COVID-19 Information

This is an unprecedented time for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The COVID-19 pandemic is a very steep challenge for all of us.

With this page, I want to keep you informed of our continued work on the many issues COVID-19 presents and provide a source of clear and updated information. Below please find general updates, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to official websites. My hope is to alleviate some of the understandable concern we all are experiencing during this uncertain and unprecedented time with accurate consistent information.

I am honored to serve as a member of the state Senate's COVID-19 Working Group established by the Senate President to identify immediate policy, legislative, and budgetary actions needed to most effectively address the impact of the virus. As part of this effort, I have been tasked with focusing on issues related to the population identified to be most at risk, older adults. So many of you have already helped me to identify priorities and potential solutions based on your first-hand experiences. In the days and weeks ahead, please continue to reach out to me and my staff with concerns, suggestions, and needs. Reach me at julian.cyr@masenate.gov.

Please stay safe and take care of yourself and your loved ones during this difficult time.

UPDATED AS OF MONDAY, MAY 11th AT 8:00PM

The most up to date information and FAQs for Massachusetts can be found online at: mass.gov/covid19

CDC WEBSITE: www.cdc.gov/covid19 

Detailed guidance for groups including consumers, assisted living centers, child care providers, housing authorities and many more is available here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-recommendations

List of Executive Orders from Governor Baker in the past few weeks: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-state-of-emergency

Contact Tracing Job Opportunities in Massachusetts: https://www.pih.org/covid-team

General Page of COVID-19 Related Job Opportunities in Massachusetts: https://www.mass.gov/lists/covid-19-jobs

These are times that are making us all stressed, anxious, and worried for our friends and family. Pay attention to your own mental health and pick up the phone if you need help. There are many resources, including NAMI of Massachusetts: if you need to talk to someone, text NAMI to 741741 or call the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

Further information: 

Federal Updates

SBA Resumes Accepting PPP Applications

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting applications for the second round of funding of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from lenders on Monday, April 27th at 10:30 am. It is critically important that small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic work with their lender to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program as soon as possible. Businesses can access the SBA’s Find A Lender tool at https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find

Additionally, using SBA data, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development has published this list (https://www.mass.gov/doc/ppp-eligible-lenders-and-first-round-participants-sba-data) of institutions that provided loans to Massachusetts companies in the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program. The list also includes all entities that appeared on the SBA’s approved lenders list, which was last updated on April 13, 2020.

Any small businesses in need of application translation services or other technical assistance should access Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s online resources, including a list of technical assistance providers who can help businesses apply for PPP in languages other than English: https://empoweringsmallbusiness.org/resources/covid-19-small-business-resources

Stimulus Payments for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

The IRS has released guidance with the specific goal of clarifying that homeless populations likely qualify for a stimulus payment, stressing that they may need to register utilizing the Non-Filers Tool here: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here. Information such as a driver’s license number or bank account information are optional, not required.

Summary of federal government Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement legislation

The US Senate and Congress have both passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.

An FFIS summary of that legislation is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ck3WncsniVXW2jeUg0CQTzTIVtjrfOIY/view?usp=sharing

IRS Toolkit for constituent and tax filing help

The Internal Revenue Service has prepared a toolkit with answers to commonly asked questions regarding stimulus payments, the Get My Payment and Non-Filers tools, and more.

The toolkit can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xn7_DnISJt8PdJHLj2qaFA7F8D7aWeFs/view

Some helpful websites people may visit for tax prep resources include:

USDA’s COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide With Federal Programs That Can Help Rural Communities, Organizations and Residents

The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.

The resource guide is available here: https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/USDA_COVID-19_Fed_Rural_Resource_Guide.pdf

USDA has taken many immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, producers, rural communities, and rural-based businesses and organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on these actions, visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus

Helpful CARES Act small business program summaries and loan application tracker

To help navigate these new federal programs and access accurate information, please find below a compilation of resources.

Click here to access the Small Business Guide to the Coronavirus, which provides detailed information about each CARES program: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/small_biz_cares_guide_update_4-6.pdf

The CARES Act provided $275 million for SBA’s Resource Partners to provide vital guidance and expertise to small business owners and entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19. Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers (https://www.awbc.org/), and SCORE (https://www.score.org/) counselors are available to help guide small businesses with their specific questions about their eligibility and the application process.

To connect a small business with a local resource partner for COVID-19 advice please click here: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/lead_small_business_development_centers.pdf

Click here to learn more about SBA’s COVID-19 programs and how to apply: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options

The SBA now provides an application tracker for those who have applied for loans: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Login

CDC Updated Guidance on Wearing Cloth Masks in Public

On April 3, CDC issued a recommendation about wearing cloth face coverings in public settings. This recommendation was made after considering recent studies that have shown individuals with the virus who lack symptoms can transmit the virus to others. CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings including places where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (such as grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community based transmission.

It is critical to emphasize that the mask recommendation does not replace social distancing, stay at home measures, and hand washing recommendations that remain in effect. Social distancing, staying at home except for essential travel, and hand hygiene remain vitally important to slowing the spread of the virus.

Full recommendations on masks from the CDC are here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html

A video from the Surgeon General on how to make a mask is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPx1yqvJgf4&feature=youtu.be

Federal CARES ACT:

Here is a summary of the recently passes CARES Act, which has been signed into law by the President: https://www.senatorcyr.com/federal_cares_act_summary

Massachusetts allocations of CARES Act funding is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GJ9W1QGYtcUqLJHDnrArqjLEQFlvS9uP_4ReY7KC_II/edit?usp=sharing

US House of Representatives FAQ on CARES Act

The US House of Representative published an exhaustive FAQ on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). The FAQ can be found here: https://8333c73b-c725-46ee-8168-5a834cc82cbf.filesusr.com/ugd/d7f078_828578e9c7184454ad9efd7d2eab7f13.pdf

Federal Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts COVID-19 Response

The White House and FEMA announced that the President has issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that will make federal disaster assistance available beyond what was included in the Emergency Declaration declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020. More information from MEMA can be found here, and a description of the programs that accompany this declaration is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-federal-disaster-declaration

Public Assistance Program

Under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program within the Major Disaster Declaration, affected local governments, state agencies and certain private non-profit organizations statewide will be reimbursed for 75% of their costs associated with response and emergency protective measures. The eligible emergency protective measures include non-congregate isolation and quarantine costs for homeless individuals and families as well as first responders as well as other types of properly documented costs.

Individual Assistance Program

Under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program within the Major Disaster Declaration, Crisis Counseling Assistance will provide funding for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to assist individuals and families in recovering from the psychological effects of the COVID -19 outbreak through electronic phone and chat technology.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will provide webinars and other information about the process for applying for the Public Assistance Program to municipal and state officials and eligible non-profits.

Federal declaration of state of emergency:

On March 13 the President of the United States issued a proclamation declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak. The full proclamation can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-declaring-national-emergency-concerning-novel-coronavirus-disease-covid-19-outbreak/  

Families First Coronavirus Act signed into law

Today, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Act into law. This new law will provide funds to help deal with the COVID-19 public health emergency, as well as modify some federal programs, employment-related protections and benefits, health programs and insurance coverage requirements, and tax credits.

A statement on the bill signing is here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/bill-announcement-88/

Paid sick leave included in new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) law

Generally, the FFCRA provides employees of covered employers the following:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at the employee's regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $511 per day or $5,110 for the two week period) where the employee is unable to work, because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $200 per day or $2,000 for the two week period), because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay (for a maximum benefit of $200 per day or $12,000 over the ten week period) where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Employers would receive a payroll tax credit for qualified sick leave wages and family leave paid by an employer in the amount of benefits paid (not to exceed the limits for pay) over the permitted duration.

Self-employed individuals qualify for an individual tax credit for qualified sick leave and family leave in the amount of $200 a day (or $511 for emergency paid sick leave for own quarantine or seeking own medical diagnosis) or 67% (or 100% for emergency paid sick leave for own quarantine or seeking own medical diagnosis) of average daily pay for self-employed individuals over the permitted duration, whichever is less

To learn more about the qualifying reasons for expanded family and medical leave and the calculation of pay, please visit the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights page. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave

The Wage and Hour Division provides information on issues employers and employees face during influenza, pandemics, or other public health emergencies, as well as their effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Please visit the WHD COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies page for additional information. https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic

A more detailed description of these provisions can be found here: https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/issue-brief/the-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-summary-of-key-provisions/

Trump Administration postpones federal tax day until July 15

The deadline for filing tax returns will be postponed three months, to July 15 because of the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced. More information about this announcement can be found here: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/tax-day-postponed-until-july-15-mnuchin-says-n1164811?fbclid=IwAR1zP2zXVSCzsBFy8Zp7-d6maq0jBrLM0Je6f7uCMq9paeCuu7_Xqdb3H20

Internal Revenue Service tips and FAQs

The IRS recently went live with a website that provides tips for taxpayers and tax pros. You can find that site here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-operations-during-covid-19-mission-critical-functions-continue

The IRS also recently created FAQs regarding this year’s tax filing deadline extension. You can find that site here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/filing-and-payment-deadlines-questions-and-answers

Updates from the federal government on standardized testing, student loan interest

On 3-20, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that students impacted by school closures due to the pandemic can bypass standardized testing for the 2019-20 school year. Upon a proper request, the federal Department of Education will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students because of the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year.

Since student performance, as measured by assessments, is required to be used in statewide accountability systems, any state that receives a one-year waiver may also receive a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in the statewide accountability system because of the ongoing national emergency.

The Secretary also announced that borrowers with federally held student loans will automatically have their interest rates set to 0% for a period of at least 60 days. In addition, each of these borrowers will have the option to suspend their payments for at least two months to allow them greater flexibility during the national emergency. This will allow borrowers to temporarily stop their payments without worrying about accruing interest.

The Secretary has also directed all federal student loan servicers to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one. The forbearance will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days, beginning on March 13, 2020. To request this forbearance, borrowers should contact their loan servicer online or by phone. The Secretary also authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020, or who becomes more than 31 days delinquent, essentially giving borrowers a safety net during the national emergency.

Department of Labor announced dislocated worker grants

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of up to $100 million for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address the workforce-related impacts related to COVID-19

The full advisory is here: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200318

Department of Housing and Urban Development moratorium on foreclosures and evictions

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days.

The full advisory is here: https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_042

Social Security Administration telephone information and services

All SSA field offices are currently closed and as a result Americans should expect service delays. You can still reach the SSA by phone, however, and a link to identify your local field office is here: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

The Social Security Administration also recently published a website providing Americans with information related to their services during the coronavirus pandemic, and that website is here: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/

USDA Rural Development actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak

USDA Rural Development announced loans and changes to funding programs to assist rural communities with the impact of COVID-19. Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions, and more.

Full information about USDA Rural Development’s loan programs and CARES Act implementation can be found here: https://www.rd.usda.gov/sites/default/files/USDA_RD_SA_COVID19_ProgramImmediateActions04082020.pdf

Cape Cod Information

COVID-19 Testing on Cape Cod

The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment are working with Cape Cod Healthcare to run a drive up COVID-19 testing site at Cape Cod Community College. Only those with a doctors note and the symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested at this time. Instructions here: https://www.capecodhealth.org/medical-services/infectious-disease/coronavirus/covid-19-testing-process/

Major Crisis Relief Fund for Cape and Islands

Are offering support for those impacted economically by COVID-19 and seeking donations from those in need. Details: https://majorcrisisrelieffund.org/

REGION-WIDE GUIDANCE RELEASED FOR SEASONAL RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO CAPE COD AND ISLANDS: https://www.senatorcyr.com/seasonal_visitors_to_cape_cod_and_islands

Cape Cod Reopening Task Force Information: https://www.senatorcyr.com/reopening

Food Access for Kids at Cape Cod Schools: Being offered us a drive-up service or "grab and go" by several school districts:

Barnstable Schools: https://www.barnstable.k12.ma.us/Page/4864 

Monomoy Schools: https://www.monomoy.edu/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=13&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=9958&PageID=1

Nauset Schools: https://www.nausetschools.org/cms/lib/MA02212418/Centricity/Domain/8/Food%20Services%20Memo%203.16.20.pdf

Dennis-Yarmouth Schools: https://www.dy-regional.k12.ma.us/district/covid-19-coronavirus-information

Mashpee Schools: https://www.mpspk12.org/ and https://www.capenews.net/mashpee/news/food-services-in-mashpee-transition-to-takeout-delivery-after-executive/article_fec3371c-b448-5417-bedf-f387db841a94.html#utm_source=capenews.net&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fmashpee%2F%3F-dc%3D1584548695&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

Provincetown Schools: http://www.provincetownschools.com/pts-food-distribution.html

Truro Schools: http://www.truromass.org/

Food Access for Families in Need

Family Pantry of Cape Cod in Harwich: https://www.thefamilypantry.com/ 

List of Food Access Resources across Cape Cod: https://www.barnstablecountyhealth.org/community-tips/food-access-resources

Nantucket Information

COVID-19 Testing on Nantucket

The Nantucket Cottage Hospital has started drive-up COVID-19 testing in their parking lot. Testing is only available to individuals who have the symptoms for COVID-19: http://nantuckethospital.org/home/coronavirus-news-and-information/

REGION-WIDE GUIDANCE RELEASED FOR SEASONAL RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO CAPE COD AND ISLANDS: https://www.senatorcyr.com/seasonal_visitors_to_cape_cod_and_islands

Food Access for Kids on Nantucket

The Nantucket Public Schools will be offering both breakfast and lunch to those who are in need during this time. Pick up of those meals will be outside at the High School. (7-9 am for breakfast and 11 to 1 pm for lunch). More details at https://www.npsk.org/

Martha's Vineyard Information

Updates from the MV Hospital: https://www.mvhospital.com/health-resources/resources-and-information-on-coronavirus-covid-19

REGION-WIDE GUIDANCE RELEASED FOR SEASONAL RESIDENTS AND VISITORS TO CAPE COD AND ISLANDS: https://www.senatorcyr.com/seasonal_visitors_to_cape_cod_and_islands

Food Access for Kids on Martha's Vineyard

From 11:00 to 1:00 at the High School, the Oak Bluffs School, the Edgartown School, the Tisbury School and the West Tisbury School. Delivery will be directly to your car, so please drive to the curb and wait for a staff member to assist you. Principals will be reaching out to families to provide additional information. Details at www.mvyps.org

State Government Updates

May 11th: Governor Baker announces initial framework for statewide re-opening: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-four-phase-approach-to-reopening-and-publishes-mandatory

May 1st: Mask and Face Covering Required in Public Places Order

The Baker-Polito Administration has ordered all residents over the age of two to use a face covering or mask in public places where maintaining proper social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are not possible. This statewide order goes into effect on May 6th and supersedes previously issued guidance relative to mask use.

This order applies to all workers and customers of businesses and other organizations that are currently open to the public and permitted to operate as COVID-19 Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores. Residents are also required to wear a mask or face covering at all times when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit.

A face covering may include anything that covers your nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf or bandana. Health care masks should not be used and should be preserved for health care workers and first responders. Cloth masks should not be worn by young children under the age of two, persons with difficulty breathing, or those who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Instructions on how to make a cloth mask are available from the CDC here.

The full order on wearing masks in public is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/may-1-2020-masks-and-face-coverings

April 28th: Essential Services Order Extended to May 18th

Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 18th. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also extends the existing ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 18th.

April 28th: Stay at Home Advisory Remaining in Effect

Governor Charlie Baker announced that the Department of Public Health’s stay-at-home advisory will remain in effect. Residents are strongly urged to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible.

April 28th: Reopening Advisory Board Formed and Members

Governor Baker announced the formation of the Reopening Advisory Board, which will be Co-Chaired by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. The Board brings public health officials together with leaders from the business community and municipal government from across the Commonwealth. This group is charged with advising the administration on strategies to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics. It will meet with key stakeholders and solicit input from a variety of constituencies over the next three weeks to develop a report by May 18th that will include DPH approved workplace safety standards, industry frameworks and customer protocols and guidelines, including enforcement mechanisms and coordination with municipal leaders. This report is due on the 18th, but the administration has made clear that public health data and guidance from health care experts will dictate the timeline of the re-opening process.

The 17-member Advisory Board is composed of three public health officials, including Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, three municipal officials, and eleven leaders from the business community, including MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. Members of the Advisory Board bring a range of perspectives to the table, such as an understanding of workplaces and workforces and insights into key areas like financial markets, education, manufacturing and transportation.

