Monday, January 15, 2018

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today gives us an opportunity to remember the life and work of Martin Luther King. During a difficult time in the history of our nation he echoed the belief first expressed by President Lincoln that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" and confronted oppression and intolerance with faith, character and perseverance.

The struggle to advance civil rights was long and persistent, and yet even as his own life was at risk, Dr. King marched forward peacefully with a clear, powerful voice for positive change. That vision for change was immortalized in his "I have a dream" speech, delivered at perhaps the height of racial tensions in March of 1963 to thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. His dedication, sacrifice and risk made that dream a reality in America and has inspired others around the globe.


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Friday, January 12, 2018

United States Naval Sea Cadet Corp

I was very happy to be invited recently to speak at a recent meeting of the United States Naval Sea Cadet Corp - Constitution Division at the Veteran's Outreach Center in Haverhill. This gathering included the cadets bringing in socks for their Socks for Soldiers program as part of Operation Troop Support.

The Sea Cadet Corp, for young people ages 13 through the completion of high school, is a national youth leadership development organization that promotes interest and skill in naval disciplines while instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs modeled after the Navy's professional development system.

Thank you very much for the welcome and the plaque.


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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Jan 4th nor’easter and the eligibility for Federal Disaster Assistance

I wanted to share the following information my office received from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security:





The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has prepared an overview of the process to determine eligibility for Federal Disaster Assistance. 




January 11, 2018

On January 4, 2018, a nor’easter that included snow (up to 17” in some areas), freezing rain in southeast Massachusetts, damaging winds (gusts up to 75 MPH in some areas), extreme cold, and widespread moderate and major coastal flooding, impacted the state.  The strong winds damaged trees, utility wires and infrastructure, and other structures, and the coastal flooding and extreme cold caused widespread damage to homes and businesses, roads, sidewalks, culverts, seawalls, piers, sewer systems and other public infrastructure. 

Now that emergency response operations have been completed in most communities, and efforts have transitioned to short and long-term repair and recovery, MEMA will turn its attention to evaluating whether the state and any of its cities and towns are eligible for a presidential disaster declaration and associated federal financial assistance.  More particularly, over the next several weeks, MEMA will work with state agencies and municipal emergency managers to determine eligibility for federal assistance under two of FEMA’s disaster programs – the Public Assistance (PA) Program, and the Individuals and Housing Assistance (IHP) Program – and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Loan Assistance Program.

This email is intended to provide a general overview of the damage assessment process and the applicable (i) cost thresholds under the PA Program, and (ii) the damage thresholds under the IHP Program and SBA Disaster Loan Assistance Program.   

Public Assistance Program Thresholds

Under the PA program, FEMA will reimburse cities and towns, state agencies, and certain non-profits for up to 75% of their eligible storm related costs, including emergency protective measures; debris removal; and damage to roads, sidewalks, bridges, culverts, government owned buildings, and other public infrastructure, including damage to facilities (poles, lines, transformers, etc.) owned by municipal electricity companies. Please note: for this storm, costs associated with snow removal and treatment of roadways with sand, chemical or salt are not eligible because we did not meet record or near-record snowfall amounts.   

PA assistance is provided on a county by county basis.  If a county receives a PA disaster declaration, then reimbursement is provided to all cities and towns in the county, and to state agencies for their storm related costs that were incurred within the county.  To receive PA assistance, total eligible storm related costs within the county must exceed a population based threshold that is established by FEMA.  The applicable county thresholds are listed in the table below.

 

Barnstable County  $794,468
Berkshire County
$482,886
Bristol County
$2,017,689
Dukes County
$60,849
Essex County
$2,734,825
Franklin County
$262,649
Hampden County
$1,705,643
Hampshire County
$581,734
Middlesex County
$5,531,353
Nantucket County
$37,433
Norfolk County
$2,468,728
Plymouth County
$1,821,302
Suffolk County
$2,657,045
Worcester County
$2,938,671

 
Once counties are identified as having met or exceeded individual county PA cost thresholds, the aggregate costs of these counties are calculated to determine if the statewide cost threshold has been met.  These counties can be deemed eligible under the PA program only if the statewide threshold - -  $9,559,538 - - is met or exceeded.

Individual and Housing Assistance Program (IHP) Thresholds

FEMA’s IHP Program provides direct disaster assistance to eligible disaster survivors.  The IHP Program does not have specific and objective thresholds.  Rather, in determining whether to provide assistance to disaster survivors under the Individual and Housing Assistance Program, FEMA assesses the extent of major damage to uninsured and underinsured homes and businesses, and the unmet needs of disaster survivors.  Although not set in stone as an eligibility threshold, FEMA tends to require that at least 300 to 400 uninsured or underinsured homes and businesses were heavily damaged or destroyed before it will provide disaster benefits to survivors under the Individual and Housing Assistance Program. 

Small Business Administration Thresholds

Under the SBA’s disaster programs, eligible residents and/or businesses may receive low-interest loans from the SBA to assist them in making repairs to damaged property and replacing damaged contents/assets, or helping to bring businesses back online.  All individuals or businesses must meet SBA eligibility and loan credit requirements to receive disaster loans. 

