. The WORLD Channel is a 24/7 WGBH channel that offers news and documentaries and which is now shifting some of its schedule to meet this urgent need. (More information on where to find the WORLD Channel on WGBH and WGBY is available online.) Additional guidance from DESE will be forthcoming.

Adult education: The Department has closed adult basic education and English for speakers of other languages programs, as well as post-secondary and workforce training programs that are taught in public school buildings, public colleges and universities, and community-based organizations. At this point, DESE hopes to reopen the adult education programs when schools reopen.

MCAS: The Department is exploring all options around this year’s testing requirements. To date, DESE has postponed both the Grade 10 English language arts assessment scheduled to begin on March 24 and the opening of the grades 3-8 English language arts assessment window scheduled for March 30. The Department will keep districts informed of decisions related to the spring 2020 assessment schedule and the competency determination. There may be an opportunity for a one-year assessment and accountability waiver from the federal government, but even if that is granted, we would need legislative relief from our state legislature to waive the state law around the testing requirement.

Please be advised that MCAS-Alt portfolios do not need to be submitted by April 3, nor is it necessary to obtain a parent’s signature that they have reviewed the portfolio prior to submission. The Department will contact schools at a later date regarding a new submission deadline.

Districts may still submit cohort appeals (http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcasappeals/) for students in grade 12. For cohort appeals, use only the online application process. Do not submit paper-based appeals. A guide to the online application process is available for download. Please do not submit appeals for students in grades 10 or 11 at this time. Questions about this subject can be emailed to mcasappeals@doe.mass.edu.

Educator licensure: Governor Baker has issued an executive order extending licenses for certain licensed professionals (https://www.mass.gov/doc/eo-on-license-registration-extension-dpl-opsi/download), 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. The Department expects to issue guidance to implement the terms of the order.

Payments to hourly employees: Commissioner Riley is strongly recommending that school districts pay their hourly employees during the current emergency school closure. Like all of us, these employees need to follow public health directives and take care of themselves and their families. While they do so, school districts could ask them to continue their learning by reading educational articles, books, taking an online class or performing other tasks that could be a benefit to the school districts. Districts must be able to quickly resume providing services to students as soon as schools re-open, and in order to do that, they will need to have an available, ready work force, including hourly employees.

A link to DESE’s COVID-19 webpage is here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html

March 22 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GUIDANCE

Summary of health care changes in Families First Coronavirus Act

The Families First Coronavirus Act signed by the President makes temporary modifications to both public and private health care coverage. 

A summary of the health care changes included in the new law is here; 

aha.org/advisory/2020-03-19-coronavirus-update-president-signs-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-hr

Secretary of State announces additional travel restrictions

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border.

A full list of travel restrictions and guidance can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Updates from White House Task Force on Coronavirus 3-22 Press Conference

  • Announcement of major disaster declarations for New York, California and Washington – the federal government will deploy supplied to the locations with the greatest need
  • The President signed bill to ensure that GI bill will cover distance learning during COVID-19
  • Restricted visitors in veteran community centers with chronic medical conditions to limit their exposure / VAhas cancelled most elective procedures / VA has been leader in expanding telehealth
  • 254,000 Americans have been tested for COVID-19 
  • All commercial labs will receive guidance from HHS tomorrow – urging all commercial labs to prioritize in-patient testing
  • The FDA approved emergency authorization of new test, should be in production by end of March
  • Tomorrow, CDC unveiling new guidance for people working in law enforcement/first responders to make it easier/possible for people who have been exposed to the virus to return to work
  • State department is working to assist Americans in other countries overseas that are unable to get a flight home – clarified that all American citizens will be able to return, but noted that some simply can’t get back because there are no flights available
  • Encouraging people to visit step.state.gov – smart traveller enrollment program

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

DOR guidance on unemployment benefits for independent contracts, part-time workers not yet authorized:

Many Massachusetts residents are still not able to successfully apply for UI benefits because the Federal Government has not yet authorized Disaster Unemployment Assistance.   

According to the DOR, currently self-employed individuals and 1099 contract employees are not eligible for unemployment benefits. If the President of the United States makes a disaster unemployment declaration for Massachusetts or nationwide, the self-employed and 1099 contractors would become eligible for unemployment assistance. This is already coded into the DUA system and would be available immediately upon declaration and press release announcement. 

Updates and guidance on emergency childcare centers:

Last week, the Commonwealth announced that effective Monday, March 23, all early education centers and family childcare providers will be closed.  Starting Monday, selected sites will open to serve as emergency drop-in childcare services for families with no other options to continue going to work to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents.  Child Care is meant to be for those who must report to work. Outside of the obvious emergency responders and medical professionals, this includes critical service workers like grocery store employees. As of Friday, the Commonwealth had approved over 300 sites to start operations on Monday. 

Resources on emergency childcare program can be found here: https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents#programEmergency

To inquire about exempt emergency child care programs, fill out the form linked here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfLfeCesZdBAUMFCfQ7wqS-xqhrY3nDzaZDBdbPUIro8Zyv2w/viewform

The process for authorizing emergency exempt childcare is detailed here: https://eeclead.force.com/resource/1584817342000/The_EECCP_Process 

Resources from the Attorney General on paid work leave updates and workplace safety: The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has provided or identified the following resources. The Families First Coronavirus Act included employer paid leave requirements which can be found here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave

The Attorney General’s office has gotten inquiries from legislators and the public who are concerned about workplace safety. The Attorney General’s office is in touch with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and OSHA’s Massachusetts offices are below:

Andover         978-837-4460

Springfield     413-782-0123

Braintree       617-565-6924

GIC guidance on changes to state health insurance programs:

State and federal level guidance and legislation has adjusted eligibility and coverage for state health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Information about GIC benefits during the outbreak can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/what-you-should-know-about-gic-health-benefits-and-the-covid-19-outbreak

Updated from GIC can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/gic-updates-regarding-covid-19

Assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:  

The Command Center announced that the Commonwealth is working with the Army Corps  on various topics including identifying existing facilities that could be converted or retrofitted into structures like hospitals or shelters.