Reopening Advisory Board Members:

  • Aron Ain, CEO, Kronos Inc & Ultimate Software
  • Carlo Zaffanella, Vice President and General Manager, Maritime & Strategic Systems, General Dynamics Mission Systems
  • Corey Thomas, CEO, Rapid 7
  • Daniel Rivera, Mayor, City of Lawrence
  • Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Girish Navani, CEO and Co-Founder, eClinicalWorks
  • Joe Bahena, Senior Vice President, Joseph Abboud Manufacturing
  • Kathryn Burton, Chief of Staff, City of Boston
  • Laurie Leshin, Ph.D., President, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Linda Markham, President, Cape Air
  • Mark Keroack, President & CEO, Baystate Health
  • Monica Bharel, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Public Health
  • Nicole LaChapelle, Mayor, City of Easthampton
  • Pamela Everhart, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments
  • Stephanie Pollack, Transportation Secretary and CEO
  • Steve DiFillippo, CEO, Davios Restaurants
  • Wendy Hudson, Owner, Nantucket Book Partners

April 22nd: Expanded Access to WiFi Hotspots

The Baker-Polito Administration announced expanded access to high-speed internet for unserved cities and towns throughout Massachusetts that do not yet have a completed last-mile broadband network. The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech, KCST and local internet service providers will offer communities new WiFi hotspots, building off the Commonwealth’s MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic network These WiFi hotspots will provide unserved communities with a temporary 250 megabit per second wireless hotspot, allowing increased broadband access for residents, families and students impacted by COVID-19. This program will be offered free of monthly charge to eligible communities until September 1, 2020.

Citizens who use these hotspots must continue to follow social distancing protocols, and the towns and ISPs will post clear signs with the DPH guidance. MassBroadband is providing support to local ISPs as needed, and is tracking these hotspots as they come online and posting them online here: https://broadband.masstech.org/wifi

April 22nd: Courts expand remote capability to serve public during COVID-19 health crisis

During the current state of emergency and circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trial Court has adapted its policies and practices to protect court staff and the public, while maintaining access to justice for emergency situations. While the Courts continue to implement measures to meet the needs of court users during this time, some of the steps taken to date to ensure the continued delivery of justice include:

April 22nd: Trial Court establishes public Help Line during COVID-19

More than 1,326 calls have been handled by the Help Line established by the Trial Court on April 2nd to assist the public. Assistance includes general information about cases and navigation of the court system, while it is closed to the public for all but emergency matters. The Help Line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be reached at 833-91COURT.

For emergency matters, court users should first call their local court Clerk's or Register's Offices. Contact numbers and email addresses for individual courts and offices are found online on the Courthouse Locator page (https://www.mass.gov/courthouse-locator). Each of the seven Trial Court Departments have issued Standing Orders (https://www.mass.gov/news/trial-court-and-trial-court-departments-issue-orders-concerning-court-operations-and) that contain full lists of emergency matters.

Representatives from all Trial Court Departments, as well as the Massachusetts Probation Service, staff the Help Line. Callers are prompted to select the Trial Court Department they wish to reach and are connected to a knowledgeable representative who can access MassCourts, the court 's case management system.

More information is available in the press release linked here: https://www.mass.gov/news/trial-court-launches-help-line-to-assist-court-users

April 21st: Division of Banks Joins Multi-State Initiative to Provide Relief to Massachusetts Student Loan Borrowers

The Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) has joined a multi-state initiative to secure payment relief options for Massachusetts student loan borrowers and issued a Consumer Advisory with important information and resources for private student loan borrowers.

Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 Massachusetts borrowers with privately held student loans.

This response builds on the federal CARES Act, which provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020, as well as the recently announced Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s deferment of payments in its No-Interest Loan Program until August 1, 2020.

Under this initiative, borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance
  • Waiving late payment fees
  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting
  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days
  • Working with borrowers to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

Additional information and resources, including a full list of participating private student loan servicers, are included in the Division’s Consumer Advisory.

April 21st: New DPH Daily Dashboard Released

The Administration released an enhanced, comprehensive and detailed COVID-19 data report, including trend data in a variety of areas. The new daily dashboard is 23 pages in length and includes information on cases rates, testing, and breakdowns by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and geography of confirmed cases. It also includes a similar breakdown of death data. Beyond the case data, the report also includes specific information on COVID-19 hospital census information, a list of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and rest homes with known clusters of COVID-19 cases and data on PPE distribution by recipient type and geography.

The daily dashboard report can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-april-20-2020/download

April 20th: Implementation Of CARES Act unemployment benefits For self-employed, gig economy and other workers

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The new federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. This includes self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and those with limited work history. Applicants can learn more and apply at www.mass.gov/pua.

To be eligible for this new program, individuals must provide self-certification that they are otherwise able and available to work but are prevented from doing so by circumstances relating to COVID-19, including their own illness or that of a family member.

Those able to telework with pay and individuals receiving paid sick or other leave will not qualify for PUA. Individuals receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits for less than their customary work week, however, may still be eligible for PUA. Also, those working fewer hours, resulting in a loss of income due to COVID-19, who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for PUA.

The federal CARES Act signed into law on March 27 created PUA, as well as another temporary federal program called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that provides an additional $600 weekly benefit for those receiving unemployment benefits or PUA. FPUC provides that additional benefit through July 25, 2020. The Commonwealth announced implementation of FPUC earlier this month, and you can read the full announcement here: https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-announces-initial-implementation-of-new-federal-unemployment-benefits-from-0

All approved PUA applications will initially receive the minimum weekly benefit amount, plus the additional $600 FPUC weekly benefit. Once a worker’s wages are verified, weekly benefit amounts may increase. The amount of PUA benefits received is based on the individual’s reported previous income. PUA benefits may not be more than the state's maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment, which is $823 in Massachusetts.

Weekly benefits, including any increase to your weekly benefit amount, will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, or the date when you became unemployed, whichever is more recent, as long as you became unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason.

PUA Application Process

To apply, individuals must provide their Social Security number or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number if not a citizen of the United States, and their wage records for 2019, which includes 1099 forms, pay stubs, or bank statements. Applicants will also need the Social Security numbers and dates of birth for dependent children and, if requesting direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers. A full list of required documents is available at www.mass.gov/pua.

Please note that, initially, the system can only pay benefits retroactively to the week ending March 14, 2020. Eligible workers will be able to certify for benefits, and will be able to request benefits retroactively to January 27, 2020, if their dates of unemployment make them eligible.

Individuals who are determined ineligible for PUA will receive a written disqualification along with information on how to pursue an appeal. Additional information about the appeals process will be separately posted at a later date. Please visit www.mass.gov/dua for the latest information.

April 20th: Updated crisis standards of care guidelines

Crisis standards of care guidelines initially released on April 7th have been updated and re-released. The updated crisis standards of care guidelines can be found here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6843353-Revised-Crisis-Standards-of-Care-Planning-Guidance.html 

April 20th: Womens Infants and Children (WIC) program application update

Ordinarily, WIC services are provided at nearly 120 locations across Massachusetts. During the COVID19 emergency, all WIC appointments are being conducted by phone and WIC food benefits are being issued remotely.

To connect with the WIC Program, visit www.mass.gov/wic. New applicants are encouraged to click “Apply Online for WIC” to get started. After the online application is completed, it will automatically be sent to the local WIC program closest to the family’s home, and WIC staff will reach out.

Interested families can also contact a local WIC program directly by phone or email; the complete list of contact information can be found on the WIC website. Information is also available by calling 1-800-WIC-1007 or 617-721-6601.

April 20th: Office of the Child Advocate notice to legislators

As our state grapples with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on all of our child- and family-serving state and local systems, I want to make sure you are aware that the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is here as a resource for you and your constituents who may be having difficulty navigating complex state services.

The OCA is an independent state agency that serves children and families across the Commonwealth. Our goal is to ensure all children receive appropriate, timely and quality services. The OCA regularly collects and analyzes data and makes recommendations to legislators and state agencies to improve services. Learn more about the OCA here: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-child-advocate

We know that state agencies are working very hard in response to the Covid-19 crisis, and that the challenges we are collectively experiencing are unprecedented. We also know that gaps exist and that there are opportunities for improvement.

If you or your staff are working with family that is having difficulty with a state service for children (e.g. foster care, residential treatment, special education services) that you have been unable to resolve through the normal state agency administrative resolution, please contact our staff at the OCA.

You can reach the OCA Complaint Line in the following ways:

Email: childadvocate@state.ma.us

Phone: 617-979-8360

The OCA is not a direct-advocacy agency. Although Complaint Line staff will follow-up with individual complaints, the OCA’s role is to advocate to state agencies for systematic changes.

Here is what we do when someone contacts the Complaint Line:

OCA staff will read/listen to your concerns, and direct you to resources, information and other options to help you navigate complex service systems and address the problem.

Of particular importance in this crisis, we track and analyze the complaints we receive and look for patterns. We will compile this information on a regular basis and bring the overarching concerns and trends to the relevant state agencies.

For more information on the OCA Complaint line, including a description of what we can and cannot do to help resolve complaints, see: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-complaint-withthe-oca

Thank you for your help in this effort. If you have questions, please contact our Senior Director of Quality Assurance, Christine Palladino-Downs at christine.palladino-downs@mass.gov.

Warmly,
Maria Mossaides
Director, Office of the Child Advocate

April 17th: DCF monthly payment to foster families

The Administration recognizes that as result of schools closing and closure of non-essential businesses, foster families are incurring increased costs. Foster parents are vital to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its mission to keep children safe, as they care for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children who have been abused and neglected.

To support foster parents providing departmental foster care, DCF will be making a $100 monthly payment for each child in placement on the 15th of April, May and June. Currently, on average, foster parents are reimbursed between $830 to $975 per child per month, depending on the age of the child in their care. This $100 additional payment represents a 10% - 12% increase over current reimbursements for foster parents. The relief will benefit the approximately 4,500 foster families who provide departmental foster care for 6,700 children. This includes unrestricted and kinship foster families.

April 17th: Emergency order on establishing emergency childcare for COVID-19 positive children

Governor Baker issued an emergency order authorizing the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to establish emergency sites for children and youth living in residential homes that have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to be cared for in quarantine or isolation.

Read the Order here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-16-2020-eec-order

Read More from EEC here: https://mailchi.mp/84b8db93c3d6/press-release-baker-polito-administration-awards-6-million-for-early-education-programs-1516544?e=e34de0bf6c

April 17th: Distribution Of PPE To All Emergency Responders In Massachusetts

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters to ensure they have the protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. These FDA-approved respirator masks will be distributed to all local law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and college and university police, and firefighters through a coordinated effort by the COVID-19 Response Command Center and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are continuing to receive these types of masks and other PPE.

To facilitate quick distribution of these masks, MEMA is employing a regional point of distribution (POD) model where communities can pick up their supply of masks at their designated MEMA POD. These POD sites are open today and have already distributed tens of thousands of masks to first responders in the first few hours. This new distribution will ensure that local law enforcement and firefighters will have five respirator masks each, equivalent to a one month’s supply. Including conservation methods currently being used by some organizations, this will provide each individual a mask per week and a spare, allowing the mask to dry overnight and reuse for up to one week.

April 17th: COVID-19 Public Resources Map

The MA Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) together other partners, has developed a COVID-19 Public Resources Map showing the location of resources available to the public, such as food banks, houses of worship, and Project Bread site locations. Please note that this map is not inclusive of all resources, and is only as accurate as the information that has been provided to MEMA.

The map can be accessed here: https://memamaps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=5867d881a9324121839605c56a3d7cc9

MEMA has also developed and maintains a public-facing COVID-19 ArcGIS Online dashboard, available here. This dashboard is continuously updated and captures information about current COVID 19 case counts, cases by age, cases by county, hospital status, hospital bed status, death tolls, and deaths by age. Users should refresh the dashboard on a daily basis as enhancements are continuously being added.

The response dashboard can be accessed here: https://memamaps.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=9ef7ef55e4644af29e9ca07bfe6a509f

April 15th: Long-Term Care Facility Support

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working to detect, prevent and manage the outbreaks of COVID-19 throughout the state and is intensely focused on mitigating the spread of illness in senior living facilities. Statewide, there are 383 nursing homes, 255 assisted living residences, and 93 rest homes in Massachusetts. There are approximately 38,000 residents in nursing homes; 16,500 in assisted living residences; and 3,000 residents in rest homes. Recognizing that these facilities are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19, the Administration in March implemented stringent visitation restrictions and screening guidelines for staff at long-term care facilities.

Today, the Administration outlined ongoing steps and new resources to support these facilities:

  • $130 Million In New Funding
    • In early April, the Administration announced a 10% MassHealth rate increase (approximately $50 million) across the board for all nursing facilities. Facilities that create dedicated COVID-19 wings and units and follow necessary safety protocols will be eligible for an additional 15% rate increase, or a net increase of 25% (approximately $50 million). These funds support additional staffing, infection control and supply costs throughout the state of emergency
    • An estimated $30 million will support facilities that established dedicated skilled nursing facilities.
  • Expanded Mobile Testing
    • The Commonwealth’s Mobile Testing program, a partnership between the Department of Public Health, the National Guard, and the Broad Institute has improved access to testing for nursing home, rest home, and assisted living facilities to test more people. On April 13th, the Administration updated testing guidance to encourage long-term care facilities to conduct widespread testing for residents, even if they have no symptoms, and staff. In addition to the mobile testing program, facilities can conduct their own on-site testing using kits supplied by the Broad Institute.
    • As of April 14, more than 4,500 tests have been collected at 264 facilities.
    • As of yesterday, 77 facilities had requested more than 8,600 test kits.
  • Dedicated COVID-19 Skilled Nursing Facility Capacity Update: The Administration has pursued three parallel options for expanding COVID-19 dedicated nursing facility capacity:

    • Approach 1: Converting existing occupied facilities to fully dedicated COVID-19 facilities. An example of this is the Beaumont Facility in Worcester.

    • Approach 2: Converting empty facilities to stand up a new dedicated COVID-19 nursing facility. An example of this is the Pioneer Valley Recovery Center in East Longmeadow.

    • Approach 3: Creating dedicated COVID-19 wings within a broader nursing facility.

    • To date, in addition to the Beaumont facility, the Commonwealth currently has 5 dedicated COVID-19 facilities opening within the next 7-10 days in Brewster, Falmouth, New Bedford, East Longmeadow and Great Barrington; and several others in the planning stages.

  • Crisis Management Support for long-term care facilities 

    • To provide crisis management support for long-term care facilities, the Administration has also contracted with a firm specializing in nursing home crisis management. They will be available to provide facilities with on-site management and operational support to assist with staffing, vendors, implementing infection control measures, etc. The firm will also support efforts to stand up dedicated COVID-19 facilities and wings/units within existing nursing facilities.

April 15th: Rapid Response Clinical Team & Staff Resources

The Commonwealth has also mobilized rapid-response clinical teams to provide short-term support for facilities with a high volume of cases or with critical staffing needs. These teams are made up of EMS technicians, nurses, and other health care professionals.

To meet staffing needs, the Administration has:

  • Stood up a Long-Term Care Portal to match individuals that have registered through the portal with the staffing requests submitted by facilities;
  • Announced a $1,000 signing bonus to all individuals that register through the LTC portal to work for a certain amount of time in a nursing home, and;
  • Tapped into the volunteers who’ve signed up through the Health Professionals Volunteer portal

April 14th: Expanded COVID-19 Response Data Reporting

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the expansion of COVID-19 response reporting to include statewide hospital capacity and PPE distribution data.

Testing: Daily test reporting data, including number of positive cases, can already be found at here at 4:00 PM each day: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring#covid-19-cases-in-massachusetts-

Hospital Capacity: Also at 4:00 PM each day, the Command Center will report hospital bed occupancy and availability as reported by Massachusetts hospitals here: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-hospital-capacity-and-surge-response

PPE Distribution: Additionally, PPE distribution reports will be posted each day by 4:00 PM, and can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-during-covid-19

April 13th: Update on mobile testing program for long term care, assisted living residences and DDS group homes

On March 31, the Commonwealth implemented a project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The program, which has expanded to include Assisted Living Residences, and Department of Developmental Services group homes, is operating under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge. Since launching the initiative, nearly 3,700 tests have been collected at 221 facilities. Facilities with appropriately trained clinical staff can now conduct their own testing with test kits ordered through the mobile testing program; as of Saturday afternoon, 35 facilities had requested more than 4,400 test kits had been sent.

Spanish language state government resources announced

The Baker-Polito Administration launched a Spanish language online, mobile-friendly, unemployment benefits application. The new, secure application for Spanish speakers is available through mass.gov/desempleo, the Spanish language website for unemployment in Massachusetts. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will make language applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese and additional languages in the coming days.

Additionally, the COVID-19 text message alert system is available in Spanish. Users can subscribe to the Spanish-language service by texting COVIDMAESP to 888-777.

All of Mass.Gov (including Mass.Gov/COVID19) is available in 13 different languages The Commonwealth’s non-emergency help line for COVID-19, 2-1-1 is available in over 150 languages. Several agencies, including the Department of Public Health, offer additional fact sheets available in multiple languages

Grocery store worker priority testing

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security expanded access to the free, priority COVID-19 testing sites for first responders to now include grocery store and supermarket workers. Beginning Saturday, April 11, the people who provide critical access to food and other necessities may schedule an appointment to receive COVID-19 testing at the sites located at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield.

All appointments must be made in advance by the worker’s supervisor or manager, and personnel do not need to be symptomatic to be eligible.

April 13th: Command Center PPE distribution summary by county

The Command Center posted for the first time a PPE distribution summary that describes what and where 1,935,010 pieces of PPE have been delivered. The summary provides the numbers of respirators, masks, gowns and gloves that have been distributed through April 12. The chart also provides a breakdown of distribution by entity and by region and will be updated regularly.

