COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update

June 4, 2020

  • As of Tuesday night, DPH reported a total of 101,592 cases of COVID-19.  The state has now confirmed a total of 7,152 deaths from the virus.
  • Protests continued throughout the Commonwealth yesterday, including Boston, Fitchburg Framingham and Springfield.
  • The protest on Boston Common drew more than a thousand people but remained peaceful.
  • Governor Baker on Wednesday again reiterated his belief that people have the right to protest and said he has no intention of curtailing large demonstrations over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
  • Governor Baker will make an additional announcement on the timing of the implementation of Phase 2 on Saturday, June 6th.
  • With Massachusetts in the final month of the fiscal year, state budget officials are looking at a balance sheet that shows tax revenues coming in $2.253 billion short of expectations for the year, an 8.3 percent drop that might have to be covered with reserves or federal bailouts.
  • The Department of Revenue on Wednesday released its May revenue report that showed tax collections of $1.74 billion missing the monthly target by $320 million and reflecting a $262 million, or 13.1 percent, decrease from last May.
  • Over the first 11 months of the fiscal year, the state has now collected $24.78 billion of the $30.29 billion in taxes budgeted for the fiscal year with just one month left until fiscal 2021 begins on July 1.
  • The 6.5 percent decline from the fiscal 2019 has been largely caused by the economic shutdowns put in place to cope with the spread of COVID-19.
  • Other factors contributing to steep fall in tax revenues over the past two months include decisions to postpone the personal income tax filing deadline to July 15 and extend payment deadlines for regular sales, meals and other taxes until June 20.
  • Every category of taxes was down in May, except withholding and estimated income taxes.
  • Regular sales taxes were down 12.2 percent from last year, and meals taxes were down 60.7 percent, with restaurants limited to take-out and delivery service.
  • On Tuesday the Senate adopted a new version of the municipal governance legislation, S.2733, which is now back before the House.
  • The legislation would ease restrictions on certain special municipal funds, allow the state education commissioner to issue emergency educator licenses, and allow municipal elections originally scheduled before June 30 to be rescheduled past July 31.
  • Representative town meetings would also be able to institute reduced quorums.
  • The next session is scheduled for Thursday morning.
  • The House on Wednesday debated legislation addressing early voting and voting by mail and passed legislation dealing with restaurant operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The House passed the restaurant legislation (H4767) on Wednesday that extends a means of survival to eateries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The legislation would also cap third-party delivery service fees and waive interest and penalties on late meals tax payments.
  • The House adopted changes addressing sealed containers for to-go drinks and a definition of delivery fees.
  • Shortly after House Elections Committee Chairman John Lawn finished his opening speech in support of mail in voting legislation, H4768, lawmakers abruptly halted their session out of respect for peaceful demonstrations occurring Wednesday on Boston Common.
  • Citing logistical concerns associated with traffic as a result of the protest, Rep. Paul Donato (D-Medford) informed House members they would return Thursday to continue work on the bill.
  • The vote-by-mail bill drew 26 amendments and legislators managed to get through three of them before leaving the building; most members were not in the House chamber but were participating in the session remotely.
  • The legislation would direct Secretary of State William Galvin to send applications for a mail-in ballot to every registered voter by July 15.
  • Expanded in-person early voting options prior to the September primary and November general elections are also included in the bill.
  • The House meets next in a formal session on Thursday at 11 a.m.
  • More than four dozen nursing homes were flagged for concerning results in at least one category of a COVID-19 audit conducted in late May, the Baker administration announced Wednesday, adding that dozens more that previously received similar warnings fared well on follow-up investigations.
  • EOHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders said 49 of the 230 nursing homes audited between May 18 and May 29 “remain in the red,” indicating they failed to meet one or more core measures of competency for responding to the highly infectious virus that has swept through facilities across the state.
  • Improper use of personal protective equipment was the most common issue within nursing homes through the first two rounds of audits.
  • Another 180 facilities passed the inspection by scoring at least a 24 on the 28-point checklist to prevent infections, while one other was in adherence but still warrants reinspection.
  • Secretary Sudders said facilities that consistently rate poorly on the inspections and may endanger residents “will not be eligible for continued enhanced funding and subject to additional consequences, including potential termination from Medicaid receivership and other sanctions.”
  • Wednesday’s announcement covered the second of four rounds of audits the administration launched to track how well Massachusetts nursing homes are preventing COVID-19 risks.
  • All 132 facilities that were not in compliance in the first audit were tested again in the second round.

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