Friday, July 31, 2020

Senate Passes Bill to Increase Reporting Requirements for Department of Children and Families

Also establishes a Foster Parent Bill of Rights and Increases Access to Mental Health Care

The State Senate today passed a bill to introduce new oversight and reporting requirements for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families also moves the child fatality review board to the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), establishes a ‘Foster Parent Bill of Rights,’ and increases access to mental health care for children in the Commonwealth.

“As a former Chair of Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, ensuring the safety and well-being of the Commonwealth’s children remains deeply and personally important to me,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the strength of this bill by looking at the needs of our children from a holistic point of view. I’d like to particularly thank Senator Chang-Diaz and Senator Rodrigues for ensuring this bill moved forward.”

Under the bill, DCF would be required to publish consolidated annual reports and quarterly profiles, establish a 3-year plan with targets for safety, permanence and well-being outcomes for children, and submit a report on young adults who continue to receive services after reaching the age of 18. The bill also updates reporting requirements that are outdated, irrelevant or duplicative, and requires DCF and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop clear plans for maintaining close contact with, and providing quality education to, children who have open cases with DCF during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“This bill will protect some of the most vulnerable children in the Commonwealth while strengthening our foster system and providing support for foster parents,” said Senator Michael Rodrigues (D - Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership, Senators Chang-Diaz and Comerford for their work on this legislation, and all of my Senate colleagues for championing foster families.

“The mission of the DCF is vital and the Senate has consistently adopted bipartisan supported legislation to strengthen the agency so that the people who are tasked with protecting these vulnerable children have standards of accountability that maximize the well-being and safety of those they serve,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “Importantly, this bill advances those goals in a timely and effective way.”

To increase access to vital mental health care for children in care, the bill eliminates prior authorization for mental health acute treatment for children experiencing acute mental health crises. It also requires emergency departments to have the capacity to evaluate and stabilize a person admitted with a mental health presentation at all times, and to refer them to appropriate treatment or inpatient admission, expediting the process for individuals under 22 years old. Additionally, the bill establishes a pilot program, administered by the Department of Public Health, to increase student access to tele-behavioral health services in schools.

The bill seeks to increase support for, and grow the pool of, foster parents in the Commonwealth through the establishment of a ‘Foster Parent Bill of Rights.’ Specifically, the bill includes several key rights important to foster families, including: access to training and resources; the right to appropriate communication between DCF, courts, and others involved with caring for the child; the right to be free from all forms of discrimination in carrying out their duties as foster parents; the ability to exercise rights without fear of repercussions; and establishing a reasonable and prudent parenting standard.

“This important bill will help the state do better business when it comes to serving one of the most at-risk populations in our Commonwealth: children in DCF custody,” stated Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton). “My heartfelt thanks to Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz, Michael Rodrigues, and Senate President Karen Spilka for their dogged work on this legislation. I am delighted that the rights of foster parents will be enumerated, strengthening their role and responsibilities within this complex system.”

An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families now moves to the House of Representatives for further action.


Massachusetts RMV to Pilot Drop-Off Registration & Title Services

Alternative service channel will allow customers to drop-off paperwork for certain vehicle-based transactions to be completed within several business days

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will on Monday, August 3rd begin to pilot drop-off registration and title services at the Braintree Service Center, with additional locations to follow beginning Monday, August 10th. These Registration Drop Off Centers will be dedicated to performing a number of vehicle-based registration and title services for both commercial and individual customer transactions on a drop-off only basis. Customers choosing this option will be able to drop-off appropriate paperwork for processing within a few business days.

“The RMV is excited to pilot and offer this new drop-off service to all of its customers for certain vehicle-based transactions,” said RMV Registrar Jamey Tesler. “Customers in need of one of these vehicle-based transactions can drop-off their paperwork and return to pick it up in just a few business days. This alternative service channel will help meet increased RMV service demands during a time when services are limited by appointment-only due to the need to enforce social-distancing to keep our customers and employees safe.”

Registration renewals will still be conducted exclusively online or by mail for individual customers. Customers will continue to be able to make appointments for certain vehicle-based registration and title services up to 14 days in advance.

How Does ‘Drop-Off’ Registration and Title Service Work?

Customers in need of one of the services listed below should compile and complete all appropriate paperwork and any supporting documents. This includes contacting your insurance agent/company to obtain a completed Registration and Title Application (RTA). Customers must drop-off the required paperwork within 30 days of obtaining their RTA. Drop-offs with an incomplete or inaccurate RTA will not be processed.