See The PPE Distribution Chart: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ppe-distribution-summary-april-12-2020/download

April 13th: Emergency Response Team funding and update:

The M-ERT is a coordinated response by the Baker-Polito Administration and leading academic and industry stakeholders to support the Commonwealth’s manufacturers in their efforts to produce much-needed supplies for front-line workers and the health care system. Members of the M-ERT include representatives from: Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), MIT, MIT Lincoln Labs, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and other industry partners.

The M-ERT is being launched alongside $10.6 million in new funding to help manufacturers scale their operations to produce PPE and other critical items. Companies can apply for grants through an online form (https://masstech.org/manufacturing-emergency-response-team-funding-program) for equipment, materials, supplies, workforce training and other needs. A Review Committee will process applications based on criteria including production timeline and recommend grant awards.

MassTech and AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabrics of America), a member of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes based in Cambridge, will administer $5.6 million in funds through the existing Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Institute (M2I2) program. Another $4 million has been made available through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), with an additional $1 million for workforce training contributed by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Commonwealth Corporation through the existing Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP).

In addition to this funding, the M-ERT will offer other assistance to manufacturers, including:

  • Understanding what PPE and COVID-19 related materials are of highest priority to produce;
  • Regulatory compliance, including insight into FDA guidance;
  • Addressing specifications and testing that is necessary, and identifying in-state test centers;
  • Retraining workers on new production lines and standards; and
  • Sharing design and CAD files for critical items.

April 10th: DPH Advisory on masks and face coverings

The Department of Public Health issued a Public Health Advisory that, consistent with CDC guidance, recommends that people wear a mask or cover their face in public when they cannot safely socially distance. For example, members of the public will be advised to wear something to cover their face in public places like supermarkets and pharmacies. Read the guidance here: https://www.mass.gov/news/advisory-regarding-face-coverings-and-cloth-masks

April 10th: Hospital Surge Capacity Projections Released

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center released its initial projections on the surge last week. Since then, the Command Center has remained in regular contact with the Commonwealth’s hospitals on a daily basis as they work to increase acute and ICU bed capacity. As of today, the Commonwealth has worked to make a total of approximately 14,500 treatment beds available ahead of the surge:

  • 11,000 beds could be available for ICU and acute care in the existing hospital system. This represents a breakdown of roughly 9,400 acute care beds and 1,500 ICU beds.
  • Through hospital surge planning and field hospitals, the Commonwealth is bringing approximately 3,500 new beds online for ICU and acute care. This breaks down to approximately 2,500 new hospital beds coming online from hospital surge planning, and 1,000 beds coming online through field hospitals.

The Command Center continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on different regions and tracking how many hospital beds are available across the Commonwealth. As of today, hospitals have reported that 8,100 beds are occupied now statewide, or approximately 55% (this figure includes hospitalizations for non COVID-19 patients). This means that 6,400 beds are currently available for both ICU and acute care, or roughly 45%.

Graphs and charts on surge capacity can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/command-center-hospital-capacity-charts/download

April 10th: Job Application Portal for Temporary Care Sites

In preparation for the expected surge, temporary care sites and long-term care facilities are being stood up statewide. All of these sites have ongoing staffing needs. In addition, existing skilled nursing and long term care facilities are also in urgent need of staffing support. Today, Secretary Sudders announced the creation of a job portal to connect healthcare professionals with these staffing opportunities.

To learn more, or to apply for a position, visit https://www.mass.gov/joincovidteam

April 9th: Order on easing licensing restrictions for foreign-educated doctors to allow medical practice in the Commonwealth

This order specifically allows graduates of international medical schools who have successfully completed at least two years of postgraduate resident medical training in the US to be eligible for licensure in the Commonwealth.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-9-2020-foreign-medical-doctors

April 9th: Order expediting licensure of nursing students and graduates

This order allows nursing school graduates and students in their final semesters of nursing programs to practice nursing in advance of receiving a license, provided that they are directly supervised by other licensed medical professionals.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-9-2020-nursing-school-students

April 9th: Order ensuring access to in-patient services

This order mandates that insurers must cover all medically required costs of COVID-19 treatment in out-of-network hospitals or other medical facilities with no charge to the patient, including co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance payments. Health care providers and medical facility insurers must accept the following rates for out-of-plan treatment:

If insurers have a contract with a provider or facility: contracted rate even if the patient is not in a network that covers the provider or facility

If insurer has no contract with a provider or facility: 135 percent of the applicable Medicare rate

Insurers may not balance bill, or charge, patients for amounts above the above specified payments.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-9-2020-inpatient-services-and-billing

April 9th: Order on COVID-19 Demographic Data

The Department of Public Health (DPH) today issued an order designed to expand COVID-19 demographic reporting data, including race and ethnicity, to address disparities in the virus’ impact and support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response efforts. This order mandates all health care providers and labs to collect and report complete demographic information of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-8-2020-covid-19-reporting-data

April 9th: SafeLink Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Resources

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the expansion of, the Commonwealth’s statewide, 24/7, toll-free and confidential domestic violence hotline to now include resources and support for survivors of sexual assault. Previously, SafeLink served as a hotline to specifically connect domestic violence survivors to services. This expansion of services will allow SafeLink to triage calls to local area rape crisis centers and create a centralized number for any survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to call and receive services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This hotline is designed for crisis intervention support for those who need assistance in safety planning measures for both themselves and their families. This resource is now available through the 2-1-1 line as an additional method for victims to access help and resources.

The SafeLink toll-free number is (877) 785-2020. For the hearing-impaired, the SafeLink TTY number is (877) 521-2601. Advocates are available in English and Spanish and can provide translation in more than 130 languages.

If you are experiencing violence within your home or concerned about a loved one that may be experiencing violence, please call the SafeLink hotline for support and resources. If you are in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

April 8th: Governor Baker files legislation on civil liability for health care workers and facilities

Governor Baker filed legislation to protect health care professionals, including doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians, as well as certain health care facilities from liability and suit when the care that they provide is impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. The bill would also provide protections for the health workers staffing the unique Field Medical Stations being stood up at the DCU Center, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and other locations.

Governor Baker also issued a directive that will maximize protections for health care workers under the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (“PREP Act”) during the state of emergency. The directive will ensure that health care workers and facilities that distribute and administer testing, drugs and medical devices for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 are protected from suit and liability to the maximum extent possible under the PREP Act.

Liability Protection Legislation Filing Letter: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-8-2020-liability-legislation-filing-letter

Liability Protection Legislation: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-8-2020-liability-legislation

Governor’s PREP Act Directive: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-8-2020-prep-act-directive

April 7th: List of sites in Massachusetts to get tested for COVID-19

New testing sites are being set up across the Commonwealth for residents to get tested for COVID-19. The testing sites below are available by appointment only. If you believe you may need a test, first contact your health care provider. If they recommend that you should be tested, but their facility cannot offer the test, obtain a referral and contact one of the facilities listed below. You may need to undergo an additional eligibility screen before you can be tested. If you have a clinician’s referral, contact one of the sites below to make an appointment. These sites do NOT take walk-ins and require an appointment. The list of testing sites is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ma-covid-19-testing-sites

April 7th: Nursing Home resource line for family and community members of nursing home residents

The Baker-Polito Administration also announced the launch of a new Nursing Home Family Resource Line, a dedicated telephone line that will connect family members of nursing home and rest home residents with the information and resources they need. This resource was created so that family and community members have one central contact that they can reach out to if they have questions or concerns about the care their loved one is receiving during the COVID-19 outbreak. The line is staffed from 9 AM – 5 PM, seven days a week. Staff will coordinate across state agencies to help callers find answers to their questions.

Families and community members can call the line at (617) 660-5399.

April 7th: DPH Order requiring grocery stores to limit capacity

The Department of Public Health issued an Executive Order requiring grocery stores to limit occupancy to no more than 40 percent of maximum occupancy. Stores with a maximum capacity of 25 are exempt from this limit. The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-grocery-stores-40-percent/download

April 7th: EOHED Guidance on e-commerce distribution, warehouses, and call centers as essential businesses

EOHED released guidance clarifying the essential status of distribution, warehouse, and call center facilities, and that guidance is below.

The current list of essential services includes:Workers supporting ecommerce through distribution, warehouse, call center facilities, and other essential operational support functions.

What does “ecommerce” mean in the context of the essential services list?

  • Although ecommerce in other contexts can refer broadly to any commercial transaction conducted electronically on the Internet, for purposes of the Essential Services Order, ecommerce means telephone, internet, or other electronic transactions that result in (1) the shipping of goods and products that themselves would qualify a seller as providing a COVID-19 Essential Service if the seller offered the products through other means and these were the only products the seller offered; or (2) or the shipping of goods and products that are necessary for other COVID-19 Essential Services providers to conduct their essential work; or (3) the shipping of goods and products from a warehouse or distribution center that includes within its normal inventory goods covered in (1). This reflects the intention of the Order to substantially limit the number of workplaces open during the state of emergency in order to reduce out-of-home activity and transmission of the virus.
  • Based on this rule, operations that offer only products such as furniture, most clothing for consumer purchase, cosmetics, jewelry, recreational equipment, or other consumer specialty items are not COVID-19 Essential Services. These operations are required to close their bricks-and-mortar locations in Massachusetts and may not remain open in order to conduct e-commerce.

I am a retailer with a bricks and mortar location, but I also sell products on-line. May I continue to sell products on-line while my store is closed?

  • It depends. Individual business owners are permitted to enter into brick and mortar locations to perform necessary operations including shipping packages from the store. While this order is in effect, employees should not be permitted or required to enter bricks and mortar retail locations to prepare products for shipment or for any other reason. Workers may enter into distribution and warehouse facilities only to support the kinds of ecommerce described above.

Can all distribution centers, warehouse, and call centers continue to operate?

  • No. Distribution centers, warehouses, and call centers can continue operate only if they support the types of ecommerce described above.

Full guidance from EOHED on essential services is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-business-faqs

April 7th: Cash infusion for MassHealth to fund health care providers

The Baker-Polito Administration has announced a new infusion of $800 million at MassHealth in critical stabilization funding to support health care providers impacted by and responding to COVID-19. This funding will support hospitals, nursing facilities, primary care providers, behavioral health providers, and long-term services and supports providers and will be distributed starting this month and through July. This funding is in addition to the $290 million in immediate cash relief and $550 million in accelerated payments to providers announced in March. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation.

These resources include:

  • More than $400 million to hospitals
    • The majority of this funding will support 28 safety net and high-Medicaid hospitals, to address lost revenue and increased costs for hospitals at the front lines of treating patients with COVID-19
    • This includes a 20% rate increase for COVID-19 care, as well as a 7.5% across-the-board rate increase for other hospital care
  • More than $80 million for Nursing Facilities
    • $50 million will be dedicated funding for all nursing facilities across the state
    • Facilities and units within nursing facilities that are designated COVID-19 sites of care will receive approximately $30 million in additional funding to support their capacity to care for COVID-19 patients
  • More than $300 million for other health care providers that are delivering medical care for COVID-19 or providing services that keep residents safe in their homes and out of the hospital, including:
    • More than $50 million for community health centers
    • Around $30 million for personal care attendants
    • Funding for ambulance providers physicians, community behavioral health providers, and Home Health Agencies
    • Funding for certain long-term services and supports day programs such as Adult Day Health or Day Habilitation programs that have converted from group programs to actively serving members via alternative means

April 6th: American Red Cross (ARC) of Massachusetts temporary changes to response protocols

The American Red Cross (ARC) of Massachusetts has implemented the below temporary changes to response protocols:

We will be responding to requests for service with a virtual response and ask for assistance in sharing this information with your Incident Commanders and Dispatch Center personnel.

Notification: Continue to request a response by contacting our long-standing emergency line 800-564-1234. When calling: Please have contact information for the head of household for each displaced family unit. A point of contact from the Fire Department or Emergency Management on-scene that we can coordinate with if needed. Quick assessment as to extent of damage.

What we will do: Contact each head of household by phone or video chat. Open a virtual case for each affected family. Arrange for lodging if needed. Deliver a Client Assistance Card (financial assistance) to hotel, family member’s home, etc. Provide Recovery guidance and assistance in the days following the incident.

If a virtual response is not possible, we will send a minimal number of Red Cross volunteers to the scene to orchestrate the virtual intake process. We value our partnership with your department and encourage you to contact us with any questions.

April 6th: Creation of COVID19 Relief Fund

The Baker Administration announced the creation of a statewide fund that can support local and community needs, as well as support essential workers and vulnerable populations. $13 million has been raised into the fund so far.

More information about the COVID19 relief fund is here: https://www.macovid19relieffund.org/

April 3rd: Creation of COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative for contact tracing

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 Community Tracing Collaborative (CTC) to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. This initiative is a collaboration between the administration and Partners In Health, and is the first of its kind in the nation. The initiative will focus on tracing the contacts of confirmed positive COVID-19 patients, and supporting individuals in quarantine, and builds on the efforts already underway from the Command Center to leverage public health college students to augment the contact tracing being done by local boards of health.

Led by the administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center, Partners In Health will coordinate closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. Contact tracing will be combined with the state’s efforts to increase testing and will provide support to people in quarantine in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Partners In Health will provide staff and contribute technical expertise in community tracing. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority (CCA) will stand up a virtual support center and maintain connectivity, while the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) will maintain data, guides and processes. Accenture, a leading global professional services company, and Salesforce, a global leader in CRM, are implementing support center capabilities for the CTC’s tracing purposes.

The Collaborative will deploy nearly 1,000 contact tracers throughout the state to connect with COVID-19 patients and their contacts to support Massachusetts’ efforts to track and contain the virus.

April 3rd: DOR Issues technical information release on personal and income tax filings

The Department of Revenue issued a Technical Information Release (“TIR”) which announces that Massachusetts personal income tax filings and payments originally due April 15, 2020 are now due July 15, 2020. In addition, the Department will waive any late-file and late-pay penalties that apply to corporate excise returns and payments due April 15th, 2020 that are filed and paid by July 15, 2020. The TIR also explains the relief provided with respect to individual estimated tax payments.

The full information release can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/technical-information-release/tir-20-4-tax-filing-and-payment-relief-for-personal-income-and

April 2nd: Command Center outlines projections for anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases

The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the outbreak in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment.

Modeling and Projections:

  • The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. The full Advisory Board can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-covid-19-response-command-center-advisory-board-of
  • The model’s latest projections estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The models show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5% of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.
  • The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking academic medical centers and teaching hospitals to work to significantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.
  • In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an additional 750 - 1000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alternate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. The Administration has identified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations including the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other smaller locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized.

The Command Center is also securing 1000 beds in capacity for step-down care options in nursing facilities for stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hospital to make room for those with higher medical need.

The full Command Center projection chart is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-command-center-projections

April 2nd: Order closing state beach parking areas; select state parks to open early

Governor Baker issued an emergency order requiring all coastal beach reservation parking areas managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to close effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020 to reduce large concentrations of people at beaches during the COVID-19 outbreak. Additionally, effective 12:00 PM on Friday, April 3, 2020, DCR will open select seasonal state parks early and expand access at other parks to provide additional open space opportunities for residents to enjoy and alternatives to popular state parks throughout the Commonwealth. The full list of seasonal state parks is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-seasonal-park-locations-0

The full order on state beaches is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-beaches-order

Coastal parkways that provide access to state beaches will also be closed to both parking and dropping off passengers. State beaches will remain open and available to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.). A link to find specific parking and traffic restrictions is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-coastal-beach-parking

State parks and associated parking areas remain open at this time; however, the public is asked to visit state parks and other open space properties that are located near their homes to ensure social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, DCR’s agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, athletic fields, athletic courts, golf courses, and bathroom facilities will remain closed until Monday, May 4, 2020.

DCR will also be limiting the amount of parking spaces available at certain high-visitation state parks. DCR continues to stress that if a park is crowded, visitors should consider visiting a different location or returning at a later date or time. The state parks system has over 450,000 acres of property, and every region of the state contains multiple parks to explore that may be less busy than others in the area. You can see all state parks here: https://www.mass.gov/visit-massachusetts-state-parks

DCR advises visitors of state parks to:

  • Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people;
  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals
  • Participate in only non-contact recreational activities;
  • Practice healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds; and,
  • Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population.

To centralize COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, DCR recently developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 Updates webpage which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

March 31st: Guidance to hotels, motels, and short term rentals

As part of the updated essential business list, DPH issued new guidance today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals. Based on this new guidance, hotels, motels, and short-term rentals may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been otherwise displaced from their residences.

The full hotel and motel guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-31-2020-hotel-motel-guidance

March 31st: Stay at Home Advisory remaining in effect

Last week, Governor Charlie Baker directed DPH to issue a stay-at-home advisory, and the Governor announced today that the advisory will remain in effect. Residents are advised to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and other unnecessary person to person contact during this time period. Residents who are considered at high risk when exposed to COVID-19 should limit social interactions with other people as much as possible

The Stay at Home Advisory can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory

March 31st: Extension of non-essential business closures

Governor Baker’s emergency order requiring that all businesses and organizations that do not provide “COVID-19 Essential Services” close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers and the public will be extended until May 4. Businesses and organizations not on the list of essential services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by the order. This order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people until May 4th.

