Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Senate Session Live Sream Thursday

The Senate Session tomorrow will include debate on a new bill, which was released to members and the public on Monday, that would make changes in the law enforcement and justice systems.

Senators filed more than 140 amendments to an ct to reform police standards and shift resources to build a more equitable, fair and just commonwealth that values Black lives and communities of color. You can read them and the 77 page bill at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2800/Amendments/Senate We plan to offer a live-stream in real-time of the full debate on my Facebook page.

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Baker-Polito Administration Launches Targeted Free COVID-19 Testing Sites

Testing will be available in eight communities from July 10 to August 14

BOSTON – Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of free COVID-19 testing sites in eight communities from July 10 to August 14 to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

This “Stop the Spread” initiative is a data-driven effort to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases and positive test rate, and have experienced a decline in testing levels since April. The initiative is being launched in Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford. Residents of these communities are urged to take advantage of the availability of these new testing sites, even if they are asymptomatic. While these sites are being launched in these communities, they are open to all residents of the Commonwealth.

“While the Commonwealth has made progress on reducing the overall positive test rate, there are still communities where the number of positive tests is above the average of the rest of the state,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Focusing our efforts to increase testing in these communities will help identify new cases and stop the spread. Residents of these communities, even those who are asymptomatic, are urged to take advantage of these new sites.”

“This initiative will provide widespread testing in easy to access community locations,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “If you live in these communities, please get tested to protect your family, loved ones and neighbors from COVID-19.”

“Increased testing within these communities will help to identify new cases of COVID-19 and break the chains of community transmission,” said COVID-19 Command Center Director & Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “As we move into the summer, we will continue to closely monitor positivity and testing rates across the Commonwealth.”
v The population of the cities in which the free testing will be conducted – Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, and New Bedford – make up approximately 9% of the Commonwealth’s population, but have seen 27% of the Commonwealth’s positive tests in the last two weeks.

The statewide positive test rate over the past two weeks is approximately 2%, but in these eight communities, 8% of tests have been positive.
v Despite the continued elevated spread in these communities, total testing in these communities has declined 39% since the end of April, and the total cases as a percentage of population for these communities is nearly double the state average.

 Residents may visit mass.gov/stopthespread to find testing locations.

Residents are reminded that if they test positive for COVID-19, please answer the call when they are contacted by the Community Tracing Collaborative or their local board of health. Also, any individual who needs a safe place to isolate can call (617) 367-5150 to access an isolation and recovery site at no cost.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Senate Passes FY 2020 COVID-19 $1.1B Supplemental Budget

Bill authorizes funding support for emergency child care needs, behavioral health services, small businesses and makes Juneteenth an official state holiday

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed a $1.1B supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2020 to support extraordinary costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic that require immediate attention. The spending authorized in this supplemental budget will maximize federal financial support while providing critical resources for our most vulnerable populations.

This bill is the result of strong advocacy by Senators and the Senate’s COVID-19 Working Group and includes funding support for personal protective equipment, emergency child care for essential workers, health care supports for behavioral health services, small business assistance grants, housing and homelessness supports, food security, and direct support for workers impacted by the ongoing public health crisis. In addition to recognizing the health and safety needs of residents, the legislation also establishes Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

“This bill will help the Commonwealth continue to make strides in its fight against COVID-19 as well as support the many sectors impacted by this unprecedented public health crisis,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “With the Senate actively working on legislation to address racial inequities, I am thrilled this bill takes the historic step of recognizing the importance of Juneteenth – a day celebrating the liberation of the remaining enslaved African Americans – and making it a state holiday. I would like to thank my colleagues for their collaboration and careful attention to this time-sensitive proposal.”

“Due to the unprecedented challenges facing our Commonwealth, this supplemental budget will allow us to maximize federal aid to support COVID-19 response costs and provide critical resources to help working families and our most vulnerable populations,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means (D-Westport). “The priorities reflected within this budget – funding for personal protective equipment, emergency childcare, addressing growing food insecurity, supporting members of the Massachusetts National Guard mobilized to combat COVID-19, and providing supports for small businesses and workers impacted by this pandemic – are representative of the incredible

advocacy of the members of the Senate and the leadership of Senate President Spilka to address the urgent and most pressing issues facing our communities during this time of great uncertainty.”

“Every person in our Commonwealth has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created a public health emergency, an economic disaster, and the need for strong and effective responses by our state government,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester). “This supplemental spending bill provides the resources for the actions we must take and does so in a way that maximizes our chances for federal assistance.”

To support working families during this uncertain economic time and provide health care supports in the midst of this public health crisis, the supplemental budget passed today by the Senate includes $82M for childcare needs, including emergency child care for essential workers, $15M for essential behavioral health services, including services for children, $10M for small business assistance grants, focused on minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in underserved areas and $10M to provide wage supports to workers impacted by COVID-19.

In response to growing food insecurity challenges during this pandemic, the supplemental budget provides an immediate state allocation of $15M for food security supports, including $9M for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program to support our overstretched food bank system during this time of incredible need.

Through the amendment process, the Senate also established a $500 bonus for members of the Massachusetts National Guard who were mobilized to combat COVID-19, included increase funding to assist with coronavirus mitigation efforts at summer camps and youth programs, and create an Early Education and Child Care Public-Private Trust Fund to help inform and support child care needs across the state.

Other notable spending highlights of the FY 2020 COVID-19 supplemental budget include:
· $350M for personal protective equipment.
· $139M for rate add-ons for congregate care and other health and human service providers.
· $85M for field hospitals and shelters.
· $44M for the Community Tracing Collaborative.
· $30M for community health centers.
· $28M for local housing authorities and family and individual shelter services.
· $20M for expanded RAFT coverage for families on the brink of homelessness.
· $20M focused on racial disparities in the health care system during the pandemic.
· $15M for elder affairs services and home care workforce wage supports.
· $12.3M for early intervention services.
· $10M for grants to community foundations serving low-income and immigrant populations with direct supports like housing assistance and food security supports.
· $5M for increased costs related to the recent conference report on expanded vote-by-mail measures for the 2020 election cycle.
· $2M to provide financial assistance to small non-profits impacted by COVID-19.

The supplemental budget also establishes Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Juneteenth is a celebration of the day in 1865 when the remaining enslaved African Americans in the United States were told of their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Senate and Massachusetts House of Representatives will now work to reconcile outstanding differences between the supplemental budgets passed in each chamber.

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Massachusetts Legislature Passes Critical Legislation to Safeguard Fall 2020 Elections

The Massachusetts Legislature today passed a bill that expands voter access and ensures voters have safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020 general election, in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19now moves to the governor’s desk.

The legislation, for the first time in state history, would establish a vote-by-mail option and early voting period for the upcoming fall elections. In addition to those options, the bill also addresses polling place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person.

“The pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives, but a person’s ability to exercise their fundamental right to vote and chose their government should not be one of them,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).“While we continue to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, the elections bill passed today takes a historic step by allowing voters to cast their ballots by mail, vote early or to safely do so in person on election day. I am proud of the path we have charted with this bill as the Senate has always championed greater participation in our democracy. I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to our clerks, election officials and poll workers across our state for ensuring the integrity of our elections and their commitment to democracy. I would also like to thank all who have collaborated on this urgent matter including my colleagues, Senators Finegold, Creem and Rodrigues as well as House Speaker DeLeo and his members for their hard work in advancing this bill.”