Customers will be able to visit any Registration Drop Off Center between the hours of 9:00AM and 4:00PM to drop-off their transaction paperwork. An RMV door advocate will review the customer’s paperwork to determine if it’s correctly completed and ask customers to fill out a coversheet with their name, email and phone number. Customers will not be allowed to wait and should expect a phone call or email from the Service Center within a few days when their transaction is completed.

Transactions will be processed in the order received. Customers will receive a phone call or email when their transaction is completed and be instructed to pay for their transaction online.

Customers will return to the Service Center to pick up their plates and/or registration.

Customers who are dropping-off or picking-up their paperwork will be served in the order of arrival and should anticipate a wait time for the intake and pick-up process, but will not have to wait for their transaction to be completed that same day.

How Long is the ‘Drop-Off’ Turnaround Time?

While the RMV asks for its customers’ patience during the initial days of this service offering, anticipated turnaround time for completion of drop-off transactions is within four business days. Drop-offs with an incomplete or inaccurate RTA (see above) will not be processed.

However, customers may expect additional wait times if their transaction paperwork is incomplete, inaccurate or requires additional review.

What If I Don’t Want to ‘Drop-Off’ My Transaction or Wait 4 Business Days?

Customers may alternatively continue to book an appointment-only reservation for these services. Appointments are available online up to 14 days in advance.

What Type of Transactions Can I ‘Drop-Off’ for Service?

The following types of transactions can be dropped off by both commercial and individual customers, including casual sales, campers, trailers and motorcycles. Registration renewals will still be conducted exclusively online or by mail for individual customers.

Register and title a vehicle

Transfer plate to a new vehicle

Reinstate a registration

Apply for a registration only

Transfer a plate between two vehicles

Register previously titled vehicle

Transfer vehicle to surviving spouse

Registration amendments

Plate cancellations

Where is My Nearest Registration ‘Drop-Off’ Center and When Can I Visit?

Drop-off hours will be between 9:00AM-4:00PM. The following locations will begin performing drop-off registration and title services on Monday, August 10th, while the Braintree Service Center will begin performing drop-off registration and title services on Monday, August 3rd:

Boston / Haymarket Service Center

Braintree Service Center (Monday, August 3rd)

Chicopee Service Center

Haverhill Service Center

Milford Service Center

Taunton Service Center

Wilmington Service Center

Why is the RMV Offering Certain ‘Drop-Off’ Services?

The RMV is introducing this service channel alternative in light of the COVID-19 public health emergency to encourage ‘social-distancing’ in its Service Centers and prioritize other essential in-person needs by appointment-only. All RMV customers are encouraged to visit www.Mass.Gov/RMV to complete one of over 40 other transactions available online, by mail, or by phone.

For additional information on RMV service offerings during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit or



Establishes the Genocide Education Trust Fund to educate students on the history of genocide.

The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday passed An Act concerning genocide education to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

“To forge a more just future, our next generation must be educated on the tragic history of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The importance of this bill cannot be overstated, and I say this as a Jewish woman and the daughter of a World War II veteran who helped liberate the victims of Nazi concentration camps. I am very thankful to Senators Rodrigues, Lewis and Creem for their advocacy on this issue and my colleagues for their unanimous support.”

“Seventy-five years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, we, as a society, continue to grapple with the root causes of hatred and discrimination. With the passage of this bill today, we take a critically important step to ensuring our students are educated on the Holocaust, the grave mistakes of the past, and stand ready to root out the injustices of the future,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As the forces of fake news, division, and ignorance continue to march on, I applaud Senate President Spilka and my colleagues in the Senate for standing up to say that we will never forget the lessons of the past. I also thank my constituent, Dr. Ron Weisberger, and the advocates for their urgent efforts to ensure we use the power of education to address hate, broaden public awareness, and shape our collective future.”

According to a 2018 article in the New York Times, 31% of Americans and 41% of millennials believe 2 million Jews or fewer were murdered in the Holocaust while 41% of Americans and 66% of millennials do not know what Auschwitz is. This bill would establish a Genocide Education Trust Fund to promote and educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide. Funds in this trust would be used to encourage the instruction of middle and high school students on the history of genocide and ensure the development of curricular materials, as well as to provide professional development training to assist educators in the teaching of genocide.

