COVID-19 – Massachusetts State House Update – 4-4-2020
UPDATED SBA Assistance and Relief Post
Leave Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
- The Mass. Gaming Commission on Friday morning voted unanimously to extend the closure of the state’s three gaming facilities, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett until at least noon on May 4, in keeping with the latest extension of the governor’s essential work order and stay-at-home advisory.
- Governor Baker on Friday signed a bill enabling some restaurants during the ongoing state of emergency to include beer and wine sales with food takeout/delivery orders and pushing the tax-filing deadline to July 15.
- The restaurant provision in the bill emphasizes that sales to people under 21 are not permitted and requires those delivering orders to verify that the recipient is 21 or older. Such sales must be placed not later than the hour to which the establishment is licensed to sell alcohol or midnight, whichever time is earlier; and customers are limited to 192 ounces of malt beverage and 1.5 liters of wine per transaction.
- House 4598, enacted by the Legislature on Thursday night, also includes measures giving municipalities deadline and scheduling flexibility on town meetings, tax payments and permits.
- The bill relaxes the timeframe within which to hold town meetings; facilitates extensions of local permits; and includes an option for municipalities to extend the deadline for real estate tax payments and waive late fees or other penalties for any delayed payments.
- The number of veterans from the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home who have died since late March now stands at 21, including at least 15 who died of COVID-19.
- Massachusetts officials will launch a large-scale contact tracing program with the help of a nonprofit health organization, aiming by the end of April to have about 1,000 people investigating and recording every instance of potential coronavirus transmission at a time when cases across the state are expected to soar into the tens of thousands.
- Public health experts at the state and local level are already working to track who might have been exposed to patients with COVID-19, but doing so with current resources is growing more difficult as new cases grow daily at an accelerating rate.
- The new Community Tracing Collaborative developed with the group Partners in Health will provide a “much more robust, targeted approach” to bend the curve downward and limit new cases of the highly infectious disease.
- Individuals facing nonviolent criminal charges and held on bail ahead of a trial can seek release during the coronavirus outbreak, the state’s high court ruled Friday, but civil rights groups were disappointed the decision did not go further.
- The Supreme Judicial Court ordered any pretrial detainee, excluding those who are held without bail or those who are charged with offenses including use or threat of violence, to receive a hearing on potential release from custody within two days of filing a motion.
- The Department of Correction and county sheriffs much each file daily reports listing the number of COVID-19 tests conducted and positive results for staff, correctional officers and people in custody.
- The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by several civil rights and criminal defense groups who had asked for up to one-half of the current incarcerated population to be released to prevent exposure to the highly infectious coronavirus.
- The hit from COVID-19 on the state’s finances didn’t fully materialize in March, but state tax collectors acknowledged Friday that it’s coming.
- The Department of Revenue announced that collections for March totaled $2.66 billion, which is only $8 million less than what was collected in March 2019, and $83 million or 3.2 percent above the state’s monthly benchmark.
- Through three quarters of the fiscal year, DOR said Massachusetts tax receipts have totaled $21.064 billion, which is $878 million or 4.3 percent more than the same year-to-date point in 2019, and $235 million or 1.1 percent above the year-to-date benchmark.
- 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.
- 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.
- This past week the House 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.
- This past week the Senate 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.
- As of Friday night, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has climbed to 10,402 with 966 being hospitalized and 192 deaths attributed to the virus.