Friday, October 30, 2020

I had the pleasure this week of presenting an official Massachusetts State Citation to Peter S. Tibbets. Peter, a Coast Guard veteran, was Adjutant of Capt. Lester S. Wass American Legion Post 3 for the past 15 years. 

Peter has been in the American Legion, the oldest veteran’s organization in the United States - established 101 years ago, for more than a third of that! His service to our nation, our community, and to the officers and members of Post 3 is very much appreciated. Peter and the men and women connected to Post 3 have been instrumental in providing resources; including free meals, meeting space, and other generous acts of kindness to many. I thank the members and Post Commander Mark Nestor for providing this formal opportunity to express our thanks to Peter.




Thursday, October 29, 2020

Media Advisory: North Andover Closures on Route 125/133, Chickering Road and Massachusetts Avenue

Paving operations nightly on Wednesday, November 4 through Friday, November 6 from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is announcing temporary overnight lane restrictions and the intermittent use of alternating one-way traffic flow, at the intersection of Route 125/133, Chickering Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in North Andover. These temporary traffic impacts will occur from 7:00 p.m. through 5:00 a.m. each night, beginning on Wednesday, November 4, through Friday, November 6. The impacts are necessary to allow construction crews to install the final wearing pavement surface on Route 125/133 between Baystate Road and Farrwood Avenue and on Massachusetts Avenue between Adams Avenue and Cobblestone Road.

Signs, traffic control devices, detours, and law enforcement details will be used to guide drivers through or around the work zones.

MassDOT encourages drivers to reduce speed and use caution while approaching and traveling through or around the work zones and to allow for extra time through this area.

Work is weather dependent and subject to change without notice.

This work is part of a $4.1 million project to reconstruct the intersection of Route 125/133 (Chickering Road) and Massachusetts Avenue.

For more information on traffic conditions, travelers are encouraged to:

· Dial 511 and select a route to hear real-time conditions.

· Visit


Fuel Assistance For Your Home

The home heating season is here and I want you to know about an important government-supported program that can help low-income households navigate these challenging times. In addition to the flyer posted here, I am sharing a link to a new video produced by MASSCAP with input from Action Inc. and in partnership with me, Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and #Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken. 

Watch the state-wide Fuel Assistance kick-off video



Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Food Security Funds Support Local Needs of Families and the Fisheries.

In September, I authored a letter to the Secretary of Energy & Environmental Affairs, Kathleen Theoharides, in support of several commercial fishing industry applicants to the Food Security Infrastructure Grant program. The fishing industry has undeniable historical significance to our Commonwealth, and it remains an integral part of our economy, supporting 1.7 million jobs and generating $200 billion in annual sales. I was joined by a bi-partisan group of three dozen House and Senate lawmakers as co-signers of the letter. 

Changing dynamics of consumer trends as a result of COVID-19 have made it necessary to shift production process to match demand.

I am particularly pleased that today there was a formal recognition of this request and these needs.

Baker-Polito Administration Awards Over $5.9 Million to Support Food Security in Massachusetts

Fourth Round of New Grant Program to Increase Access to Local Food

Continuing its ongoing efforts to support a resilient, secure local food supply chain in Massachusetts, the Baker-Polito Administration today announced $5.9 million in grants to address urgent food insecurity for residents across the Commonwealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding is being awarded as part of the fourth round of the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created following recommendations from the Administration’s COVID-19 Command Center’s Food Security Task Force, which promotes ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to healthy, local food.

“As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to build on our efforts to secure a resilient, diverse local food supply chain so Massachusetts residents maintain access to fresh, healthy food,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “With this fourth round of grants, we will have awarded a total of $17.7 million, making critical investments in our local food infrastructure and ensuring a secure supply of food as residents across the Commonwealth adjust to the impacts of this unprecedented public health challenge.”

“Families throughout Massachusetts, especially those living in underserved communities, will continue to receive better access to healthy, local food through the investments made through this important program,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “These projects will ensure a strong, resilient supply of local food while delivering health and economic benefits to communities across the Commonwealth.”

The goal of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program is to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have equitable access to food, especially local food. The program also seeks to ensure that farmers, fishermen and other local food producers are better connected to a strong, resilient food system to help mitigate future food supply and distribution disruption.

