Welcome to MLPB's COVID-19 Digital Digest. Our team has created this open-access tool to help workforce colleagues navigate law and policy changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to provide guidance and problem-solving strategies to address a range of key HRSN needs.

This tool:

  • Distills major federal (nationwide) themes in resources, benefits and legal protections.
  • Curates high-level, evolving information and identifies expert resources in key domains of HRSN, through the lens of two states – MA and RI – where MLPB does extensive work.

Some guidelines to help you get the most out of this tool: 

  • The Bulletin = pressing, need to know information, often with upcoming deadlines + occasional self-care suggestions.
  • The Basics = MLPB's curation of key developments in law and policy.
  • The Breakdown = MLPB's translation of these developments into plain language interpretations of what these changes mean for areas of HRSN need.
  • The Bottom Line = Based on MLPB’s expertise, the essential takeaways needed to navigate the HRSN domain of interest.
  • Last-reviewed Timestamps = MLPB routinely reviews content and updates information as appropriate. 
  • Feedback: Please get in touch! Email Administrative Manager Meg Baker at mbaker@mlpboston.org.

Exclaim This information is for educational purposes only; nothing in it should be construed as legal advice. 

© 2020 MLPB, a fiscally sponsored program of TSNE MissionWorks

The Bulletin

  • The CDC extended the eviction moratorium to June 30, 2021. Read the full order. Updated CDC Declaration form here


Click below to navigate to a topic of interest!  

Best Sources General Orders

Court SystemCSIEducation_Childcare  Employment  Food_Income Insecurity Gov ID Health Insurance Housing Instability Immigration  Interpersonal Safety  Mental Health Transportation Needs-1 Utility Needs WTD


 Best SourcesBest Resources

While it can be tempting to rely on the news cycle for information about COVID-19, we recommend using one of the following trusted sites for your updates:

 


General Orders

Headline: Beginning on April 19, 2021, vaccine appointments will be available for all MA residents who are age 16 and older. Find a vaccine distribution location online or by calling Mass 2-1-1.

Last-reviewed: 1pm, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

The Breakdown:

Key Resource

MA Info on COVID-19

  • Vaccine appointments are available for anyone in Phase I and Phase II, including anyone who is aged 55 or older, anyone who has 1 listed medical condition, anyone who lives or works in affordable senior housing, K-12 educators and staff, childcare workers, and some other essential workers.
  • On April 19, 2021, the vaccine will be available to all other MA residents who are aged 16 or older. 
  • Find a vaccine distribution location online or by calling Mass 2-1-1. Preregistration is also available for Mass Vax sites. 
  • MassHealth and Health Safety Net members may qualify for curb-to-curb transportation to vaccine appointments. Members should ask their doctor to submit a transportation request i.e., a "PT-1 form"). If they have difficulty with the process, they can also call 1-800-841-2900 for assistance getting transportation approved or check the FAQ.
  • Everyone over the age of 5 years old must wear a mask in all public locations. Additional guidance is outlined in the order. Violations may result in a $300 fine. 
  • Private indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and private outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people. Attendees must stay 6 feet away from anyone who is not a member of their household and are encouraged to wear a facemask. Violations may result in a $500 fine. Additional details about public gatherings are available in the order.
  • The Travel Advisory no longer requires travelers to complete a MA Travel Form or to quarantine. However, it does still advise visitors and some residents who have been out-of-state to voluntarily quarantine for 10 days.
  • If a business is not following the mandatory safety standards, anyone can report the violation to their local Board of Health and the MA Department of Labor Standards.
Menu

The Bottom Line: 


Court System

Headline: The CDC has extended the federal eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, protecting some tenants against eviction in non-payment of rent cases.

Last-reviewed: 10am, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Court System Response to COVID-19

2. District Court FAQs Related to COVID-19

  • Courts are open for limited business in-person but are still providing most services virtually - by phone or videoconference - through May. Individuals and their advocates can check the status of some court cases on masscourts.org. Click here to see how to search court dockets online. 
  • Some 12-member jury trials are expected to begin in April at some unconventional settings, including a former movie theater and a wedding venue where ballrooms have been converted to courtrooms. Here is a link to a video explaining what COVID-19 protocols people should expect when they are summoned for jury service. 
  • For information on various remote Trial Court services, including Housing Court virtual front counters, Superior Court protocols, tips for remote hearings, and Trial Court Zoom Rooms, click here. Translated court resources are available here in Arabic, Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Khmer, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
  • This video provides an overview on how court users can get help remotely from Trial Court Law Libraries and Court Service Centers, which provide guidance M-F between 9am and 12pm. Video resources are also available in Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Contact the Trial Court Helpline by calling 833-91-COURT from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday for non-emergency case questions. For emergency questions, use the Courthouse Locator to find contact information for the appropriate court clerk.
  • MA courts have produced a series of COVID-19 video resources explaining court procedures during the pandemic as well as a video guide to help court users prepare for remote hearings. Remote virtual court video resources are available in Cape Verdean, Portuguese, and Spanish here.
  • MA courts have issued updated guidance on obtaining a protection order (e.g., a restraining order, harassment prevention order or extreme risk protection order) during COVID-19.  
  • If you or someone you know needs legal help with an eviction in MA, you may find helpful information on the Court System's COVID-19 eviction information website. You may also want to contact the legal aid program that services your area through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP). To be eligible for free legal help, a household's income must be under 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. 
  • The Housing Court's updated FAQs re: Court Operations and COVID-19 (also available in Spanish and Portuguese) provide extensive online resources for people who are facing an eviction case.
  • A state law enacted in December 2020 adds new requirements for notices to quit issued by landlords, and made additional changes to court processes. A notice to quit for nonpayment of rent must be accompanied by this form.
  • This summons and complaint form, issued by the court, will notify the tenant(s) of the date, time, and manner of the first court event. 
  • In Housing Court: 

--Summary process cases are scheduled based on filing date. If a tenant has applied for rental assistance (e.g., RAFT or other monetary assistance), the court cannot issue an execution and a tenant cannot be evicted solely for nonpayment of rent through June 30, 2021. 

