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Updates in 10 total languages can additionally be accessed through boston.gov/coronavirus#multilingual-help. Each language has its own page and hosts multilingual print materials distributed citywide.

Do you need a test to determine if you may have COVID-19? The testing
sites below are available by appointment only. If you believe you may need a test, first contact your primary care doctor. If he or she recommends 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:

Codman Square Health Center (617) 825-9660
Carney Hospital: 617-296-4000
Brigham and Women’s Hospital: 617-724-7000
Massachusetts General Hospital: 617-726-2000
Tufts Medical Center: 617-636-9500 
Uphams Corner Community Health Center: 617-287-8000
Bowdoin Street Community Health Center: 617-754-0100
Dot House Community Health Center: 617-288-3230
Mattapan Community Health Center: 617-296-0061

Dear Neighbor: 

I wanted to reach out to you to share a little bit about what I and my colleagues have been working on to address the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. While this is a time of uncertainty for many, we are working on your behalf to protect the public and stabilize the economy. Here are some developments from the last couple weeks: 

General Updates:

In an ongoing effort to extend unemployment benefits to those who weren’t previously eligible, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development today announced that new claimants will be able to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  They can do so by applying at: www.mass.gov/pua PUA is a program open to the following individuals:

  • Self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors
  • Those seeking part-time employment
  • Claimants that have an insufficient work history to qualify for benefits
  • And claimants that have been laid off from churches and religious institutions and are not eligible for benefits under state law

The State recently announced new funding and support for long-term care facilities and frontline healthcare workers, including $130 million in new funding, expanded testing and, PPE distribution. Read more here: 
https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-new-funding-outlines-ongoing-steps-to-support-long-term

On April 16, my colleagues and I passed an official Senate Resolution calling on the federal government to authorize Massachusetts SNAP and EBT cards to be used for online grocery purchases, ensuring that low-income families have equal access to resources, and don’t have to choose between staying home and getting food and basic necessities.This is part of a continued effort to place equity at the center of our response to COVID19, and make sure we are doing everything we can to address and disrupt patterns of inequity in outcomes and access to care. Earlier this week over 70 of my colleagues joined me in writing to our Federal representatives about this issue. You can read that letter here: https://nickcollinsma.us/collins-colleagues-call-for-snap-equity-access-to-online-groceries/

On April 16, the Massachusetts State Senate passed two major pieces of legislation, including S.2631 – An Act Providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 emergency. 

The bill extends eviction protections to renters and small businesses during the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency and places a moratorium on all stages of the eviction process for non-essential evictions for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law. The bill authorizes the governor to extend the moratorium beyond 120 days, if the crisis continues.  The moratorium on evictions prohibits, for non-essential evictions, a landlord or property owner from terminating a tenancy or sending a notice to quit, prohibits a court from entering a default judgement, prevents the scheduling of court hearings, and prohibits the enforcement of an execution to forcibly remove a tenant. This bill in no way negates the tenants responsibility to pay rent.

FOR HOMEOWNERS: In addition to a moratorium on the eviction process, the bill extends protections to homeowners and halts the foreclosure process for a period of 120 days after the bill becomes law to ensure homeowners and residential property owners are protected throughout this public health crisis.

The Senate bill protects homeowners by requiring mortgage lenders to grant a forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments, if a homeowner submits a forbearance request demonstrating a financial impact from COVID-19. In addition, the bill protects homeowners by prohibiting mortgage lenders from furnishing negative mortgage payment information to a consumer reporting agency and prohibits the accrual of fees, penalties or interest during the life of the forbearance granted.
The Senate bill also provides renters and homeowners struggling financially with additional protections during this uncertain time and prohibits landlords from imposing late fees for non-payment of rent for a residential dwelling or small business.

Similarly, the bill prohibits landlords from sending payment data to credit reporting agencies related to the non-payment of rent.  These protections are available to a tenant if the tenant provides notice and documentation to the landlord within 30 days of the missed rent payment that the non-payment was related to a financial impact from COVID-19.

We also passed a piece of legislation aimed at protecting our healthcare workers from suit and civil liability for COVID19 related services, so long as the health care services were provided in good faith and damages were not caused through gross negligence, recklessness or conduct with an intent to either harm or to discriminate. 