"Thanks to Chairman Rodrigues for his leadership on a matter of importance - ensuring that students in our state learn about these horrific events so that our society can be better equipped to prevent anything like them from happening again, and sensitive to the impacts they have had on victims throughout history. Our caucus is pleased to join with all of our colleagues in this legislative effort," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester). "By having opportunities to learn about these events of the past students will be enriched, better informed, and more able to reject hatred and intolerance."

The bill requires each school district to annually file a description of their lesson plan and programs related to genocide education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The bill also establishes a competitive grant program that schools and districts can apply to for additional programming support.

An Act concerning genocide education now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for consideration


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Baker-Polito Administration Allocates $50 Million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund to Schools and Colleges Across the Commonwealth

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today it will allocate more than $50 million in federal CARES Act funds to benefit education in elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. The funding from the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund will improve early literacy, expand remote learning opportunities, and cover costs associated with reopening certain schools and colleges, as well as boost financial aid for college students in greater need of financial assistance.

As part of the federal CARES Act, governors in each state were granted a share of discretionary dollars to ensure continuity of educational services during the COVID-19 crisis. The Baker-Polito Administration previously allocated nearly $1 billion in federal funds to help municipalities, school districts, and colleges and universities in the Commonwealth address COVID-related expenses.

The funding announced today will support the following initiatives:
· Up to $10 million for early literacy programs that provide extra help to students through Grade 3, aimed at remediating learning loss children may have experienced since schools closed in March, as well as accelerate reading skills of children in high-need communities;
· Up to $7.5 million to expand access to online courses, including advanced placement, early college or dual enrollment courses;
· Up to $25 million to cover COVID-related expenses associated with reopening colleges and universities, as well as certain non-public elementary and secondary schools. Funds will be allocated based on the number and percentage of low-income students these schools enroll;
· Up to $2.5 million in financial aid for low-income college students attending public colleges to ensure they can cover emergency expenses to continue their education;
· And up to $5 million set aside in an emergency reserve fund.

“Our administration is committed to supporting every student in our schools as districts and universities prepare for the start of the school year,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This $50 million investment represents flexible funding that can be used for a variety of critical resources for schools and colleges as they begin to reopen and bring kids back into the classroom, especially in our most vulnerable communities.”

“These additional resources will help us target funding to support schools and colleges recover from effects of the pandemic,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Our administration looks forward to our continued collaboration with school officials statewide on how to best support the safe return to classrooms this fall.”

“Besides supporting financial stability and continuity of service in both K-12 and higher education, this plan will give more students access to high-quality online learning opportunities,” said Education Secretary James Peyser.

“We know districts will need more funding this year than in a typical school year, and I am pleased to see this money added to the financial support that is already on its way to districts,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley.

“At a time of great uncertainty for those of us in higher education, this investment in our public colleges and universities and most especially, in our underserved students, will help ease the financial burdens associated with COVID-19 and lay the groundwork for a productive fall semester,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education.

Funding announced today builds on the nearly $1 billion previously allocated to schools, childcare programs, colleges, and universities.

· In June, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the allocation of approximately $200 million from the Commonwealth’s federal Coronavirus Relief Fund for costs related to reopening public schools.

· Other funding sources to support school reopening include:
$500 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund previously allocated to cities and towns.
$194 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grants.
$45 million to support the reopening of childcare programs serving low-income children.
$19 million for special education residential schools.
$25 million in federal funds for a matching grant program to help school districts and charter schools close technology gaps that inhibit remote learning.


Massachusetts Legislature Passes Breakfast After the Bell Legislation

The Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in schools with high percentages of students from low-income families in the Commonwealth. The bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K-12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins.

“Research shows that students who eat a healthy breakfast get better grades, go to the nurse less frequently, and miss fewer days of school,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Yet, too often, missed meals equal missed opportunities for our children. As a state, we simply cannot accept hungry students as part of our reality. Students who don’t eat breakfast start every single day at a very real disadvantage to their peers; passing this bill into law ensures that students across the Commonwealth have equitable access to nutrition to ensure that they start every day right, ready to learn. I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Senator DiDomenico for his tireless advocacy on this issue, and to Senate Education Chair Jason Lewis, Speaker DeLeo and our partners in the House for their work on this bill as well.”