The fourth round of the grant program includes 47 awards for a total of $5,895,554 to fund critical investments in technology, equipment, capacity, and other assistance to help local food producers, especially in the distribution of food insecure communities. When evaluating the applications, considerations included equity, economic impact and need, sustainability and scalability of efforts, and ability to support producer readiness to accept SNAP and HIP benefits. In the program’s first three rounds, the Administration awarded over $11.7 to more than 90 recipients.

“Food insecurity remains a significant challenge for families throughout the Commonwealth during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “These projects address critical gaps within Massachusetts’ local food system, and this significant investment will help our local farmers, fishermen, food banks, and distribution networks continue their essential work producing a steady supply of healthy, nutritious food to communities and underserved neighborhoods.”

“The continued work of the Food Security Task Force under the COVID-19 Command Center has built out the food security infrastructure in the Commonwealth, connecting families and individuals with critical food resources during the pandemic,” said COVID-19 Response Command Center Director and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders. “This round of grants supports local organizations that help meet Massachusetts’ residents needs where they are, including supporting organizations that participate in existing nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC that help residents with limited income access healthy food.”

Eligible grantees include entities that are part of the Massachusetts local food system including production, processing and distribution, the emergency food distribution network, Buy Local, community and food organizations, school meal programming, urban farms and community gardens, non-profits, and organizations that provide business planning, technical assistance and information technology services. The Request for Responses for project proposals closed on September 15, 2020. Applications submitted before the proposal deadline will continue to be evaluated for future rounds of funding.

“Challenges to our food supply from the COVID-19 pandemic have given us a powerful reminder of just how important it is to have local fishing and farming, and organizations to get food to those at risk of hunger. What's more, the pandemic has brought into sharp focus the opportunities we have to help them grow and innovate,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr. “These grants will give recipients the strength they need now, and the chance to develop into even greater resources in the future for the people of our state.”

This grant program implements the recommendations of the Food Security Task Force, which was convened by the Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center in response to increased demands for food assistance. The task force is composed of a broad group of public and private members charged with ensuring food insecurity and food supply needs are addressed during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Food Insecurity Infrastructure Grant Program was announced in May 2020 as part of a $56 million investment by the Baker-Polito Administration to combat urgent food insecurity for some Massachusetts families and individuals as a result of COVID-19. The Administration also announced a $5 million increase for the Healthy Incentives Program to meet increased demand for local produce and to increase access points that process SNAP and HIP benefits, $12 million for the provision of 25,000 family food boxes per week through a regional food supply system, and $3 million in funding as an immediate relief valve to food banks.

Several new HIP vendors are receiving funding through this round of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program to purchase new equipment to process SNAP and HIP benefits. Back Azimuth Farm, in Middleborough, is a veteran-owned farm that sells at farmers’ markets and donates unsold products to their local food pantry. As a new HIP vendor, they will create new farmers market opportunities at VA hospitals in line with the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and Department of Veteran Services’ veteran outreach initiative. All Farmers will bring HIP to West Springfield for the first time. The organization represents a broad network of refugee and immigrant farmers who will be selling to their own community members and are able to service clients in Nepali, Maai Maai, and Kiswahili.

In August, the Baker-Polito Administration launched the MassGrown Exchange, an online platform designed to facilitate business-to-business connections within the local food system for products and services. Developed by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), in collaboration with the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), this platform was established to both address COVID-19 disruptions to the local food supply and to serve as a helpful tool and resource for Massachusetts growers and producers in accessing markets beyond the duration of the COVID-19 emergency.

“These grants are a great first step toward strengthening our ability to deliver food from the harvesters, our fishermen and farmers for delivery to the consumers,” said Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante. “I am particularly pleased that in this first round, preference was also given to food pantries which have been so important in ensuring food security for our most vulnerable. I look forward to watching the Commonwealth's investment and growth in our food supply chain.”

Among those included in the award - The Open Door of Gloucester - $201,073. The Open Door will develop and implement an online ordering and delivery system, expand storage to increase choice of meals as well as store locally produced food, and expand their Mobile Market program to be able to reach more areas throughout the community.

Russo Fishing Company Gloucester -$95,000. Russo Fishing Company will develop an automatic fish gutting and conveyor system on the deck of the Miss Trish that will significantly reduce the amount of time a catch would be exposed to ambient temperatures on deck before being stored safely below on ice, allowing vessels to catch fish at a higher quality with longer shelf life.


