UNEMPLOYMENT ISSUES VIRTUAL TOWN HALL ON SUNDAY

As you can imagine, we’re getting lots of inquires about unemployment assistance. The Legislature just a couple days ago approved legislation to allow more folks to quality and get their benefits quicker. This is much needed, but of course it also adds to overall volume and impacts system capacity. To help with this increase demand the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development & Department of Unemployment Assistance will be hosting virtual town hall meetings. They will offer step by step process of achieving a successful unemployment claim and be taking questions from claimants. Applicants should file for benefits at https://www.mass.gov/unemployment-insurance-ui-online

The first virtual town hall will be held this SUNDAY, MARCH 22 at 3:30pm. Sign up information for the virtual town hall is available at www.mass.gov/unemployment/townhall.

To further help claimants through the process of applying for benefits, we have made specific web page updates that include the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional resources like contact forms and a COVID-19 specific unemployment claim handbook that can be viewed at https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR2Ig9Mz9bO44_BTvxs3ZwlbxXHIneDOLFQ3hp21fej_x453x-el0-9Fqcc

New Health Care Resources, Small Business Relief, Other Efforts To Support COVID-19 Response

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced new actions to support the ongoing COVID-19 response, including new financial support for health care providers, expanded relief for small businesses, and a new federal waiver request to give the state expanded flexibility to respond to the public health emergency. The Administration also joined life sciences leaders to highlight a new partnership aimed at providing additional supplies for hospitals.

The Administration also announced new tax penalty relief for businesses, further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person, and other initiatives to support the Commonwealth’s residents and communities throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

Financial Support For Health Care Providers: The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center continues to identify and prioritize efforts to ensure the Commonwealth’s health care system has the resources it needs to support the response to COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced a $200 million infusion in cash at MassHealth for critical, acute care and safety-net health care providers, as well as for certain health care providers required to help ensure that our members receiving care in the community or nursing facilities do not need to go to the hospital. These will be accelerated payments and cash advances for immediate, stopgap relief to ensure the front-line health care system is able to provide necessary resources to patients.

Emergency Supply Hub: Life sciences industry leaders joined the Administration today to highlight the new Massachusetts Life Sciences Emergency Supply Hub. MassBio, in partnership with MassMEDIC, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, launched the Supply Hub to help coordinate efforts aimed at bringing additional supplies and resources to the Commonwealth’s health care institutions as they test and treat patients with COVID-19. The initiative calls on life sciences and health care organizations in the state to donate supplies needed to combat COVID-19. MassBio will share information with the Department of Public Health to triage and connect supplies with those healthcare providers that need them.

New Drive-Through Testing Site: On Thursday, the Commonwealth’s first large-scale drive-thru COVID-19 testing site launched at CVS in Shrewsbury. The new site is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Baker-Polito Administration, the federal government, local health authorities and CVS. The site is designated for emergency personnel and first responders, expanding testing access to front line workers. Currently, this site is one of over 40 sites launching throughout the country over the next week, with test kits supplied by the federal government.

MassHealth Waiver & Other Requests: Massachusetts is filing a waiver request today with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that will give the state and its Medicaid program, MassHealth, more flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis. If allowed, the waiver would enable the Commonwealth to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers, and deliver critically needed health care services easier during the COVID-19 emergency. Through the waiver request and other federal requests, the Commonwealth is seeking flexibility to address key areas of need:

  • Allow for non-traditional sites of care to expand surge capacity, such as use of testing tents and overflow hospital sites
  • Allow new providers, including out of state providers, a streamlined pathway to practice in the state including caring for MassHealth members
  • Allow physician assistants to practice independently
  • Provide flexibility to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to meet increasing demand
  • Expand MassHealth Hospital-Determined Presumptive Eligibility to all individuals – which MassHealth already expanded through a public health order last week – including children, older adults, and individuals who have received MassHealth benefits within the past 12 months
  • Allow medications to be delivered to members, and waive a signature requirement for these prescriptions
  • Waive face-to-face requirements for certain services, including Home and Community Based Services, and behavioral health evaluations for Schedule II-IV prescriptions

In addition, the Administration announced that MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18, 2020 and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency.

Expanded Small Business Resources: Earlier this week, the Administration announced a $10 Million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund to provide financial relief to small businesses and non-profits impacted by COVID-19. Today, the Administration announced that MassDevelopment’s Board of Directors will meet next week to vote on a partnership that will make an additional $10 million available for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund.

The state-level emergency loan fund is aimed at providing crucial resources for small businesses that will supplement important federal relief. Governor Baker on Tuesdayformally requested disaster relief from the federal Small Business Administration, and with this week’s announcement that that request had been granted, Massachusetts businesses impacted by COVID-19 may now apply for low-interest loans.

Tax Relief for Businesses: The Baker-Polito Administration is announcing tax penalty relief to support businesses affected by COVID-19. The Department of Revenue today 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.

Limiting Need For In-Person RMV Visits: The Administration today is taking further action to limit the need for customers to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles in person. Today, Governor Baker issued an order allowing the Registrar to extend vehicle registrations and modify the conditions of registrations, plates and titles. It also enables the waiver of certain inspection requirements.

Workforce Guidance For Schools: Earlier this week, Governor Baker ordered all elementary and secondary schools to close for educational purposes until April 6. Recognizing that local school districts employ a significant number of hourly employees, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today is issuing guidance to local school districts recommending they continue paying hourly employees, while suggesting they continue to engage in professional development.