“We know that a hungry student cannot learn,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Children who have access to breakfast at school are healthier, happier, and perform better in the classroom. This bill also removes any potential stigma for students by making free breakfast a shared classroom activity. In keeping with the House’s ongoing commitment to prioritize children’s health and wellness, I’m proud to support this innovative school breakfast program. My thanks to House Education Chair Peisch, Representatives Vega and Vargas, stakeholders, Senate President Spilka and our colleagues in the Legislature for their advocacy on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children.”

"Access to healthy food is a vital need for all children. Under the agreed-upon provisions of this bill such access establishes healthier habits, allows for more consistent focus, and enables more fruitful growth and development," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester).

“Food insecurity remains a serious issue for many students in Massachusetts, and the COVID-19 global pandemic has only added to this problem,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “By implementing Breakfast After the Bell, we are taking proactive steps to make sure no student goes hungry and every student comes to school prepared to learn.”

Massachusetts currently requires all schools with high percentages of students from low-income families to provide breakfast to every eligible student. However, because breakfast is typically offered before the bell and in the cafeteria, participation levels are low—less than 40 percent—compared to 80-90 percent participation for free and reduced lunch. Moving breakfast from before the bell to after the bell is a proven strategy to boost breakfast participation and ensure that all students have the nutrition they need to start their day ready to learn.

This legislation would require schools across Massachusetts serving low-income students to offer breakfast after the start of the instructional day through a variety of delivery models, including breakfast in the classroom, grab-and-go, and second-chance breakfast. This flexibility allows school districts to select the model that best fits their students’ needs.

As a federally reimbursed program, Breakfast After the Bell has the potential to provide up to $25 million statewide to Massachusetts school districts that increase participation rates to 80 percent and above. These payments are made directly to school nutrition departments, helping to support jobs, update kitchen equipment, and provide healthier menu options.

This bill now moves to the governor for his consideration.


Governor Baker Briefs From Pfizer

In the next hour: Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will join Pfizer Andover Site Leader Jon Tucker and Pfizer Vice President of Worldwide Research & Development Dr. Meg Ruesch for a briefing on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine program. We will have live coverage at


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Senate Session on Economic Development

The Senate is in session today. Tune in to for a live broadcast of the session. Members will be debating S 2842, an Act Enabling Partnerships For Growth You can read the bill and the amendments at this link -

Congratulations to Newbury Fire Department's Ed Donnelly on the occasion of his retirement. I had the pleasure of being able to thank him personally for his service with an official Citation from the Massachusetts Senate in recognition of his many years of service to the residents of Newbury and the Commonwealth.


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

State Budget Developments

The chairs of the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means have released the following joint statement regarding developments towards advancing an interim state budget:-

“Today, the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means have agreed to a three-month interim budget that will provide near-term fiscal stability for our Commonwealth.

We are committed to finalizing a full-year budget that is fiscally responsible and responsive to the needs of our state, but key to developing that budget is further clarity around potential federal action, our economic recovery and continued trajectory of COVID-19.

Monitoring these outstanding issues, as well as the full scope of our revenue shortfall and resources, is our top priority and once better information is available, we will take action on a final FY2021 framework.

In the meantime, we believe this approach is the most prudent and responsible path forward.”

-Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means

Senator Michael J. Rodrigues Chair, Senate Committee on Ways and Means


Wilmington's Laura Caira Turned 95

And We Brought Her A Surprise Birthday Parade 

Laura Caira turned 95 on Sunday and many of us joined together in a parade of cars at the Boutwell School on Carter Lane and proceeded to her home on Chestnut Street. Laura has been responsible for lots of smiles in her 9 plus decades and she deserved all the good wishes she was given. For such a well-known person it was fun to help keep the celebration a secret from her until the great day arrived.


Monday, July 27, 2020

The National Weather Service indicates that the heat index, the combination of temperature and humidity, will peak around 100 degrees today. Urban areas are especially vulnerable since temperatures tonight will not get cooler than the upper 70s.

Take extra precautions, if you work or spend time outside. When possible, reschedule strenuous activities to early morning or evening. Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothing when possible and drink plenty of water.

Don't leave children or pets unattended in vehicles. This hot weather will make car interiors reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes. Please stay hydrated and cool and regularly check on the elderly, young children, and those with chronic illnesses in your life as they are at a higher risk.