  • SBA Physical Disaster Declaration:  The SBA may issue a physical disaster declaration in any county when at least 25 homes or 25 businesses, or a combination of at least 25 homes, businesses, or other eligible institutions, each sustain uninsured losses of 40% or more of the estimated fair replacement value or pre-disaster fair market value of the damaged building or its contents, whichever is lower.  Under an SBA physical disaster declaration, low interest loans are available to businesses, homeowners and tenants to repair or replace disaster damages to property, including real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and supplies.  Businesses of any size are eligible.  SBA offers low interest loans up to $200,000 to repair disaster damaged primary residences.  Additionally, homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to replace personal property such as furniture, appliances and clothing.  Loans to businesses of all sizes and non-profit organizations are available up to $2,000,000 to repair damage to real estate, inventory, machinery, and equipment.
  • SBA Economic Injury Declaration:  The SBA may issue an economic injury declaration if at least five small businesses in a disaster area have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the disaster and are in need of financial assistance not otherwise available on reasonable terms.  The threshold usually used by the SBA to determine whether 5 small businesses have suffered “substantial economic injury” is 5 or more businesses within a business district or county that each has or likely will suffer at least a 40% loss of income over a defined period of time.

Damage Assessment Process

MEMA needs to determine whether total eligible costs and damages exceed the county and state thresholds listed above.  There are several ways we will make this determination.  First, MEMA will initiate an Initial Damage Assessment (IDA) process this week by asking coastal communities (because they were hardest hit by the storm) to submit preliminary estimates of their eligible costs and damages. If needed, MEMA will expand the IDA to other communities in Massachusetts. (Please note: these communities do not necessarily have to participate in the IDA process to be deemed eligible for reimbursement should a presidential disaster declaration be issued.)  Second, if those estimates indicate that we may exceed applicable thresholds, MEMA will initiate a more formal damage assessment process in coordination with FEMA, called a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA).     

Initial Damage Assessments

MEMA will initiate the Initial Damage Assessment (IDA) process during the week of January 7, 2018.  MEMA will send IDA forms to the municipal emergency management directors in all coastal communities, and state agencies, with a request that the forms be completed and returned to MEMA over the following two weeks. 

The IDA forms ask for initial estimates of eligible storm related costs and damages in the following categories:

  • Debris clearance and removal, including overtime and equipment costs associated with clearing downed trees, limbs and poles, rubble, sand and other materials from roadways, sidewalks and public infrastructure;
  • Emergency response and protective measures, including first responder overtime and costs for equipment (such as emergency pumps), fuel, operating shelters and warming centers, evacuating people from flooded areas, and other actions  related to impacts of the strong winds and coastal flooding on January 4thNote: costs associated with snow removal, and treatment of roads with chemicals, sand and salt because of the snow and freezing rain are not eligible costs and cannot be included in the IDA process.  Snow removal and road treatment costs are not reimbursed by FEMA unless the storm resulted in a record, or near-record snowfall.  The January 4th storm did not produce a record or near-record snowfall.
  • Repair and replacement costs associated with flood and wind damage to (i) municipally owned poles, wires and electricity infrastructure; (ii) government owned/maintained roads, sidewalks, culverts, seawalls, piers, buildings and other public infrastructure; and (iii) government owned/maintained beaches and coastal areas.
  • Information on uninsured or underinsured homes and businesses that were heavily damaged or destroyed.
  • Information on businesses, homes and other structures that sustained uninsured losses of at least 40% of the fair market value, or replacement cost of the damaged building or its contents, whichever is lower.

The IDA process is not onerous as we are only requesting high-level, rough estimates of costs.  MEMA, in collaboration with FEMA, will use the results of the IDA’s to evaluate the likelihood of the state being eligible for disaster assistance under the PA Program.  If there is a possibility that PA Program thresholds will be met, then MEMA will work with FEMA to conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments.
Preliminary Damage Assessments

Once the results of the IDAs have been analyzed, if there is any likelihood that the state will meet the PA Program thresholds, MEMA, in conjunction with FEMA, will conduct Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) to more conclusively determine if the state is eligible for federal disaster assistance under the PA Program. 

The PDA process entails sending damage assessment teams, comprised of state and federal technical experts, to those communities and state agencies that have reported significant eligible storm related costs and damages on the IDA forms.  During these field visits, the PDA teams view damage and debris, as well as examine local and state financial records, for the purpose of quantifying the impacts of the storm and gathering the cost and damage information. This information would be used to determine the state’s eligibility for disaster assistance and would be included in the Governor’s request for disaster assistance. 

The process of determining whether the PA Program cost thresholds have been met may take four or more weeks. 