“Voting and public health don’t need to conflict. The bill passed by the Legislature gives voters concerned about COVID-19 a number of choices on how they want to perform their civic duty of voting,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I thank the Senate President, Leader Moran, Chairs Michlewitz and Lawn, Senator Finegold and my colleagues in the Legislature in passing this bill.”

“Our electoral process must have the resiliency to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic without pitting voter participation against public health,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “This bill responds to that need with important tools to meet the task at hand, choosing our elected officials.”

“Given the continued uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus, it’s important that Massachusetts residents be given multiple options to safely exercise their right to vote and make sure their voice is heard,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “This legislation allows individuals to choose the voting method they feel most comfortable with so they can take steps to ensure their personal health and safety is not compromised.”

The components of the bill are as follows:
Implements an early vote-by-mail system: An application to receive an early voting ballot for the primary will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15, 2020. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election by September 14, 2020. Both applications and ballots will have postage costs already paid for. Ballots postmarked on or before November 3, 2020 will be counted until Friday, November 6, 2020 at 5.PM. Applications for early voting and absentee voting must be received 4 business days before the election, by Wednesday August 26 2020 (for the primary) and Wednesday Oct. 28 2020.
Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods:For the first time in Massachusetts, early voting will be available for the state primary, and will take place from Saturday, August 22, 2020 through Friday, August 28, 2020. Early voting for the general election is scheduled to take place from Tuesday, October 17, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020.

Makes in-person voting safer and more efficient:The bill allows municipalities, with proper notice, to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.

Provides tools to assist clerks:Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill also provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.

Tasks the Secretary of State with creating an online portal and promoting voting options: To make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting, the bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal not later than October 1, 2020. Electronic applications for early voting will be available for the general election, and if feasible, for the primary election.

The bill also requires the Secretary of State to conduct a public awareness campaign to inform and notify voters of the many options available to cast a vote in upcoming 2020 elections.

The legislation now moves on to the governor for consideration.

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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Senate Session for July 2

Coming up in the 11 o'clock hour will be a live broadcast of the Senate's formal session. We anticipate several important bills being debated and voted on - engrossment of S2789, the COVID-19 supplemental budget, and S2790, a general government bond bill. In addition, the Senate is expected to enact H4830, the municipal road and bridge funding program known as Chapter 90. Senators will also consider giving final approval to the elections bill conference report.

You  can watch the session live on my Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/SenatorBruceTarr

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

We are now halfway through 2020 and the state's Department of Public Health reported no new Covid-19 deaths yesterday. The safeguards that each and every one of us have all worked so hard to shape and adhere to have had a real impact on controlling what would have been a wider spread of this highly contagious virus. 


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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pursuing Safety for Men and Women in Commercial Fishing

Here is the text of a letter that I sent to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dear Under Secretary Jacobs, Mr. Pentony, and Dr. Hare:

The current waiver from the requirement of At Sea Monitoring (ASM) in the Northeast groundfishery is a critically important safeguard not only for the health and safety of those engaged in this fishery, but also for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and should not be ended as our nation continues to confront devastating impacts of this disease. Accordingly, I write to join with Congressmen Moulton and Congressman Keating and the Massachusetts Fishing Partnership to request that you extend this waiver and the essential health protections that it provides.

Clearly the men and women engaged in commercial fishing are at significant and cognizable risk from infection from COVID-19 due to the inherent conditions of their working environment at sea, which requires them to be close to each other in confined wheelhouses and crew spaces, and working in close proximity to each other on decks to haul and tend gear, sort and stow fish, and maintain and repair the equipment necessary to the operation of a fishing vessel. Because of these known conditions that are conducive to the spread of COVID-19, these harvesters have taken substantial steps to protect themselves from that threat, and they continue to do so. They should not now be forced to contend with the new and serious threat to their health posed by the imposition on board vessels of observers, who have not been part of those efforts and could well become agents and victims of viral transmission as they move between vessels in the groundfish fleet. While the data collected by these observers is neither irrelevant nor without some value, these attributes are not outweighed by the clear health threat to themselves, vessel crews, and the public posed by requiring ASM at this time.

Our nation continues to witness and experience the tragic loss of life, human suffering, and economic devastation from the COVID-19 virus, and across the country rates of transmission in many states are rising sharply, demonstrating the importance of taking and continuing practical steps to prevent or mitigate that transmission. Extending the waiver from ASM is one of those steps, and one that should continue in the face of the ongoing threat we must confront effectively.

Thank you for your attention to this request, and please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance.


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Baker-Polito Administration Announces Updated Travel Guidelines to Support COVID-19 Response

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced new COVID-19 public health guidelines on travel and transportation. Effective Wednesday, July 1, all travelers arriving to Massachusetts, including residents returning home, are instructed to self-quarantine for 14-days. This guidance does not apply to travelers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey. Additionally, workers designated by the federal government as essential critical infrastructure workers are also exempt from this directive.

Travelers who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 are instructed to not travel to Massachusetts. All visitors and residents of Massachusetts are also reminded that the use of masks or face coverings in public places where individuals cannot socially distance from others remains required.

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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Drought Conditions in Several Regions of Massachusetts

Low precipitation since May and recent above normal temperatures have led to drying conditions across the Commonwealth and steep declines in streamflow in several regions. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Kathleen Theoharides declared a Level 2 – Significant Drought in the Northeast, Connecticut River Valley, Western, and Central regions.

At Level 2 – Significant Drought, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, conditions are becoming significantly dry and warrant detailed monitoring of drought conditions, close coordination among state and federal agencies, emphasis on water conservation, more stringent watering restrictions, and technical outreach and assistance for the affected municipalities.

“The Baker-Polito Administration continues to closely monitor the very dry conditions, and this drought declaration is an important tool which will help officials on all levels of government to work together to address the drought,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “While the dry conditions continue and as we enter the summer months, we ask residents and businesses to aggressively conserve water and take increased care with any outdoor burning.”

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Samantha Phillips stated, “Because of the increased threat of brush and wildland fires due to the dry conditions, the public is urged to exercise caution when using charcoal grills, matches, and other open flames during outdoor activities and to call 911 immediately if there is a fire to prevent the fire from spreading.”

For Regions in Level 2 – Significant Drought
Residents and Businesses:
Minimize overall water use;
Limit outdoor watering to hand-held hoses or watering cans, to be used only after 5 p.m. or before 9 a.m. one day a week.

Immediate Steps for Communities:

Adopt and implement the state’s nonessential outdoor water use restrictions for drought.

Limit or prohibit installation of new sod, seeding, and/or landscaping; watering during or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall; washing of hard surfaces (sidewalks, patios, driveways, siding); personal vehicle or boat washing; operation of non-recirculating fountains; filling of swimming pools, hot tubs, and backyard informal rinks.

Implement drought surcharge or seasonal water rates.
Establish water-use reduction targets for all water users and identify top water users and conduct targeted outreach to help curb their use.
Short- and Medium-Term Steps for Communities:
Establish a year-round water conservation program that includes public education and communication;
Provide timely information to local residents and businesses;
Check emergency inter-connections for water supply; and
Develop a local drought management plan.