Smoke Alarm Inspections: Governor Baker today issued an order making a change to the inspection statutes that require a smoke and carbon dioxide alarm inspection prior to a residential real estate transaction. The Order would permit the inspection to be deferred if the buyer contractually assumes responsibility for installing the detectors and the subsequent inspection happens within 90 days of the conclusion of the COVID-19 emergency.

Mass. National Guard activated

The state has activated the Mass. National Guard to help provide logistics support and aid in relief efforts. This has been a common practice in the past during weather emergencies and more recently for the Merrimac Valley gas explosions.

Baker-Polito Administration Activates Massachusetts National Guard to Support COVID-19 Response

BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker today activated the Massachusetts National Guard to support the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, representing a significant addition of supply chain resources available to the Commonwealth and its residents.

Governor Baker’s order authorizes activation of up to 2,000 National Guard members across the Commonwealth, who will be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing, and related duties. Local cities, towns, and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

“Activating the National Guard will help support our Administration’s efforts to keep residents safe and secure during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The expertise of the Massachusetts National Guard will benefit our communities with logistical support and other assistance as we continue to respond to this crisis.”

The activation order reflects Governor Baker’s statutory authority to activate the Massachusetts National Guard under state active duty to provide necessary assistance to state and municipal civilian authorities.

The Massachusetts National Guard is a diverse and highly trained force whose members live and work in communities across the Commonwealth. The Guard has a proven track record of success supporting civilian authorities during and after state emergencies, and its units frequently train side-by-side with state and local first responders, making them well-suited for domestic operations.

Situation Update: Wednesday, March 19, 202

Here are news steps taken today:’

Enhancing the Healthcare System’s Capacity to Respond:
 DPH Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel has signed two public health orders that have been issued today:

  1. The first Order relaxes administrative requirements so that physicians assistant, or PAs, who previously worked on elective surgeries can now work on other health care demands, including Covid-19.
  2. The second Order, due to the expected demands on nursing staff, allows pharmacists to administer certain medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder, instead of requiring a nurse to do it.

Cash Flow Relief for Small Local Business:

 

Today, the Governor announced new measures for administrative tax relief for small local businesses impacted by COVID-19, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.
For small businesses, defined as those who paid less than $150,000 in 2019 in sales and meals, or room occupancy taxes, we will be postponing the payment of their respective sales, meals, or room occupancy taxes.

  1. Taxes due for March, April, and May will instead be due on June 20.
  2. All penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.
  3. The Department of Revenue is currently drafting emergency regulations to put this relief in place, and we expect them to be finalized before Friday.

New Law to Accelerate Unemployment Insurance:

  •   Today, the Governor signed emergency legislation to allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.
  •   This important change will ensure we can get much-needed unemployment assistance to workers impacted by COVID-19.
  •   The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development is deploying additional employees to work on processing the large volume of claims.

The Governor also announced a new COVID-19 workforce web page that includes the latest guidance for employee qualifications and additional. www.mass.gov/unemployment/covid-19

 Yesterday, the Governor formally requested that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) issue a “declaration of economic injury” for the Commonwealth.

 This declaration would make it possible for low-interest loans to be made available through the SBA’s

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program to business owners affected by the COVID-19 outbreak

Child Care Operations:

  •   Effective March 23rd, all early education centers and family childcare providers will be closed
  •   As a result, emergency procedures have been issued to set forth a process for opening Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) also issued emergency procedures to set forth a process for opening Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs during the COVID-19 outbreak to provide

priority access for families of emergency personnel, medical staff, and others critical to confronting COVID-19.

  •   Families who work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to emergency childcare programs. Vulnerable children will also receive priority access.
  •   These emergency childcare programs will be the only ones allowed to operate during this state of emergency and EEC is working to ensure there is sufficient access to emergency child care programs in every region.
  •   Providers impacted by these closures will continue to receive childcare subsidy payments from the state in order to ensure that programs will be able to re-open once the crisis is over.

xtension of Professional Licenses:

 Governor Baker signed a new emergency order today to ensure that licensed professionals do not have their licenses or registrations lapse due to unforeseen problems with renewal during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, under this order, occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency. This order does not affect license extensions that have already been granted in earlier emergency orders.

Managing Stress in Uncertain Times:

 Secretary Sudders spoke about actions residents can help take care of themselves and each other as we live through these stressful times.

o TakeabreakfromconstantnewsmonitoringaboutCOVID-19
o Takecareofyourbody,eathealthy,getsomephysicalactivity,andenoughsleep.Deep

breathing, stretching and meditating helps. Take time to unwind and do activities that you enjoy. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling.

 She highlighted CALL2Talk a resource for emotional support and suicide prevention which can be accessed through 2-1-1.

The Importance of Social Distancing:

 Commissioner Bharel emphasized the importance of social distancing as a strategy to blunt the spread and severity of COVID-19 in the community.

The Department of Public Health release new educational resources, including:

o AnewSocialDistancingInfographic o Anexplainervideo

SBA Approves Massachusetts Disaster Declaration

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Massachusetts small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available following a request received from Governor Charlie Baker on March 17, 2020.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Massachusettsand the contiguous counties in neighboring states.

Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years, and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or emaildisastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 18, 2020.

On March 16,2020, the Baker-Polito Administration announced a $10 Million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, and the administration remains in ongoing discussions across state government and with federal partners to determine what resources can be made available to small businesses and non-profits as they contend with the negative effects of this public health emergency.

The administration will continue to update the public on further developments and individuals are encouraged to consult both the Department of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for the most up to date information.

The latest information and guidance regarding COVID-19 is always available at mass.gov/COVID19.