The Administration updated the “COVID-19 Essential Services” list today, which is based on federal guidance that was updated earlier this week. The new list will go into effect tomorrow, April 1, at noon. While these businesses are designated as essential, they are urged to follow social distancing protocols for workers in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Some of the updates to the essential services list include:

March 30th: Launch of online portal to donate or sell personal protective equipment

The Baker-Polito Administration announced an online portal where individuals and companies can easily donate or sell personal protective equipment (PPE) including:

  • N95/N99 masks (respirators)
  • Surgical/procedure masks
  • Facemasks with integrated shields
  • Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Protective suits/gowns
  • Booties/shoe covers
  • Headcovers
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sanitizing wipes

More information about this PPE procurement and donation program is here: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-ppe-procurement-and-donation-program

The program also provides an entry point for local manufacturers to get more information on adapting their businesses to produce more equipment here in Massachusetts, an effort being led by the administration’s recently established Manufacturing Emergency Response Team, co-chaired by Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, and Mike Tamasi, President and CEO of AccuRounds, a precision components manufacturer located in Avon, MA.

For information on adapting a business to produce PPE, please email the Manufacturing Emergency Response Team https://masstech.org/M-ERT

If you are a manufacturer with PPE, please submit a form here: https://massgov.formstack.com/forms/procurement_form

To complete the form to donate PPE, click here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/covid-19-donation-program

March 27th: State Income Tax Filing Deadline Being Extended to July 15

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced an agreement to extend the 2019 state individual income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15 due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This income tax relief is automatic and taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms to qualify.

Legislation will be filed in the near future to finance the extension, and accompanying administrative changes will be implemented through the Department of Revenue. Specifically, the legislation will authorize the Commonwealth borrowing flexibility to manage deferred revenue this fiscal year and repay it in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2020.

Individuals with questions or concerns regarding taxes can contact the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at (617) 887-6367 or send a secure e-message through MassTaxConnect: https://mtc.dor.state.ma.us/mtc/_/

The full announcement is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-announces-state-income-tax-filing-deadline-being-extended-to-july-15

March 27th: Travel guidance and self-quarantine

Beginning March 27, all travelers arriving to Massachusetts are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days. This guidance will be displayed as posters at service plazas along 1-90 eastbound, distributed as flyers at major transportation hubs and on posted on highway message boards. Visitors are instructed not to travel to Massachusetts if they are displaying symptoms. Health care workers, public health workers, public safety workers, transportation workers and designated essential workers are exempt from this requirement.

March 26th: Senate passes scope of practice legislation

Today, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation to expand the scope of practice for certain health care professionals for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This bill removes barriers to immediate care by granting certain health care professionals the authority to work at the top of their license, education and training to ensure that our health care system can meet the increased demand it’s currently seeing due to the coronavirus outbreak.

An Act ensuring access to qualified health professionals, authorizes certified nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, nurse anesthetists, and psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialists to practice independently and issue written prescriptions and medication as well as order tests and therapeutics. The bill limits this practice authority to nurses with two or more years of supervised practice, unless the Board of Registration in Nursing determines that a reduced supervised practice requirement is necessary to increase access to these nurses during the current state of emergency.

In addition, the legislation grants advanced practice registered nurses the authority to admit patients to mental health facilities for care and to restrain patients in cases where failure to do would create the likelihood of serious harm.

The bill also enables pharmacists to better coordinate with health care teams and engage in a broad range of patient services beyond filling prescriptions. These services can include conducting health and wellness tests, managing chronic diseases, performing medication management, and administering immunizations.

Finally, the legislation limits these scope of practice expansions to 90 days after the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency. This time limitation enables the state to manage this unprecedented demand on our health care system by allowing health care providers to work to the full extent of their training and licensure, maximizing the work that all types of health care professionals can safely provide. This immediate workforce expansion will help meet the needs of patients during this public health crisis.

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

March 26th: DPH Stay at Home Advisory and safe practices guidance

The Department of public health Stay-at-Home Advisory for Individuals over 70 and for those with underlying health conditions; and Safe Practices for the General Public full order and guidelines are here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory-for-individuals-over-70-and-for-those-with

March 25th: Housing Stability for Vulnerable Populations:

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the following guidance for renters and homeowners:

  • DHCD is moving to temporarily suspend terminations of federal and state rental vouchers under their purview.
  • MassHousing is transferring $5 million to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for a COVID-19 Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) fund to assist families facing rent insecurity.
  • The Division of Banks (DOB) has issued new guidance to Massachusetts financial institutions and lenders urging them to provide relief for borrowers and will advocate for a 60-day stay on behalf of all homeowners facing imminent foreclosure on their homes.
  • DHCD is issuing guidance recommending that all owners of state aided low-income housing, including Local Housing Authorities and private owners, suspend both pending non-essential evictions and the filing of any new non-essential evictions.
  • Affordable housing operators are urged to suspend non-essential evictions for loss of income or employment circumstances resulting in a tenant’s inability to make rent.
  • This guidance urges operators to establish reasonable payment plans, notify Section 8 or public housing residents about interim income recertification to adjust rent payments, and to consider offering relief funding for residents ineligible for income reassessment.

Read the DHCD Guidance Here:

Guidance to owners of state aided low-income housing

Guidance to affordable housing operators

Notices and guidance regarding federal and state rental assistance programs:

Guidance for Administering MRVP

Guidance for Administering ARVP

Initial policies and procedures for federal rental assistance administered by DHCD

The full guidance from the Division of Banks is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-25-dob-message-to-industry-regarding-mortgage-loan-borrowers-impacted-by-covid-19

March 25th: Emergency order extending school closures and non-emergency child care programs

Governor Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools, and all non-emergency childcare programs, until May 4 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

This order expands on previous orders issued on March 15 and March 18 suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs until April 6, and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs to serve vulnerable children and families of first responders and essential workers.

  • This closure extends one week beyond scheduled spring vacation week on most school district calendars.
  • The order does not apply to residential special education schools.
  • This extension will allow school administrators and educators added planning time to ensure students can complete course requirements, as well as provide teachers with time to expand remote learning opportunities.

Read the Orders here: K-12 School Order | Early Education School Order

March 24th: New Guidance Issued on prioritization and optimization of PPE

The MA COVID-19 Command Center, in partnership with MEMA, has developed new guidance on prioritizing and optimizing Personal Protective Equipment during COVID-19 Response. The full guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

The Command Center is aggressively pursuing every legitimate supply chain opportunity both internationally and nationally and is placing orders. This includes coordinating with MassBio and MEMA to collect donated supplies through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub.

March 24th: Department of Public Health expanded daily dashboard, text message alerts

The DPH Daily Case and Testing Dashboard now provides additional data categories to provide the public more information on the outbreak in Massachusetts. In addition to County, Sex, and Exposure of confirmed cases, DPH is now providing an Age Group breakdown. As testing across the Commonwealth ramps up, DPH is also now providing more robust information about all the labs submitting test data, including total number of patients tested and total positive results. The dashboard is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-cases-quarantine-and-monitoring

DPH also announced the launch of a new text-based notification system to deliver important information about the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response to Massachusetts residents.

The new messaging tool called “AlertsMA” will allow residents to subscribe to real-time notifications by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777. After signing up, state and public health officials can send short messages and links to information directly to a resident’s cell phone or other mobile device.

March 24th: Full list of essential businesses during Stay at Home advisory: Following the Baker Administration’s 3-23 announcement of a Stay at Home advisory, the following guidance has been made available:

Businesses and organizations defined as providing "COVID-19 Essential Services" under Governor Baker's March 23, 2020 Emergency Order: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services

Frequently asked questions about essential services: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-business-faqs

Essential services and revised gatherings order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-23-2020-essential-services-and-revised-gatherings-order

March 23rd: Baker Administration “stay at home advisory,” and order on essential services, closing certain workplaces, and prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people:

The Baker Administration issued an order mandating that effective Tuesday March 24, all non-essential businesses close physical workplaces to all workers, customers and public until Tuesday, April 7 at noon. The order also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-23-2020-essential-services-and-revised-gatherings-order/download

The Baker Administration provided the following list of essential services: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download

To request designation as an essential business, please click here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request

March 21st: Tax Relief for Businesses: The Department of Revenue announced that it will waive any late-file or late-pay penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020. A full press release can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-new-health-care-resources-small-business-relief-other

March 19th: Governor Baker activates the National Guard: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-activates-massachusetts-national-guard-to-support-covid-19

March 17th: Courts closed except for emergency business: https://www.mass.gov/alerts/supreme-judicial-court-restricts-court-appearances-to-emergency-matters#undefined

March 15th: Governor Baker announced closure of public elementary and secondary schools until April 6th, banned gatherings of 25 people or more, and banned service by bars and restaurants on site, allowing only for take-out and delivery food service. Among more updates. Details here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19 

Further Details from Governor Baker 3-15 Press Conference: Governor Charlie Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary MaryLou Sudders, and Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel provided the following guidance at a 6 PM press conference:

  • Only emergency and executive branch employees should report to work tomorrow 3/16
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a directive to all health insurers to cover telehealth services
  • The Registry of Motor Vehicles will issue guidance extending renewals so people residents do not need to visit the RMV for renewals at present
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is directing hospitals to cancel all elective procedures beginning on Wednesday to create additional capacity in hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing a prohibition on visitors to nursing homes
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday 3-16 to relax Unemployment Insurance guidelines, including waiving the one week waiting period to collect unemployment and expanding eligibility for collecting unemployment for people who have been impacted by COVID-19
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file emergency legislation on Monday to help municipal governments with town meetings and adopting budgets
  • The Baker-Polito Administration will file legislation to move date of Boston Marathon to September
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is amending its Executive Order on gatherings of larger than 250 people to prohibit all public gatherings of larger than 25 people including fitness centers and private clubs
  • The Baker-Polito Administration is issuing guidance to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants which will be effective from 3-17 until 4-17. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery.
  • The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective Tuesday - school can occur normally on Monday for districts that have not already suspended classes. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education.

Detailed orders for the above can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-state-of-emergency

March 15: Trial Courts closed on 3/16 and 3/17: https://www.mass.gov/alerts/trial-courts-closed-to-the-public-monday-and-tuesday-march-16-and-17-2020#undefined 

March 14: Baker-Polito Administration announces creation of COVID-19 Response Command Center led by HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders 

March 14: Baker-Polito Administration Announces New Clinical Protocols for COVID-19 Testing. Updated protocols will expedite testing for patients with a range of symptoms and conditions as well as health care workers and emergency responders; MassHealth issues guidance to providers to ensure access to treatment including telehealth: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-new-clinical-protocols-for-covid-19-testing

March 14: Department of Conservation and Recreation on park closures:The Department of Conservation and Recreation announced a temporary closure of certain state conservation and recreation managed facilities. The full guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-temporary-closure-of-certain-state-conservation-and

March 14: Updated guidance for first responders, law enforcement, businesses and schools:The Department of Public Health has provided updated guidance and recommendations for emergency responders and law enforcement, businesses and employers, elementary and secondary schools, and colleges and universities:

  • Guidance for emergency responders and law enforcement click here.
  • Guidance for businesses and employers click here.

March 14: the MA Supreme Judicial Court postponed jury trials until after April 21 and issued restrictions on courthouse entry. This guidance is available through the following links: and issued updated guidance which can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-empanelment-of-juries and https://www.mass.gov/doc/sjc-order-in-re-covid-19-coronavirus-pandemic-regarding-access-to-state-courthouses-court/download

Consumer Protection Information

Attorney General's Resource to connect frontline workers to supports

The Attorney General’s Office rolled out FrontlineMA.org, a resource to connect frontline workers with various supports such as free/discounted meals, guidance on accessing PPE and priority testing, emergency child care, and alternate housing options

Attorney General’s guidance on CARES Act funds being exempt from seizure

The Attorney General’s office issued guidance that emergency funds for consumers through the CARES Act are exempt from seizure or garnishment by creditors under Massachusetts law.

A press release is here: mass.gov/news/ag-healey-to-debt-collectors-covid-19-stimulus-payments-are-off-limits

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/cares-act-guidance

Attorney General compiled list of COVID-19 resources

Attorney General Maura Healey has created a website with links to all of the Attorney General's office’s COVID-19 resources. The website is here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/resources-during-covid-19

Where can I find information about sick time laws, get help with insurance claims, or report price gouging? Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has provided resources specific to the coronavirus crisis, and you can find a full list of those resources here: https://www.mass.gov/news/ags-office-issues-guidance-on-coronavirus-resources-warns-of-consumer-scams

Information about sick time laws: 617-727-3465

Help with insurance claims or medical bills: 888-830-6277

Report price gouging or defective products: 617-727-8400

If you’re having difficulty negotiating a travel refund or are concerned about a potential scam, consider filing a complaint: www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint

Further guidance from the Attorney General can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19-employee-rights-and-employer-obligations

Attorney General Healey files emergency regulations on price gouging

On 3-20, Attorney General Maura Healey filed an emergency regulation to prohibit price gouging of essential products and services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18, filed today with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Previously under the state’s consumer protection law, the only existing regulation related to price gouging addressed the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products.

Attorney General emergency regulations on price gouging and debt collection

The AG’s Office has promulgated two emergency regulations around: price gouging and debt collection.

One new regulation, 940 CMR 35.00, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits creditors from engaging in methods of debt collection that can require people to leave their homes or have in-person contact, including filing new lawsuits against Massachusetts consumers, visiting their homes or places of work, or repossessing their cars, among other protections. The AG’s emergency regulation also prohibits debt collection agencies and debt buyers from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to consumers.

This emergency regulation will remain in effect for 90 days or until the conclusion of the declared state of emergency.

The AG’s emergency debt collection regulation contains protections that apply to all creditors and prohibits them from deceptive practices in pursuing the payment of a debt during the COVID-19 emergency, including:

  • filing any new collection lawsuit;
  • garnishing wages, earnings, properties or funds;
  • repossessing vehicles;
  • applying for or serving a capias warrant;
  • visiting or threatening to visit the household of a debtor;
  • visiting or threatening to visit the place of employment of a debtor;
  • confronting or communicating in person with a debtor regarding the collection of a debt in any public place.

The AG’s emergency debt collection regulation also prohibits debt collection agencies and debt buyers from making unsolicited debt collection telephone calls to Massachusetts consumers for the next 90 days, unless the state of emergency ends before that time.

The Attorney General’s office compiled an FAQ regarding debt collection practices. The full FAQ can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/faq-emergency-debt-collection

The second regulation is an amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18, filed today with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Previously under the state’s consumer protection law, the only existing regulation related to price gouging addressed the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products.

Lastly, the AGO is asking residents to report price gouging of products, including PPE, to our office. Individuals can file a complaint online at mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint. If individuals are unable to file online, they can call our Consumer Hotline at 617-727-8400.

AG’S office announces Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program and free legal support group:

The AG’s Small Business Relief Partnership Grant Program will provide funding to municipalities and regional planning agencies who are assisting small businesses in the communities they serve. Grant funds will be distributed by these organizations to help small businesses address fixed debt, payroll, accounts payable, lost sales, lost opportunities, and other working capital expenses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This grant was funded by settlement funds secured by the AG’s Office. Grant awards will be issued in varying amounts up to $500,000, and individual requests may not exceed $50,000. As a condition of receiving the grant, all funds must be distributed directly to small businesses, and no portion of these funds may be used to defray administrative or operational costs. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis until funds are depleted. For more information, please visit: www.mass.gov/ago/grants.

The AG’s Office also joined a coalition of law firms, nonprofits, and government agencies—led by Ropes & Gray, Lawyers for Civil Rights, and Lawyers Clearinghouse—to launch the COVID Relief Coalition to provide vulnerable businesses and mission-driven organizations with pro bono legal support. Coalition partners have created a new website that will support the Coalition’s mission by enabling small businesses and nonprofits to learn about and apply for emergency loans and other sources of relief. The website will connect eligible small businesses and nonprofits to free legal support by Coalition partners, and can be accessed here: https://www.covidreliefcoalition.com/en

In addition to the AG’s Office, Coalition partners include the City of Boston, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Boston Bar Association, The Boston Foundation, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Dechert, Fish & Richardson, Foley Hoag, Foley & Lardner, Goodwin, Goulston & Storrs, Mintz, Morgan Lewis and WilmerHale.

Local Government Matters

Updated guidance on Open Meeting Law:

On March 12, the Baker-Polito Administration issued an emergency order temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available, such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, or on-line meeting services. Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level, and it does not apply to Town Meetings or judicial and quasi-judicial hearings. The full text of the order is available at: https://www.mass.gov/doc/open-meeting-law-order-march-12-2020/download

Legislation to Assist Municipal Governance Signed into law: 

On April 2nd the House and Senate passed H.4598 - An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19. This legislation extends the state income tax filing deadline for residents, addresses disruptions in municipal tax collections and permitting, and allows licensed restaurants to sell certain alcoholic beverages with food take-out and delivery orders, among other provisions.