Testing Update from Command Center:

The Command Center is carefully monitoring the Commonwealth’s testing capacity and ways to increase testing for more residents. The number of tests completed in a day in Massachusetts has more than doubled since Wednesday, from 520 to 1,116 today. 

The Governor spoke about the first privately owned urgent care center in Massachusetts starting to conduct drive thru testing for COVID-19. AFC Urgent Care in Waltham is testing pre-screed patients waiting to be tested.  This new site is in addition to the CVS Shrewsbury pilot location announced Thursday — 1 of 40 CVS drive thru locations in the US – and they play an important role in the overall effort to expand testing capacity across the Commonwealth.  

Protections for individuals covered by MassHealth & the Health Connector:

The Administration announced protections for MassHealth members and individuals covered by the Health Connector effective March 18, 2020.  MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency. This protection will extend to one month after the national emergency is over. Coverage will only end if an individual requests termination of eligibility or if they are no longer a resident of the state. Members will not lose coverage or have a decrease in benefits for any other reason. For individuals who have received notices that their coverage ended after March 18, 2020, no change in coverage will occur. These individuals do not have to send in any paperwork to keep their coverage, it is protected. This will ensure all MassHealth members have access to testing and treatment they may need related to COVID-19

Recent MBTA actions relating to commuter rail capacity changes to service critical healthcare workforce:  

The MBTA announced increased early morning trains currently being planned for Lowell, Fitchburg, and Newburyport/ Rockport rail lines, effective TBD.  The MBTA will initiate limited ferry service from Hingham to Charlestown with no plans to stop at Islands effective mid-week next week. Rear door boarding is being planned on the light rail lines, bus and on the Mattapan High Speed Line. Front door boarding will be reserved for those passengers requiring an accessible egress.  This temporary step is effective at the start of revenue service on Saturday, March 21. RIDE paratransit services will be limited to no more than two passengers per vehicle, with an increased frequency of sanitizing protocols. There will also be an immediate increase in frequency of sanitizing & cleaning of bus vehicle lobbies. The current plan being negotiated calls for cleaning to occur every four service hours in addition to the overnight cleaning.

Order on extending professional licenses:

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.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/eo-on-license-registration-extension-dpl-opsi/download

March 21 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL UPDATES

Defense Production Act FAQs

What just happened with the Defense Production Act?

On March 18, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) and 3 USC 301. 3 USC 301 is just the President’s legal authority to delegate powers and work.

Now that the Defense Production Act has been invoked, is it being used?

As of 3-20,  the President activated the DPA to accelerate the production of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic, with a focus on medical supplies like respirators, ventilators, masks, and other supplies of that nature.

The DPA gives the President the authority to require performance under contracts which the President authorizes as necessary or appropriate to promote national defense; and these contracts then take priority; to allocate materials, services, and facilities in such manner necessary to promote national defense.

In order to control the general distribution of a material in the civilian market, the President must find the following things to be true:

  • that such material is a scarce and critical material essential to the national defense, and
  • that the requirements of the national defense for such material cannot otherwise be met without creating a significant dislocation of the normal distribution of such material in the civilian market to such a degree as to create appreciable hardship.

Every agency under the section that has been delegated powers must do the following: issue final rules as to their plans within 270 days of the DPA being invoked, consult with the heads of other Federal agencies to develop a unified system.

What additional powers were given to the Secretary of Health and Human Services?

In order to fight COVID-19, the authorization of the Defense Production Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human services new powers over health and medical resources. The following powers were invoked and delegated to the HHS Secretary: 

  • to require performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, and to implement subchapter III, to determine, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce and the heads of other executive departments and agencies as appropriate, the proper nationwide priorities and allocation of all health and medical resources, including controlling the distribution of such materials (including applicable services) in the civilian market, for responding to the spread of COVID-19 within the United States.  

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Tax Relief for Businesses

The Department of Revenue announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020. A full press release can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-new-health-care-resources-small-business-relief-other

Labor and Workforce Development and Department of Unemployment Assistance hosting virtual town hall meetings

EOLWD and DUA will take all who sign up through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim. They will also be taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. 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 information for the virtual town hall is available at https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-dua-virtual-town-halls. A Spanish language town hall will be held on Tuesday at 9am and additional language town halls shortly thereafter. 

To further help claimants through the process of applying for benefits, a specific web page has been created with updates that include the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources like contact forms and a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook. That information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19

Order deferring inspections for smoke alarm systems

Governor Baker today issued an order making a change to the inspection statutes that require a smoke and carbon dioxide alarm inspection prior to a residential real estate transaction. The Order would permit the inspection to be deferred if the buyer contractually assumes responsibility for installing the detectors and the subsequent inspection happens within 90 days of the conclusion of the COVID-19 emergency.

Administration authorizes $200 million infusion in cash at MassHealth

The Administration announced accelerated payments and cash advances to provide $200 million immediately to MassHealth for critical, acute care and safety-net health care providers, as well as for certain health care providers required to help ensure that members receiving care in the community or nursing facilities do not need to go to the hospital. These will be accelerated payments and cash advances for immediate, stopgap relief to ensure the front-line health care system is able to provide necessary resources to patients. 

