Legislature Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill Including Emergency Paid Sick Leave Championed By Senator Lewis

The Massachusetts House and Senate last month finalized a COVID-19 relief package to assist workers and small businesses as they continue to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The comprehensive legislation includes unemployment insurance rate relief for businesses, tax relief for unemployed workers and businesses that received federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, an extension to the income tax filing deadline, and new emergency paid sick leave benefits for workers.

The emergency paid sick leave provision included within the bill was based on legislation filed last year by Senator Jason Lewis and Representatives Paul Donato and Sean Garballey to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“No worker should have to choose between staying home if they risk spreading COVID-19 and earning a paycheck to support their family, but unfortunately this impossible choice faces many workers who do not have adequate job-protected paid sick leave during this pandemic, especially low-income essential workers,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “I’m very pleased that emergency paid sick time is included within this legislation, and grateful to my colleagues, the Raise Up coalition and business leaders for working collaboratively to make this possible.”

“Giving working people access to up to 40 hours of paid time off if they contract the virus, need to quarantine, or care for a family member affected by COVID will bring defeating this virus within reach,” said Chris Condon, Political Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509 and a member of the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition. “The strong advocacy of our grassroots coalition of community organizations, faith-based groups, and labor unions and the consistent leadership of Senator Lewis and Representatives Donato and Garballey mean that this important measure will soon be available to Massachusetts working people and their loved ones.”

Employers will be required to provide emergency paid sick time to employees who are unable to work due to the coronavirus, including those who are self-isolating; receiving medical treatment or an immunization; recovering from a disability due to COVID-19; complying with a quarantine order; caring for a family member including a domestic partner; or are unable to telework due to COVID-19. The bill also establishes a COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Fund, which will be administered by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and used to reimburse eligible employers for providing emergency paid sick leave to their employees.

The relief package includes a two-year unemployment insurance (UI) rate freeze for employers to mitigate the impact of a scheduled April rate increase. It also waives state taxes on forgiven federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans as well as federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

In addition to mitigating the scheduled UI rate increase, the bill authorizes up to $7 billion in low-interest borrowing to repay federal UI loans and includes a temporary two-year employer assessment to ensure the state’s UI Trust Fund remains solvent.

The bill also provides tax relief for lower-income workers who collected unemployment benefits in 2020 and 2021; these individuals can deduct the first $10,200 in unemployment compensation received in both calendar years. The bill prohibits the Department of Revenue from imposing any tax penalties for 2020 based solely on a failure to remit taxes on unemployment compensation. Taxpayers who have already been assessed the penalty will receive an abatement.

Finally, the bill creates a special commission to study and develop recommendations for the long-term solvency of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, with a report due by December 15, 2021.

The legislation now awaits action by Governor Charlie Baker, who is expected to sign the bill into law soon.

Senator Lewis Accepting Applications for Summer 2021 State House Internships

Senator Jason Lewis is looking for civic-minded individuals interested in a summer internship in his State House office. State Senator Jason Lewis proudly represents the people of the Fifth Middlesex District of Massachusetts, which includes the cities and towns of Malden, Melrose, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, and parts of Winchester. He currently serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, and he has been a leader in shaping public policy on a range of issues important to his district, region and the state, including education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for all. 

Interns will have the unique opportunity to experience policymaking, politics and government from the inside. Although unpaid, interns will obtain meaningful experience by witnessing and participating in the day-to-day functioning of a State Senate office. Due to Covid-19 precautions, operations may occur remotely for part or all of the duration of the internship. 

Interns will report mainly to Sarah Zeiberg, Constituent Affairs Director, and will be responsible for assisting with a variety of tasks, ranging from constituent correspondence to legislative research to database management to communications and social media projects. In addition, interns may have the opportunity to attend events, hearings, and meetings in the State House. Interns in Senator Lewis’ office will gain the satisfaction of serving the Commonwealth and will be able to add valuable experience to their resume. 

