COVID-19 Massachusetts State House Update 4-2-2020

April 2, 2020

  • The Governor also issued a new guidance document making changes to the essential business list that is based on the Federal DHS/CISA guidance.
  • He also issued new guidance on hotels and other lodging establishments in the Commonwealth.
  • The updated executive order closing all non-essential businesses does not exempt shops selling recreational marijuana, and he doesn’t plan to lift restrictions on those businesses early.
  • Gun shops and shooting ranges will not be allowed to open under the latest order to keep all non-essential businesses closed through May 4th.
  • The orders are all attached.  If after reviewing you have questions on potential impacts to your business you should contact me directly.
  • According to Politico, a New England Patriots plane full of much-needed PPE from China is flying into Boston today.
  • Governor Baker has projected a surge will arrive in Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17. He said during a Wednesday press conference at the DCU Center that testing for the virus is a “key part” of determining where resources will be needed.
  • In addition to the DCU Center and the BCEC, Governor Baker said state officials are involved “basically in daily conversations” about other sites that could provide extra hospital beds and skilled nursing capacity. They’re looking at capacity regionally and that he’s expecting dormitories and hotels in part of the state to be used for a variety of purposes relating to the coronavirus.
  • The plan to free up hundreds of beds at Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Facility in Worcester for the treatment of patients infected with the coronavirus hit a snag when “several” residents tested positive for COVID-19 as they were being prepared to be moved.
  • Massachusetts has been granted major disaster declaration status which will provide additional federal reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses including the expansion of unemployment insurance payments.
  • The roughly $1 billion Massachusetts is set to receive in federal public transit emergency aid will be a “lifeline” to keep agencies rattled by the coronavirus pandemic afloat during uncertain months, advocates say.  A $2 trillion coronavirus relief package President Donald Trump signed Friday includes $25 billion in grants for mass transit, about $1 billion of which will be directed to the Bay State using existing formulas, according to one lawmaker and an outside expert.
  • Direct deposit payments to qualifying Americans could start as soon as April 6 and states should receive additional guidance on expanding unemployment eligibility “within the next few days,” Congresswoman Katherine Clark told reporters Wednesday.
  • No firm timeline for debate on the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget has been announced.
  • House Ways & Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz has previously said it is was highly unlikely the House will complete work on its version of the spending bill in April as is standard.
  • House Speaker DeLeo and Rep. Kate Hogan, told lawmakers they are investigating two possibilities: meeting in formal sessions later in the year than July 31, which would require a suspension of joint House-Senate rules, and holding formal sessions virtually with remote voting.
  • Remote sessions, however, are believed to pose greater challenges with leaders unsure if such a plan is allowed under the state constitution.
  • Representative Hogan is leading the effort to understand the constitutional implications with help from legislative counsel.
  • 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.
  • The Senate on Wednesday continued to adjust language in the latest COVID-19 response bill, the sole bill to be taken up during a quick session, adopting another new draft and sending the legislation back to the House, which did not meet Wednesday. The bill includes provisions for restaurants to provide takeout wine and beer, extend the personal income tax filing deadline to July 15, and offer nonprofit boards the option to meet remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate did not take up a COVID-19 housing security bill. After Wednesday’s session, Senate Ways & Means Chairman Mike Rodrigues aid the goal is to get it over the finish line on Thursday, when both branches are scheduled to hold sessions.
  • A legal aid advocacy group flagged concerns Wednesday that a housing security bill advancing in the Massachusetts Senate contains gaps that leave some tenants vulnerable during a state of emergency.  While they praised the intent of the bill (S 2621) Greater Boston Legal Services said the legislation “fails to effectively halt evictions.”
  • As drafted, he said, the Senate bill does not define no-fault evictions as non-essential, implying that they can still continue at this time. GBLS also argued the bill’s timeframe — in effect for 90 days after enactment or until the state of emergency is lifted, whichever comes first — creates a possibility that it will expire and evictions will resume while officials still recommend staying at home.
  • Both branches will meet on Thursday at 11am.
  • Sessions continue to be live streamed.
  • As of Wednesday night, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has climbed to 7,738 with 682 being hospitalized and 122 deaths attributed to the virus.

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