MassHealth files waiver with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Massachusetts is filing a waiver request that, if allowed, will enable MassHealth to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers, and deliver critically needed health care services easier during the COVID-19 emergency. The Commonwealth is seeking flexibility to address key areas of need:  

  • Allow for non-traditional sites of care to expand surge capacity, such as use of testing tents and overflow hospital sites  
  • Allow new providers, including out of state providers, a streamlined pathway to practice in the state including caring for MassHealth members  
  • Allow physician assistants to practice independently  
  • Provide flexibility to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to meet increasing demand
  • Expand MassHealth Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility to all individuals – which MassHealth already expanded through a public health order last week – including children, older adults, and individuals who have received MassHealth benefits within the past 12 months  
  • Allow medications to be delivered to members, and waive a signature requirement for these prescriptions  
  • Waive face-to-face requirements for certain services, including Home and Community Based Services, and behavioral health evaluations for Schedule II-IV prescriptions

Guidance for Local Boards of Health

Municipalities inquiring about their ability to impose travel restrictions in addition to and beyond what the state has imposed can consult a manual published by the Mass Association of Health Boards (https://mahb.org/).

The general structure, powers, and duties of local boards of health are found at M.G.L. c. 111, s.26-33.  Boards have authority to adopt and enforce reasonable health regulations under M.G.L. c.111, s.31. Case law upholds boards’ authority to adopt regulations that are more restrictive than state standards so long as the local regulations do not conflict with state law and are not specifically preempted.

Boards may also direct the isolation and quarantine of individuals, animals, and property relative to communicable disease and maintain isolation hospitals to prevent the spread of infection.    M.G.L. c. 111, s. 92-105, 116.

Boards enforce the isolation and quarantine regulations found at 105 CMR 300.200.

MBTA Announces Service Update Effective March 21, 2020

The MBTA has announced additional service revisions in a continuing effort to protect the health and safety of the T’s workforce and customers, and to preserve transit services for those who are essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Effective Saturday, March 21, the MBTA will implement rear-door boarding on all MBTA buses and trolleys at street-level stops on the Green Line and Mattapan Line. Anyone needing to use the front door, including seniors and people with disabilities, may continue to do so.

These new measures further the T’s support for social distancing and are aligned with Governor Baker’s State of Emergency declaration. They are in addition to service revisions implemented earlier this week that resulted in broad reductions in service to protect the health and safety of the MBTA’s workforce and customers.  More information: https://www.mbta.com/covid19

Unemployment Virtual Town Halls

To help with the increased demand on the unemployment system and the increased volume or your constituent service staff, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance will be hosting virtual town hall meetings. We will take all who sign up through a step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim. We will also be taking questions from claimants across the Commonwealth. 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 information for the virtual town hall is available 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. 

 To further help claimants through the process of applying for benefits, we have made specific web page updates that include the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources like contact forms and a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook that can be viewed at https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19

March 20 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL UPDATES

Trump Administration postpones tax day until July 15

The deadline for filing tax returns will be postponed three months, to July 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced today. More information about this announcement can be found here: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/tax-day-postponed-until-july-15-mnuchin-says-n1164811?fbclid=IwAR1zP2zXVSCzsBFy8Zp7-d6maq0jBrLM0Je6f7uCMq9paeCuu7_Xqdb3H20

Federal government launches coronavirus website

The Trump Administration has launched a website – coronavirus.gov – to keep the public informed about the outbreak.  

Updates from the federal government on testing accessibility

  • The FDA issued emergency approval for new commercial coronavirus tests to significantly expand testing across the country.
  • The President signed legislation that will ensure Americans are able to be tested for free (more here).
  • Admiral Brett Giroir – the Assistant Secretary for Health and head of the Public Health Service – has been appointed to coordinate coronavirus testing efforts.
  • The Administration is actively working with state and local partners and the private sector to open up drive-through testing sites.
  • The Administration is working with the private sector to develop a website that Americans can utilize to determine whether they need a test and, if so, where to get it.
  • HHS is providing funding to help accelerate the development of rapid diagnostic tests for the coronavirus.
  • The FDA cut red tape to expand testing availability. Today, Thursday, March 19, President Donald J. Trump announced the approval of existing drugs to test a COVID-19 treatment. The FDA continues to expand its work regarding therapeutic options and has a vaccine trial underway. More here.
  • The FDA is empowering states to authorize tests developed and used by laboratories in their states. Every state laboratory is empowered to conduct testing.
  • The President signed legislation requiring more reporting from state and private labs to ensure our public health officials have the data they need to respond to this outbreak.

Updates from the federal government on  essential medical supplies

  • The President issued an Executive Order invoking the Defense Production Act. Under the Defense Production Act, the President has the authority to determine that certain supplies are essential for the national defense during challenges like this The President’s action allows the Administration, if it becomes necessary, to order the distribution of health and medical supplies to where they are most needed. You can find the Executive Order here.
  • The President signed a memorandum directing his Administration to make general-use face masks available to healthcare workers (more here).
  • HHS announced it will be purchasing 500 million N95 respirators for the Strategic National Stockpile (more here).
  • The Department of Defense announced it will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to assist.  
  • The President signed legislation removing restrictions that prevented manufacturers from selling industrial masks – which can readily protect healthcare workers – directly to hospitals.

Updates from the federal government on standardized testing, student loan interest

On 3-20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year.  Upon a proper request, the federal Department of Education will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students because of the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.  

Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in the statewide accountability system because of the ongoing national emergency. 

The Secretary also announced that borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days.  In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months to allow them greater flexibility during the national emergency.  This will allow borrowers to temporarily stop their payments without worrying about accruing interest.

The Secretary has also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one.  The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. To request this forbearance, borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone. The Secretary also authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020, or who becomes more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency.

BAKER ADMINISTRATION GUIDANCE

Attorney General Healey files emergency regulations on price gouging

On 3-20, Attorney General Maura Healey filed an emergency regulation to prohibit price gouging of essential products and services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18, filed today with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits 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.