On April 9, the Senate also passed S.2629 – An Act to further address challenges faced by municipalities, school district and state authorities resulting from COVID-19, which:

  • Suspends, waives, delays, or simplifies in person verification requirements for Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program applicants. 
  • Suspends, waives, delays, or simplifies in person verification requirements for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition applicants.
  • Permits the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to modify or waive high school graduation competency requirements, in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19. 
  • Requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to waive MCAS requirements for the 2019-2020 academic year to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

On April 7th, the Commonwealth announced an additional $800 million in stabilization funding through MassHealth 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. The funding includes:

  • More than $400 million to hospitals
  • More than $80 million for Nursing Facilities
  • 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 

This funding is in addition to the $290 million in immediate cash relief and $550 million in accelerated payments to providers announced in March. 

Recently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts launched a $13 million COVID-19 relief fund aimed at serving people and families most in need. A combination of public and private dollars, this fund will support frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and households disproportionately affected by the crisis. See more here: https://www.macovid19relieffund.org/

The University of Massachusetts has announced that it will discount room, board, and parking fees to relieve some of the financial burden and stress for many students in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more information on that here: https://www.dotnews.com/2020/umass-students-get-70m-refunds

On April 2nd, the Department of Conservation and Recreation announced additional steps to reduce crowding at state parks, beaches, and recreation areas, including M Street / Carson Beach, and Castle Island: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-2-2020-beaches-order Parking will also be restricted on Day Boulevard: https://www.mass.gov/doc/dcr-coastal-beach-parking

The Legislature recently passed a bill to allow cities and towns to postpone collection of local taxes, allowing residents an additional financial reprieve.

On March 27th, the State announced that the tax filing deadline will be extended to July 15th to ease the financial burden on taxpayers during this ongoing state of emergency. Those with questions can call the Department of Revenue at 617-887-6367, or send a secure e-message here: https://mtc.dor.state.ma.us/mtc/. I had recently called on the DOR to delay the deadline and am glad that individuals and families will have more time to adapt to this rapidly changing financial reality. 

For emergency childcare information, see here: https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyProcedure

MassHealth has opened up a special enrollment period for all uninsured residents. To apply, visit https://masshealth.ehs.state.ma.us/StateForms/

On March 23, the Governor announced that all non-essential businesses must operate remotely. Grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants (for take-out and delivery) will still be operational. For a complete list of essential businesses that will remain open, see here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services

For information and updates on MBTA service, see here: https://www.mbta.com/covid19

While Boston Public Schools (BPS) are closed through May 4th, please remember that school meals are available for pick up at select sites: https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/8098

Those worried about food access and security can find pickup sites here:
https://www.boston.gov/departments/food-access/map-meal-sites-boston#map–409806

Additionally, free wifi can be found at all Comcast Xfinity hotspots nationwide. For a complete list of sites, see here: http://wifi.xfinity.com/

In an effort to reduce exposure and flatten the curve, the Massachusetts Department of Recreation has closed all state skating rinks, courts, athletic fields, and playgrounds. State Parks remain open for individuals to take walks or go running, so long as they maintain proper physical distancing. 

To protect continued services, the State’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU), announced a moratorium on utility shut offs, service disconnections, and other collection related activities during this crisis to make sure that seniors, families, and all residents continue to have access to basic utilities.  

For Small Businesses and Nonprofits

Our Congressional Delegation was successful in securing a $2 Trillion aid package to bring economic relief to those suffering financially related to the Coronavirus. Included in that package is more than $375 billion in small business relief, including $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll; $17 billion for debt relief for current and new SBA borrowers; and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants. To apply for a disaster grant for a small business, see here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation is administering the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides small businesses and nonprofits with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs including benefits. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Apply here: https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form–paycheck-protection-program-ppp-sample-application-form

For Renters

For low-income renters who are at risk of not being able to pay their rent, the City of Boston has established a $3 million Rental Relief Fund. Apply here and share the link with those who may need assistance: https://www.boston.gov/departments/neighborhood-development/office-housing-stability/rental-relief-fund

Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development announced a COVID-19 Rental Assistance for Families in Transition fund with $5 million to help keep at-risk households in stable housing. For more information or to apply, visit: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-assistance-to-keep-your-family-housed

The State Senate has advanced legislation to establish a temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosure for households impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. As we continue to face this emergency together, it is critical that as a Commonwealth we do all that we can to protect families and individuals impacted by this crisis, especially in the context of housing stability. That legislation will be taken up for consideration in the Senate soon, and sent to the Governor for passage into law.