Friday, July 24, 2020

Baker-Polito Administration Issues New Travel Order Effective August 1st

All Visitors And Returning Residents Must Comply, $500 Fine Per Day for Non-Compliance

BOSTON – Today, Governor Charlie Baker announced that effective August 1st, all travelers entering the Commonwealth, including both out of state residents and Massachusetts residents returning home, will be required to comply with a new travel order. The travel order and other information is available at

Travel Order: Starting August 1, all visitors and Massachusetts residents returning home, including students returning to campuses for the fall semester, must fill out a “Massachusetts Travel Form” and quarantine for 14 days unless they are coming from a COVID-19 lower risk state or they can produce a negative COVID-19 test result administered no more than 72 hours prior to arriving in Massachusetts, or they are included in one of the other, limited exemptions.

Individuals who get a test must remain in quarantine until they receive their negative test results. Failure to comply may result in a $500 fine per day.

Travelers are exempt from this requirement if they are coming from a state that has been designated by the Department of Public Health as a lower risk COVID-19 state or fall into another narrow exemption category.

Based on current public health data, those lower risk states will include: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Hawaii.

Traveler exemptions include people passing through the state, people commuting across state lines for work, people traveling to Massachusetts for medical treatment, people complying with military orders, or people traveling to work in federally designated critical infrastructure sectors (essential services).

Prior to travel, people should visit to fill out the “Massachusetts Travel Form” or text “MATraveler” to 888-777.

The list of lower risk states is subject to change based on public health data, and states may be added or taken off the list at any time.

The Administration also announced updates to the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces to incorporate the requirements of the travel order. This included sector-specific updates for lodging, higher education, office spaces and other industry sectors.

Updated guidance: The Administration today updated guidance for lodging, offices, manufacturing, construction, labs, performance venues and indoor and outdoor events relative to the travel order. In addition, lodging operators are required to notify guests about this new travel order.

Employers are strongly discouraged from allowing business-related travel to destinations other than those appearing on the list of COVID-19 lower risk states. Employers that permit employer-paid or -reimbursed travel to those states should take measures to ensure employees comply with this order. Employers are also urged to strongly discourage their employees from taking leisure travel to destinations not included on the list of COVID-19 lower-risk states.

All travelers and residents are required to continue to follow the Administration’s order that requires face coverings, and practice good hygiene, social distancing and regular hand washing. People should not travel to Massachusetts if they have symptoms of COVID-19. Travelers will be informed of this order and new travel guidance by airlines, passenger rail corporations, bus companies and some major travel agents when booking trips and before arrival in Massachusetts.

For more information, please visit or text “MATraveler” to 888-777.


Baker Briefing

Up Next: This morning, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will be joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack, and Massachusetts Port Authority CEO Lisa Wieland to provide an update on COVID-19. Catch the live-stream on my Facebook page in the 11 o'clock hour


Thursday, July 23, 2020

Register To Vote

As a resident there are lots of ways to participate in local, state, and federal elections, one fundamental way is by voting. In Massachusetts, we have created multiple ways for you to be able to register to vote -

Registering Online:
You must have a signature on file with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If you currently have a Massachusetts driver's license or state ID card, you may use the online voter registration application to register, update your address, or change your party affiliation.

Registering by Mail:
You may download the voter registration form by using the link provided at the end of this post.

Registering In-person:
You may register at any local election office, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and at certain public assistance agencies.

Automatic Voter Registration:
If you are a U.S. citizen applying for or renewing a driver's license or state ID at the RMV, or applying for health insurance through MassHealth or the Commonwealth Health Connector, you will be automatically registered


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Massachusetts - Last State on Interlock Devices for First-Time OUI Offenders

The Boston Globe published an editorial in support of interlock devices for OUI offenders; an important safety issue I have been working on for many years. We have waited too long to authorize this important tool which can prevent tragedy on our state’s roadways. We are the last state in the nation to adopt this smart approach to public safety, we still have an obligation to take action so that we can stem the pain and harm from the senseless loss of life at the hands of a drunk driver. Federal government data shows that these time-tested and road-tested interlocks reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67 percent. Here is the Boston Globe's editorial in support of the legislation -


Governor Charlie Baker's Bridfing

This morning, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will join Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides and MEMA Director Samantha Phillips to tour The Salvation Army in Lynn and make an announcement relative to food security. A live stream will be available on my Facebook page at -


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Baker-Polito Administration Extends Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures to October 17

Today, Governor Charlie Baker extended the pause on evictions and foreclosures for 60 days, until October 17, 2020, through the authority granted to the governor by Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency, which was signed into law on April 20, 2020. This law’s limitations on evictions and foreclosures have allowed many tenants and homeowners impacted by COVID-19 to remain in their homes during the state of emergency, and this extension provides residents of the Commonwealth with continued housing security as businesses cautiously re-open, more people return to work, and the state collectively moves toward a “new normal.” The moratorium was set to expire on August 18, 2020. 

