Covid-19: We can’t afford to wait

Massachusetts isn’t doing enough

Since Gov. Baker declared a state of Emergency this month, our state legislature has passed a handful of bills:

  • They allocated $15 Million to a fund to deal with the effects of Covid-19
  • They waived the one-week waiting period for newly unemployed people to collect benefits
  • They delayed a few special elections & allowed for voting by mail (but only through June - this won’t help us during the September primary or November elections)

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:

Unemployment during Covid-19

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 IMMEDIATELY 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. Something to get cash into people’s hands urgently is needed. These bills both include means testing, but we would urge the legislature to not means test these payments, as it is not just families in deep poverty who are at risk.
  • ✅Eviction/foreclosure moratorium: HD.4935 by Rep. Connolly & Rep. Honan ensures no evictions or foreclosures happen during the state of emergency. (The MA Housing Court has taken some action, but there are still many people not covered by that action)
  • ✅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.
  • ✅Protecting the homeless: HD.4952 by Rep. Sabadosa & Rep. Mark which would provide additional funding for homeless services. People suffering from homelessness are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus and are often unable to self-isolate as easily as others.
  • 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. (The legislature passed vote by mail for special elections, but nothing for the Sept. or Nov elections!)

Existing MA programs should have funding increased and ensure that vulnerable residents have access:

Contact Your Reps Today

You should contact four people:

  1. Your State Rep
  2. Your State Senator
  3. Speaker Robert DeLeo - Robert.DeLeo@mahouse.gov -617.722.2500
  4. 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, WITHOUT any means testing
  • a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures like HD.4935
  • expanded unemployment insurance like outlined in HD.4958
  • 15 days additional paid sick time for all residents
  • 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)
  • SNAP
  • MassHealth
  • 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.”

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