Since Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10th, legislators have passed two bills related to the crisis: they waived the one-week waiting period for those newly unemployed to begin receiving benefits, and they allocated $15M into a fund for the administration to deal with this crisis.
These are positive steps, but they do not remotely meet the urgency of this crisis we face. We are looking at a public health emergency that will claim many lives, and a devastating economic crash that will affect us all for years to come.
The legislature is in session Monday, and it's important they hear from us, on two issues. We are providing a script at the bottom of the email for you to use.
1. Public Health - #ShutDownMASS
MA has suffered two deaths from coronavirus, and the number of infected is about to rapidly grow. Hospitals from one end of the state to the other are reporting shortages of sanitary supplies. Things are going to get worse unless we act now. Every infection we prevent buys our healthcare system desperately needed time.
The Governor has repeatedly stated at press conferences over the past week that he does not intend to issue a Shelter in place order. But the optional, individualized efforts currently being promoted aren't working. We need to act fast.
Sign the petition: Link
Update: Today, Gov. Baker issued a Stay at Home "advisory" today, and an order for non-essential businesses to close effective tomorrow. These are positive steps, but the advisory still falls short of an order, so we recommend you still sign the petition to express the urgency this issue demands.
2. Demand Legislative Action NOW
The $15M that the legislature has allocated to fight coronavirus is a drop in the bucket compared to the size of the problem. Unemployment has skyrocketed overnight as businesses have closed and people stay at home. This is going to hit everyone in MA hard, especially the most vulnerable:
Source: New York Times
Unlike previous recessions which ramped up more gradually, this economic crisis will have immediate & disastrous consequences for many in our state. The $15M which the legislature appropriated for this crisis isn't enough. We need to see bold action by our legislature THIS WEEK in order to blunt the damaging effects this crisis will have on the vulnerable in our state.
A number of legislators have filed bills to address various aspects of the crisis, but it's not clear precisely how the legislature will take action. Whether through many bills or one larger supplemental budget bill, we need to see action FAST.
What should the legislature do?
- ✅Cash payments to residents: HD.4945 by Rep. Gouveia & HD.4950 by Rep. Miranda would provide for cash payments to most residents in the state, helping blunt the impact of job loss, caring for sick relatives, and more.
- ✅Eviction/foreclosure moratorium: HD.4935 by Rep. Connolly & Rep. Honan ensures no evictions or foreclosures happen during the state of emergency.
- ✅Unemployment insurance: HD.4958 by Rep Mark & Rep. Sabadosa to expand who is eligible for unemployment insurance to cover people like tipped workers & others.
- ✅Paid Sick Time: We must expand the current paid sick leave law to ensure all employees have an additional 15 days of paid sick time to self-isolate or care for sick relatives. No one should be forced to choose between having money for rent and taking care of their health.
- ✅Protecting the incarcerated: HD.4963 by Rep. Sabadosa would work to reduce the chances of a dangerous outbreak of coronavirus in the prison system by releasing people who don't pose a threat and ensuring those who remain are given access to cleaning materials. There are already cases of Covid-19 reported in our correctional systems, we must ensure they do not spread.
- ✅Vote by Mail: HD.4957 by Rep. Mark & Rep. Sabadosa to allow anyone to request an absentee ballot and mail it back, to ensure no one has to choose between voting and following social distancing protocols.
Existing MA programs should have funding increased and ensure that vulnerable residents have access:
- ✅ Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program to ensure residents have access to food.
- ✅Residential Assistance for Families in Transition - Financial assistance to households at risk of homelessness
- ✅ SNAP - Food Stamps
- ✅ MassHealth
- ✅ Funding for Community Health Centers & Hospitals
- ✅ Local aid to cities & towns - to support first responders, public health, and other necessary programs.
Contact Your Reps Today
You should contact four people:
- Your State Rep
- Your State Senator
- Speaker Robert DeLeo - Robert.DeLeo@mahouse.gov -617.722.2500
- Senate President Karen Spilka - Karen.Spilka@masenate.gov - 617.722.1500
Look up your State Rep & State here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator\ Sample Script:
"Hi, my name is ___ and I live at ____(address). I'm writing to ask that the legislature take bold action to deal with the coronavirus. I'm asking your office to support bold, progressive policies to protect the most vulnerable in our society during this crisis, including support for:
- cash payments to residents similar to HD.4945 & HD.4950
- a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures like HD.4935
- expanded unemployment insurance like outlined in HD.4958
- 15 days additional paid sick time
- protections for those in our prison system, HD.4963
I urge the legislature to act big and to do so quickly, to help blunt the serious consequences residents of the commonwealth will face. Please work with your colleagues to ensure we have increased funding for, and expand eligibility for programs that many residents are going to need, including:
- the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP)
- Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
- funding for Community Hospitals & Health Centers
- Local Aid to cities and towns for First Responders & Public Health needs
Please work with your colleagues and leadership in both chambers to demand action quickly. We cannot afford to wait.**"