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Friday, June 26, 2020

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Update

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project

Construction Look-Ahead: June 28 – July 11, 2020 This is a brief overview of construction operations and traffic impacts for the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project. MassDOT will provide additional notices as needed for high-impact work, temporary ramp and street closures, and changes to traffic configurations beyond those described below.

ROUTE 1 TRAFFIC IMPACTS
ROUTE 1 NORTHBOUND: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the work zone begins in the left lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)
ROUTE 1 SOUTHBOUND: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the work zone begins in the left lane before the Carter Street off-ramp. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)

CARTER STREET RAMP WEEKEND CLOSURES
The Carter Street off-ramp closure scheduled to begin on Friday, 6/26 has been postponed.

SILVER LINE ALTERNATING SINGLE LANE BUS TRAFFIC
The Silverline busway will continue to have single lane bus traffic where the Line passes through the Silverline Gateway underneath the Chelsea Viaduct. This single lane bus traffic will help to facilitate safe bridge construction. Silverline service will be maintained without interruption or delay using alternating direction bus traffic. The alternation of direction will be controlled by MBTA police and flaggers. The single, alternating lane condition has now been extended through Friday, 7/10.

LOCAL STREET CLOSURES
CARTER STREET: Carter Street will be temporarily closed on 7/6, 7/8, 7/15, and 7/16 during the day from 7 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. WORK HOURS

Most work will occur during daytime working hours (7:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. on weekdays. Some work will take place on a 2nd shift (2 p.m. - 1 a.m.) and overnight hours (9 p.m. - 5 a.m.) and on Saturdays (7 a.m. - 7 p.m.)

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Senate Passes Patients First Act

Bill expands access to telehealth, protects patients from surprise billing, and enhances quality care

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Patients First Act, the third piece of signature healthcare legislation advanced by the body to increase access to health care, protect patients, and enhance quality care. The legislation builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 public health crisis, as unprecedented demands on the healthcare system have prompted innovation and the expedited adoption of policy changes.

“When it comes to making telehealth services permanently accessible, ending surprise billing and expanding scope of practice, let me be clear: we cannot wait,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).

“Today's passage of the Patients First Act reflects the Senate’s commitment to supporting our healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud my colleagues for voting to expand access to care, including vital telehealth services, while bolstering patient protections. Thank you to Senator Friedman for her tireless efforts to safeguard the healthcare system and thank you to all frontline healthcare workers for keeping us safe in the face of unprecedented challenges.”

"This bill provides important flexibility to ensure that health care is available when and where it is needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it also builds a foundation for innovation in the future to achieve quality care that is cost-effective, affordable and sustainable,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

The Patients First Act ensures that telehealth services are available across the Commonwealth –services that have experienced a dramatic expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling patients across the state to continue receiving vital medical care through phone or videoconference without risking exposure to the coronavirus. Experience from the last few months has shown that telehealth has the ability to improve efficiency and expand access to care. These services, however, were not widely utilized before COVID-19.

The bill does the following to put patients first:
Requires insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover telehealth services in any case where the same in-person service would be covered. It also ensures that telehealth services include care through audio-only telephone calls, and requires reimbursement rates to match in-person services over the next two years.

Eliminates “surprise billing,” the unfair practice of charging patients who are unaware they received health care services outside of their insurance network for costs that insurance carriers refuse to pay. The situation is common especially prior to a planned procedure, and it can be impossible to avoid uncovered services, particularly in emergency situations.

Expands the scope of practice for several health care professionals, increasing patient access to critical care. The bill would allow registered nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and psychiatric nurse mental health specialists to practice independently as long as they meet certain education and training standards.

Recognizes pharmacists as health care providers, enabling them to integrate more fully into coordinated care teams.

Creates a new professional license for “dental therapists,” who will be authorized to provide dental hygiene and other oral health services, which will help expand access to dental care in underserved communities.

Tasks state health care oversight agencies to analyze and report on the effects COVID-19 has had on the Commonwealth’s health care delivery system as it relates to accessibility, quality and fiscal sustainability. The analysis will include an inventory of all health care services and resources serving Massachusetts residents from birth to death, as well as an analysis of existing health care disparities due to economic, geographic, racial or other factors.

The passage of the Patients First Act marks the third major piece of healthcare legislation passed in the Senate this session, in addition to the Pharmaceutical Access, Costs and Transparency (PACT) Act and the Mental Health Addressing Barriers to Care (ABC) Act.

The Patients First Act now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Bob Luz, President of the MA Restaurant Association

Up next hour on North Shore 104.9 is Bob Luz, President of the MA Restaurant Association (MRA) Bob joins me and show hosts Erika and Donnie to talk about how the MRA Iis helping the food service industry advance from the Coronavirus era. Restaurants are an important part of our lives and, for nearly 1 in 10 of us, our livelihoods with $18 billion in annual sales in our state.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The COVID-19 Outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke

The Baker-Polito Administration released the independent report ordered on April 1st by Governor Baker to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home which resulted in 76 deaths. Governor Baker retained Attorney Mark Pearlstein, a former federal prosecutor, to investigate the causes of the tragic events that occurred at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The investigation and report was completed independently from the Baker-Polito Administration.Here is a link to the released report https://www.mass.gov/doc/report-to-governor-baker-re-holyoke-soldiers-home/download

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Sales Tax Holiday Weekend Set For August 29th and 30th

I authored and filed bills to make an annual sales tax holiday permanent for many years. Last legislative session those efforts came to fruition when the House and Senate adopted legislation to do just that.

Now, you can plan for August 29th and 30th as a sales-tax-free holiday. The sales tax holiday allows shoppers to forgo paying the tax on most items, excluding food and drinks at restaurants, on purchases that cost less than $2,500. It is s a limited but effective way to give families some modest relief while also supporting local employers and businesses.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

On Governor Charlie Baker's "Act to Improve Police Officer Standards and Accountability and to Improve Training”.

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Massachusetts Announces Additional Administrative Tax Relief Measures for Businesses Across Massachusetts

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced additional administrative tax relief measures for local businesses that have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

This tax relief builds upon previous similar tax extensions and includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for small businesses that would be due from March through August, so that they will instead be due in September. Additionally, all penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.

“We are proud to join our colleagues in the Legislature to announce this additional relief for local businesses throughout Massachusetts while we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and work to protect the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These administrative changes extend tax relief measures put into place earlier in March and will allow additional support for local companies including small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries.”

“The Commonwealth is carrying out a historic response to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “We continue to seek ways to provide local businesses with tools, resources, and support to help reopen the Massachusetts economy while also ensuring key public health measures are in place.”

“From the start of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Senate has actively sought to act quickly, creatively and collaboratively to mitigate the effects of this pandemic,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. “This tax collection adjustment is an example of this willingness to change the way we do business during these extraordinary times, and will help ease the burden restaurants face as they restart and recover.”

“The House has been proud to provide local businesses with a toolkit of resources to help them weather the economic realities resulting from COVID,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “In addition to the House’s multifaceted restaurant relief package, we believe that a deferral of tax collections will provide the restaurant and hospitality industry with a measure of stability and clarity.”