Flooding and Coastal Communities

MEMA has been in touch with impacted coastal communities and is aware of the fact that the coastal flooding has displaced up to 100 families from damaged homes, and that some of these displaced families are uninsured, or under-insured and may have immediate unmet needs.  To help address these needs, MEMA will be advising local emergency managers that individuals and families with unmet needs can call 2-1-1 to be connected with appropriate service and resource providers.  More particularly, impacted individuals and families can contact 2-1-1 for help being connected with state agencies and non-profit service providers who can help address immediate unmet needs for clothing, food, housing, etc.  Additionally, 2-1-1 will be able to connect displaced residents with voluntary disaster service organizations that may be able to provide volunteers to help clean homes and return them to a safe, sanitary and secure condition.  And, 2-1-1 will be able to connect people with agencies and service providers that can help answer questions about their insurance coverage.

 

 

 


 


 


 















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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tarr Renews Call for Early Voting Funding


Tarr Renews Call for Early Voting Funding

New Information from Auditor Confirms Need for Reimbursement

 

 

Boston- Boston-Recently released certified cost information on the state’s new early voting law by State Auditor Suzanne Bump has confirmed that cities and towns have incurred significant expenses in order to comply with the requirements of that law. State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester) has filed legislation in 2017 to facilitate financial reimbursement for what is currently an unfunded state mandate, and is renewing his call for the passage of that legislation.

Cost information from the Auditor details more than $1 million in costs associated with the 2014 early voting law, which allows voters in state and certain other elections with the opportunity to vote up to 12 days prior to an election. 

 

Tarr’s bill, Senate Bill 2052, An Act to Fairly Fund Early Voting, is backed by approximately 48 lawmakers in both the House and Senate, including Republicans and Democrats.

 

“Auditor Bump’s earlier report, and the information she released on Monday, January 8, 2018 confirms our claim that cities and towns are unfairly burdened with the cost of this state mandate. Informed by that report, the legislature should now act swiftly to remedy this problem,” Tarr said. “Clearly early voting has been embraced by voters throughout the state, and we should work to ensure that it is sustainable and available in the future. Requiring that the state fairly funds the costs incurred by municipalities for the program is an important part of meeting those goals,” said Tarr.

 

The bill will also provide communities with the ability to create an Early Voting Reimbursement Fund which could receive direct appropriations from the state.

 

“When the Senate Republican Caucus initiated this bill, we identified the lack of state support for local costs as a major impediment to the success of early voting. Auditor Bump has now brought new light to bear on the real need for that support” said Tarr.

 

The Auditor’s office requested that each of the state’s 351 city and town clerks respond to survey seeking information about the costs they incurred in meeting the standards of the newly enacted early voting law. Her Division of Local Services office certified that more than $1 million in expenses was an unfunded mandate by the state therefore should be eligible for state reimbursement. Tarr’s bill will facilitate such reimbursement through a statutory requirement.

 

The bill is currently pending in the Joint Committee on Election Laws.

 


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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Keolis And MBTA Preparing Ahead Of Expected Snowfall

A Message to Rail Commuters About Extreme Cold From Keolis

BOSTON – January 2, 2018 – Keolis Commuter Services (Keolis), the MBTA’s commuter rail operating partner, is preparing for snowfall while continuing the additional cold-weather precautions it put in place to manage the network in extreme temperatures. Keolis secured additional crews and resources ahead of the forecasted snowfall, including personnel, snow-fighting equipment, sand and salt. According to recent National Weather Service forecasts, approximately 3 – 7 inches of snow is expected beginning late Wednesday and extending into Thursday evening. Freezing conditions are also forecasted to continue throughout the greater Boston area.

“Over the last several days, we’ve taken several proactive steps to prepare for regular service and minimize this storm’s impact on our passengers,” said Tory Mazzola, Director of Public Affairs, Keolis. “We will operate a regular schedule throughout the week, but these conditions can create delays. For the latest train information, visit MBTA.com, follow us on Twitter or call 617-222-3200.”

Keolis secured additional crews specifically available to clear snow from platforms, apply sand/salt and inspect tracks and signals ahead of and during the storm. Keolis team members will be pre-positioned around the region throughout the storm to respond to any issues that arise.

While regular service is planned throughout the week, passengers are encouraged to check schedules before traveling. Keolis will provide updates to passengers on Twitter at @MBTA_CR, MBTA.com, T-Alerts, station signage and onboard announcements.




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Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

2018 has arrived to give us a fresh set of 12 months to live, learn, play, & find peace & purpose. I invite you to stay in touch with me throughout the year to share your thoughts and opinions or to share a story catch up. You can find me easily at the State House, online, by mail or in your neighborhood. My contact info is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SenatorBruceTarr/ and at @SenBruceTarr on Twitter.

Here's to a good 2018 to you and yours.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Joe Poirier Retires

I was honored to congratulate Joe Poirier on the occasion of his retirement as the Maintenance Service Manager at Central Grammar Apartments in Gloucester. Joe jumped into the job as soon as the school was converted into homes for seniors 42 years ago. Throughout his decades of work he has been resourceful, courteous, effective, and a friend to many. Thankful for his service, I wish Joe the very best in his retirement.


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