Interns must have excellent written and verbal communication skills and a high level of attention to detail. Candidates must also be comfortable with Microsoft Office, Google applications, and major social media platforms. Preference will be given to college students and young adults, but high school students will also be considered. Applications from the Fifth Middlesex District are strongly encouraged. Summer internships generally span from May to August. Hours are negotiable, ranging from 10-14 hours per week. 

Candidates with a particular interest in communications, public relations, graphic design, video production or social media should indicate so in their application. 

Our office does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, genetic information, or age. Applicants of color strongly encouraged to apply.  

Candidates should send a resume, brief letter of interest, and writing sample to Sarah.Zeiberg@masenate.gov by Monday, April 19, 2021. References should be available upon request. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, so interested parties are encouraged to apply promptly. With questions, please call (617) 722-1206. 

Sen. Lewis Appointed to Leadership Roles

BOSTON—Last week, Senate President Karen Spilka appointed Senator Jason Lewis to several key leadership roles in the Massachusetts Senate, including Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and Vice Chair of the new Senate Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished last session, particularly the passage of the landmark Student Opportunity Act,” said Senator Jason Lewis about his work leading the Education Committee. “I look forward to continuing our work with educators, parents, students and other stakeholders to support and strengthen our schools and early education providers as we recover from the pandemic.

“I’m also looking forward to serving as Vice Chair of the new Senate Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency,” Lewis continued. “This committee will help inform and guide the Senate’s efforts to foster a more equitable, just and resilient Commonwealth for all.”

The 2021-2022 legislative session began last month. Senator Lewis has served in the Massachusetts Senate since 2014.

Senator Lewis Teams with Common Start Coalition to File Landmark Early Education and Child Care Legislation

BOSTON – Today, Senator Jason Lewis and the Common Start Coalition announced the filing of new legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all Massachusetts families, over a 5-year timeline. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how essential early education and child care is to working families and to our economy. Momentum is building for state action to ensure that all families have access to the child care solutions they need and that all children in our Commonwealth have the same, strong start and enter school on a level playing field.

“More than 150 years ago, with the vision and leadership of Horace Mann, Massachusetts pioneered the revolutionary idea that K-12 education should be a public good, accessible to all children and families,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and co-lead sponsor of the bill. “Now it is time for the Commonwealth to once again lead our nation by establishing that high quality early education and child care should also be a public good. This investment would yield tremendous benefits for child development and working families, and help foster a stronger, more just economy for all.”

The Common Start legislation, filed by State Senators Jason Lewis and Susan Moran and State Representatives Ken Gordon and Adrian Madaro, would establish a universal system that would cover early education and care for children from birth through age 5, as well as after- and out-of-school time for children ages 5-12, and for children with special needs through age 15.

Programs would be available in early education and child care centers, private homes, and schools – the same settings where early education and child care is provided now. The bill provides a framework to increase the scope of public investment in early education and child care with an incremental roll-out over 5 years that prioritizes the lowest-income, highest-need families.

“Community, faith-based, labor, and business advocates joined together with early educators, parents, and providers to form the Common Start Coalition in 2018 because we all know that universal access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care is critical to building a stronger, more equal and just Massachusetts,” said Deb Fastino, Executive Director of the Coalition for Social Justice and Statewide Director of the Common Start Coalition. “We’ve spent the last two years convening an expansive coalition, researching, organizing, and developing policy options. Now, at a time of unprecedented crisis for families, children, businesses, and our entire economy, we’re moving to the next stage of the campaign, filing landmark legislation that would put Massachusetts on the expressway to affordable, high-quality early education and child care for all. As we recover from the pandemic, making this generational investment in children, families, providers, and early educators will help combat racial and gender inequities, reduce income inequality, and jumpstart our economy; it’s the single best investment we can make in Massachusetts’ future.”

The Common Start legislation would dramatically increase the affordability and quality of early education and child care for all Massachusetts families. The bill’s framework uses a combination of direct-to-provider funding and ongoing family financial assistance to reduce costs to families while compensating providers for the true cost of providing quality care.