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 businesses 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.

For businesses with meals tax and room occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period.

The Department of Revenue will issue emergency regulations and a Technical Information Release to implement these administrative relief measures.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Senate Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Elections Bill to Address

Voting Safety Concerns during COVID-19 

The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed legislation to expand voter access and address safety for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020 general election, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, would, for the first time in state history, give all eligible residents the opportunity to vote early for the state primary and general election, allow residents to vote-by-mail, and expand absentee ballot access.

“One of our most important duties is to ensure we have an accessible and inclusive election process that is free and fair,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D -Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud Senate President Spilka and Senator Finegold for their leadership to preserve equal access to safe and secure voting options for all voters the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and my colleagues for taking action to remove barriers and safeguard our democracy by ensuring all voices are heard without putting our communities at risk during this uncertain time.”

“While almost every dimension of our lives has been disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our system of elections is the bedrock of our democracy and must continue to function. The measures contained in this bill expand options to facilitate voting while at the same time protecting the integrity of the process and the health of voters,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester).
v The bill does the following:
· Implements an early vote-by-mail system: An application to receive an early voting ballot will be mailed to all registered voters by July 15, 2020. The Secretary will then mail another application for the general election in the voter booklet sent out in the fall. Both applications and ballots will be postage paid.

· Creates early voting for the primary and expands early voting periods: For the first time in Massachusetts, early voting will be available for the state primary, to take place from Saturday, August 22, 2020 through Friday, August 28, 2020. Early voting for the general election would take place from Tuesday, October 17, 2020 to Friday, October 30, 2020. Early voting hours would vary according to the size of the municipality in order to give voters ample opportunity to participate while not overburdening small towns’ election departments. Voters may return their early voting ballot in the mail, in a secure drop box, or in person.

· Tasks the Secretary of State with creating an online portal: The bill requires Secretary Galvin’s office to create an online portal by October 1, 2020 to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for general election early voting ballots electronically.

· Expands absentee voting: The bill provides for absentee voting by any person taking precautions related to COVID-19. Voters may also return absentee ballots via a secure drop box.

· Provides tools to assist clerks: Acknowledging the increased burden these options may place on municipalities and clerks, the bill also provides for several accommodations to make the logistics of processing votes easier. The legislation allows for tabulating ballots prior to election day, and it offers pre-addressed envelopes to voters, so their applications go directly to their clerk’s office.

· Makes in-person voting more efficient: The bill allows municipalities to consolidate polling places and eliminate the check-out table at these locations, allowing for a more efficient process and fewer poll workers. It also expands who is eligible to serve as a poll worker, knowing that many current volunteers are seniors who may feel less comfortable working in public during COVID-19.

The legislation must now be reconciled with the Massachusetts House of Representatives

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Senate Approves Voting Options Bill in Response to COVID-19

After working through 41 amendments, the Senate voted on an overhaul bill that would make changes for the September Primary and November. 3rd General Election.

The bill requires the Secretary of State to mail every registered voter an application for a mail-in ballot by mid-July and it expands early voting hours to help limit the risk of COVID-19 at polling places.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Happy 100th Birthday For Mrs. Bertha Cook

I visited yesterday with Berth Cook at the Port Healthcare Center in Newburyport to present her with a Senate Citation in recognition of her centennial birthday. From June 15, 1920, to this very day Bertha has made people smile.

Bertha was always very active in her hometown of Rowley with her husband Lenard. He was the Fire Chief for many years and later served as a Selectman. Jack, their son has also been a civic leader for many years.

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Childcare Expert Sue Todd on North Shore 104.9 this Morning

Joining me this morning at 9:20 on North Shore 104.9 is Sue Todd the CEO and President of Pathways for Children. Early care and education has been a key priority, made particularly more challenging during the Covid-19 emergency. Sue has been a champion for children for 4 decades.

Pathways is a leading provider of education and care programs on the North Shore serving over 500 children and their families from 14 communities. They operate year-round programming, including Head Start and Early Head Start, They serve children birth to age 13 and their families. They have centers in Gloucester, Beverly and Salem.


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Monday, June 15, 2020

Pop-Up Testing Sites for Participants of Large Gatherings

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the availability of pop-up COVID-19 testing sites throughout the Commonwealth for individuals who have recently participated in large gatherings. These free testing sites will be available at over 50 sites throughout the Commonwealth on Wednesday, June 17th and Thursday, June 18th. The Administration is urging anyone who has attended a large gathering in the past two weeks to get tested for COVID-19 at one of these sites. Test results will be provided to each participant confidentially, and participants are encouraged to share these results with their doctors.

A full list of all testing sites is available at www.mass.gov/gettested.

Social distancing, wearing face coverings, the frequent use of disinfectant and handwashing have been important to the Commonwealth’s efforts to decrease the number and rate of newly confirmed positive cases. COVID-19 can spread easily and quickly in large groups of people who are in close contact. Some people do not have symptoms but may have the virus and could spread the virus to others, including family members.

The Administration has worked with partners across the Commonwealth to provide these sites including Baystate Health, Berkshire Medical Center, Beth Israel Lahey Health, Brockton Community Health Center, Brookside Community Health Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Community Health Connections, CVS, Fairview Hospital, Lawrence General Hospital, Lynn Community Health Center, Massachusetts General Hospital Chelsea, Outer Cape Health Services, Manet Community Health Center, and UMass Medical Center.

To date, Massachusetts has tested more than 700,000 people for COVID-19. On average, 10,000 individuals are tested each day, comprising 4.4% of the state’s population each month. The state currently has capacity at 45 labs to perform up to 30,000 COVID-19 tests per day, and its nursing home testing strategies have been replicated by states across the country.

The Administration continues to prioritize expanding access to testing, with a key focus of that strategy being ensuring access to testing in skilled nursing facilities, rest homes, and assisted living residences and other 24/7 staffed congregate care settings. On May 30, 2020, the Administration filed its required federal plan to expand COVID-19 testing under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act of 2020. Massachusetts has received $374 million in federal funding from the Act.

This funding will help the Commonwealth implement a comprehensive testing strategy that includes:
Increasing lab testing capacity to 45,000 by the end of July;
Goal of reducing and maintaining a positive test rate to less than 5 percent;
Ensuring on-demand access to testing for all symptomatic individuals and their close contacts;
Increasing access to testing for vulnerable and high-risk populations;
Building a testing infrastructure to support a potential second surge;
Modernizing public technology infrastructure to provide real-time data on cases and testing; and
Operating a best-in-class contact tracing program.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Senate Passes Bill to Protect Residents from Mosquito-Borne EEE Virus

The State Senate today passed legislation that will help protect residents from Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), a mosquito-borne arbovirus that is rare but can be fatal. The legislation comes as the state prepares for what is expected to be another active season for mosquitos across the state.

“With the mosquito season already underway, we must act quickly to protect our residents from the potentially deadly effects of EEE,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This bill will establish a comprehensive and coordinated approach to tackling EEE that will reach all corners of the Commonwealth.”

Last year, Massachusetts saw a resurgence of EEE, with more than two hundred communities designated as moderate to critical risk by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and can impact humans of any age as well as animals. Massachusetts typically experiences outbreaks every 10-20 years, and the outbreak can last for two to three years. In September 2019, the DPH confirmed three deaths due to EEE.