A full summary of the bill is as follows. The Governor signed the bill on April 3rd. It is now law: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2020/Chapter53

  • Allows an annual town meeting to be delayed beyond June 30th in the event of an emergency that poses an immediate threat to health or safety that prevents the completion of the business of the delayed town meeting on or before June 30 if the Governor has declared a state of emergency with respect to the emergency.
  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator during a weather-related, public safety or public health emergency, in consultation with local public safety or public health officials and the board of selectmen, to recess and continue a town meeting previously called to a time, place and date certain not exceed 30 days.
  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator to renew the declaration of recess of town meeting and continuance period for up to 30 days at a time but not more than 30 days following the date of rescission of a state of emergency declared by the Governor.
  • Requires a local public safety or public health official designated by the board of selectmen of a town to submit a report to the Attorney General providing the justification for the initial declaration of recess and continuance of a town meeting.
  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue, if a declared emergency prevents the adoption of an annual budget by a town or district by the June 30 preceding the start of the fiscal year, to approve expenditures of an amount sufficient for the operations of a town or district during the month of July not less than 1/12 of the total budget approved by the town or district in the most recent fiscal and allows the authority to continue for each successive month while the emergency continues to prevent the adoption of a budget.
  • Allows, for the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 and 60 days thereafter, a public corporation, to conduct an annual or special meeting of the shareholders solely by means of remote communication.
  • Allows, for the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 and 60 days thereafter, participation by remote communication at any non-profit corporate meeting of the members to constitute presence at such meeting if certain conditions are met.
  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue to authorize the appropriation from the available balance of a town’s or district’s undesignated fund balance or “free cash” as a funding source for the town’s or district’s fiscal year 2021 expenditures if the adoption of an annual budget in a town or district is delayed beyond June 30, 2020, as a result of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.
  • Allows a city, town or district to amortize over fiscal years 2021 to 2023, the amount of its fiscal year 2020 deficit resulting from the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, as described in the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.
  • Allows a city or town, for fiscal year 2021, to expend from each revolving fund an amount not to exceed the amount authorized to be expended in fiscal year 2020 until the city or town adopts an annual budget for fiscal year 2021 and at which time, requires the legislative body of the city or town to vote on the total amount that may be expended from each revolving fund in fiscal year 2021.
  • Suspends all time periods within which any municipality is required to act, respond, effectuate or exercise an option to purchase during and for a period of 90 days after the termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.
  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or town, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, to extend certain local tax payment deadlines in accordance with this act.
  • Prohibits a city or town from terminating an essential service of a resident, including, but not limited to, water, trash collection or electricity, for nonpayment of taxes or fees with a due date on or after March 10, 2020, made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020, if the nonpayment resulted from a demonstrated inability to pay due to circumstances related to the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus; provided that the inability to pay shall include a demonstrated financial hardship of a resident, which may include, but not be limited to, loss of employment, serious illness of someone within the home or death of someone within the home.
  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or the prudential committee or commissioners of a district, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to waive the payment of interest and other penalty in the event of late payment of any excise, tax, betterment assessment or apportionment thereof, water rate or annual sewer use or other charge added to a tax for any payments with a due date on or after March 10, 2020 and made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020.
  • Extends the filing deadline for all tax returns and payments for the 2019 calendar year otherwise due on April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020.
  • Allows an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic beverages or only wines and malt beverages on premises, during the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to sell wine or malt beverages only for off-premises consumption subject to certain conditions.
  • Exempts from the caps on hours worked and earnings received during the state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 (i) any person who has been retired and who is receiving a pension or retirement allowance from the commonwealth, a county, city, town, district or authority; and (ii) any person whose employment in the service of the commonwealth, county, city, town, district or authority has been terminated by reason of having attained a specified age without being entitled to any pension or retirement allowance.
  • States that, for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020 as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus:
    • an application for a permit shall be deemed duly filed and accepted as of the date of the filing by the applicant, if filed with and certified as received the receiving entity;
    • a requirement of a statute, ordinance, bylaw, rule or regulation that a hearing commence within a specific period of time after the filing of an application or request for approval of a permit is suspended as of March 10, 2020 but shall resume 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency; o a permit in effect or existence as of March 10, 2020, shall not lapse or expire and the expiration date of the permit, or time period for meeting a deadline or for performance of a condition of the permit, shall toll during the state of emergency;
    • no permit shall be considered granted, approved or denied due to a failure of the permit granting authority to act within the time required by law provided that the permit granting authority acts within 45 days of the termination of the state of emergency;
    • a permit granting authority may schedule or reschedule on 1 or more occasions the hearing or decision deadlines on a permit application provided no such date or deadline is rescheduled for more than 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency; o suspends the requirement that a permit be recorded with the registry of deeds or filed with registry district of the land court within a certain period of time after its issuance in order to remain in force and effect or as a condition to exercising the permit;
    • a permit granting authority, during the state of emergency, may conduct meetings and public hearings remotely, consistent with the Governor’s order entitled “Order Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, § 20” issued March 12, 2020; and
    • a permit granting authority may issue decisions on permit applications for which duly held public hearings or meetings have been held.

More Legislation filed by the Governor to help municipalities, school districts

The Baker-Polito Administration filed An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and School Districts Resulting from COVID-19, which would provide administrative relief to state and local government entities impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including modifying local permitting processes, enabling municipalities to extend tax and finance deadlines, and extending deadlines for certain education requirements. A full announcement is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-files-legislation-to-address-challenges-faced-by-municipalities

A re-drafted version of that legislation was passed by the House and Senate on April 9th. It is now law after being signed by the Governor: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2020/Chapter56

Postponing elections

The Senate and House passed legislation on 3/23 to help protect public health by providing cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities. The bill was signed by the Governor on March 23rd: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2020/Chapter45

The House also issued orders to reschedule two special state elections until June 2, 2020. The Senate issued an order to reschedule two state special elections until May 19, 2020.

The legislation includes guidelines for public notification of rescheduled election dates, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots processing, and the display of sample ballots. The legislation:

  • Allows municipal governments to postpone caucus or certain elections scheduled before May 30, 2020 and reschedule the caucus or elections to a date prior to June 30, 2020.
  • Allows any eligible voter to vote early by mail for elections occurring before June 30, 2020. More here: https://karenspilka.com/updates/2020/3/23/municipalelections

Information for Business Owners

Guidance on Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to activate the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program which would provide assistance to eligible businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. EIDLs provide small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses until normal operations resume.

Affected small businesses and non-profits should download, complete, and submit the SBA EIDL Worksheet and Instructions to expedite activation of the EIDL program. For questions, please contact Disaster.Recovery@mass.gov. Full guidance regarding the program is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/small-business-assistance-for-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR3nJTouJT8xxlZ2KSrVD6NbFmhY2VNzBGAyA7yMv8DX3CPTowEzyU6reKo 

Baker - Polito Administration announces $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund

The $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months.

How to Apply:

Loan Fund Details: 

  • Who Qualifies: Open to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits (negative impact must be verifiable).
  • Terms and Conditions: This fund is being offered with no payments due for the first 6 months, then 30-months of principal and interest payments and no prepayment penalties.
  • Businesses can apply for loans up to $75,000.

EOHED Provides list of essential business FAQs

EOHED has provided answers clarifying questions about which businesses fall within essential categories, as well as guidance on how essential businesses should continue operations.

The full FAQs are here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services-faqs

Guidance for nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and agricultural supply stores

The Department of Public Health provided guidance for the operation of nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, and agricultural supply stores. The full guidance is here: www.mass.gov/doc/dph-nurseries-guidance/download

Unemployment Issues for Impacted Workers 

DUA unemployment FAQs

The traditional unemployment system is for those who receive a W2 annually. For those workers, you can apply online here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance have updated the Unemployment Assistance CARES Act webpage by adding FAQs about qualifying for the additional programs.

That info can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/update-massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-announces-guidance-on-cares#frequently-asked-questions-

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) For Individuals Currently Collecting Benefits From Regular Unemployment Compensation

The FPUC program will provide an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular Unemployment Compensation (UC), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Trade Readjustment Act (TRA), and Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DA). The Department has already begun implementing the FPUC program for regular UC claimants.

The $600 will be added to all eligible weeks of benefits retroactive to March 29, 2020 and continuing until July 31, 2020. FPUC monetary disbursements will begin immediately in Massachusetts for those who are currently collecting benefits on regular UC claims. Those receiving PEUC, PUA, and EB will receive the additional $600 payments retroactive to March 29, 2020 as soon as their claims are processed and determined eligible.

  • Next Steps For Claimants
    • Eligible claimants who are already receiving UI do not need to do anything for the additional $600 to be added to their weekly benefit amount. This benefit will be available for all new claimants filing for regular Unemployment Compensation as well, which can be done at www.mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) For Individuals Who Exhausted Previous UI Benefits

The PEUC program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. The first week a claimant can be compensated on this benefit is the week beginning March 29, 2020, and the last payable week is the week ending December 26, 2020. The Department of Unemployment Assistance is awaiting additional federal guidance on how to implement and administer this program and the extended weeks of PEUC benefits are not yet available.

  • Next Steps For Claimants
    • No action at this time. Eligible claimants should continue to check for updates, which will be made available as soon as the state receives information from the federal government.

DUA Virtual Town Halls on Unemployment Benefits

In order to better meet the needs of residents whose employment has been affected by the COVID-19, the Department of Unemployment Assistance will continue hosting daily town hall meetings to help constituents achieve a successful unemployment claim. DUA will also take questions from claimants across the Commonwealth.

Sign up information for the virtual town halls is available at https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-dua-virtual-town-halls

Implementation Of CARES Act unemployment benefits For self-employed, gig economy and other workers

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The new federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. This includes self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and those with limited work history. Applicants can learn more and apply at www.mass.gov/pua.

To be eligible for this new program, individuals must provide self-certification that they are otherwise able and available to work but are prevented from doing so by circumstances relating to COVID-19, including their own illness or that of a family member.

Those able to telework with pay and individuals receiving paid sick or other leave will not qualify for PUA. Individuals receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits for less than their customary work week, however, may still be eligible for PUA. Also, those working fewer hours, resulting in a loss of income due to COVID-19, who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for PUA.

The federal CARES Act signed into law on March 27 created PUA, as well as another temporary federal program called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that provides an additional $600 weekly benefit for those receiving unemployment benefits or PUA. FPUC provides that additional benefit through July 25, 2020. The Commonwealth announced implementation of FPUC earlier this month, and you can read the full announcement here: https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-announces-initial-implementation-of-new-federal-unemployment-benefits-from-0

All approved PUA applications will initially receive the minimum weekly benefit amount, plus the additional $600 FPUC weekly benefit. Once a worker’s wages are verified, weekly benefit amounts may increase. The amount of PUA benefits received is based on the individual’s reported previous income. PUA benefits may not be more than the state's maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment, which is $823 in Massachusetts.

Weekly benefits, including any increase to your weekly benefit amount, will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, or the date when you became unemployed, whichever is more recent, as long as you became unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason.

PUA Application Process

To apply, individuals must provide their Social Security number or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number if not a citizen of the United States, and their wage records for 2019, which includes 1099 forms, pay stubs, or bank statements. Applicants will also need the Social Security numbers and dates of birth for dependent children and, if requesting direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers. A full list of required documents is available at www.mass.gov/pua.

Please note that, initially, the system can only pay benefits retroactively to the week ending March 14, 2020. Eligible workers will be able to certify for benefits, and will be able to request benefits retroactively to January 27, 2020, if their dates of unemployment make them eligible.

Individuals who are determined ineligible for PUA will receive a written disqualification along with information on how to pursue an appeal. Additional information about the appeals process will be separately posted at a later date. Please visit www.mass.gov/dua for the latest information.

Heath Care Information

MassHealth Guidance for Pharmacies Related to COVID-19

MassHealth has provided guidance on how pharmacies should bill for home delivery, and updated information for pharmacies that provide durable medical equipment (DME) including DME prior authorization flexibilities.

More information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/pharmacy-facts-145-april-28-2020-0

Updated Guidance on Caring for Long-Term Care Residents during the COVID-19 Emergency

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) recognizes that providing care for individuals seeking treatment for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) may prove to be especially challenging for health care practitioners and facilities. As part of ongoing statewide preparations and to address the increase in COVID-19 cases, DPH is issuing this memorandum to long-term care facilities with updated recommendations for admitting residents and caring for residents with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

All rest homes and nursing homes must be prepared to care for COVID-19 positive residents. Residents infected with COVID-19 may vary in severity from lack of symptoms to mild or severe symptoms. Symptoms may be mild and not require transfer to a hospital. All facilities are expected to follow the infection prevention and control practices recommended by DPH and CDC.

These recommendations are consistent with CMS guidance released on April 2, 2020, which can be found here:

https://www.cms.gov/files/document/4220-covid-19-long-term-care-facility-guidance.pdf

More information can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/update-to-caring-for-long-term-care-residents-during-the-covid-19-emergency/download

EOHHS Updated Guidance on Expanded Care Capacity at Sub-Acute Sites for COVID-19 Patients

As part of its efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals infected with COVID-19, the Commonwealth is issuing this list to assist acute care hospitals to identify nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for sub-acute levels of care. A number of chronic disease and rehabilitation hospitals (CDRHs) have confirmed the availability of dedicated and isolated space to provide services, including respiratory support as needed, to COVID-19 patients. This list is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference for the provider community, and does not contain any requirements for care providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships. As this is a reference document, acute hospital providers should contact CDRH providers to confirm the availability of beds after April 7, 2020.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/expanded-care-capacity-at-sub-acute-sites-for-covid-19-patients/download

DPH Guidance on Process to Transfer Hospital Intensive Care Unit Patients When There is a Surge in Demand for ICU Beds

As part of ongoing response to COVID-19 and to address the potential influx of patients with possible or confirmed novel Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) exposure or symptomology to hospital intensive care unit (ICU) beds, the DPH is issuing guidance to acute care hospitals that experience a surge in demand for their ICU beds. When requested, the DPH is committed to supporting hospitals experiencing a surge by supporting the transfer of patients to another hospital.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/process-to-transfer-hospital-intensive-care-unit-patients-when-there-is-a-surge-in-demand-for/download

DPH Guidance on Using Space on Clinic Premises for COVID-19 Testing

DPH has received requests from clinics to use space on the premises of the clinic, including but not limited to, tents, to temporarily establish COVID-19-screening areas for the purposes of testing patients for COVID-19 exposure. Through this letter, DPH authorizes use of space on the clinic premises selected by the clinic for testing of possible COVID-19 patients for the length of the declared state of emergency, provided that the clinic complies with the below Guidelines for Use of Space for Screening of Patient Presenting with possible COVID-19 Exposure or Illness, hereinafter referred to as Guidelines. The Guidelines outline the conditions for temporary use of space at a clinic to test patients with possible COVID-19 exposure.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/space-on-clinic-premises-for-covid-19-testing/download

DPH Clinical Lab Referrals for COVID-19 Testing Order

The DPH issued an emergency order allowing certain referrals to clinical laboratories for COVID-19 testing.

The order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-re-clinical-lab-referrals/download

DPH Out-Of-Hospital Dialysis Unit Staffing Order

On April 28, the DPH issued an emergency order relative to staffing ratios in out-of-hospital dialysis units.

The order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-dialysis-unit-staffing-ratio/download

DPH Guidance on Reporting Requirement Extensions for Health Care Facilities

The DPH issued guidance to health care facilities to ease the burden of certain reporting requirements to ensure health care facilities can focus on providing needed care to patients. Continued Reporting requirements include deaths and allegations of abuse, and Suspended Reporting includes seasonal flu numbers, monthly opioid reporting, quarterly nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, and Primary Stroke Service (PSS).

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/reporting-requirement-extensions-for-health-care-facilities

DPH Guidance on Screening Patients for COVID-19 Cases in BSAS-licensed/contracted Programs

The DPH issued guidance to all programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) on screening patients for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in order to minimize the chance of exposing staff/patients to prospective patients potentially carrying COVID-19.

The guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/screening-patients-for-covid-19-cases-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-programs

Board of Registration in Pharmacy recommended actions for a pharmacy if an employee is presumed or confirmed to be positive for COVID-19

The Board of Registration in Pharmacy issued recommended actions for licensed pharmacies to take if an employee is presumed or confirmed to be positive for the highly contagious virus. Pharmacies are urged to have a continuity of care plan to meet patient needs, identify at least one suitable pharmacy to provide continued care, and notify police if a pharmacy needs to close for an extended period to ensure that security systems are enabled.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/recommended-actions-for-a-pharmacy-if-an-employee-is-presumed-or-confirmed-to-be-positive-for

Health Connector message about open enrollment

The Health Connector is working to ensure that Massachusetts residents losing their jobs and job-based health coverage can swiftly and easily make their way into health coverage through the Health Connector. In many ways, state-based marketplaces like the Health Connector are designed to help people in exactly these circumstances, but that help can only work if people know to come to www.mahealthconnector.org to apply for coverage. In Massachusetts, we are especially fortunate to have the unique ConnectorCare program which connects qualifying Massachusetts residents with affordable health coverage with low or $0 premiums and low co-pays and no deductibles.