  • Bedrock Funding: The legislation would create a new direct-to-provider funding allocation based on provider capacity (not attendance) that directly offsets provider’s operating costs, including higher educator pay.
  • Family Subsidy: Once fully implemented, families below 50% of statewide median income (50% of SMI today is $62,668 for a family of four, or $42,614 for a single parent with one child) would be able to access early education and child care options for free. Families with incomes above that threshold would pay no more than 7 percent of their total household income.

Public opinion research demonstrates broad support for a universal system of affordable high-quality early education and child care. In a poll of 800 Massachusetts voters conducted in early December by Beacon Research for the Common Start Coalition, 64% of Massachusetts voters favored the coalition’s legislative proposal, while only 23% opposed it. Support for the legislation is widespread, with a majority of all regional, gender, age, education, ethnic/racial, and income groups in the poll supporting the proposal.

While Massachusetts is a nationwide leader on early education and child care and we’ve made important progress in recent years, the current system remains broken and access to quality early education and child care remains out of reach or far too expensive for many families.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how critical early education and child care is for Massachusetts families, for children, for businesses, and for the entire Massachusetts economy. Without safe access to affordable, high-quality early education and child care, parents and other caregivers are either unable to work, or struggle to balance work with caring for their children. And our entire economy suffers as businesses struggle to reopen and recover because the workforce lacks early education and child care options, or because the productivity of their employees is compromised.

Failure to address the child care crisis now will take its toll on the next generation: when denied access to high-quality early education and child care, vulnerable children miss out on the learning environments, structure, and stability that help set them up for education success, optimal earnings, and long-term health and wellbeing. Ensuring that all children have access to high quality early education and care is how we prevent achievement gaps from widening and health disparities from worsening.

“Access to affordable early education and care is foundational to parents’ economic opportunity, to family financial security, and to setting children up to thrive,” said Lauren Kennedy, Co-Founder of Neighborhood Villages. “This is a watershed moment for Massachusetts: making universal affordable child care and early education a reality for all families is how we make good on our collective commitments to improving racial, gender, and economic equality. This is our chance to lead the nation in ensuring that families have the care solutions they deserve and that children have equal access to education.”

The new legislative push for state action on early education and child care is led by the Common Start Coalition, a statewide partnership of organizations, providers, parents, early educators and advocates. The coalition, established in 2018, includes more than 120 organizations across Massachusetts, and is coordinated by a steering committee made up of the Coalition for Social Justice, Greater Boston Legal Services, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the MA Association of Early Education and Care (MADCA), the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, the MA Commission on the Status of Women, Neighborhood Villages, Parenting Journey, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, SEIU Local 509, and Strategies for Children. The coalition has six regional chapters across the state that include local parents, early educators, providers, and other advocates. More information about the coalition is available at commonstartma.org.

State Legislature Passes Bill to Improve Healthcare Access And Affordability

Senator Jason Lewis recently joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House and Senate in voting to pass An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first. This legislation expands patient access to quality, affordable care in Massachusetts. The bill was signed into law by Governor Baker on January 1, 2021.

The bill ensures that telehealth services will continue to be available even after the pandemic is over; broadens the scope of practice for certain health care professionals; requires advance notice of a provider’s network status in order to avoid surprise medical bills for patients; and improves coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment. Also included in this legislation are two bills that were sponsored by Senator Lewis:

  • A bill to require health insurance coverage for all medically-necessary treatments for children suffering from PANDAS/PANS
  • A bill to add a nurse to the board of the state’s Health Policy Commission

“Access to high quality, affordable healthcare for all should be a basic human right,” said Senator Jason Lewis, who previously served as the Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee. “I’m thrilled that among many important provisions, like expanding access to telehealth, this legislation includes the bill I championed to ensure that children and families struggling with PANDAS/PANS will now have access to all necessary treatments. I’m very grateful to Melrose constituent Sheilah Gauch and her courageous family for helping lead the campaign that made this legislative victory possible.”