“To better prepare for serious public health risks like EEE, it is important our Commonwealth takes steps to mitigate the risks and protect the well-being of our communities from the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D – Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

"We all saw what happened last year with the rapid expansion of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and the consequences of it. That is why this bill strikes a careful balance between the state government's responsibility to respond to an emergent public health situation while properly protecting the environment, including a recognition of the plight of pollinators, as well as the interests of property owners and municipalities so that the spraying is correctly tailored to the threat," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R -Gloucester).

The bill authorizes the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board (SRMCB) to take actions to reduce the mosquito population if the Department of Public Health determines there may be an elevated risk of EEE.

These actions include public education, surveillance of the mosquito population, elimination of standing water and application of larvicides that safely prevent mosquitoes from becoming adults. The SRMCB would also be authorized to conduct aerial pesticide spraying, subject to notifying the public and putting in place procedural safeguards.. Certain landowners, such as owners of organic farms, may apply to opt-out of spraying, and a municipality may opt-out of spraying if the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs approves an alternative mosquito management plan provided by the municipality. The bill also creates a Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force to recommend reforms to modernize and improve the state’s mosquito control system.

The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives.


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Senate to Launch COVID-19 Listening Session on Economic Recovery, Reinvestment & Workforce

Friday, June 12 at 11AM by watching live online and/or offering questions for us to ask. The listening session will be a chance for the Senate members to hear from the Baker administration, labor, the business community, and other important stakeholders to continue our discussion on the future of the Commonwealth's economy and workforce.

These listening sessions will help inform the Senate’s work on an economic development and jobs bill and what is needed to put people back to work and stimulate Massachusetts’ economy.

Here is a link so that you can watch it live https://malegislature.gov/Events/SpecialEvents/Detail/353

The full agenda:
  • 11AM-12PM – Retail and restaurants Jon Hurst, Massachusetts Retailers Association Bob Luz, Massachusetts Restaurants Association 
  • 12PM-1PM – Administration and Reopening Advisory Board Secretary Kennealy, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development Secretary Acosta, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development 
  • 1-2PM – Labor Tim Foley, SEIU 1199 Carlos Aramayo, Unite Here Yamila Ruiz, One Fair Wage 
  • 2PM-3PM – Business John Regan, Associated Industries of Massachusetts Segun Idowu, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts Jim Rooney, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce 3-4PM – Unemployment Insurance Monica Halas, Greater Boston Legal Services

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

New Senate Rules

The Senate has adopted an order to protect the public, staff, and members of the Senate by adopting additional methods of voting and participation during Senate sessions. As a member of the committee which developed this order, I considered the guidance of public health professionals, the Governor, and other governmental officials.





 





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Monday, June 8, 2020

Reopening Massachusetts Plans And Guidance

A brief review of the second phase of the reopening Massachusetts plan which began today.

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Friday, June 5, 2020

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue announced that preliminary revenue collections for May totaled $1.738 billion. This is $320 million, or 15.6%, less than the benchmark, and $262 million or 13.1% less than the actual collections in May 2019.

For the fiscal year-to-date through May, revenue collections totaled $24.782 billion, $1.726 billion or 6.5% less than the same fiscal year-to-date period in 2019, and $2.253 billion

The net figure for revenue collections in May is influenced by the individual tax filing season, which generates both inflows and refund outflows during the month. Individual tax returns continue to be received and processed in May, although in a volume well below the peak levels of March and April.

Details:
  • DOR has received 20% fewer income tax returns through May 31st than the same period last year, which is mostly due to the 2019 return filing and payment date extension. 
  • Income tax collections for May were $1.123 billion, $31 million or 2.7% below benchmark, and $12 million less than May 2019. 
  • Withholding tax collections for May totaled $1.121 billion, $116 million or 11.5% above benchmark, and $140 million or 14.3% more than May 2019. 
  • Income tax estimated payments totaled $25 million for May, $1 million or 4.5% more than benchmark, but $0.2 million or 0.8% less than May 2019. 
  • Income tax returns and bills totaled $74 million for May, $135 million or 64.8% less than benchmark, and $137 million or 65.1% less than May 2019.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Updates from Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Route 1 Northbound Lane Shift

Beginning on Monday, June 8, 2020 at 9:00 p.m. and concluding by 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9, traffic will be shifted in the Northbound work zone in the Chelsea Viaduct portion of the combined Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation project.

Currently, the two lanes of Northbound traffic are pushed to the east side of the viaduct with traffic traveling in the center and right lanes. Following the operation, the two lanes of Northbound traffic will shift into the median area, currently under construction, placing traffic into the left and center lanes. The area of the shift will be between the 6th Street on-ramp, approximately opposite the FBI office building to Orange Street, just North of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Swimming Pool.

Drivers traveling north are advised to choose their lanes as early as possible when crossing the Tobin Bridge to avoid congestion at the point of the lane shift. Motorists should likewise take care to pay attention to all signage and move carefully through the work zone. Police details, lane markings, temporary barriers, traffic cones, signage, and other tools will be used to control traffic and create safe work zones.

Project information and how to stay informed:
mass.gov/tobin-bridgechelsea-curves-rehabilitation-project
Public transit options: mbta.com/TobinBridge
Live and personalized traffic reports: mass511.com
MBTA parking lot capacity updates: @MBTA_Parking on Twitter

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Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program

The P-EBT is additional money for families to buy food while schools are closed due to COVID-19. Families will get $5.70 per child per day for every day school is closed .

Using P-EBT does NOT impact you or your child’s immigration status. The public charge rule does NOT apply to P-EBT benefits
Use P-EBT with grab and go student meal sites
Got a P-EBT card in the mail and not sure how to PIN it? See the instructions below or visit http://map-ebt.org. You will need the DTA letter to activate your card - this letter was mailed separately from the card.


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Up next on North Shore 104.9 with Erika and Donnie will be Ann Marie Casey, Executive Director of the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. I join Erika and Donnie each and every workday morning to bring you leaders from industry and government, extraordinary citizens, and the latest information about the state's actions to help control the spread of the Coronavirus.

You can tune in at 104.9 FM or live stream at https://streamdb4web.securenetsystems.net/cirrusencore/WBOQ


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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I am committed to eradicating the evils of racism in our state and in our country.


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DCR Reopens Agency-Managed Golf Courses

New Measures in Place to Enable Social Distancing and Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

Today, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has reopened Ponkapoag Golf Course in the Town of Canton and Leo J. Martin Memorial Golf Course in the Town of Weston for the public to utilize. Importantly, the facilities will have several new measures in place that will aid users with social distancing and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

At this time, golfing will only be allowed for in-state residents, which will be determined by vehicle license plate. The agency has installed new Pay & Display Machines at both golf facilities, enabling users to make payment outside of the clubhouse. The opportunity to reserve tee times will be done by phone and in advance only. Tee times will be scheduled in 18-minute intervals with season ticket holders able to reserve a time three days in advance and general public users two days in advance. Additionally, DCR has placed signage throughout the facilities to remind users of new rules that have been put in place, which include:

Pre-Round:
Players are required to book a starting time in advance of play. Walk-on play is prohibited. Visit DCR’s Golf Interim Guidelines webpage for contact information. Players must remain in their vehicles until 18 minutes prior to their scheduled tee time. All players must bring their own golf equipment and players may not share equipment.