The Health Connector needs your help spreading the word to Massachusetts residents, associations, and communities so we can ensure that everyone who needs coverage or is about to lose job-based coverage can get the help they need. We want to make sure that everyone in Massachusetts knows that if they need coverage, they can do so through our special enrollment period which runs through May 25. To support this request for your help, we’ve created an easy to use social media toolkit that provides ready-to-use content and directions for how to help spread the word on social media and elsewhere about the Health Connector as a coverage source.

You can find the toolkit here: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/Health-Connector-May-25-Enrollment-Toolkit.pdf. Please use this to help us get the word out as widely as possible so we can keep Massachusetts residents covered, even in the midst of significant economic challenges and change.

A few other notes and resources:

As you will see, much of the social media toolkit’s content links to a new webpage that the Health Connector has created that includes all the information someone would need to get into coverage after having lost employment/employment-based coverage – it even includes a detailed FAQ for people trying to understand their different coverage options (e.g., COBRA, Health Connector, etc.).

You can find that webpage here: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/the-right-plan-right-now

You can find shorter PDF flyers here for individuals that have recently lost jobs and job-based health coverage – these are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. https://www.mahealthconnector.org/help-center/resource-download-center

Enrolling in Health Connector for people who recently lost coverage through their job

The Health Connector has created resources for people who recently lost health insurance through their job and are now applying for health insurance through the Health Connector.

English Health Connector brochure: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverage-after-a-job-loss-eng.pdf

Spanish Health Connector brochure: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverage-after-a-job-loss-esp.pdf

Department of Public Health guidance on insurance coverage for telehealth

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15 that stipulates that all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.

Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-telehealth-order/download

Guidance for Hospitals on the Cancellation of Elective Procedures and Restricting Visitors

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that hospitals must restrict visitors and cancel non-essential elective procedures, effective Wednesday. The announcement can be found here:

The order on restricting visitors can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-hospital-visitor-restrictions-order

The order on non-essential elective procedures can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-elective-procedures-order

Guidance on nursing home visitor prohibition

The Department of Public Health issued guidance on March 15th that assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes. The announcement can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-emergency-actions-to-address-covid-19

Temporary Nurses

Guidance on expediting licensing for nurses from another jurisdiction: On March 11, the Board of Registration in Nursing updated its policies to expedite the processing of reciprocal license applications for nurses that are licensed in another jurisdiction to allow those applications to be processed in one business day. The full policy can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/expedited-processing-of-reciprocal-license-applications-in-the-event-of-a-declared-public/download

DPH emergency credentialing and licensed staff transfer procedures

The Department of Public Health issued an order regarding expedited credentialing process for licensed independent practitioners and expedited transfers of licensed clinical staff among facilities.

The full DPH order on credentialing and staffing can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-of-the-commissioner-of-public-health-implementing-emergency-credentialing-and-licensed/download

Department of Public Health order requiring local reporting of positive COVID-19 cases

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order requiring local boards of health to communicate to the official in their district with the responsibility of administering emergency calls the addresses of those who have tested positive for Covid-19.  

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/order-of-the-commissioner-of-public-health-regarding-the-sharing-of-critical-information-with/download

Department of Public Health order allowing pharmacists to administer treatment for substance use disorder

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order allowing pharmacists to administer substance use disorder treatment medication. The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-pharmacist-opioid-misuse-disorder-medication/download

Department of Public Health order allowing flexible reassignment of physicians assistants

On March 18, the Department of Public Health issued an order providing for the flexible reassignment of physicians assistants.

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-physician-assistant-order/download 

Department of Public Health guidance to hospitals regarding implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space:

DPH issued new guidance to hospitals regarding the implementation of alternative, acute, inpatient care space during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

A full list of DPH guidance to hospitals can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-guidance-and-directives

Division of Insurance guidance to commercial carriers:

DOI issued an order instructing commercial carriers tol be appropriately flexible to help members maintain their existing coverage, including grace-periods and having staff available to explain the purchase COBRA. 

The full order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-05-flexibility-in-the-issuance-and-administration-of-insurance-during-covid-19/download

American Red Cross facing severe blood shortage

The American Red Cross is facing a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the COVID-19 outbreak. There is an urgent blood donation need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as for ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state.

To schedule a new blood drive: contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or email William.Forsyth@redcross.org

Those who are healthy, feeling well, and eligible to give blood or platelets are urged to make an appointment by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). 

DOI guidance on telehealth prescribing

The Division of Insurance issued guidance on using telehealth services for prescriptions without requiring a face to face visit.

The full guidance is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/alert-regarding-use-of-telemedicine-during-public-health-emergency-covid-19/download

Department of Transitional Assistance launches online application portal for TAFDC and EAEDC

DTA launched an online application portal to assist with applications for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) programs.

The online portal is here: https://dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov/

MassHealth Launches PCA Help Hotline

MassHealth announced today that it has established a dedicated hotline through MassOptions to connect MassHealth PCA Consumers to services in the event their PCA is unavailable. Consumers can call 1-844-422-6277 and will be connected to home health services in their region. MassHealth has also updated its policies to temporarily suspend the PCA overtime cap and provide flexibility around home health aide training & certification requirements to streamline the hiring process and allow family members to be considered for hire. There are currently over 36,000 MassHealth members receiving personal care attendant (PCA) services PCA services are essential services that support individuals with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, grooming, bathing, ambulating.

Early medical school graduation

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel have coordinated with Massachusetts medical schools to facilitate early graduation of their qualified fourth-year students to allow graduates to support the health care workforce during the COVID-19 response. This coordinated effort includes Boston University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School.

Emergency limited medical licenses

The Board of Registration in Medicine will provide medical school graduates who have matched as an intern, resident or fellow with a Board-approved Massachusetts health care facility or training program with Emergency 90-Day Limited Licenses to practice medicine to ensure that our health care workforce is prepared during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

To qualify, medical residents must fill out an application to be approved by the program or facility, and once approved, residents will receive the emergency license and be able to start when their program begins. This Emergency Limited License will allow medical staff to provide support while the regular screening progresses, and it is not a substitute for the regular Limited License process.

Launch of Buoy Health Care tool to check symptoms

The Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of Buoy Health’s new online resource for residents to check their symptoms and connect with the next appropriate health care resource. This tool does not replace emergency medical care, but it may be used as a support for residents during the COVID-19 outbreak to connect them with appropriate health care resources if they display coronavirus symptoms.

Buoy Health’s online 24/7 tool is free for Massachusetts residents and uses current COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Visit Buoy.com/mass to learn more and use the tool.

Order on Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and prescribing

The administration has issued a public health order to provide APRNs in good standing with greater flexibility in their prescribing practices. This order includes the following updates:

Certified nurse midwives will be allowed to continue to prescribe as already authorized.

Authorizes APRNs who have at least two years of supervised practice experience to prescribe without physician supervision

Authorizes APRNs with fewer than two years of supervised practice experience to prescribe with physician supervision, but without the normally required written guidelines.

Read the order here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-26-2020-advanced-practice-registered-nurses-order

MassHealth waiver approved by federal government

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved, in part, the Baker-Polito Administration’s 1135 waiver to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers and better deliver critically needed health care services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. CMS has approved the following items of the waiver:

Enrollment of out-of-state providers and easing other provider requirements when enrolling in MassHealth.

Allowing providers to be reimbursed for care in alternative, unlicensed settings

Suspension of prior authorization requirements and extending pre-existing prior authorizations through the emergency.

Health care professional volunteers partnership:

To support ongoing COVID-19 emergency response efforts, the Baker-Polito Administration has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to match volunteers with our communities and health care providers based on skillsets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses, and the administration is asking health care professionals interested in volunteering to sign up at MAResponds.org.

Department of Public Health orders on pharmacy, determination of need, and nurse staffing

The Department of Public Health has issued three emergency orders to support the health care system’s response to COVID-19: Pharmacy Practice: To ensure pharmacists are able to fully support the health care system’s response to COVID-19, this emergency order makes several changes regarding pharmacy practice, including expedited approval for pharmacists licensed in other states to practice in Massachusetts, and allowing the remote processing of prescriptions by pharmacy technicians.

Read the Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/pharmacy-practice-order

Determination of Need

This order exempts health care facilities from the requirement that they submit a Notice of Determination of Need for certain activities that will support their response to COVID-19.

Read the Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/don-order

Read the Guidance: https://www.mass.gov/doc/guidance-re-don-for-covid-19-work

Nurse Staffing

To ensure hospitals have the flexibility they need to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, this emergency order exempts hospitals from certain nurse-staffing requirements, while requiring that they must ensure that staffing levels remain adequate to meet patients’ needs, and staff is trained and competent to meet the needs of their patients. Read the Order: https://www.mass.gov/doc/nursing-staff-order

Division of Insurance orders on drug benefits and publicizing COVID-19 information

The Division of Insurance issued the following bulletins today:
Guidance to insurance carriers about providing flexibility in the administration of prescription drug benefits: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-06-administration-of-precription-drug-benefits-during-covid-19-coronavirus-public/download

Guidance to insurance carriers about making COVID-19 information available to covered members: https://www.mass.gov/doc/bulletin-2020-07-making-consumer-information-available-during-the-covid-19-crisis-issued/download

Mass Medical Society partnership to match health and medical volunteers

The Baker-Polito Administration has partnered with the Massachusetts Medical Society to match health and medical volunteers with communities and health care providers based on skill sets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses.

Health care professionals interested in volunteering can sign up here: mass.gov/health-services-covid-19-volunteer-form

Department of Public Health list of testing sites for those with clinical referral

DPH has posted a new list of COVID-19 testing sites for individuals who have a clinician’s referral. If someone thinks they have symptoms of COVID-19, they should first call their health care provider. If that clinician thinks a test is appropriate but are unable to offer one at their own health care facility, they can provide a referral that the individual can use to schedule a test at a site nearest to them. A referral and appointment are necessary.

The list is here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/frequently-asked-questions-about-covid-19#is-there-a-list-of-places-where-i-can-get-tested-for-covid-19-if-i-think-i-have-symptoms?

Orders expediting the onboarding of health care volunteers

Last week, the Administration launched an initiative to recruit volunteer medical professionals to support hospitals as the Commonwealth continues to expand medical capacity. Since launching the initiative, more than 1,800 volunteers have already signed up, reflective of the Commonwealth’s world-class health care workforce.

To support expedited onboarding of these volunteers, the Department of Public Health has issued an order authorizing the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management to perform a CORI check on any volunteer who registered through the volunteer portal without a notarized CORI acknowledgement form. The Order requires any entity performing a CORI check pursuant to the Order to implement sufficient compensating controls to reasonably verify an individual’s identity, including inspection of a photographic form of government issued identification via teleconference.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/cori-notary-order

Order on on-demand licensing and relicensing for health professionals

The Department of Public Health has issued an order designed to provide on-demand licensing and re-licensing for certain health care professionals. The Order expedites licensing for professionals with licenses in good standing in other states, and professionals who have allowed their Massachusetts licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing. This order applies to a wide range of health professionals: registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, advanced practice registered nurse, dentist, dental hygienist, dental assistant, pharmacist, pharmacy technician, nursing home administrator, physician assistant, respiratory therapist, perfusionist, genetic counselor, community health worker and emergency medical technician.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-29-2020-maximizing-available-health-care-providers-order

Order waiving certain regulations to expand capacity by transferring long-term care facility residents

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with long-term care facilities to establish dedicated skilled nursing facilities to care for individuals infected with COVID-19. The initiative will offer an alternative location where individuals who are stable but still need medical care can be transferred to recover, relieving pressure on hospitals and opening up hospital beds for the treatment of patients with the greatest medical need. The Administration has received federal approval from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for this initiative.

The Department of Public Health has issued an order waiving certain MassHealth regulations regarding the transfers and discharge of long-term care facility residents, for the limited purpose of safely transferring and discharging all residents living in a long-term care facility that is intended to be used as a designated COVID-19 facility.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/masshealth-moving-residents-order

A letter to providers outlining the program is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-27-2020-long-term-care-facilities-letter

Order extending financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services

Governor Baker issued an order providing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) administrative flexibility to extend financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services that serve EOHHS clients, including members of MassHealth. The financial relief may be in the form of temporary rate adjustments, supplemental payments, and new rate and payment methodologies that reflect the modified ways services are being delivered. These measures will be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. This will allow EOHHS to extend critical financial support to:

Providers that are facing extraordinary demand due to the COVID-19 emergency, while, at the same time, have lost significant revenue because they have had to cancel other procedures and appointments;

Providers that are necessary to keep vulnerable individuals safe in their homes or residences and out of more acute settings like hospitals; and

Human service providers that have been forced to respond to the unanticipated circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic by altering the way they deliver services and the hours and scope of these services.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-30-2020-hhs-rates-order

Update on Nursing Home Testing Pilot Program

The Commonwealth implemented a pilot project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The pilot is operating under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge, and samples will be collected by trained personnel from the Massachusetts National Guard. Prior to this launch of this program, the only way for nursing home residents to be tested would be to be transported to a hospital or physician’s office. Launched earlier this week, the program is ramping up to full force, with 16 members of the MA National Guard deployed, with an additional 45 added to the team in the next couple of days. A call center has been established to provide a single point of contact for nursing and rest homes seeking help with testing. As of Thursday morning, the program has tested 280 individuals and with a plan to reach more people in the coming days. New guidance is being issued instructing facilities with onsite medical staff to swab their own residents, with the National Guard providing sampling kits, helping the testing team reach as many homes as possible.

Battelle N95 Decontamination system scheduled to be operational

A Battelle N95 decontamination system is scheduled to be operational in the Boston area on Monday April 6, thanks to Partners Healthcare. The Battelle system uses FDA-approved N95 decontamination technology. It will be the fourth site operational in the U.S. The Battelle owned and operated system will be hosted by Partners HealthCare at the currently vacant Somerville K-Mart adjacent to I-93. Permitting on the site is being finalized. The system can decontaminate up to 80,000 masks per day, which should cover all demand in Massachusetts. The principal benefit of this system is that it is fully staffed, industry grade, and brings a level of QA that will allow hospital teams to concentrate on other priorities.

Health Connector updates and special enrollment period

In response to the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus, the Health Connector continues to serve the residents of the Commonwealth, whether they are existing members or enrolling with the Health Connector for the first time. For your reference, please find important messages and updates to Health Connector policies in response to COVID19 crisis below, and please visit www.mahealthconnector.org/covid-19 for more information.

Loss of employment:

  • As individuals lose employment, they may also lose access to their employer sponsored health insurance. As incomes are reduced, individuals may benefit from the opportunity to apply for subsidies or compare plans side by side and select a health plan that suits their needs best. Additional health insurance resources for constituents who have recently lost their employment can be found at www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverageafter-a-job-loss-eng.pdf and in Spanish at www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/health-coverage-aftera-job-loss-esp.pdf
  • Please keep in mind that loss of health insurance coverage (that meets minimum standards) as a result of job loss is considered a qualifying life event (QLE) year-round and will always open a special enrollment period (SEP) for an otherwise eligible resident.

Special enrollment period available through May 25th:

  • The Health Connector established a Special Enrollment Period for any otherwise eligible individual who does not currently have health insurance coverage, or may have experienced changes in circumstances, to enroll in health insurance. Typically, a person who does not have a qualifying life event is only able to enroll in coverage during Open Enrollment, which occurs in the fall. This SEP provides access to health insurance coverage for those individuals who may not have enrolled during Open Enrollment 2020. Individuals can access the SEP through their on-line account and more information can be found here: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/massachusetts-health-connector-extends-enrollment-an-additional-30-daysfor-uninsured-individuals

Importance of reporting income changes:

  • The Health Connector is urging members to make changes to their online application to reflect any changes in circumstances, such as losing a job, reduced hours, or other reduced income. Many Health Connector members receive state and federal subsidies that make monthly health insurance premiums more affordable. The Health Connector is communicating with members to remind them to return to their online accounts to update their information (income, etc.) as it may result in a lower monthly premium. Individuals who may not have received financial subsidies previously may be newly eligible for financial assistance to make health insurance premiums more affordable. All members should return to their accounts to report any changes in circumstances.

Health Connecter pausing terminations and reductions of subsidies:

  • The Health Connector has paused terminations or reduction of subsidies that would otherwise result from members not responding to requests for information. The Health Connector is also taking emergency steps to prevent termination and suspension of health care services for members, currently in delinquency, that have been unable to pay premiums in March and would otherwise have had their April coverage terminated. The Health Connector has created a temporary premium deferral program that allows individual and small employer members to hold off on making premium payments until a later date. The Health Connector is contacting members who are eligible for the premium deferral program in their May premium invoice to inform them of next steps.

Important dates for members:

  • For new members, the monthly 23rd deadline remains critical for plan selection and payment. The Health Connector is unable to make adjustments that would introduce flexibility with respect to this initial enrollment deadline. For existing members, updates and changes to their information that are submitted after the 23rd will now be honored to take effect on the first of the next month (i.e. change of information submitted on 4/24 – 4/30 will be effective for 5/1).
  • Previously, if a member made an update to their application that changed their subsidy benefit after the 23rd of the month, it would not take effect beginning the next month (i.e. change of information submitted on 4/24 – /30 will be effective for 6/1).