Tips For A Safe And Healthy Thanksgiving

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has tips for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving. Traveling and gathering with family and friends for Thanksgiving will look different this year to keep loved ones safe from COVID-19. This guidance for holiday celebrations is intended to help limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and reduce the spread of the virus. Please access the guidance here: Tips for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving-

As part of the guidance, DPH reminds residents and communities to be aware that gatherings and events are subject to the current state gathering size limits as well as applicable sector-specific workplace safety standards. Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally one of the busiest travel holidays of the year and anyone considering travel should be aware of and follow the Massachusetts COVID-19 Travel Order.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

Special Edition: Heating Help Statewide Kickoff

I was very happy to partner with the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) and Action Inc. to help kickoff the home heating season and important support programs designed to assist families and individuals. 

MASSCAP is the statewide association of the 23 Community Action Agencies in Massachusetts. They are non-profit human service and advocacy organizations, established by Congress and the President in 1964, to fight poverty by opening the doors to self-sufficiency. Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and #Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken join me in this video to help spread the word about these efforts.




Friday, October 23, 2020

Senate Passes Legislation Ensuring Safe Patient Access to Emergency Care

The Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act to Ensure Safe Patient Access to Emergency Care, also known as “Laura’s Law,” in memory of Somerville resident Laura Beth Levis, who died in 2016 from an asthma attack just steps from an emergency-room door. 

Levis, 34, was a vibrant, Harvard University editor who walked to the emergency room of CHA Somerville Hospital before dawn one September morning but was unable to get inside. Her attack intensified, and she collapsed before help could arrive. Numerous safety failures at the hospital, including inadequate ER signage, lighting, and an abandoned hospital security desk, all played a role in her tragic death.

“Laura Levis' death was preventable, and this bill takes common sense steps to protect others in similar situations,” said Senate President Karen Spilka (D – Ashland). “Peter DeMarco’s efforts to share his wife’s story speak to his remarkable resolve and commitment to helping others. I am grateful to him, as well as Senators Pat Jehlen, Michael Rodrigues, and Jo Comerford for proactively leading the way to make sure that Laura's story is not repeated.”

“This is a commonsense bill that will save lives,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Access to emergency care starts with making sure emergency rooms are clearly identifiable and reachable for patients in crisis. I applaud Senator Jehlen for her hard work on this important bill and my colleagues in the Committee for advancing it to the Senate for consideration.”

“A well-placed sign with clearly understandable directions can not only prevent navigating a hospital campus from being a burden, it can save a life when time counts in an emergency,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester). “This bill will ensure that some simple and powerful tools are always at work when we need them to get access to care.”

Laura's story was chronicled in the Boston Globe story “Losing Laura,” written by her husband, Peter DeMarco, who has worked with Jehlen and Barber's offices on passing the bill.

“We assume that hospitals have proper signage and lighting and security, but Laura's death proves that isn't always true. The hospital where Laura went didn't even have something as simple as an illuminated Emergency sign above the right door for her to have used,” DeMarco said. “If Laura's Law had existed that sign would have existed. She would have walked through the door, and she'd be alive today.”

Under Laura's Law, the Department of Public Health would be required to create state standards for all hospital in Massachusetts to ensure safe, timely and accessible access to emergency departments.

According to DeMarco's Globe story, Laura chose a locked door to try to access the emergency room because the correct door was not properly marked. Though Laura was on surveillance video, the hospital security desk was left unattended all night, so no one saw her. When a nurse from the emergency department eventually looked out the door for Laura, she did not see her, as the spot where Laura collapsed was in near darkness.

“Laura lost every coin flip that morning. But If you're having an asthma attack, or a heart attack, or you are about to die from a drug overdose, a single impediment to getting inside an emergency room as quickly as possible can mean the difference between life or death,” DeMarco said. “I hope so much that through Laura's death, someone else's life will be saved. It's why this bill needs to pass.”

Laura's Law would not go into effect until after the governor's Covid-19 state of emergency has been lifted.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Partnerships for Recovery, $774 Million Economic Recovery Plan

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $774 million plan to stabilize and grow our economy. The plan focuses on getting people back to work, supporting small businesses, fostering innovation, revitalizing downtowns and ensuring housing stability. Partnerships for Recovery begins today by directing $115 million in new funding to small businesses and Main Streets hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and for workforce training efforts. 