Golfing:
Participants must respect social distancing guidelines throughout course play, such as maintaining six feet of separation and/or wearing a facial mask or covering.
Flagsticks must remain in their holes, and hole liners will be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur.
Participants are asked to play “ready golf”, and to be aware of pace of play.

Post-Round:
Once a round of golf is complete, participants must leave the facility.
Clubhouses and concessions will remain closed.
Congregating in the parking areas is prohibited.

For up-to-date information on state parks during the COVID-19 public health emergency, please visit the agency’s Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage.

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Monday, June 1, 2020

Governor Baker Issues Executive Order in Advance of Phase II

Executive Order updates reopening phases with details on additional sectors Allows Phase II Enterprises to begin preparations to resume in advance of Phase II Details rules required in advance of resuming amateur sports, outdoor dining

Today, Governor Charlie Baker issued an Executive Order that provides a detailed list of businesses and activities that fall into Phases II, III, and IV of the Commonwealth’s Re-Opening Plan. The Order also permits all Phase II enterprises, including retail, to begin preparations to safely resume operation in advance of the start of the second phase. In addition to the retail sector, the Executive Order details further requirements for the safe resumption of amateur youth and adult sports and outdoor dining.

Effective immediately, the Executive Order permits Phase II businesses to reopen their physical workplaces to workers only to conduct necessary preparations prior to the start of Phase II. Preparations include but are not limited to completing a COVID-19 Control Plan, implementing sector-specific protocols, and complying with Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards.

For Reopening Phase II Executive Order, click here.

For Childcare Provider Reopening Order, click here.

VIEW UPDATED LIST OF ENTERPRISES IN PHASES II, III, and IV

Retailers: Retail stores will transition from curbside pickup and delivery-only to browsing and in-store transactions with restrictions at the start of Phase II.

Social distancing guidance requires each retail store to monitor customer entries and exits and limit occupancy at all times to either 8 persons (including store staff) per 1,000 square feet of accessible, indoor space, or 40% of the retail store’s maximum permitted occupancy, whichever is greater.

Grocery stores and retail stores with pharmacy services must provide at least one hour of dedicated time for adults 60 years of age and older, while all stores are encouraged to offer exclusive hours or other accommodations for high-risk populations. For staffing, stores should adjust workplace hours and shifts, including leveraging staggered arrival / departure, to minimize contact across workers and to allow for on-going and off-hour sanitation and cleaning. Stores should also conduct frequent disinfecting of heavy transit areas and high-touch surfaces.

Operators of enclosed shopping malls and other indoor, multi-tenant retail spaces must monitor customer and worker entries and exits to common areas and limit occupancy of common areas at all times to 40% of maximum permitted occupancy levels. Mall amenities like seating in food courts, children’s play areas, and arcades must remain closed, while mall food vendors and restaurants may only provide take-out or delivery service.

Once Phase II begins, these standards will apply to all retail businesses except for Farmers’ Markets, which shall continue to be governed by Department of Public Health guidance. These standards will supersede and replace existing Department of Public Health guidance governing grocery stores and pharmacies.

Retailers that have been defined as providing Essential Services pursuant to COVID-19 Order No. 13 will be required to comply with these sector-specific safety protocols within one week of the date that Retailers are authorized to open pursuant to the Governor’s Phase II Reopening Order.

For full retail business guidance, click here.

Sports: The Order also allows organizers of amateur sports programs for youths and adults to open their premises to staff only to make preparations in advance of the start of Phase II. In addition to requiring generally applicable COVID-19 workplace standards, the Order specifies that during Phase II organized sports programs will operate under the following provisions:

Limiting traditional contact sports to no-contact drills and practices; Prohibiting games, scrimmages, and tournaments; Separating participants to into groups of 10 or less; Restricting the use of indoor athletic facilities to supervised sports programs and sport camps for youths under the age of 18.
Further sector-specific guidance for youth and adult amateur sports programs will be issued in the coming days. Subject to the implementation of COVID-19 health and safety rules adopted by respective leagues, this Order permits professional sports organizations to reopen their premises to employees and other workers for practices and training; however, professional sports organizations are not allowed to engage in inter-team games and sporting facilities will remain closed to the public.

Restaurants: Lastly, the Order permits restaurants to provide outdoor dining service with restrictions upon the start of Phase II; providing continued positive progression of public health data, indoor dining may be authorized by a subsequent order during Phase II. In order to provide improved opportunities for outdoor table service, the order also provides flexibility to a local licensing authority to grant approval for a change for any type of license that permits the sale of alcoholic beverages for on- premises consumption. In both outdoor and indoor dining cases, restaurants will be required to comply with sector-specific COVID-19 workplace safety rules for restaurants.

On May 18th, the Baker-Polito Administration released Reopening Massachusetts, the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19.

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Many Americans are still waiting for their Economic Impact Payment and you may be one of them. Some people are not receiving a debit card in the mail instead of a check. This money is meant to provide relief due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It is possible that you may have already gotten your payment by direct deposit or by check. If you’re still waiting, it is important that you check your mail carefully because some payments are arriving in plain envelopes that may look to you like junk mail.


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Overcoming the challenges of gaps in treatment and access to health care has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. By working together, the House and Senate have responded with a comprehensive bill, with bipartisan support, that will help close those gaps while informing our future decisions to prevent inequalities from happening in the first place.



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Friday, May 29, 2020

Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Updates from Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Construction Look-Ahead: May 31 – June 13, 2020 

This is a brief overview of construction operations and traffic impacts for the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project. MassDOT will provide additional notices as needed for high-impact work, temporary ramp and street closures, and changes to traffic configurations beyond those described below.

ROUTE 1 TRAFFIC IMPACTS
ROUTE 1 NORTHBOUND: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the work zone begins in the left lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)
ROUTE 1 SOUTHBOUND: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the work zone begins in the left lane before the Carter Street off-ramp. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m.–10 p.m.)

CARTER STREET RAMP WEEKEND CLOSURES
The Carter Street off-ramp will be closed on Saturday, 6/13. Work will begin at 7 a.m. and end at 7 a.m. Traffic will be detoured to the Route 16 West exit towards Everett to take Revere Beach Parkway to Everett Avenue.
SILVER LINE ALTERNATING SINGLE LANE BUS TRAFFIC
The Silverline busway will continue to have single lane bus traffic where the Line passes through the Silverline Gateway underneath the Chelsea Viaduct. This single lane bus traffic will help to facilitate safe bridge construction.
Silverline service will be maintained without interruption or delay using alternating direction bus traffic. The alternation of direction will be controlled by MBTA police and flaggers. The single, alternating lane condition is projected to be in place through Friday, 6/12.

LOCAL STREET CLOSURES
ARLINGTON STREET: Arlington Street under Route 1 will be closed on 6/1 (7 a.m. – 11 p.m.). Signed detours and police details will guide drivers around the work zone via Spruce Street and Everett Ave. ORANGE STREET: Orange Street under Route 1 will be closed on Saturday 5/30 at 10 p.m. until Monday 6/1 at 5 a.m. 5th STREET: 5th Street under Route 1 will be closed on 6/11 during the nighttime (9:00 p.m. – 5 a.m.)