For more rental assistance, homelessness prevention resources, and housing opportunities for victims of domestic violence, visit here: https://www.mass.gov/guides/a-guide-to-obtaining-housing-assistance

For Homeowners

In addition to the legislation to establish a moratorium on evictions, my colleagues and I in the legislature are working on a bill to require lenders to extend the length of mortgages interest free, allowing a borrower who temporarily cannot pay their mortgage to simply add missed months to the end of the 30-year mortgage period. That bill can be found here: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD2889

Unemployment Issues

The Department of Unemployment Assistance is seeing the largest volume ever, and is working to meet demand. They are in the midst of implemented three new programs based off new federal guidelines, including increasing the weekly amount to each claimant, expanding eligibility to workers who weren’t previously eligible, and increasing the length for which claimants may receive assistance by 50%, or 13 weeks. More info on these new policies can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/update-massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-announces-guidance-on-cares?fbclid=IwAR0df1yTbR2n02uJu-j3JilzBs0xvyrQm8UfrUHyC-rUtA1ECJVDLY_TiHM

We know workers and businesses are suffering losses. The Legislature passed a bill to suspend the one-week waiting period for unemployment assistance, and the state has opened up the benefits to those who are temporarily laid off, like hospitality workers. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker does not need to provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able. To apply for unemployment online, see here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits

I have also cosponsored legislation to allow collection of unemployment assistance for an additional 13 weeks beyond the 26-week limit currently in place for those who apply during this public health emergency (HD.4962). These are extenuating circumstances and people need to have support as they are trying to get back on their feet. Additionally, I cosponsored a bill (HD.4958) to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits to tipped workers and independent contractors to ensure that all residents are getting the assistance they need. 

To deal with increased demand, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will be holding virtual town halls for claimants to ask questions about applying and benefits. To call in see here: https://www.mass.gov/forms/massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-dua-virtual-town-halls

Medical Investments

At the onset of this outbreak, my colleagues and I passed an emergency $15 million supplemental budget to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Those funds will support the Commonwealth’s monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts against the novel coronavirus by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), regional and local  boards of health, and other public entities. For up to date info on DPH efforts, see here: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-the-outbreak-of-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

In response to a surge in demand, the Commonwealth announced a $200 million emergency investment  in MassHealth for critical healthcare providers, including community health centers and acute, safety-net providers. These funds will support our front-line medical providers, and make sure less people have to go to the hospitals. 

The state recently announced a $10 million low-interest loan program to small businesses and nonprofits with no payments for the first 6 months.

To donate goods for use in Massachusetts’ response to the COVID-19 public health emergency: https://www.mass.gov/forms/covid-19-donation-program  ·      

 To provide information about goods you are looking to sell to support Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response efforts: https://www.mass.gov/forms/covid-19-procurement-program  ·       

To adapt your business to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): https://masstech.org/M-ERT·       

To volunteer to assist in public health, health care, and emergency response https://www.maresponds.org/·     

 MA residents who suspect they might have COVID-19 can now use this Buoy Health COVID-19 Web App, which will help to screen them based on a series of questions and connect them to a health care provider via telehealth. https://www.buoyhealth.com/symptom-checker/?configuration=ma_covid&concern=coronavirus

The Massachusetts DPH 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. They also required that hospitals must restrict visitors and cancel non-essential elective procedures.

To protect seniors, DPH issued guidance 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.  

I have called on the División of Insurance (DOI) to restrict insurance providers from canceling  coverage due to nonpayment during this crisis. No one should be without health insurance at this critical moment.

Legislative Action

On March 31, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine for take out or delivery, allowing them to sell inventory, generate revenue, and giving these small businesses a much needed relief.

To support low-income families, I have cosponsored legislation (HD.4951) to provide immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 low-income families with children and 19,000 elderly residents who currently receive some state benefits. These individuals are at an increased risk from this pandemic, facing immense challenges to meet their basic needs. 

I cosponsored HD.4952 to allocate $10 million to the Massachusetts Emergency Management agency for homelessness services, ensuring that those most vulnerable populations have access to hygenic housing, behavioral health services, and emergency support. 

Recognizing the hardships many restaurants are facing, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) has extended credit terms by 30 days. I called on the ABCC to suspend fees for license holders at this time.

As we continue to confront the many challenges that lie ahead of us, this is an opportunity to help this industry and to support our small businesses during these hard times.  I have also called on the Department of Revenue (DOR) to suspend meals tax to give restaurants a boost. 

I have been in constant contact with my colleagues, public health officials, and organizations across my district during this difficult time. As these conversations continue, our sole focus is the medical and economic health and wellbeing of our Commonwealth.  If you have more questions, concerns, or comments, please call the Commonwealth’s hotline at 211, where you can access all the most up to date information on the state’s efforts. Please continue to practice physical distancing, washing your hands, and doing your part to flatten the curve and slow this outbreak. These coming weeks are crucial in that mission. Together, we will get through this and come out stronger than before! 

Sincerely,

Nick Collins