This comprehensive healthcare bill includes the following provisions:

  • Requires behavioral health treatment delivered via telehealth to be permanently reimbursed by insurers at the same rate as in-person services. A similar reimbursement structure will also be implemented for primary care and chronic disease management services delivered via telehealth for at least two years. The bill also includes an analysis of telehealth coverage and payment to inform future policy decisions.
  • Authorizes nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and psychiatric nurse mental health specialists to practice independently, provided that they meet certain education and training standards, and practice under physician supervision for at least two years.
  • Ensures that COVID-19 testing and treatment services are as widely accessible as possible, with critical services covered by insurance carriers at no cost to patients.
  • Increases protections for patients against the unfair practice of surprise medical billing for out-of-network services.
  • Requires insurance carriers to cover pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) and pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndromes (PANS), and establishes a PANDAS/PANS Advisory Council within the Department of Public Health
  • Provides additional financial assistance to certain community hospitals for two years to help mitigate the unprecedented financial challenges community hospitals continue to face during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Eliminates a barrier to participation in cancer clinical trials by allowing reimbursement for a cancer patient’s reasonable travel and accommodation expenses associated with participating in a cancer clinical trial
  • Eliminates a barrier to access urgent care services for low-income residents by ending the requirement that MassHealth patients first obtain a referral from a primary care provider before seeking care at an urgent care facility
  • Ensures that a registered nurse is a member of the Health Policy Commission’s board
  • Establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council

State Legislature Makes Major Investment in Transportation Infrastructure

Earlier this month, Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House and Senate in voting to authorize $16.5 billion for transportation infrastructure improvements. The bill was signed into law by Governor Baker on January 15, 2021.

“Investing in our transportation infrastructure is one of the best ways to help rebuild our economy from the ravages of the pandemic,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “This legislation will enable many improvements in our roads, bridges, and public transit in the coming years, making our transportation system safer, more reliable, and reducing pollution and carbon emissions.”

The new law authorizes capital spending for transportation projects across the Commonwealth. Major investments include $3 billion for transit system modernization, including MBTA buses and subways; $1.25 billion for the Next Generation Bridge program; and funding for key public transit projects like the Red Line-Blue Line Connector and South Coast Rail.

The legislation also includes new funding authorizations for programs that help our municipalities improve quality of life, including Complete Streets, Shared Streets and Spaces, and the new Municipal Pavement program. These initiatives all help improve pedestrian and bicycling safety, promote public transit use, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and stimulate downtown economic development.

Resources for Small Businesses During the COVID-19 Emergency

Last updated: 2/25/2020

Don’t know where to get started?

Mass Growth Capital Corporation Sector-Specific Relief Grant Program 

Click the link above to go to the website for full details. 

This grant is not first-come-first-serve. Once all application deadline has passed, MGCC reviews all applications and choses awardees based on eligibility criteria. 

A full list of eligibility requirements and documentation to be submitted with an application can be found here.

Paycheck Protection Program 

There will be a new round of PPP Loans, funded in the 12/27/2020 stimulus bill at $284 billion. You can apply for a new PPP loan, whether or not you received one before. You cannot get more than two PPP loans. 

The SBA has made PPP resources available in seventeen languages. You can find a list here.

Shuttered Venue Operator Grants (SVOG)

No application or application portal is available as of 2/24/21. The SBA has said that they will announce in advance when the application will open.

  • FAQ here
  • To apply for this grant you will need to have an account in SAM (Short for System of Award Management, typically used to award government contracts). 
    • This is an SBA webinar walking you through how to make an account
    • This is a link to the slides from that webinar 

Economic Injury Disaster Loans & Grants

The program has re-opened with the following update: 

When EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) grants were passed by Congress, they allowed for a $10,000 “Advance” to be treated as a grant, not a loan. The SBA unilaterally scaled back that grant to only be $1,000 for each employee, counteracting congressional intent. This addresses that issue.

  • Businesses in low-income communities that received an EIDL can get a grant equal to the difference of what they received and $10,000.   
  • Eligible businesses in low-income communities that did not get EIDL/Advance grants because funds had run out can now get $10,000.

Also, if you previously received both an EIDL Advance grant and a PPP loan, you had to deduct the advance from your PPP forgiveness amount. You now no longer have to deduct that amount from PPP forgiveness.

Applicants may call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard?of?hearing may call 1-800-877-8339. 