Additionally, the Administration is aligning multiple funding sources, both existing and proposed, to appropriately respond to the crisis. 

Partnerships for Recovery supports five key recovery efforts: 

  • Getting Massachusetts back to work 
  • Supporting small businesses 
  • Revitalizing downtowns 
  • Supporting housing equity and stability 
  • Fostering innovation 

You can learn more here -



Baker-Polito Administration Announces Partnerships for Recovery, $774 Million Economic Recovery Plan

Today, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $774 million comprehensive plan to stabilize and grow the Massachusetts economy. The plan focuses on getting people back to work, supporting small businesses, fostering innovation, revitalizing downtowns and ensuring housing stability. Partnerships for Recovery begins today by directing $115 million in new funding to small businesses and Main Streets hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and for workforce training efforts. Additionally, the Administration is aligning multiple funding sources, both existing and proposed, to appropriately respond to the crisis.


Partnerships for Recovery supports five key recovery efforts:


  • Getting Massachusetts back to work


  • Supporting small businesses >Revitalizing downtowns


  • Supporting housing equity and stability


  • Fostering innovation


Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, Labor and Workforce Secretary Rosalin Acosta, and Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan joined Joe Kriesberg, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations to announce the plan at the Gardner Auditorium.


“This plan represents a comprehensive strategy to get people back to work and to support the small businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic, putting the Commonwealth on a path to recovery,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By leveraging existing tools and programs and implementing new ones this plan will allow us to make critical resources and assistance to those who need it most available now.” 


“While we continue to combat this pandemic, this plan takes an approach that addresses key needs of the businesses in downtowns and main streets, provides housing support for vulnerable families, and opens new doors for people seeking to return to work,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “While we acknowledge we still have a ways to go, this plan will help to jumpstart our innovation economy and position Massachusetts to be on a path for success.”


  • Putting $115 million to work right away for small businesses and workforce training, including more than $25 million to get people back to work;


  • Directing $323 million in existing capital programs as part of the response to continue doing more of what works;


  • Filing for $122 million through the Revised H.2 budget to supplement existing funding in support of struggling Main Street businesses and skill building for residents;


  • Steering $43 million in Federal, trust and other state funding toward our most critical needs; and


  • Committing $171 million to keep people safely housed during the pandemic.


Getting People Back to Work


In order to get people back to work, new investments are being made to build workforce skills, growing training programs and pathways, forging new partnerships between employers and workers, and supporting internet connectivity to facilitate remote work and online career advancement. The more than $25 million available now includes:


  • $10.4 million to engage Massachusetts employers by expanding workforce partnerships with large employers in target sectors to create aligned statewide training-employment pathways;


  • $9.2 million to subsidize internet for low-income populations, and to expand hot spots in unserved and underserved communities;


  • $3.2 million to modernize MassHire virtual pathways to assess and connect UI claimants to appropriate services and supports;


  • $2 million to bolster manufacturing training by purchasing a standardized virtual training program to increase workforce for the manufacturing sector; and


  • $300,000 to supplement $8.4 million toward Career Technical Institutes in H.2 to help close the skills gap for skilled technician jobs and align training to industry needs.


An additional $54 million is available to support workforce recovery efforts through existing programming such as the Skills Capital Grants program, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, and the Workforce Training Trust Fund.


Revised House 2 also proposes $17.9 million in workforce funding, including $8.4 million in funding to transform vocational high schools into Career Technical Institutes running three shifts per day. This initiative is designed to train 20,000 new workers over four years in skilled trades and technical fields including plumbing, HVAC, manufacturing, and robotics. This will consist of a combination of enrolling more high school students in high-impact vocational trade programs and expanding capacity for adults to earn industry-based credentials, aligned to apprenticeships and post-secondary degrees.


"These funds will provide critical re-employment services to our workforce, helping people make the transition from unemployment benefits to good paying jobs in some of the Commonwealth's key long term job growth sectors," said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta.


Direct Support to Small Business and Main Street


To generate economic growth amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and support Main Streets across Massachusetts, the Administration is investing $322.8 million in direct support of small and diverse businesses and local communities. This funding includes grants (see details below) to the hardest hit small businesses, especially small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, or members of other underrepresented groups. These grant awards will allow small businesses to cover expenses such as rent, payroll, and utilities as they get back on their feet. Additional funding will support small businesses through hands-on and personalized technical assistance, including targeted support for women- and minority-owned businesses around digital and online technology as their business model pivots away from a brick-and-mortar location.