Call center assistance:

  • New and existing members are encouraged to update their accounts online https://www.mahealthconnector.org/ or call customer service for assistance 1-877-MA-ENROLL (1-877-623-6765) as the four Health Connector Walk-In Centers in Springfield, Worcester, Brockton and Boston have been temporarily closed to support public health. Navigator and Certified Application Counselors continue to be available, but with limited in-person availability. They have the ability to assist consumers remotely, and individuals should always call first to discuss the best way to access assistance

MassHealth Coverage and Reimbursement Policy for Transportation Services Related to COVID-19

MassHealth issued a bulletin introducing additional flexibility for coverage and billing related to COVID-19 related transportation. Those who are under investigation or known to have COVID-19 meet the criteria for use of wheelchair vans and non-emergency ambulances, so long as the transportation is otherwise medically necessary and appropriate.

The bulletin can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/transportation-bulletin-17-masshealth-coverage-and-reimbursement-policy-for-transportation-0

Education Issues

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education creates alternative path to graduation for high school seniors who have not met MCAS requirements

For some high school seniors, passing an MCAS exam is the final criterion for receiving a diploma, but with MCAS testing cancelled this spring, the state education board unanimously approved an alternative qualification. 12th graders can now show that they successfully completed a course with the same subject matter that would have been on the MCAS. State education officials are expected to provide additional information and guidance on this process in the coming days

Additionally, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley sent the below guidance to schools regarding competency requirements for high school seniors:

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents,

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted yesterday to temporarily modify the competency determination requirement for current high school seniors during the COVID-19 emergency. Under this change, seniors who have not passed one or more of the high school MCAS tests will be able to earn the competency determination through successful completion of a relevant high school course.

For current high school seniors, as well as other actively enrolled students who were on track to graduate in the 2019-2020 school year (including the summer of 2020), the competency determination would be awarded in each subject as follows:

For English language arts and mathematics ­– upon district certification that the student earned credit this year for a course aligned to the curriculum frameworks in the relevant subject matter and has demonstrated competency in that subject. For students who were not enrolled in a course in the needed subject area during this school year, DESE will examine relevant coursework the district identifies for which the student received credit in previous school years.

For science and technology/engineering – upon district certification that the student earned credit for a course aligned to the curriculum frameworks in the relevant subject matter and has demonstrated competency in one of the four tested disciplines (biology, chemistry, introductory physics, and technology/engineering) in either the current school year or a prior school year.

We are working out the details of this process and will share that information with you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey C. Riley
Commissioner

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Issues Update on Remote Learning

The latest update from Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley outlines strategies and suggestions for implementing the next phase of remote learning, which will be in place for the remainder of the K-12 school year.

The full update can be found here: https://www.masc.org/images/news/2020/DESE_Remote-Learning_Guidance.pdf

Commissioner Riley notification to school districts regarding legislation enacted on MCAS, SOA Plans, and Regional School District Budgets

April 13, 2020

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents,

Earlier today, Governor Baker signed legislation that addresses many concerns municipalities and school districts might have because of the state of emergency related to COVID-19, including this year’s MCAS testing and the competency determination, the deadline for Student Opportunity Act plans, and the process for regional school districts to approve their annual budget.

MCAS

We previously requested and received a waiver from the federal requirement for annual statewide student assessment. Now, with the state legislation enacted, the MCAS testing requirement is waived for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

As a result of these federal and state actions and in light of the on-going health crisis, I am cancelling this spring’s regular administration of grade-level MCAS tests for students in grades 3-10.

In addition, the legislation allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon my recommendation, to modify or waive the requirements of the competency determination for high school graduation in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 or the state of emergency. I am considering various options, and further guidance will be forthcoming.

Student Opportunity Act

The legislation that the governor signed today gives me the ability to move the deadline for the three-year plans required by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) to May 15, 2020 or later. I appreciate the work that several dozen districts did to submit plans in time for the original April 1 deadline. I recognize how challenging it is for school districts to complete the SOA district planning work right now. I will announce a new deadline soon.

Regional School District Budgets

Approving budgets for regional school districts can be particularly challenging during a time of social distancing. The legislation that the governor signed today states that, if a town’s or city’s vote on the approval of a fiscal year 2021 regional school district budget is delayed beyond June 30, 2020 as a result of COVID-19 and the state of emergency, the district should notify DESE. At that point, we will certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the regional district starting July 1, 2020, in an amount not less than one-twelfth of the regional district’s total annual budget in FY20. The Department will set similar sums for each successive month as needed. We expect to issue guidance on FY21 regional school district budgets in the near future. If you have questions about this process in the meantime, please email Michelle Griffin.

Updated guidance on elementary and secondary school closures

The Baker-Polito Administration announced a three week suspension of all public and private elementary and secondary schools effective 3-17. School districts are still permitted to keep the buildings open for actions like getting food out to children who need it. Preschool and childcare services are not ordered to close, but are strongly urged to observe guidelines established by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Childhood Education. 

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-school-closure-order/download

Full guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education can be found here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html

Summary of recent Department of Elementary and Secondary guidance

DESE has provided a summary of its COVID-19 guidance.

Web pages related to special education services: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sped/covid19.html

Web pages related to educator preparation programs: http://www.doe.mass.edu/edprep/covid19.html

Web pages related to college, career, and technical education: http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=25973

School meals: A link to Project Bread's School Closure Meal Site Finder (https://meals4kids.org/summer) is now on DESE’s COVID-19 page: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html At this point, federal reimbursement is only available for meals served in areas where at least 50 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. Districts that are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Area Eligibility Mapper (https://www.fns.usda.gov/areaeligibility) to use census data to try to identify a location where they could serve meals and be reimbursed. Districts can also serve grab-and-go meals to eligible students even if those students make up less than 50 percent of a given school or district. However, those districts are not currently eligible for federal reimbursement.

Academics: Students should be doing as much learning as possible while they are at home, and DESE is working to make this easier. Staff in the Center for Instructional Support have assembled a list of resources (http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/ed-resources.html) that districts can add to their own, and DESE is working with public broadcaster WGBH and its partner station WGBY to provide other resources. Educators have free access to PBS LearningMedia (https://mass.pbslearningmedia.org/) and the stations’ newly created online distance learning center (https://www.wgbh.org/distance-learning-center). In recognition of the fact that not every student has a computer and internet access, and in addition to existing programming, WGBH plans to expand its educational broadcasting from noon to 5:00 p.m. weekdays on the WORLD Channel. The WORLD Channel is a 24/7 WGBH channel that offers news and documentaries and which is now shifting some of its schedule to meet this urgent need. (More information on where to find the WORLD Channel on WGBH and WGBY is available online.) Additional guidance from DESE will be forthcoming.

Adult education: The Department has closed adult basic education and English for speakers of other languages programs, as well as post-secondary and workforce training programs that are taught in public school buildings, public colleges and universities, and community-based organizations. At this point, DESE hopes to reopen the adult education programs when schools reopen.

MCAS: The Department is exploring all options around this year’s testing requirements. To date, DESE has postponed both the Grade 10 English language arts assessment scheduled to begin on March 24 and the opening of the grades 3-8 English language arts assessment window scheduled for March 30. The Department will keep districts informed of decisions related to the spring 2020 assessment schedule and the competency determination. There may be an opportunity for a one-year assessment and accountability waiver from the federal government, but even if that is granted, we would need legislative relief from our state legislature to waive the state law around the testing requirement.

Please be advised that MCAS-Alt portfolios do not need to be submitted by April 3, nor is it necessary to obtain a parent’s signature that they have reviewed the portfolio prior to submission. The Department will contact schools at a later date regarding a new submission deadline.

Districts may still submit cohort appeals (http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcasappeals/) for students in grade 12. For cohort appeals, use only the online application process. Do not submit paper-based appeals. A guide to the online application process is available for download. Please do not submit appeals for students in grades 10 or 11 at this time. Questions about this subject can be emailed to mcasappeals@doe.mass.edu.

Educator licensure: Governor Baker has issued an executive order extending licenses for certain licensed professionals (https://www.mass.gov/doc/eo-on-license-registration-extension-dpl-opsi/download), including licensed educators. The order states that a license that is “in good standing” as of March 18, 2020, and that has expired or will expire during the state of emergency, is now extended and will remain valid until 90 days after the end of the state of emergency. The Department expects to issue guidance to implement the terms of the order.

Payments to hourly employees: Commissioner Riley is strongly recommending that school districts pay their hourly employees during the current emergency school closure. Like all of us, these employees need to follow public health directives and take care of themselves and their families. While they do so, school districts could ask them to continue their learning by reading educational articles, books, taking an online class or performing other tasks that could be a benefit to the school districts. Districts must be able to quickly resume providing services to students as soon as schools re-open, and in order to do that, they will need to have an available, ready work force, including hourly employees.

A link to DESE’s COVID-19 webpage is here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/emergencyplan/covid19.html

DESE Guidance on remote learning

During this time, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is requesting that educators continue to develop and assemble high-quality educational materials to provide students with effective remote learning resources through the month of April. The Department is also creating a model for districts to use and modify in collaboration with local stakeholders to fit their school district’s needs, and will continue to work with schools to identify best practices for implementing effective remote learning.

Remote learning encompasses a wide variety of learning methods, including both analog and online. While technology is an excellent tool, districts should also consider ways students can continue to learn offline. This could include exploring nature, activities to support students’ local communities (with appropriate social distancing) and engaging in hands-on projects and artistic creations that stem from students’ experiences.

Additionally, through a new partnership between DESE and WGBH, educational resources will be posted on the department’s website, and middle and high school students can access WGBH and WGBY educational programming on WGBH and WGBY on the WORLD channel from noon to 5 p.m.

USDA reimbursements to schools operating as meal sites

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved DESE’s request to waive the requirement that school meal sites must be located in areas where at least 50 percent of school lunch program participants are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. Therefore, all school districts that are distributing meals during school closures related to COVID-19 and are focusing the distribution of these meals to children and teens in need of them are now eligible for USDA reimbursement.

DESE Guidance to school district regarding payments for contracted services

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education sent the below guidance to school district:

In response to questions I have received about payments while schools are closed, I am writing to provide further recommendations to districts relating to: (1) tuition payments for resident students enrolled in certain public school programs; (2) tuition payments for out-of-district day or residential special education programs; (3) payments for contracted special education related service providers; and (4) outsourced operational services, such as school transportation.

1) Tuition payments for collaboratives, non-residential vocational enrollments, recovery high schools, Horace Mann charter schools, and inter-district tuition agreements

Given the expectations that schools will continue to provide services to students even while physically closed and that Chapter 70 aid will continue to be distributed based on prior year enrollment, it is our expectation that districts and municipalities with resident students enrolled in other Massachusetts public schools will continue to make all required tuition payments. This includes tuition for:

  • collaboratives,
  • non-resident Chapter 74 vocational enrollments,
  • recovery high schools;
  • Horace Mann charter schools, and
  • inter-district tuition agreements.

Cities and towns are also expected to pay assessments due to regional districts to which they belong.

Payments for Commonwealth charter school tuition, Commonwealth virtual school tuition, and inter-district school choice tuition will continue to be processed by DESE through DOR’s monthly local aid distribution.

2) Tuition payments for out-of-district day or residential special education programs and “circuit breaker” reimbursement

It is our expectation that school districts will continue to provide tuition payments to day and residential special education programs to maintain this essential system capacity and promote continuity of service for students to the greatest extent possible. Most residential schools remain open, and day programs have agreed to continue providing learning opportunities and services to students remotely during this period. The tuition payments will be eligible for reimbursement under the circuit breaker program if they exceed the statutory threshold and are otherwise eligible.

3) Service payments for contracted special education-related service providers (e.g. external organizations and agencies that provide occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and other services to in-district students)

On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) released a supplemental fact sheet addressing the risk of COVID-19 while serving students with disabilities. In this recent guidance, USED indicates that districts should continue to provide special education services to students with disabilities to the extent feasible and consistent with public health obligations. Given the need to continue to provide some services, I recommend that districts work with providers to review and potentially amend the providers’ scopes of service to ensure vendor contracts reflect the necessary requirements to get these services up and running. For instance, districts could incorporate distance learning services as well as professional learning to prepare contract staff for distance learning or other available means of providing services. The need for this ongoing work to serve students (and to prepare contracted staff to do so effectively) should enable providers to continue to bill districts for services rendered.

4) Outsourced operational services

In addition to guidance already issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (M-20-11 and M-20-17), the version of the federal stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Senate on March 25, 2020 includes a provision that any state or school district that receives money from the Education Stabilization Fund established by the bill “shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to the coronavirus.” That bill is scheduled to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 27, 2020. To the extent consistent with that directive, we expect school districts to continue payments for outsourced operational services that are needed to ensure continuity of essential services when schools reopen. Such payments may be conditioned on negotiated changes to contracts in order to address unanticipated service needs during the state of emergency. These services include, but are not limited to, transportation, custodial, and food services, in addition to the day and residential special education programs noted above.

STEM and Remote Learning Resources

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will issue updated guidelines for schools to support remote learning efforts through the duration of the school year, including expanded STEM learning, and will prepare recommendations to strengthen summer learning opportunities for students.

DESE has launched a Remote Learning Essentials initiative, focused on addressing access to tools, Internet connectivity, and educator training necessary to enhance remote learning during school closures.

The department is conducting a survey of school districts to identify barriers that inhibit effective remote learning, including challenges around inequitable access to technology.

An advisory group of administrators, educators, parents, students and business leaders will engage external partners to mobilize resources for schools, including philanthropic gifts and in-kind contributions.

DESE will also solicit input from national and local education vendors regarding the potential to create a statewide online education platform for districts to opt into and customize.

In partnership with EEC, DHE, the STEM Advisory Council and Regional STEM Networks, DESE has established online STEM education resources to provide continued support for remote learning opportunities. This includes virtual STEM learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

EEC’s STEM Resources are available here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/stem/

No-Interest Student Loan Program

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) is deferring scheduled repayments for its No-Interest Loan Program for a duration of four months to support relief efforts during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These deferments will help approximately 12,000 students that participate in the $5 million program annually funded through the repayment of loans.

All no-interest loan accounts currently in repayment will automatically be placed in a deferment from April 2020 through July 2020. This deferment will not count toward the program’s permissible 36 months of available deferment.

If a payment has already been made for April, that payment will be applied to the outstanding balance and not refunded. While accounts are in deferment, borrowers who wish to continue monthly payments may do so, without incurring late fees until July 31, 2020.

Accounts currently 120 days past due will not be placed into collections until August 2020, and regular credit bureau reporting will resume at the end of August.

Child Care

Updates and guidance on emergency childcare centers

Last week, the Commonwealth announced that effective Monday, March 23, all early education centers and family childcare providers will be closed. Starting Monday, selected sites will open to serve as emergency drop-in childcare services for families with no other options to continue going to work to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of the Commonwealth’s residents. Child Care is meant to be for those who must report to work. Outside of the obvious emergency responders and medical professionals, this includes critical service workers like grocery store employees. As of Friday, the Commonwealth had approved over 300 sites to start operations on Monday.

Map of Emergency Child Care sites: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?&mid=1IVpbXIBhvtFIntpePxkzEyUPDKYWTWyS&ll=42.074357529137025%2C-71.89863047862093&z=8 

Zipcode search of Emergency Child Care sites: https://eeclead.force.com/EEC_ExemptEmergencyChildCare 

Resources on emergency childcare program can be found here: https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents#programEmergency

To inquire about exempt emergency child care programs, fill out the form linked here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfLfeCesZdBAUMFCfQ7wqS-xqhrY3nDzaZDBdbPUIro8Zyv2w/viewform

The process for authorizing emergency exempt childcare is detailed here: https://eeclead.force.com/resource/1584817342000/The_EECCP_Process

Local coverage in CC Times: https://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20200322/cape-cod-facilities-offer-emergency-child-care

Extension of School and Non-Emergency Child Care Program Closures

Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools through the end of the school year, and the closure of all non-emergency child care programs until June 29, 2020 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

This order expands the March 25 order suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs (https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents) to serve families of first responders, medical personnel and essential workers.

Emergency Child Care programs approved by EEC will continue operating. Currently there are 523 emergency child care programs statewide serving families of essential workers. Weekly attendance averages about 2,500 children in these programs across the Commonwealth. EEC will continue to pay subsidies to child care providers based on their pre-COVID-19 enrollment, in order to support the workforce. The order does not apply to residential special education schools.

Read the Orders here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-school-closure-extension-order

Child Care Program Link is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-childcare-programs-closure-extension

Child care program resources for essential workers

To support families of essential workers and families with children who have special needs, EEC and Care.com have partnered to assist currently unemployed child care workers and provide skilled in-home care. Care.com is offering both eligible families and child care workers free 90-day premium memberships. 