Employee Retention Tax Credit in the CARES Act

The federal CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, is designed to encourage Eligible Employers to keep employees on their payroll, despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19, with an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit).

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to pay sick or family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain circumstances related to COVID-19. Employers are entitled to a refundable tax credit for the required leave paid, up to specified limits. The same wages cannot be counted for both credits.

Here is a comprehensive FAQ on the tax credit. 

Reopening

  • This is the Massachusetts State reopening landing page
  • Click here to access a communication form that:
    • outlines a process for reporting a non-compliant business; and
    • allows for the submission of questions and comments about the reopening plan.
  • Click here for information on protective supplies and sanitation in the workplace.
  • Guidance for Medical Office Practices from the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety
  • The FDA has published best practices for safe food service and employee health.

Personal Protective Equipment Resources

  • Resources for those in need of PPE, as well as an FAQ
  • Guidance for those looking to adapt their business to produce PPE
  • Resources for those looking to sell or donate PPE to Massachusetts response efforts
  • A link to request PPE, for those who need it
  • For nonprofits and human service organizations, this is guidance for requesting PPE through MEMA 

Unemployment Resources

 

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If you have further questions or need assistance, please contact Senator Lewis at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or (617) 722-1206. 

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Resources for Residents During the COVID-19 Emergency

Last updated: 2/24/2021

Important Tips from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) 

  • Wear a cloth face mask when you are within six feet of other people
  • Stay six feet away from others when at all possible
  • Wash your hands often
  • Answer any calls with the prefix (833) or (857). The Community Tracing Collaborative may be trying to reach you to inform you that you have had contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19

Network of Care Massachusetts has created a COVID-19 Behavioral Health Information Hub, which compiles resources on more than a dozen topics, including Mental Health, Substance Use, Health Insurance, Housing and Shelter, Food Assistance, Financial Security, Domestic Violence, and Suicide Prevention, among others.

Vaccine resources

Local Information and Resources 

Local bulletins and important municipal updates for each community

Unemployment resources

This is the Massachusetts state landing page for updates to DUA benefits, following the 12/27/2020 stimulus bill.

Other resources: 

  • If you have filed for unemployment, answer any calls coming from (617) 626-6800, the number for the DUA call center. They are trying to help resolve your claim. 
  • Here you can find multilingual options for the official Massachusetts unemployment guide.
  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits and Returning to Work: a guide for workers
  • On 5/14/2020 our office held a town hall with Secretary Rosalyn Acosta of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. You can watch a recording of that call here. It addresses a number of questions, including:
    • Are workers under 18 eligible for unemployment? Yes, they are eligible for PUA
    • If you are currently receiving UI but your benefit is about to expire, do you need to apply for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension? No, PEUC, the extra 13 weeks of benefits provided by the CARES Act, will automatically be added to the term of your benefits. There is no additional or different application process. 
    • I am an independent contractor and I routinely do work for companies in Rhode Island and New Hampshire in addition to Massachusetts. Can I still get PUA? Yes. You can apply for PUA in one state where you earn income, and you can count toward your claim income you have earned in other states. You may not apply for benefits in multiple states.
    • Can I have taxes withheld from my weekly PUA benefit? No. In order to stand up the system as quickly as was done, some functionality was excluded, including the opportunity to withhold taxes from your benefit. Your benefit will still be taxed as income, and DUA will provide the appropriate paperwork for this in the coming months. 
    • I am still employed, but I or a family member I care for have been sick with COVID-19 long enough that I have used up all of my earned sick, vacation, and holiday time. Can I apply for unemployment until I or my loved one is recovered? Yes, you are eligible either for regular UI under the emergency regulations, or if you are a gig worker/1099/did not earn sufficient income in 2019 to qualify for UI, you can apply for PUA. 