DESE Commissioner message to school districts regarding hourly employees

On 3-20, DESE Commissioner Riley sent the following message to school districts: 

“In response to questions I have received from school superintendents, I am strongly recommending that school districts pay their hourly employees during the current emergency school closure. Like all of us, these employees need to follow public health directives and take care of themselves and their families. While they do so, school districts could ask them to continue their learning by reading educational articles, books, or taking an online class.

For the benefit of the students we serve, I believe it will be important for school districts to maintain continuity of operations during the period of school closures. Districts must be able to quickly resume providing services to students as soon as schools re-open. In order for school districts to accomplish that, they will need to have an available, ready work force, including hourly employees.

School districts have already budgeted these costs, and I urge school superintendents to coordinate your efforts on this issue with your municipal officials, human resources officers, and school business managers. I expect to be able to provide a recommendation regarding payments to contractors in the near future. Thank you for all that you are doing to manage and lead during this state of emergency.”

RMV Extends motor vehicle inspections and commercial driver’s licenses and permits deadlines

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles announced that it will be implementing a 60-day extension to Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) and Commercial Learner’s Permits (CLPs) expired or expiring in March and April, and that the Service Centers in Milford and Wilmington are reopened to exclusively perform commercial license/permit transactions. 

All commercial licenses or permits with an expiration date between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will have the 60-day extension applied to that customer’s credential. The RMV implemented a similar extension for residents with Class D, Class M and Class DM driver’s licenses, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits on March 16th with the exception of customers whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their driver’s license, ID card, or Learner’s Permit. Customers eligible for these extensions should wait to visit an RMV Service Center to renew until after the State of Emergency has concluded.

In addition, annual motor vehicle safety and emissions inspection expiration dates are being extended as follows:

  • All non-commercial vehicle inspection stickers that expire on March 31, 2020 (designated by a number 3 on the inspection sticker) must be inspected by May 31, 2020.
  • All non-commercial vehicle inspection stickers that expire on April 30, 2020 (designated by a number 4 on the inspection sticker) must be inspected by June 30, 2020.
  • Non-commercial vehicles that are issued a failed inspection sticker (indicated by a sticker with a red or black letter ‘R’) that is due to expire in the month of March, 2020, must be re-inspected by May 31, and non-commercial vehicles issued a failed inspection sticker due to expire in the month of April, 2020, must be re-inspected by June 30. Additionally, the one free re-test for these vehicles is also extended to May 31 or June 30 provided the re-test is performed at the same inspection station that performed the initial inspection.
  • Regardless of the date of inspection, vehicles issued a failed inspection sticker due to a safety defect (indicated by a sticker with a red letter ‘R’) shall not be operated until appropriate repairs have been completed.
  • All motorcycle inspection stickers originally set to expire on May 31 must be inspected by June 30.

The RMV is also extending the time during which newly registered vehicles must be inspected: 

  • Any newly-registered non-commercial vehicle purchased between March 1, 2020 and March 31, 2020 must be inspected by May 31.
  • Any newly-registered non-commercial vehicle purchased between April 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020 must be inspected by June 30. 

In addition, during the declared emergency period, the RMV is waiving the requirement of 540 Code Mass. Regs. § 4.08(2), which requires that inspection stations must remain open and available for inspections for a minimum of six hours per day, five days per week. Inspection stations are excused from compliance with this provision during the length of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Guidance on Communicating with Division of Local Services During the Current State of Emergency

On 3-20, DLS temporarily suspended telephone services including the DLSlaw attorney hotline and email in order to streamline incoming communications. DLS asks all local officials and those working on behalf of municipalities to consult with your local counsel for legal advice.

For urgent municipal finance and regulatory compliance questions, please email COVID19DLS@dor.state.ma.us. Before submitting questions, please check the DLS website and review DLS Alerts notifications as they are DLS’ primary means of providing the most up-to-date information. 

DLS recommends that any and all interested parties sign up to receive DLS alerts: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/how-to-subscribe-to-dls-alerts

March 19 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL UPDATES

Families First Coronavirus Act signed into law

Today, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Act into law. This new law will provide funds to help deal with the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as modify some federal programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and tax credits.

A statement on the bill signing is here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/bill-announcement-88/

Senate Republicans release an economic stimulus bill for coronavirus

On 3-18 the US Senate Republicans unveiled an economic stimulus bill that Includes large corporate tax cuts, direct checks to taxpayers and limits on paid leave.

A summary of the bill can be found here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/

THE LEGISLATURE

Senate President Spilka announces Senate action towards delaying elections

The Senate has determined that moving forward with traditional elections at this time would put voters, election workers, volunteers and others at excessive risk. The Senate President announced that the Senate will take action on Monday to give cities and towns needed flexibility to address this situation, including temporarily postponing municipal elections. The Senate will also propose that there are robust mail and absentee voting options and protections to maximize voter participation when elections do occur.  

The Senate is also working with stakeholders to postpone certain special Senate state elections previously scheduled for March 31, 2020.  As with postponed municipal elections, the Senate would propose allowing voters to vote with an absentee ballot or via a mail-in option due to the COVID-19 state of emergency.

BAKER -POLITO ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Baker-Polito Administration activates Massachusetts National Guard to support COVID-19 response

Governor Baker’s order to activate the Massachusetts National Guard authorizes activation of up to 2,000 National Guard members across the Commonwealth, who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

The full announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-activates-massachusetts-national-guard-to-support-covid-19

Department of Agricultural Resources guidance for food growers

On March 18, the Department of Agriculture Resources issued guidance for food producers and farmers markets. The full guidance from MDAR can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/mdar-covid-19-fruit-and-vegetable-memo/download

Department of Public Health order requiring local reporting of positive COVID-19 cases

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order requiring local boards of health to communicate to the official in their district with the responsibility of administering emergency calls the addresses of those who have tested positive for Covid-19.  