The free memberships are accessible here: https://www.care.com/mass

Social Distancing Guidelines  

Updated Executive Order on large gatherings, restaurants, and on-premise food and beverage consumption

The Baker-Polito Administration issued an Executive Order to prohibit on-premise consumption of food or alcohol at restaurants, effective from 3-17 until 4-5. Restaurants will be able to provide food for take out or delivery.

The Baker Polito also revised its Executive Order prohibiting large gatherings of over 250 people to prohibit gatherings of over 25 people.

The full Executive Order can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-15-2020-large-gatherings-25-and-restaurants-order/download

Registry of Motor Vehicles

Massachusetts RMV announcements regarding transition to suspension hearings by phone and online reservation system for required In-person transactions

The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) is announcing several additional measures being implemented to prioritize reducing customer volumes in physical locations and maintaining proper “social-distancing” under Governor Charlie Baker’s declaration of a State of Emergency:

  • Appointment-Only Online Reservation System
    • Effective now, Tuesday, March 24, an appointment-only reservation system is being implemented for certain necessary and required in-person transactions at the RMV’s eight open and operating Service Centers. These essential transactions include certain Commercial Driving License (CDL) transactions and some new registrations. Appointment reservation times will be available on a rolling basis up to two business days in advance on www.Mass.Gov/RMV in the myRMV Online Service Center under “Make or Cancel a Reservation.” Customers who make an appointment will be sent a confirmation email that they should be prepared to show on arrival. The Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers will remain open to exclusively perform walk-in commercial transactions for CDLs and permits (CLPs), and CDL road tests continue to be administered.
  • Suspension Hearings and Reinstatement Procedures
    • Effective Monday, March 23rd, the RMV implemented new protocols for suspension hearings. Applying for and initiating a suspension hearing to seek reinstatement will continue to require an in-person visit to an RMV Service Center, but the hearings are now being conducted by phone.
    • At this time, customers will not be able to request a hearing under the appointment-only reservation system outlined above. Some suspended customers may already be able to complete the reinstatement process and payment online if all other outstanding requirements have been satisfied by visiting www.Mass.Gov/RMV and selecting “Pay my Reinstatement Fees.”
    • Hearings are being conducted at Boston/Haymarket, Brockton, Fall River, Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester. Hearings at the Pittsfield RMV occur weekly on Wednesdays and are scheduled to resume on March 25th. No hearings will be conducted in Plymouth. Chemical test refusal (CTR) hearings are only held at Boston/Haymarket.
    • Customers arriving at these locations to request a hearing will be provided tickets on a limited first-come, first-served basis, depending on the availability of Hearings Officers at that location that day. Customers should bring copies of all necessary documents, depending on the type of suspension, to submit along with an application completed on-site. A Hearings Officer will call a customer directly to conduct their suspension hearing by phone.
  • 60-Day Extension of CDL Medical Certificates
    • CDL Medical Certificates (Med Certs) that have expired or will expire after March 1st will have a 60-day extension applied to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers, during the State of Emergency.
  • Suspending Issuance of New REAL IDs and Non-Commercial Learner’s Permit Knowledge Exams
    • On March 23rd, the federal government announced there will be a delay of the October 2020 REAL ID compliance deadline. Effective March 25th and until April 7th, the RMV is also suspending the issuance of new REAL IDs and knowledge/written exams for non-commercial learner’s permits, both of which are currently required, but non-essential, in-person transactions. As a reminder, all non-commercial Class D and M road tests for permit holders have already been suspended through April 6th. Renewals for standard driver’s license and ID credentials can be performed online at www.Mass.Gov/RMV along with more than 40 other transactions that can be conducted online, over the phone, or by mail.
    • For information about available services and additional steps the RMV has taken under the State of Emergency declaration, including the extension of expiring licenses / permits and vehicle inspection stickers, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.

Registry of Motor Vehicles further extends renewal deadlines

The RMV announced that effective April 1, 2020, all of the passenger plate registrations that have expired in March or will be expiring in April have been extended for 60 days. Registrations that expired in March have been extended until May 31st and registrations that expire in April have been extended until June 30th. Registration renewals can continue to be performed online at Mass.Gov/RMV during this time. Customers seeking to do so in-person will not be able to make an appointment and should delay their visit to a Service Center at this time.

In addition, the RMV recently has implemented key changes to service delivery and organizational protocols as follows:

  • Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the RMV has implemented a strict no walk-in policy at a limited number of Service Centers that remain open to the general public. Service for necessary in-person transactions is available by appointment only. Customers should visit Mass.Gov/RMV to make a reservation at an open Service Center or find information on over 40 transactions that can be conducted online, by phone, or by mail.
  • All Driver’s Licenses, ID cards, and Learner’s Permits, including Commercial Licenses & Permits, that have expired or are expiring between March 1, 2020 and April 30, 2020, have had a 60-day extension applied to the current expiration date and do not need to be renewed at this time. This does not apply to customers whose end of stay in the United States is the same as the expiration date on their Driver’s License, ID card, or Learner’s Permit. CDL Medical Certificates that expire on or after March 1st until April 30th will be extended until June 30th to prevent license downgrades and elective medical visits, as well as alleviate demand on medical providers.
  • The annual motor vehicle safety and emissions inspection stickers that expire on March 31 and April 30 have been extended 60 days and all motorcycle inspection stickers originally set to expire on May 31 must be inspected by June 30. The RMV is also extending the time during which newly registered vehicles must be inspected based on the purchase date.
  • In addition, the RMV has suspended all road tests through April 12th. Class D and M Learner's Permits knowledge exams have been suspended indefinitely. Commercial Learner’s Permit tests are available to be taken at the Milford and Wilmington RMV Service Centers during normal business hours and commercial road tests continue to occur.

For details on these extensions and additional information on RMV services and the RMV’s response to COVID-19, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information

Massachusetts RMV-Approved Defensive Driving Courses

Due to coronavirus concerns, to ensure the health and wellbeing of our instructors and students, the National Safety Council and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (MA RMV) have canceled all MA classroom driver safety classes through May 4. This includes the 8-hour Driver Retraining Program, 4-hour Driver Attitudinal Retraining Program and the 4-hour State Courts Against Road Rage (SCARR) Program.

The MA RMV has temporarily approved an alternative way to deliver the statutorily required content in the form of a 4-hour online class. For a limited time, participation in the online course will fulfill your in-person class requirement. The process is easy and convenient, and the online course can be completed right from your own home.

If you have a constituent with any questions regarding this new and temporary situation you can referred them to the following website for detailed information and sign-up at the NSC: https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/services/state-programs/massachusetts

Other Information 

Food Assistance

On Friday, April 17th the USDA announced on Friday afternoon that Massachusetts is approved to operate Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). This additional food assistance will provide much needed relief for the approximately 500,000 Massachusetts students who have lost access to free or reduced price meals during school closures.

At Project Bread, we have been in close contact with MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

as the plan was developed and we are proud to be a partner on outreach and promotion of the program. It will be absolutely critical that every family receiving this benefit understands how to use it and where to turn for help, and we stand ready to provide that support.

Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline is open six days a week and our staff is prepared to answer any questions families may have, in 160 languages. Please direct constituents to us at 800-645-8333. A fact sheet with additional details will be finalized shortly and we will be sure to pass it along.

DCF Guidance on Reporting Abuse and Neglect for First Responders

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has developed the following guidance for first responders who are faced with local child protection matters related to COVID-19:

DCF works in partnership with families and communities to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Child protection is an essential function of state government and during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department remains fully operational with social workers responding to emergencies 24 hours per day. DCF offices are open, however most DCF employees are teleworking and offices are closed to walk-in visitors.

Reporting Abuse or Neglect DCF is designated by state law to receive and assess all reports of suspected abuse and/or neglect of children under the age of 18. Law enforcement, medical professionals and educators are all considered mandated reporters by state law. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, you must report it immediately to DCF. All reports of suspected child abuse or neglect must be phoned in.

During regular business hours (8:45 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F) call the Department of Families and Children (DCF) area office that serves the city or town where the child lives.

Nights, weekends, and holidays dial the Child-at-Risk Hotline at (800) 792-5200. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

What types of situations does DCF respond to?:

DCF screens and responds to reports where a child may have been or is at risk of being abused and/or neglected by a caregiver, or where a child may have been or may be at risk of sexual exploitation and/or human trafficking.

Supporting Caregivers who are Ill with COVID-19:

During the COVID-19 response, first responders may encounter situations where a child’s parents or caregiver require immediate medical care or hospitalization, leaving care for children into question. The following questions can be helpful in deciding if a report needs to be made to DCF: Have the caregivers identified an alternative caregiver to care for their children while they receive medical care? Have they expressed concern about the alternative caregiver’s capacity to care for children? Have you observed any concerns about the alternative caregiver’s capacity to care for children? Are there other potential caregivers available? DCF can assist in locating appropriate caregivers in some circumstances, for example, in situations where a parent’s absence would leave the child without immediate supervision. If you have questions about whether a situation necessitates filing a report with DCF, we recommend calling DCF at the numbers listed above to discuss the situation further.

Kinship Navigator Program: Provides help, assistance, tips, support, guidance and advice for all familial caregivers throughout the Commonwealth. 1-844-924-4KIN (4546) or https://www.mass.gov/info-details/kinship-navigator-information#contact

Family Resource Centers: FRCs are located throughout Massachusetts and offer a variety of services to help families. Some of the FRCs are not physically open, but are providing assistance to families by phone. https://www.frcma.org/

Department of Agricultural Resources guidance for food growers

On March 18, the Department of Agriculture Resources issued guidance for food producers and farmers markets. The full guidance from MDAR can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/mdar-covid-19-fruit-and-vegetable-memo/download

MDAR has created a website with all COVID-19 resources relevant to agriculture. MDAR’s COVID-19 website is here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/covid-19-resources-for-agriculture

Department of Agricultural Resources Buy Local listings and compiled resources

In response to the spread of COVID-19 and the measures being taken to address it, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) has compiled a list of resources to keep our agricultural community informed and aware of relevant policies and best practices.

Following the guidelines of health and government officials in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, MDAR is temporarily limiting face-to-face meetings, visits to farms, educational events, and will work with farmers and agricultural stakeholders via phone, email, and webinar to ensure that work continues to move forward.

Full list of MDAR COVID 19 resources ie here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/covid-19-resources-for-agriculture

MDAR Resources on where to buy local are here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-how-where-to-buy-local

Department of Environmental Protection order to ensure continuity of waste and recycling collection

The Baker Administration announced the issuance of an emergency order to ensure that intrastate waste and recycling collection and disposal will continue uninterrupted during the COVID-19 emergency. Due to the essential nature of these services and anticipated impacts due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Administration’s order provides relief from state and federal requirements that govern the hours of service allowed for commercial vehicle operators involved in waste and recycling transportation and collection, while maintaining important safety protections and measures.

The Administration’s action will help support continuity of waste and recycling operations by helping to ensure availability of adequate staffing resources throughout this emergency, and is consistent with the State of Emergency declared by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. The order will remain in effect until April 12, 2020 unless the Administration determines otherwise.

Department of Public Utilities order temporarily prohibiting utility shutoffs

The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order prohibiting investor-owned utility companies from shutting off gas, electric, and water utility service to any customers for failure to pay a bill or a portion of a bill until the State of Emergency is lifted or the DPU determines otherwise. The announcement builds upon the DPU’s March 13 moratorium (https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-shutoff-moratorium-eversource-and-national-grid/download) requesting utility companies refrain from shutting off gas and electric service to residents across the Commonwealth. The new order will expand the moratorium to include any investor-owned utility customers, including industrial, commercial, and small business customers, during the State of Emergency.

The Order also prohibits investor-owned utility companies from sending communications that threaten to shut off gas, electric, or water service to any of their customers for failure to pay a bill or any portion of a bill the Companies issued to a customer. Any company that fails to comply with these orders may be assessed penalties of up to $1 million per violation.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/chairs-1st-set-of-orders-under-c-25-s-4b-re-covid-19/download

Department of Conservation and Recreation announces temporary closure of state parks, athletic fields and courts

DCR has temporarily closed athletic fields and courts, such as basketball, tennis, handball, pickle ball, and bocce, throughout the state parks system effective today, March 24, 2020 until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at which time the closure will be reassessed. Importantly, all state parks across the Commonwealth remain open and available for the public to visit. DCR reminds residents and visitors to avoid gathering in groups of ten or more people, maintain social distancing, and practice healthy personal hygiene to stop the spread of the virus.

Similarly, DCR has extended the closure of agency-owned ice rinks, visitor centers, campgrounds, playgrounds, fitness areas, and bathroom facilities until Tuesday, April 7, 2020, which will also be reassessed at that time. The temporary extension of the closure of these facilities is consistent with an emergency order issued by Governor Charlie Baker on Monday, March 24, 2020.

Furthermore, the agency will be removing trash receptacles throughout the state parks system to aid in the prevention of spreading COVID-19. DCR asks that all visitors of state parks adhere to a “carry in, carry out” trash policy during this public health emergency, and urges visitors to do their part to help protect our shared natural resources by leaving no trace and taking any trash with them.

DCR has developed a Massachusetts State Parks COVID-19 webpage, which centralizes COVID-19 updates that impact the state parks system, and the webpage can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-state-parks-covid-19-update

Department of Environmental Protection statement on pharmacy and grocery store order

Sections of today’s Executive Order will assist our essential businesses, such as pharmacies and grocery stores, by prohibiting the use of reusable checkout bags for the duration of the state of emergency, as a precautionary measure. Essential businesses continuing to operate during this time, including those subject to local bans on single use plastic bags, may choose to use recyclable paper bags, compostable plastic bags or single-use plastic bags. They may not charge customers a fee for these bags.

As you know, plastic bags and plastic wrap should not be included with common household recycling. Given the precautions being taken, we ask that plastic bags be held onto at this time for future recycling at a drop-off location, which you can find here: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/.

Please visit www.RecycleSmartma.org for tips on and answers to recycling questions.

Order on waste haulers to ensure the continuity of recycling services

The Department of Environmental Protection issued an order relating to waste haulers to ensure the continuity of recycling services during the COVID-19 crisis.

The full order is here: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-issues-order-to-ensure-continuity-of-waste-and-recycling

Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing tool for COVID-19

MCDHH has created a visual tool to help hospital staff, medical personnel, first responders, and service providers communicate with hard of hearing and Deaf individuals and patients during this unprecedented crisis. The tool is here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/covid-19-card

EOEEA & EOHED order on permits not expiring or lapsing

Governor Baker issued an emergency order that provides that a permit will not expire or lapse during the state of emergency for most permits issued by agencies within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. The order also pauses deadlines for these agencies to decide or hold hearings on permit applications. The clock on those deadlines will resume 45 days after the end of the emergency. It also ensures that no permit is automatically issued because an agency is unable to make a decision on a permit application during the emergency.

Governor’s Council To Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence updates on abuse and harassment prevention orders

Although no members of the public are allowed in courthouses during the COVID-19 emergency, the courts are open for emergency matters, which include requests for abuse prevention and harassment prevention orders. Courts can be reached during normal court business hours (8:30 AM - 4:30 PM) by calling the court directly (numbers are available on mass.gov) or by calling the Trial Court Help Line: 1-833-91COURT. Judges are also available after hours through the judicial response system that can be accessed by police departments.

Some key points to keep in mind:

  • During court business hours you do not need to come into court or go to a police station to file a restraining order, the entire process can take place remotely, over the phone.
  • Anyone seeking a restraining order during court business hours should call their local court for information on how to file over the phone. If an individual does not know their local court, cannot reach anyone at their local court, or knows that their local court is closed, they should call the Trial Court Help Line and they will be connected to the appropriate court.
  • Fillable PDF versions of the 209A and 258E orders and corresponding ancillary forms were promulgated last week. Though these ancillary forms are available on mass.gov, individuals applying for restraining orders should not email anything directly to the court without first speaking to a court staff member. To begin the process of applying for a restraining order an individual must first call their local court.
  • Court staff have access to a c. 209A and c. 258E Resource Guide and are able to provide regionally specific information on available advocacy services to individuals seeking abuse prevention orders and, in appropriate cases, harassment prevention orders. Court staff may consider utilizing these services to facilitate contact regarding the next scheduled court hearings.

Please continue to monitor the Trial Court's COVID-19 Resources for Abuse Prevention Orders (209A) and Harassment Prevention (258E) Orders webpage for up to date processes and procedures, here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-for-abuse-protection-orders-209a-and-harassment-prevention-orders

DHCD Guidance on evictions and foreclosures moratorium

DHCD has issued guidance for landlords and tenants in accordance with the new law on evictions and foreclosures.

All of the guidance can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/lists/moratorium-on-evictions-and-foreclosures-forms-and-other-resources#emergency-regulations-

COVID-19 FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants

FEMA has announced that $100 million will be available for the Fiscal Year 2020 Assistance to Firefighters Grant - COVID-19 Supplemental Program (AFG-S) to help provide personal protective equipment to firefighters and first responders who are managing emergencies during the coronavirus pandemic. The application period will be open from Tuesday, April 28th at 8am to Friday, May 15th at 5pm. Interested applicants can begin preparing applications by reviewing guidance materials here: https://www.fema.gov/welcome-assistance-firefighters-grant-program

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