COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update

April 3, 2020

  • Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito were both on hand at Logan International Airport when the New England Patriots team plane loaded up with 1.2 million N95 masks for workers on the front line of fighting the coronavirus epidemic landed in Boston.  In addition to providing masks to healthcare workers in Massachusetts, they will also be given to the state of Rhode Island and New York City.
  • Governor Baker announced Thursday that the state is closing the parking lots at beaches managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation “to reduce large concentrations of people at beaches during the COVID-19 outbreak.”  The beaches themselves will remain open “to pedestrians for transitory use only (walking, jogging, biking, solitary fishing, etc.)”  The order is attached.
  • The unemployment rate will likely rise at least as high as it did in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said Wednesday.
  • In Massachusetts, a record 181,062 people filed initial claims during the week ending March 28, about a 22 percent increase over the prior week, according to advance non-seasonally adjusted data the Department of Labor published Thursday.
  • That new level immediately breaks the record set just one week earlier. During the week ending March 21, 148,452 Bay State residents submitted initial claims, roughly 20 times as many as the 7,449 who submitted such claims in the week ending March 14.
  • Governor Baker said Thursday that the state’s coronavirus model anticipates the greatest surge in patients between April 10 and April 20, and that as many as 172,000 residents could become infected during the pandemic.
  • The Governor said that the state’s model shows “somewhere between 47,000 and 172,000 cases during the course of the pandemic,” which he said would be equivalent to between 0.7 and 2.5 percent of the total population of the state.
  • The Massachusetts Health Connector board unanimously approved a bylaw change that will allow the authority to support efforts to trace the contacts of people confirmed to have the highly contagious virus.
  • Governor Baker said state officials would talk about contact tracing on Friday at his daily press briefing.
  • On Friday, the Cannabis Control Commission meets virtually and will discuss possible relief for marijuana businesses
  • Both legislative branches met on Thursday for extended sessions moving a number of important pieces of legislation.
  • The House and Senate did strike a final agreement after several days of back-and-forth on a municipal governance bill that includes a postponement of the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 and would allow restaurants to sell take-out beer and wine.
  • That bill, is now headed to the governor for his signature and all indications are it will be law by this weekend.
  • The House enacted a COVID-19 response bill (H 4598) that would delay the state personal income tax filing deadline and allow licensed restaurants to sell takeout beer and wine with food orders.
  • The House also passed legislation (H 4615) putting a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures until 30 days after the Governor lifts the ongoing state of emergency, and approved a bill (H 4616) that would authorize changes to the state’s high school standardized testing requirements. Both of these measures still need Senate approval.
  • The House also processed nine orders that push out deadlines for committees to make recommendations on bills.
  • The Senate pushed an important COVID-19 bill to the governor’s desk. The bill as enacted includes a three-month extension for state personal income tax filings, allows licensed restaurants to sell takeout beer and wine during the current shutdown, and allows nonprofit and corporate boards of directors to meet virtually during the emergency declaration. It also makes a series of changes to give cities and towns flexibility around town meetings, tax payments and permits.
  • Also Thursday, senators passed a bill to provide additional unemployment insurance relief during the pandemic, both to laid-off workers and to employers. This legislation still needs House approval.
  • The branches are back in session on Monday morning at 11am.
  • Sessions continue to be live streamed.
  • Legislative and Baker administration officials will convene a virtual hearing next week to revisit revenue assumptions and work to develop new projections for state budgeting amid what one top lawmaker called a “dire and unprecedented” financial climate due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Ways and Means Committee chairs in both branches and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance announced the April 7 event on Tuesday.
  • House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues, and Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan will host the event in the State House’s Room 428. Experts will be invited to testify in person or via audio or video conference, and those who do attend will practice social distancing, organizers said. The hearing will be livestreamed.
  • As of Thursday night, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has climbed to 8,966 with 813 being hospitalized and 154 deaths attributed to the virus.

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