WORK HOURS Most work will occur during daytime working hours (7:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.) on weekdays. Some work will take place on a 2nd shift (2 p.m.–1 a.m.) and overnight hours (9 p.m.–5 a.m.) and on Saturdays (7 a.m.–7 p.m).

DESCRIPTION OF SCHEDULED WORK
ROUTE 1 NORTHBOUND: Bridge deck and gutter repairs continue in the left lane over the Tobin Bridge. We will continue to remove bridge deck and install new bridge deck through the Chelsea Curves.
ROUTE 1 SOUTHBOUND: Removal of existing bridge deck and installation of new bridge deck will continue through the Chelsea Curves.

UNDERNEATH ROUTE 1: Crews will replace and paint steel; power wash and paint columns and support beams; excavate, erect steel; place new concrete columns; and deliver steel beams from the new bridge deck. For more information about the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project, please visit the project website: https://www.mass.gov/tobin-bridgechelsea-curves-rehabilitation-project.

North Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project
Traffic Impacts: May 31 – June 13

N. WASHINGTON STREET INBOUND: Off-peak daytime lane reductions across the bridge and additional lane reductions at Keany Square will continue. One lane across the bridge and all turn movements will be available from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on weekdays.

N. WASHINGTON STREET OUTBOUND: Off-peak daytime lane reductions will continue across the bridge to City Square. One lane across the bridge and all turn movements will be available from 7 a.m.–2 p.m. on weekdays. For more information about the North Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/north-washington-street-bridge-replacement

TRAVEL TIPS
Drivers should take care to pay attention to all signage and move carefully through the work zone. Police details, lane markings, temporary barriers, traffic cones, signage, and other tools will be used to control traffic and create safe work zones

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Phase II of Re-opening Plan Outlined by Baker-Polito Administration

Guidance for Restaurants and Lodging 

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration provided an update on the Reopening Massachusetts plan and preparations for Phase II. The Administration will determine the start of Phase II on June 6th.

On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker will issue an executive order with a detailed list of sectors that fall into each phase. The order will allow Phase II businesses to bring back employees in preparation for re-opening. Through this order, professional sports teams can begin practicing at their facilities in compliance with the health and safety rules that all the leagues are developing. Facilities remain closed to the public.

Learn more about the reopening process: www.mass.gov/reopening

Restaurant and Lodging Guidance: The Administration today issued workplace safety standards for restaurants and lodging. These workplace specific safety standards are organized around four distinct categories covering Social Distancing, Hygiene Protocols, Staffing and Operations and Cleaning and Disinfecting.

Restaurants: Outdoor dining will begin at the start of Phase II. Indoor dining will begin later within Phase II, subject to public health data. Even when indoor seating is permitted, use of outdoor space will be encouraged for all restaurants.

Social distancing guidance includes spacing tables six feet apart with a maximum party size of six people. The use of bars, except for spaced table seating, will not be permitted. For hygiene protocols, utensils and menus should be kept clean through single use or with strict sanitation guidelines, reservations or call ahead seating is recommended and contactless payment, mobile ordering or text on arrival for seating will also be encouraged.

Restaurants will be expected to follow cleaning and disinfecting guidelines, in accordance with CDC guidance. This includes closing an establishment temporarily if there is a case of COVID-19 in an establishment.

Lodging: Hotels, motels and other lodging businesses will be allowed to expand their operations in Phase II. Lodging safety standards apply to all forms of lodging including hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, short term residential rentals including Airbnb and VRBO.

Event spaces, like ballrooms and meeting rooms, will remain closed. On-site restaurants, pools, gyms, spas, golf courses and other amenities at lodging sites may operate only as these categories are authorized to operate in accordance with the phased re-opening plan. Lodging operators also must inform guests of the Commonwealth’s policy urging travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days when arriving from out-of-state.

On May 18th, the Baker-Polito Administration released Reopening Massachusetts, the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities while continuing to fight COVID-19.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Nationwide Unemployment Scam Targets Massachusetts Claimants

Criminal enterprises in possession of stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file large amounts of illegitimate unemployment claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) system. This is part of a national unemployment fraud scheme.

The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) has begun implementing additional identity verification measures that will temporarily delay the payment timeframe for many unemployment claims in Massachusetts. As a result of these measures, certain unemployment claimants may be asked to provide additional identity information in order to verify the validity of their claim.

“Protecting the integrity of the unemployment system and ensuring benefits are going only to valid claimants is the top priority of the Department of Unemployment Assistance,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While the program integrity measures we are taking will unfortunately mean that some claimants will experience temporary delays in payment, we believe these steps are necessary to respond to this unemployment scam. We are working rapidly to respond to this scheme and urge individuals who may have had a false unemployment claim filed in their name to contact the Department.”

Individuals who believe they may have had a false unemployment claim filed using their identity are urged to utilize the Department of Unemployment Assistance fraud contact form at mass.gov/unemployment-fraud or to call the DUA customer service department at 877-626-6800.

Additional updates related to this criminal activity will be posted at mass.gov/unemployment as soon as they are available.

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Friday, May 22, 2020

Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief and Improve Access to Unemployment Benefits

The Massachusetts Legislature on Thursday May 21, 2020, passed a bill that will provide additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers. The legislation now moves on to the governor.

An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System builds on UI legislation already signed into law that waived the one-week waiting period to receive benefits.

“From the outset of this public health pandemic, our focus has been on easing the burdens felt by working families, and this thoughtfully crafted bipartisan legislation exemplifies that commitment,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “With this legislation, we are taking steps to ensure Massachusetts workers and employers can maximize the benefits available to them through state and federal actions. I am thankful to my Senate colleagues as well as Speaker DeLeo and his members for their work in moving this legislation one step closer to becoming law.”

“This bill protects employers, including non-profits, and workers as we deal with the economic crisis in the wake of COVID-19,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I thank Chair Michlewitz, Chair Ferrante, Vice Chair Hay, Senate President Spilka, and my colleagues in the House and Senate for their work on this important UI Bill.”

“With the passage of this bill, the Senate is building on its commitment to support the workers and business owners of the Commonwealth who are struggling with the financial impacts of COVID-19,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D- Westport), Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means. “I applaud my colleagues in the Senate and the House for continuing to work collaboratively to provide relief to the state’s most vulnerable citizens during this challenging time.”

“Unemployment benefits are a critical lifeline in an economic storm and the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the importance of having a sound unemployment insurance system that responds effectively to people depending on it,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). "The measures contained in this bill will go a long way to strengthening our system and helping individuals and families when they need it most.”

The legislation builds off the legislature’s ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its impact on workers and follows the passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which significantly increased UI benefits and expands eligibility during the coronavirus pandemic.”

"Clearly, Covid-19 has presented many challenges to the Commonwealth. Chief among them are protecting residents from a potential life threatening virus, financial ruin and hunger. In Massachusetts and across the country, we have seen unparalleled levels of unemployment,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D-Gloucester). “As our residents try to navigate an enormously difficult health care and economic crisis, this unemployment legislation allows the Commonwealth to work more effectively with the business and non-profit communities by streamlining unemployment regulations and mitigating costs while simultaneously tending to the needs of residents, who may require additional time to return to work."