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-of-the-commissioner-of-public-health-regarding-the-sharing-of-critical-information-with/download

Department of Public Health order allowing pharmacists to administer treatment for substance use disorder

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order allowing pharmacists to administer substance use disorder treatment medication. The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-pharmacist-opioid-misuse-disorder-medication/download

Department of Public Health order allowing flexible reassignment of physicians assistants

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order providing for the flexible reassignment of physicians assistants.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-physician-assistant-order/download

Governor Baker provided the following updates on COVID-19 testing during a press conference

At a 3-19 press conference, Governor Baker noted that by Saturday, Quest Diagnostics (of Marlborough) will be able to conduct 20,000 tests per day on samples sent in from all over the country, with results being released in three or four days. There will be no out-of-pocket testing charges for the 1.8 million Massachusetts individuals on Medicaid. The Governor’s executive order waiving that cost sharing also applies to commercial and GIC insurance in Massachusetts.

By the beginning of the week, the Commonwealth hopes to be able to test 3,500 samples per day between state and commercial labs. The testing priority will be: (1) frontline health workers & first responders, and (2) hospitalized and sick individuals.

Attorney General Maura Healey provided answers on COVID-19 employee rights and employer obligations

The Attorney General asked and answered some frequently asked questions on employee rights and employer obligations with regard to COVID-19. 

The full guidance from the Attorney General can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19-employee-rights-and-employer-obligations

RMV Opening 8 Locations with New Protocols on Thursday

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing that eight of its 30 customer service center locations will be open on Thursday, March 19th, while asking that customers who do not have immediate needs for required in-person services delay their visits. These RMV facilities prioritize regional availability, accessibility and facility size and capacity and will prioritize ONLY transactions that cannot be completed online, over the phone or by mail. To assist with “social-distancing” and reducing facility volume, customers are asked to not bring multiple individuals with them. Meanwhile, AAA locations will continue to offer select RMV services to AAA members and road tests will be suspended indefinitely.

New protocols will be in place to mitigate customer queuing. Customers visiting the open centers will be issued tickets on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to those customers with transactions that cannot be completed online. Tickets will designate for customers whether they will be served in the morning (9 a.m. until 12 p.m.) timeframe or the (12 p.m. until 5 p.m.) timeframe in groupings. Limited tickets will be issued based on the Service Center capacity and number of customers that can be served realistically through the course of the day. Any remaining customers will be asked to leave and return another day. Road tests remain suspended through at least March 20th.

March 18 COVID-19 Update:

FEDERAL GUIDANCE

U.S. Senate passes the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On 3-18 the US Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. A news article about that can be found here: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/488264-senate-passes-houses-coronavirus-bill-sending-it-to-trump 

Small Business Administration Administrative Declaration of an Economic Injury Disaster for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The U.S. Small Business Administration issued a notice of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) declaration for all counties in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on 3-18. More information about what this declaration means can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/small-business-administration-disaster-loans

Applications can be filled out here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

LEGISLATURE 

Today, Governor Baker signed a bill the Massachusetts State Senate passed this morning to allow workers impacted by COVID-19 to access the unemployment benefits they need right away. https://karenspilka.com/updates/2020/3/18/bill-to-ease-access-to-unemployment-insurance-signed-into-law

STATE GUIDANCE

 Today, Governor Charlie Baker announced a series of new measures to adapt childcare operations, enhance the Commonwealth’s healthcare system’s capacity, assist small businesses, and support unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Childcare Operations: Governor Baker issued an Executive Order requiring all early education centers and family childcare providers to close, starting Monday March 23 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) also issued emergency procedures to set forth a process for opening Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs during the COVID-19 outbreak to provide priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and others critical to confronting COVID-19.

Read the Executive Order here: Early Education and Care Order 

Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs: Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs will be the only child care programs able to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak. Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to emergency childcare programs and these centers should only be used by people who must go to work. Vulnerable children will also receive priority access and space will be made for people who must go to work but aren’t necessarily emergency personnel.

  • The Department of Early Education and Care put procedures in place to quickly review applications for emergency child care programs, and to conduct expedited background record checks for childcare teachers and staff.
  • The Department is working to ensure there is sufficient access to emergency child care programs in each region of the Commonwealth, so those workers who need childcare can still access it.
  • A proposed program can be either a currently-licensed child care program, or a new program such as a location within or near a medical facility.
  • Providers impacted by these closures will continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state. This ensures that programs will be able to re-open once the crisis is over. Parents who receive subsidies will not lose their vouchers, and will be able to eventually resume care. EEC will cover the cost of parent fees for subsidized families enrolled in care.
  • All programs that would like to operate must complete the EEC’s Emergency Licensing and Background Record Check process. Programs that have a current license and educators with confirmed background checks will be expedited for approval. 
  • Programs must adhere to strict safety and health standards established by the Department of Public Health and Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Public Health Orders: Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel has signed three public health orders today which do the following: 

  • The first Order relaxes administrative requirements so as to allow physician’s assistants who previously worked on elective surgeries to be used elsewhere in the hospital under a different supervising physician.
  • The second Order, due to the expected demands on nursing staff, would allow pharmacists to administer certain medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder, where, under normal circumstances, such medication must be administered by a nurse.
  • The third Order requires Local Board of Health to disclose the addresses – but no other identifying information – of those diagnosed with COVID-19 to the official in charge of emergency calls in the jurisdiction. That information can only be used for responding to emergency calls and is to be kept confidential.