Resources for food and housing security

  • If you don’t know where you are getting your next meal:
      • School lunch programs: Schools are still providing free lunch to children who typically receive it in-school. You can find more information in the following links on Malden, Melrose, Reading, Wakefield, and Winchester, and for Stoneham email Superintendent John Macero at jmacero@stonehamschools.org 
      • Apply for  SNAP: Applicants for SNAP are encouraged to follow online instructions, as staff members are overwhelmed by the number of calls. Offices are closed for in-person visits.
        • A link to the Mass Law Reform Institute’s SNAP FAQ on suspension of the ABAWD time limit/work rules, in English & Spanish.
        • FAQs on SNAP during COVID-19 covering a wide variety of issues and concerns from Mass Legal Services, in English and Spanish.
      • Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline number is 1-800-645-8333. They provide free food assistance for all Massachusetts residents 
  • If you are concerned about losing your housing
  • For general financial assistance
    • Information on student loans deferment and interest during Covid-19.
    • Flexible cash assistance through the COVID-19 Family Support Fund from the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  
    • For information about federal Economic Impact Payments (stimulus checks), you can visit the IRS EIP Information Center, where you will also find an FAQ on the subject. 
      • They also provide a “Get My Payment” tool to help people track the status of their payments, and an extensive FAQ for this tool on the same page. 
  • The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has compiled a map of public resources during the pandemic, such as food banks, houses of worship and Project Bread site locations.

Healthcare, mental health and wellness resources

    • If you need health insurance or have experienced a job change and no longer have health insurance through work, apply through the Massachusetts Health Connector. Here is more information from Health Connector, including for those who are recently unemployed.  
      • If you already have health insurance coverage through the Health Connector, make sure to return to your application to update all changes in circumstances to ensure that you are receiving the most appropriate benefits. Even if you have not received financial assistance in the past, you may be newly eligible for subsidies that could lower your monthly health insurance premium.
      • Additional resources for Health Connector can be found here and here
  • Access to telehealth, including full coverage telehealth for medically necessary services related to COVID-19. 
      • If you are concerned that you may have Covid-19, you can use this Buoy Health website to screen your symptoms and connect with a provider via telehealth. 
  • For behavioral & emotional health:
  • Resources for domestic violence and suecide prevention:
    • National Domestic Violence hotline: (800) 799-7233; TTY 1 (800) 787-3225 
    • The Trial Court has compiled COVID-19 resources for abuse and harassment prevention orders 
    • National Suecide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
    • Call the SafeLink Hotline, 877-785-2020, to be connected with your local domestic violence program. 
      • In Senator Lewis’ district that program is RESPOND, which you can reach at 617-623-5900. RESPOND is providing risk assessment, safety planning, individual support, flex funds (e.g., for cab fare, changing locks, etc.) and other services and referrals as needed. 

Substance Use Disorder resources 

Resources for parents & caregivers

  • If you are looking for help with educational resources:
      • For parents whose children are learning remotely, Department of Education, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, and your local library are all eager to provide you with teaching material and tools
      • The Department of Early Education and Care has partnered with WGBH to create a website of educational resources for children from birth to five years old.
      • Jumpstart has free online resources for grades K-5, including math, social studies, science, and more. Learn more here
  • For help talking to your child about COVID-19
  • Emotional supports for you and your children
    • The Children’s Room is available to support children and teens age 3.5-18 who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling. All grief support services are free of charge. You can reach out through their website or call 781-641-4741
    • The Children’s Trust has compiled a list of online playgroups and parenting support groups, as well as more parenting resources and supports here
    • Parental Stress Line, from Parents Helping Parents. Trained volunteer counselors offer non-judgemental ways to relieve stress relating to their children and parenting. Multiple languages spoken. Call 800-632-8188. Learn more  

Resources for Seniors

Resources for Veterans 

  • Veterans can still access Chapter 115 benefits by calling their local VSO. 
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 
  • MA Dept of Veterans Services S.A.V.E. Team: 1-888-844-2838 
  • Homeless Veterans Hotline:  1-888-866-2838 

Multilingual resources & resources for immigrants

  • General resource, or lists of resources
  • Unemployment
  • SNAP/food security 
      • A variety of SNAP COVID-19 FAQs for newly unemployed households, and about the SNAP supplement, in English and Spanish.
      • A link to the Mass Law Reform Institute’s SNAP FAQ on suspension of the ABAWD time limit/work rules, in English & Spanish.
  • For immigrants and refugees
    • Helpful materials on “public charge” concerns.