Tenants are strongly encouraged to continue to pay rent, and homeowners to make their mortgage payments, to the extent they are able. To assist low-income households in making rent and mortgage payments, as well as support landlords needing these rent payments to pay expenses, the Baker-Polito Administration launched a new $20 million, statewide fund, the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program, on July 1st.

This funding complements the $18 million currently available through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) homeless prevention program, which can also be used for rent or mortgage payments. In each program, landlords or mortgage lenders receive payments directly from the RAFT administering agencies.

During this 60 day extension, the Administration will consult with the court administrators and other stakeholders regarding programs and policies to help tenants avoid eviction when proceedings resume.

The law suspends most residential and small business commercial evictions, as well as residential foreclosures. It does not relieve tenants or homeowners of their obligation to pay rent or make mortgage payments. The law also:

Prevents landlords from sending notifications to residential tenants that threaten eviction or terminating of a lease;
Limits court actions on non-essential evictions;
Relieves tenants, both residents and small commercial, from late fees and negative credit reporting;
Allows landlords to use “last month’s rent” to pay for certain expenses, though not as a replacement rent payment, and only with proper notification of tenant;
Requires lenders to grant a forbearance for up to 180 days if a homeowner experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 submits such a request; and
Allows for alternative payment agreements between lenders and borrowers regarding forbearance payments.

Since the beginning of the State of Emergency, the Administration has supported housing stability for households across the Commonwealth. The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) has drafted emergency regulations to implement the notice provisions of the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) supported our state-aided public housing and affordable housing operators with guidance, and worked with stakeholders across the state to coordinate resources. Additional resources and information can be found on DHCD’s COVID-19 Resource Page.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Hammond Castle Museum Reopened

Hammond Castle Museum is a unique place built for one of the most prolific of Amerca's inventors, John Hays Hammond Jr. It was both his personal residence and the headquarters of his commercial enterprise, the Hammond Research Corporation. It is now open daily for visitors.


Thursday, July 16, 2020

Debate on the Transportation Bond Bill

I had the honor recently of presenting Mary Jane McGlennon with a Senate Citation to recognize her being named a Commonwealth Heroine by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.

Mary Jane is a decades long Gloucester resident long known for her dedication to service to others and for her numerous acts of leadership and volunteerism. She has been a regular volunteer in the Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken's office, she became the first Board Chair of the Grace Center, a non-profit day resource center for the homeless and under-served. Recently, Mary Jane played a major role in the merger of the Grace Center with Lifebridge North Shore. She currently serves as Vice President of Lifebridge

We need positive change makers and Mary Jane is not only a wonderful role model for other women and girls she makes positive changes for us all.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Senate Listening Session on Reopening: Tourism, Arts, Culture & Small Businesses

11:00AM-11:30AM: Arts and Culture
Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) - Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director
MassCreative - Emily Ruddock, Executive Director

11:30AM-12:00PM: Arts & Culture Local Perspectives I
MASS MoCA - Joseph Thompson, Director
Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts - Troy Siebels, President & CEO
New England Aquarium - Vikki Spruill, President & CEO

12:00PM-12:20PM: Travel and Tourism
Mark Fuller, Undersecretary of Business Growth at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development

12:20PM-12:40PM: Arts & Culture Local Perspectives II
Regional Tourism Council
Lea Filson, Executive Director, Plymouth County Convention & Visitors Bureau
8 Dyer Hotel in Provincetown, Steve Katsurinis, Owner

12:30PM-1:00PM: Small Businesses
Local restaurant/bar owners
Jason Petrou -Krueger’s in Haverhill
Laura Wolfe - Brick and Ash in Newburyport


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 We plan to offer a live-stream in real-time of the full debate on my Facebook page.


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 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.


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.


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.


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 -


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.