Extending the Licenses of Certain Licensed Professionals: Governor Baker signed a new emergency order to ensure that licensed professionals do not have their licenses or registrations lapse due to unforeseen problems with renewal during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, under this order, occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency. This order does not affect license extensions that have already been granted in earlier emergency orders.

Read the Emergency Order here: Extension of Professional Licensure Order 

Small Business Relief: The Baker-Polito Administration today announced administrative tax relief measures for small local businesses which have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors. This tax relief includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes that would be due in March, April and May so that they will instead be due on June 20. Additionally, all penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.

  • Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and business that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.
  • The Department of Revenue is currently drafting emergency regulations to implement these administrative relief measures, and they are expected to be finalized before Friday, March 20, 2020.

Department of Environmental Protection suspends bottle redemption enforcement

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office are suspending enforcement of the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit effective immediately until further notice or until the current state of emergency is terminated. Many grocers, supermarkets, and other retail operations have indicated that they are overwhelmed with an unprecedented volume of customers purchasing provisions. Temporarily suspending enforcement of these requirements will allow individual retailers to assess their operations and, if necessary and appropriate, shift staffing to enable smoother operations. This action will also limit any contamination that potentially could occur from staff handling used beverage containers. Consumers are encouraged to hold on to their deposit containers for redemption at a later date or to recycle those containers with existing household recycling. 

Division of Banks guidance for financial institutions working with customers affected by COVID-19

The Massachusetts Division of Banks recognizes the potential for COVID-19 to adversely affect the customers and operations of financial institutions. The Division encourages financial institutions to take steps to meet the financial services needs of affected customers and communities https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2020/03/16/COVID-19%20DOB%20Industry%20Statement%2003-16-20.pdf

Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) sends survey to municipal police and fire chiefs

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS)is tracking all PPE’s (Personal Protective Equipment) and resources from public safety entities. In partnership with MA Chiefs of Police and MA Dept of Fire Services, EOPSS sent a survey to municipal police and fire chiefs asking them to identify their PPE supplies and needs. If one of your chiefs did not received this email, please have them contact MCOPA or DFS, at:

Chief Mark K. Leahy, Executive Director Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association: 

mleahy@masschiefs.org 

Office: (774) 293-2587

Cell: (508) 922-8370

Peter J. Ostroskey, State Fire Marshal, Department of Fire Services

peter.ostroskey@mass.gov

Office:  (978) 567-3111

Massachusetts to Temporarily Suspend Bottle Redemption Enforcement

Out of an abundance of caution due to the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office are suspending enforcement of the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit effective immediately until further notice or until the current state of emergency is terminated. https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-to-temporarily-suspend-bottle-redemption-enforcement

March 17 COVID-19 Update:

DPH emergency credentialing and licensed staff transfer procedures

The Department of Public Health issued an order regarding expedited credentialing process for licensed independent practitioners and expedited transfers of licensed clinical staff among facilities. 

The full DPH order on credentialing and staffing can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-of-the-commissioner-of-public-health-implementing-emergency-credentialing-and-licensed/download

Division of Insurance coverage for telehealth

The Division of Insurance issued an order on 3-16 regarding insurance coverage for medically necessary telehealth services. 

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-telehealth-order/download

Department of Agricultural Resources cancellations and guidance on farm biosecurity

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has postponed, cancelled or moved to a remote format all events over the next thirty (30) days.  MDAR provided recommendations to prevent introducing or spreading disease on the farm. 

The full recommendations are linked here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/mdar-addressing-covid-19-coronavirus-impacts-and-guidance/download

March 16 COVID-19 Update:

Baker – Polito Administration announces $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund

The $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months.

How to Apply:

Please complete the application found on MGCC’s website, EmpoweringSmallBusiness.org.  Completed applications can be sent via email to mgcc@massgcc.com with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund”. MGCC can be reached by email: mgcc@massgcc.com

Loan Fund Details:

  • Who Qualifies: Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).
  • Terms and Conditions: This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.
  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

MBTA announcement of reduced service

The MBTA has announced reduced service effective 3-17, and full updates and guidance from the MBTA can be found here: https://www.mbta.com/covid19 

“No Sail” Order for Cruise Ship Operations

The CDC has issued a 30 day ‘No Sail’ order for any cruise ship which has not voluntarily suspended operations. The Coast Guard will assist the CDC in preventing cruise ships from embarking passengers in US ports. The Port of Boston does not currently have any cruise ship arrivals scheduled until April 17th, though will identify any cruise ships or vessels carrying 250 or more persons (passengers and crew) with an overnight itinerary, planning to embark passengers.

Updated Executive Order on large gatherings, restaurants, and on-premise food and beverage consumption

The Baker-Polito Administration issued an Executive Order to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants, effective from 3-17 until 4-5. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery. 

The Baker Polito also revised its Executive Order prohibiting large gatherings of over 250 people to prohibit gatherings of over 25 people. 

The full Executive Order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-large-gatherings-25-and-restaurants-order/download 

Updated guidance on elementary and secondary school closures

The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective 3-17. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-school-closure-order/download

Full guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can be found here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html 

Guidance for Executive Branch employees on March 16th and 17th work

All non-emergency state employees working in Executive Branch agencies should not report to their workplace on Monday, March 16th and Tuesday, March 17th. Employees who are designated by their managers as emergency for the purposes of coronavirus planning should report to work. During this period, the administration will work to expand alternative work arrangements for the executive branch workforce and further develop plans to continue to provide essential state government services. The full announcement can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Department of Public Health guidance on insurance coverage for telehealth

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15 that stipulates that all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.

Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-telehealth-order/download

Registry of Motor Vehicles guidance on extending the renewal timelines

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will extend the renewal timeline of certain credentials to reduce the need for customers to physically visit an RMV service center for in-person transactions. Effective this week, the RMV will implement a 60-day extension to the current expiration date for Class D, Class DMs, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits within the RMV system. All customers with expired/expiring credentials physically dated between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, will continue to have an active status within the RMV system until sixty (60) days after the expiration date printed on their credential. The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-rmv-license-extensions/download

Guidance for Hospitals on the Cancellation of Elective Procedures and Restricting Visitors

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that hospitals must restrict visitors and cancel non-essential elective procedures, effective Wednesday. The announcement can be found here:

The order on restricting visitors can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-hospital-visitor-restrictions-order

The order on non-essential elective procedures can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-elective-procedures-order

Guidance on nursing home visitor prohibition

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes. The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19 

Updated guidance from The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) regarding unemployment assistance

Regarding current unemployment claims, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) have taken the following actions:

  • Suspending all requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers.
  • Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be excused under DUA’s good cause provision.
  • All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Baker-Polito administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

EOLWD and DUA are also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. The following conditions apply:

  • Workers must remain in contact with their employer during the shutdown.
  • Workers must be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do.
  • An employer may request to extend the period of the covered shut-down to eight weeks, and workers will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
  • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods for workers and employers.
  • Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

The pending federal legislation proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits, and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.

The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Updates on Legislation to Assist Municipal Governance

Governor Baker announced a package of legislation to help address challenges to municipal governance resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including potential delays in holding Town Meetings and adopting Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) municipal budgets. Provisions in the proposed legislation include:

  • Amend existing statute authorizing Moderators to postpone Town Meetings by thirty days.
  • Permit local Select Boards to postpone Town Meetings beyond the statutory June 30 deadline when the Governor has declared a state of emergency..
  • Permit local Select Boards to temporarily adopt lower quorum rules.
  • Permit continued month-to-month spending into FY21 by towns based on the prior fiscal year budget with approval of the Division of Local Services during states of emergency. Cities have similar authority under existing state law.
  • Permit towns to access their free cash balance for FY21 spending with approval of the Division of Local Services.
  • Permit municipal spending from revolving funds at the level set by their Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation until an FY21 budget is adopted.
  • Authorize a three-year amortization period for deficit spending incurred as a result of COVID-19 crisis.

The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Governor Baker files legislation for rescheduled Boston Marathon

Governor Baker also filed legislation designating September 14, 2020 as a legal holiday to support the rescheduled 2020 Boston Marathon. The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19MARCH 16, 2020

March 15 COVID-19 UPDATE:

Governor Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary MaryLou Sudders, and Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel provided the following guidance at a 6 PM press conference:

  • Only emergency and executive branch employees should report to work tomorrow
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a directive to all health insurers to cover telehealth services
  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles will issue guidance extending renewals so people residents do not need to visit the RMV for renewals at present
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is directing hospitals to cancel all elective procedures beginning on Wednesday to create additional capacity in hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a prohibition on visitors to nursing homes
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday 3-16 to relax Unemployment Insurance guidelines, including waiving the one week waiting period to collect unemployment and expanding eligibility for collecting unemployment for people who have been impacted by COVID-19
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday to help municipal governments with town meetings and adopting budgets
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file legislation to move date of Boston Marathon to September 
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is amending its Executive Order on gatherings of larger than 250 people to prohibit all public gatherings of larger than 25 people including fitness centers and private clubs
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing guidance to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants which will be effective from 3-17 until 4-17. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery. 
  • The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective Tuesday – school can occur normally on Monday for districts that have not already suspended classes. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education.

For more information on these emergency orders, visit: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19#feedback

COVID-19 101 and FAQs

DPH website

CDC website

Detailed guidance for groups including consumers, assisted living centers, child care providers, housing authorities and many more is available here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-recommendations

What is the guidance on prevention measures?

For a full and continuously updated list of best practices on prevention, please visit the MA Department of Health guidance on prevention: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-prevention-and-treatment#prevention-

Where can I find information about sick time laws, get help with insurance claims, or report price gouging?

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has provided resources specific to the coronavirus crisis, and you can find a full list of those resources here: https://www.mass.gov/news/ags-office-issues-guidance-on-coronavirus-resources-warns-of-consumer-scam

  • Information about sick time laws: 617-727-3465
  • Help with insurance claims or medical bills: 888-830-6277
  • Report price gouging or defective products: 617-727-8400
  • If you’re having difficulty negotiating a travel refund or are concerned about a potential scam, consider filing a complaint: www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint

How many people in Massachusetts have COVID-19 and how many people are quarantined?

For up to date information about COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts or residents subject to quarantine, please visit this link: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring

BAKER ADMINISTRATION EXECUTIVE ORDERS, GUIDANCE, AND UPDATES

Guidance on Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to activate the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program which would provide assistance to eligible businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. EIDLs provide small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses until normal operations resume.

Affected small businesses and non-profits should download, complete, and submit the SBA EIDL Worksheet and Instructions to expedite activation of the EIDL program. For questions, please contact Disaster.Recovery@mass.gov. Full guidance regarding the program is here:  https://www.mass.gov/info-details/small-business-assistance-for-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR3nJTouJT8xxlZ2KSrVD6NbFmhY2VNzBGAyA7yMv8DX3CPTowEzyU6reKo

Updated guidance on public transportation sanitation

On March 4, the MBTA announced increased sanitation measures: https://mbta.com/news/2020-03-04/increased-sanitation-schedule-preparedness-planning-coronavirus

Updated guidance on health care costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment

On March 6, the Division of Insurance released a bulletin instructing insurers not to charge patients for COVID-19 testing or treatment: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-02-addressing-covid-19-coronavirus-testing-and-treatment-issued-362020/download  

March 14: Baker-Polito Administration announces creation of COVID-19 Response Command Center led by HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders

The Command Center, under the leadership of Secretary Sudders and reporting to Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, will be the Commonwealth’s single point of strategic decision making and coordination for the Administration’s comprehensive COVID-19 response.  The Command Center will have complete authority and discretion to tap whatever state funds are necessary, including the $15 million recently appropriated by the Legislature for Coronavirus.