Regulatory & licensure resources

General & miscellaneous resources

  • General resources/resource guides
    • Resource page from U.S. Senator Ed Markey.
    • Mass.gov/Covid19 is the Commonwealth’s comprehensive landing page for news updates and resources. You can also call 2-1-1 to reach the state’s COVID-19 hotline or text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 for SMS updates from state authorities.
    • CDC.gov/coronavirus is the federal government’s comprehensive landing page for news updates and resources. 
      • Multilingual CDC resources are located here.
  • Our office has also made a Small Business & Nonprofit Resource Guide
  • Information and tools regarding civil legal issues from Mass Legal Help 
  • An FAQ on mass.gov on personal protective equipment, and links for:

If you have further questions or need assistance, please contact Senator Lewis at Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov or (617) 722-1206. 

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Special Commission Established to Redesign Massachusetts State Seal & Flag

On January 6, 2021, the Massachusetts State Senate and House of Representatives enacted legislation sponsored by Senator Jason Lewis that establishes a special commission to study and redesign the Massachusetts state seal and motto in an effort to make it more inclusive and historically representational. The measure was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on January 11, 2021.

“Our collective symbols of identity matter, and if they marginalize some of our fellow residents and perpetuate harmful stereotypes, they should be replaced,” said Senator Jason Lewis, the lead sponsor of the legislation. “I want to thank former Representative Byron Rushing, former Executive Director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs John ‘Slow Turtle’ Peters, and many other Native leaders and allies for championing this legislation for many years.”

The current state seal, adopted in 1898, prominently features a Native American figure. Historical records show that figure is a composite based on a portrait of a Native American chief from the Chippewa tribe —which is primarily located in Montana and the Dakotas, not Massachusetts. Above his head is an arm holding a colonial-era broadsword believed to be the sword of Myles Standish, a Plymouth Colony military commander known in part for killing Native Americans. The Native American holds a downward pointed arrow that has been interpreted as signifying the pacification of the native population.

Indigenous activists and others have long viewed this seal and the state flag (which contains the seal) as racist, and have advocated for its change for many years. The original version of this bill was first filed in 1985 by former State Representative Byron Rushing, a prominent Boston civil rights leader.

“We are so happy that the Massachusetts Legislature has finally taken a first step toward repairing the harm done to Indigenous people,” said Mahtowin Munro from United American Indians of New England (UAINE). “We look forward to working with them further to enact other important legislation in the new legislative session that addresses Native American issues.”

“The Network for Social Justice is so excited to see this groundbreaking legislation realized 35 years after it was first introduced by former Rep. Byron Rushing. We are honored to have played a small role in this legislative process spearheaded by Senator Lewis and Senator Comerford, in collaboration with the long running advocacy of Mass Peace Action and the work of the MA Indigenous Legislative Agenda coalition,” said Liora Norwich, Executive Director of the Winchester-based Network for Social Justice. “We hope that the passing of this bill will serve as a platform from which we can collectively tackle other symbolic and structural forms of White Supremacy Culture throughout Massachusetts.”

The members of the special commission will include:

  • The executive director of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs or a designee
  • The Massachusetts Secretary of State or a designee
  • The executive director of the Massachusetts Historical Commission or a designee
  • The executive director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities or a designee
  • The executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council or a designee
  • The House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight
  • The House and Senate minority leaders or designees
  • Five members to be appointed by the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs who are descendants of tribes with a historical presence in the Commonwealth
  • Five members to be appointed by the Governor with relevant cultural and historical expertise

The commission is charged with making recommendations for a revised or new design of the seal and a revised or new motto by October 1, 2021.

Sweeping COVID Recovery & Affordable Housing Bill Signed into Law

Prioritizes small business relief, support for workers, and housing development

On Wednesday, January 2, 2021, Senator Jason Lewis voted with the Massachusetts Legislature to pass $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill which will provide much-needed support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth provides the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will provide support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, establishing protections for student loan borrowers, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development in our communities.