“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 global pandemic has been devastating, with over one million Massachusetts residents filing for unemployment and businesses struggling to survive. This bill takes additional steps to assist residents and employers impacted by the pandemic,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “It allows for a four-week extension in benefits if new unemployment claims filed in any week exceed 100,000, and lays the groundwork for lifting the dependency cap. It also protects employers from being penalized and hit with rate increases if they are forced to lay off workers due to the pandemic. This bill will help families and businesses as we continue to navigate through this unprecedented public health crisis.”

The components of the bill are as follows: Protection for Employers. Employers who participate in UI pay contributions based on their layoff experience. Like other forms of insurance, employers that are more likely to have workers use unemployment compensation are asked to pay more in the system. The system does not anticipate a situation where employers across a number of sectors have been forced to significantly reduce their workforces due to situations outside of their control. This bill prevents layoffs related to coronavirus from negatively impacting employer’s future UI contributions.

Extending Unemployment Benefit Period. The number of weeks of unemployment compensation available in Massachusetts is tied to unemployment rates around the state. This trigger did not anticipate a situation, however, in which unemployment grows rapidly in a very short period of time. This bill ensures that the 30-week benefit period is triggered by a significant uptick in weekly unemployment claims.

Lifting the Cap on Dependency Allotment. This bill eliminates the 50% cap for the dependency allotment providing additional benefits to low-income families. This increase will be in addition to the $600 per week benefit add-on provided for in the CARES Act for all workers eligible for state or federal benefits. This provision is effective for 18 months after the end of COVID-19 emergency and the end of enhanced federal benefits.

Currently, UI recipients are entitled to an additional $25 per week for each child in the family, capped at 50% of a recipient’s base allotment. The result is that workers with particularly low allotments, such as low wage workers, can easily be capped out of receiving these additional amounts.

Non-Profit Contribution Grace Period. Presently, many non-profits self-insure for unemployment claims. This means that when layoffs in the sector occur, non-profits pay the cost of those benefits dollar for dollar at the next billing period. This bill provides a 120-day grace period for non-profits to make these contributions. This delay will allow the state to review additional changes that are warranted to mitigate the impact on non-profits. The CARES Act provides 50% reimbursement for self-insured benefit payments during the Coronavirus crisis.

An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System now moves to the governor for consideration.

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Massachusetts Implements Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

Finalizes Implementation of all CARES Act Benefits For Unemployment Claimants in Massachusetts

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Massachusetts residents who are eligible for the federal CARES Act and qualify for having exhausted their regular unemployment compensation may now receive the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). The launch of this program marks the third and final benefit available for the Commonwealth through the CARES Act.

PEUC provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits to an individual who has exhausted all rights to any regular unemployment compensation and who meets other eligibility requirements of the CARES Act. PEUC will automatically begin for individuals who have been receiving regular standard unemployment benefits on an active claim and those benefits are exhausted, and those individuals do not have to take any further action.

If an individual’s standard unemployment claim has expired, they must file a new standard claim. If the individual is monetarily eligible on the new standard claim, regardless of the benefit rate amount, they will receive benefits from that new claim. Otherwise, the individual will be eligible for PEUC on the prior claim and it will be automatically implemented.

Individuals who exhausted their standard benefits but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) must apply to claim weekly benefits. Residents should apply through the standard unemployment benefits portal available here.

Those receiving PEUC will also receive $600 weekly through the week ending July 25, 2020, provided by the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program established by the CARES Act.

The CARES Act signed into law on March 27, 2020, established the PEUC, PUA and FPUC public benefit programs that expanded unemployment eligibility, temporarily increases weekly benefits for all claimants and allows additional categories of people to claim unemployment benefits. This is the largest expansion of assistance for the Commonwealth’s workforce since the Great Depression.

More information about Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation can be found at mass.gov/peuc.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

UI Benefits

The state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance have informed me that UI claimants who are eligible for extended benefits under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) will be able to claim through the UI Online system beginning tomorrow.

I will be able to post links tomorrow once the information is fully available.

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Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito Highlight Workplace Implementation of New COVID-19 Safety Standards at Symmons Industries in Braintree

Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito today toured Symmons Industries, an 80-year-old Massachusetts manufacturer that has implemented the new Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards as manufacturing operations scale back up.

Symmons Industries manufactures precision plumbing fixtures for both commercial and residential use, and has been producing critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response.

On May 11, the Baker-Polito Administration announced new Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. Developed by the Department of Public Health, the COVID-19 Command Center and the Reopening Advisory Board, these standards detail new policies for social distancing, hygiene, staff and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting that all workplaces must follow.

The Reopening Advisory Board also released new Sector Specific Protocols that describe policies, procedures and best practices that particular industries should follow to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Businesses self-certify that they are complying with new rules by developing a COVID-19 control plan and displaying a signed attestation poster in a place on premises visible to employees and visitors. In addition to new protocols for manufacturing, the Baker-Polito Administration also released guidelines for other industries opening in Phase 1, including construction, laboratories, hair salons and barbershops, car washes, pet grooming and office spaces.

“The safety of our employees and customers is the most important priority for Symmons Industries,” said Symmons Industries CEO Tim O’Keeffe. “The materials produced by the Baker-Polito Reopening Advisory Board were informative, easy to use and specifically tailored to the manufacturing sector. We were able to quickly implement additional policies and procedures to meet the new safety standards, which will help us prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in our workplace.”

These safety standards and protocols serve as critical components of “Reopening Massachusetts,” the Administration’s comprehensive plan to safely and responsibly reopen the Massachusetts economy, and all businesses must adhere to and implement them by no later than May 25.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

AA REOPENING SELECT MASSACHUSETTS OFFICES TODAY; RMV SERVICES AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

AAA Northeast is reopening select branch offices in Massachusetts today, while following strict social distancing procedures and CDC guidelines for the protection and benefit of employees and AAA members. Members should visit aaa.com/branches and enter their zip code to find the nearest open office. Everyone will be required to wear a face covering to enter and conduct business at AAA branch offices, and will be asked to socially distance. There will be a strict limit on the number of members allowed in AAA branches at any given time.

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles services will be available by appointment only to members who complete an online reservation ahead of their visit, and members can schedule appointments up to two weeks in advance. AAA membership, insurance, travel and financial services will be available, either in person or through a virtual meeting. In some cases, curbside service will be available. Due to staffing issues, some branches may remain closed or close on certain days, so members are urged to check the web site at aaa.com/branches or call the branch prior to visiting.

“In strict adherence to the Governor’s guidance, we are pleased to be reopening Massachusetts offices with the goal of helping and serving during this challenging time,” said John Galvin, AAA Northeast President and CEO. “We’re also eager to resume Registry services, though they will be by appointment only for the foreseeable future,” he added.

Office hours will be Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To make an RMV appointment, visit aaa.com/appointments.

AAA’s 24-hour Emergency Roadside Assistance has been and continues to be available throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Monday, May 18, 2020

A new and detailed economic reopening plan was released today by Governor Baker. The report adds important details to a four-phased proposal that will start with Phase I - Start. 

 http://www.mass.gov/reopening












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