The Command Structure will enable expert teams to advance key initiatives including:

  • Working to expand lab capacity for testing
  • Planning quarantine operations
  • Coordinating communication and guidance across government
  • Responding to the needs of our local boards of health
  • Monitoring supply chains
  • Identifying surge capacity in the Commonwealth’s health network.

The Command Center will hold daily briefings with the Governor, key secretariats and agencies and will communicate regularly with other stakeholders such as municipalities and local boards of public health. The Command Center will work closely with and support the Department of Public Health’s ongoing response in conjunction with federal and local partners, and will include decision -makers from across state government, including:

  • Executive Office of Health and Human Services
  • Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation
  • MBTA
  • Executive Office of Education
  • Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
  • Executive Office of Technology and Security Services
  • Human Resources Division 

The Command Center will also facilitate coordination and communication with key stakeholder groups like the CDC, FDA, cities and towns, the Legislature, local boards of public health, and others.

March 14: Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Clinical Protocols for COVID-19 Testing

Updated protocols will expedite testing for patients with a range of symptoms and conditions as well as health care workers and emergency responders; MassHealth issues guidance to providers to ensure access to treatment including telehealth: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-new-clinical-protocols-for-covid-19-testing

March 14: Mass Gaming Commission suspends casino operations

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to temporarily suspend operation at the state’s three casino properties, including Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made in collaboration and cooperation with Gaming Commission licensees to safeguard the health and well-being of casino guests, employees, and regulators.

The Gaming Commission is in close consultation with public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming operation. This decision will be re-assessed in two weeks, while an orderly shutdown process is actively underway. It is anticipated that the gaming floor will close to patrons at 5:59am on March 15, 2020. The full statement from Mass Gaming and COVID-19 realted updates can be found here: https://massgaming.com/news-events/covid19/

Updated guidance from the Department of Conservation and Recreation on park closures:

The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a temporary closure of certain state conservation and recreation managed facilities. The full guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-temporary-closure-of-certain-state-conservation-and

On March 10, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-declares-state-of-emergency-to-support-commonwealths-response-to-coronavirus

Updated guidance on Open Meeting Law

On March 12, the Baker-Polito Administration issued an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available, such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, or on-line meeting services. Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level, and it does not apply to Town Meetings or judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. The full text of the order is available at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/open-meeting-law-order-march-12-2020/download

Updated guidance on gas and electric shut offs

On March 13, the Department of Public Utilities issued a moratorium to suspend all shut-offs of gas and electric utilities, including Municipal Light and Gas Plants, for residential customers during the State of Emergency.

Updated guidance on jury trials and courthouse access:

On March 13, the Supreme Judicial Court postponed jury trials until after April 21 and issued restrictions on courthouse entry. This guidance is available through the following links: https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-empanelment-of-juries and issued updated guidance which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-empanelment-of-juries 

A Massport Traveler Advisory is continuously updated here: https://www.massport.com/massport/media/newsroom/traveler-advisory-regarding-covid-19/

Updated guidance for community-based and congregate care settings:

The Baker-Polito Administration has released new policies for Assisted Living Residences, Congregate Care Settings, In-Home Caregivers and Workers (Agency Based and Non-Agency Based), and Community Day Program Settings to further protect individuals served in community-based and congregate care settings from respiratory illnesses, including Coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance is available through the following links:

Guidance on nursing home visitor restrictions:

On March 12, tThe Department of Public Health issued an emergency order restricting visitor access to nursing homes and rest homes to protect higher-risk populations from COVID-19. The full order and the Department’s guidance are linked here: 

Updated guidance on unemployment insurance:

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) recently received federal guidance allowing for flexibilities regarding unemployment compensation for individuals affected by COVID-19. EOLWD is analyzing that guidance and pursuing potential emergency regulations which further enable them to assist individuals whose employment has been affected by the virus. The federal guidance can be found here: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/corr_doc.cfm?DOCN=8893

Additionally, in order to reduce in-person traffic at career centers and UI walk-in centers, EOLWD has suspended requirements related to the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment for the time being. Staff are in the process of contacting customers scheduled to appear at the centers to let them know that their benefits will not be impacted as a result of this change and that they will be back in touch with them when these services are re-scheduled.

Updated guidance for first responders, law enforcement, businesses and schools:

The Department of Public Health has provided updated guidance and recommendations for emergency responders and law enforcement, businesses and employers, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges and universities:

·         Guidance for emergency responders and law enforcement click here.

·         Guidance for businesses and employers click here.

·         Guidance for elementary and secondary schools click here.

·         Guidance for colleges and universities click here

Guidance on expediting licensing for nurses from another jurisdiction: 

On March 11, tThe Board of Registration in Nursing updated its policies to expedite the processing of reciprocal license applications for nurses that are licensed in another jurisdiction to allow those applications to be processed in one business day. The full policy can be found here:  https://www.mass.gov/doc/expedited-processing-of-reciprocal-license-applications-in-the-event-of-a-declared-public/download

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES AND GUIDANCE

Federal declaration of state of emergency:

On March 13 the President of the United States issued a proclamation declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. The full proclamation can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-declaring-national-emergency-concerning-novel-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-outbreak/

US House of Representatives passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On March 14 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) by a 363-40 vote. This legislation provides free coronavirus testing, secures paid emergency leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states. The bill now awaits U.S. Senate action, which is expected the week of March 16. A summary of the legislation can be found here: https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/Families%20First%20summary.pdf

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