Many communities have seen their Main Streets and downtown districts hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and new funding aims to help cities and towns plan for short-term innovations and long-term recovery. A new $10 million round of the Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program will continue to help cities and towns quickly implement or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in their communities. Separately, local recovery planning grants will soon be available to cities and towns to assist with long-term planning for their business districts. A total of $10 million is available for this program.


To support the museums and other cultural facilities that have faced a particularly challenging reality this year, but remain a cornerstone of what Massachusetts offers to visitors, these institutions will be eligible for $10 million in Cultural Facilities Operating Grants. This funding will help these organizations to make safety improvements and other upgrades to allow them to continue to offer their unique attractions and exhibits.


As part of this recovery plan, the Governor’s recently filed revised budget proposal recommends over $100 million in additional funding for economic recovery and development efforts, including $35 million for community development financial institutions (CDFI) grants and loans, and $15 million for matching grants for capital investments by businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Additionally, more than $115 million in existing capital through programs such as MassWorks, and those in the MassDevelopment portfolio (Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, Site Readiness Program, Transformative Development Initiative, and Collaborative Workspaces), will be leveraged in support of economic recovery. This recovery plan complements the Administration’s $275 million economic recovery package, which was announced in June.


Small Business and Main Street Highlights (new funding):


  • $50.8 million in Small Business Grants to help the hardest hit businesses;


  • $10 million to continue funding the Shared Streets and Spaces Program;


  • $10 million for local recovery planning grants to support cities and towns;


  • $10 million to support cultural facilities such as museums;


  • $8.3 million in small business technical assistance to help businesses access grant programs and loans, as well as help build business management skills, resilience, and other support in navigating pandemic impacts;


    • Including $2.3 million to provide personalized technical assistance to woman- and minority-owned businesses;


“Our current circumstances call for a plan with the size and scope to match the urgency we need to address the most pressing challenges we now face,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy. “By targeting vital resources toward these key areas, this strategy will allow us to lay a solid foundation for our path to recovery.”


“During this unprecedented public health emergency, the Baker-Polito Administration is continuing to invest significant resources to support recovery and growth initiatives for small businesses and Main Streets across Massachusetts,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan. “Through close coordination with federal, state, and local partners – including our Legislative colleagues – we are proud to put forth a plan that thoughtfully invests funds from multiple sources to equip employers with the tools, resources, and supports to help navigate the new COVID-19 landscape.”


“We greatly appreciate Governor Baker’s sense of urgency to move these grant dollars now, while also working with the Legislature to secure additional funds in the state budget and the economic development bill,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations and Board Member of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. “Small business owners have sacrificed to help keep all of us safe and healthy.  This initiative is our opportunity to have their back.”


Additional Investments


In order to keep people safely in their homes during the pandemic and support small landlords with expenses, the Administration recently announced $171 million in support of the Eviction Diversion Initiative. This comprehensive strategy includes funding to help to cover housing costs such as rent and mortgage payments, invest in new programs around mediation and legal representation, and provide repaid rehousing when a tenant is evicted. Additionally, the Administration continues to invest in the Commonwealth’s stock of affordable rental housing with $121 million in direct subsidies.


Massachusetts has long been a hotbed of innovation and creativity in science and technology, and sectors such as the life sciences and advanced manufacturing are not only critical to the innovation economy, but also continue to contribute to the response to the coronavirus. To ensure we continue to lead in this space, $62 million in existing capital funding through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and MassVentures is available to support recovery and growth.


Small Business Grant Program Details


Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) is administering the Small Business Grants program, with $50.8 million available beginning today. Grant awards range between $25,000 – $75,000, and eligibility criteria and applications are available here.


As part of this grant program, preference is given to small businesses whose owners are women, minorities, veterans, members of other underrepresented groups, or focused on serving the Gateway Cities of Massachusetts, who have been unable to open and those most adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Preference is also given to applicants that have not been able to receive aid from other federal programs, including PPP and other relief related to COVID-19.


The program has two distinct funding “doors” based on business size, with different eligibility criteria, which is available online. Applicants must review the information to determine which program to proceed with applying.