“This new law will help Massachusetts recover from the pandemic by investing more than $600 million in a wide range of programs that support communities, small businesses, job growth, and affordable housing development,” said Senator Jason Lewis. “These critical investments and policy reforms will be an important part of planning a strong and equitable post-pandemic recovery for the state economy and all our residents.”

The bill includes the following bonding authorizations and policy changes.

COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery

Bonding Authorizations

  • $30 million for the state’s COVID-19 Payroll Protection Program
  • $20 million for restaurant COVID-19 recovery grants

Policy Changes

  • Limits fees charged by third-party delivery services for restaurants to 15% during the COVID-19 state of emergency; prohibits third-party delivery service companies from reducing rates for delivery drivers or garnishing gratuities as result of the limitation
  • Creates a commission to examine and make recommendations on addressing the recovery of the cultural and creative sector, including the arts, humanities and sciences, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

Housing

Bonding Authorizations

  • $40 million for a program to redevelop blighted buildings
  • $50 million for transit-oriented housing developments
  • $10 million for climate-resilient affordable housing developments
  • $5 million for a Gateway Cities housing program

Policy Changes

  • Implements zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority
  • Requires designated MBTA communities to be zoned for at least one district of reasonable size, in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and requires such housing to be suitable for families with children
  • Increases the state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000

Employee protections, business growth, and equity

Bonding Authorizations

  • $35 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation matching grant program to community development financial institutions for small business loans and grants
  • $27.7 million for a new Employment Social Enterprise Capital Grant Program
  • $20 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation small business grant program
  • $14M million for travel and tourism grants
  • $10 million for regional and community assistance planning grants

Policy Changes

  • Enables, via local option, the creation of tourism destination marketing districts (“TDMDs”), made up of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, for the purpose of generating local revenue dedicated solely for the promotion and marketing of specific regions of the Commonwealth
  • Amends the statutory definition of wait staff employee to include a person in a quick service restaurant who prepares or serves food or beverages as part of a team of counter staff
  • Provides that the taking of family or medical leave shall not affect an employee’s right to accrue vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length-of-service credit or other employment benefits, plans or programs
  • Exempts natural hair braiding from the definition of hairdressing, and exempts natural hair braiding from rules and regulations pertaining to aesthetics, barbering, cosmetology, electrolysis, hairdressing and manicuring
  • Encourages the PRIM Board to use minority investment managers to manage PRIT Fund assets, where appropriate, and to increase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of Fund investments
  • Establishes a commission of experts, industry members, academics, and elected officials to research and propose policy solutions that ensure the future and sustainability of local journalism in Massachusetts

Student protections

  • Establishes a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights regulating the licensing and operation of student loan servicers by the Commissioner of Banks
  • Creates a Student Loan Ombudsman within the Office of the Attorney General for the purpose of receiving, reviewing and assisting in the resolution of complaints from student loan borrowers; authorizes the Ombudsman to assist with repayment options, applying for federal loan forgiveness programs, ending wage and tax refund garnishments, resolving billing disputes, and obtaining loan details

Technology and innovation

Bonding Authorizations

  • $52 million for the Technology Research and Development and Innovation Fund
  • $15 million for lottery IT infrastructure
  • $10 million for the expansion of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2)
  • $5 million for the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund

Policy Changes

  • Creates a special commission on the future of work to conduct a comprehensive study relative to the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, global trade, access to new forms of data and the internet of things on the workforce, businesses and economy.
  • Clarifies that carsharing platforms may obtain insurance coverage from non-admitted carrier and that carsharing platforms do not need their own insurance-producer or broker licenses to offer or maintain insurance policies for carsharing vehicles or drivers.

Other bonding authorizations include

  • $102,304,000 for local economic development projects;
  • $12.5 million for the Commonwealth Zoological Corporation;
  • $15 million for trial court virtual mediation services;
  • $6 million for Massachusetts Cultural Council grants;
  • $5 million for Mass Cultural Council public school grants;
  • $20 million for Mass Cultural Council cultural facilities grants;
  • $15 million for vocational technical school expansion grants; and
  • $15 million for higher education workforce grants.