--Pending summary process cases follow a two-tier process:

-First Tier events are conducted virtually with a Housing Specialist to determine the applicability of the federal eviction moratorium, explore available resources to assist with housing costs, and attempt mediation to resolve the case.
-Second Tier events (if earlier mediation is unsuccessful) are trials, which should be held no sooner than 14 days after the first-tier event. Most trials will be held by video conference.

--New summary process cases proceed in the same two-tier process. The Clerk's Office will send all parties (1) written notice of the first court event and the manner in which it will be heard (e.g., by videoconference); and (2) an information sheet with a list of resources to help parties resolve their case.

--The court will not accept summary process filings for nonpayment of rent without an Affidavit of Compliance signed by the plaintiff (landlord) swearing to having provided the tenant with a Form to Accompany Residential Notice to Quit.
--When filing a motion requesting that a court issue an execution in an eviction case that includes a claim for nonpayment of rent, the landlord must also file an affidavit indicating whether the landlord has received a signed CDC declaration from the tenant.
--Most tenants who have lost their eviction cases cannot be physically removed from their residences until the expiration of the CDC Order on June 30, 2021.

  • The District Court has issued extensive FAQs related to COVID-19. Topics include the types of cases that district courts are hearing in person; accessing video conference (Zoom) hearings; how to contact a specific Clerk’s Office; eviction case FAQs, among other important court processes. These FAQs are available in Spanish as well as eight other languages.
  • The Boston Municipal Court (BMC) and District Courts follow a similar two-tier process for eviction cases, with the first court event being a judicial case management conference. See BMC's recent order governing operations for summary process matters and the District Court's amended order governing court operations for summary process cases
  • BMC, Housing Court, and District Court eviction-specific information, including information sheets on court resources for eviction matters, is available here. The Housing Court information sheets, a sample of which is here, provide helpful links and instructions on Court Service Centers, legal representation, connecting to Zoom for hearings, housing specialists, court service centers, and other court resources. 
  • If you have any concerns relating to court operations during the pandemic, you can report them using this online form.

The Breakdown: 

The Bottom Line: 

  • Given the protection of the latest CDC eviction moratorium for some tenants through June 30, 2021, Massachusetts courts have modified their procedures for handling summary process (eviction) cases. Find out more here
  • For tenants protected by the CDC Order, courts are still moving forward with cases but will not issue an execution (permitting the landlord to remove the tenant from the unit) until after June 30, 2021.
  • COVID-19 eviction resources are available online and include assistance for people to determine whether they are covered by the CDC Order and how to ensure its protection.
  • Consolidated resources for people facing eviction are available through the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project
    Menu
 
 

CSI

Headline: On February 24, 2021, the Supreme Judicial Court announced that Phase 2 of 6-person jury trials began on March 1, 2021

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 13, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resource

1. Court system response to COVID-19

2. MA Department of Correction

  • The most updated information from the Trial Court Department is that Phase 2 of 6-person jury trials have begun at select courthouses. The resumption of jury trials will continue to be made in phases to protect the health and safety of jurors and other trial participants.
  • As of December 18, 2020, the DOC announced all permitted visitors to DOC facilities must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours. The full announcement can be found here
  • The DOC is in the process of expanding its video infrastructure to provide virtual visitations at all DOC facilities. Contact information for DOC facilities can be found here
  • The CORI and Re-entry Project at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) has CORI Zoom Clinics open to anyone on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of every month from 2:00-4:00pm. The Clinic provides low-income community members with free legal information about their rights and assists eligible community members with sealing and expunging their records. Register for a session here
  • The Lawyers Clearinghouse has partnered with the City of Boston, Codman Square CDC, and Urban Edge to provide virtual CORI clinics to community members who need assistance in sealing or expunging their Massachusetts-based CORI. Signing up can be done online here.

The Breakdown:

  • Now that probation offices are open to the public, supervision practices may change. People under the supervision of the probation department can learn more by contacting their probation officer.
  • Many court services are now available remotely. There is also a helpful guide to attending a hearing virtually.
  • The Trial Court has created "Zoom Rooms" in four courthouses in MA to ensure court participants have access to technology. The Zoom Rooms are currently available at the Covett Courthouse in Brockton, Chelsea District Court, the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse in Springfield, and the Worcester Trial Court. More Zoom Rooms may become available in other courthouses across the state depending on need. 
  • On February 4, 2021, the Boston Municipal Court announced that on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, the West Roxbury Division will offer virtual face-to-face front counter assistance from 9am-12pm and 2pm-4pm, Monday through Friday.
  • Everyone who enters a courthouse must be screened for COVID-19 systems, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.
  • It is now a requirement to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours to visit all DOC facilities. The requirement is for all visitors, including attorneys. 
  • Video visitation is available for people who have loved ones at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center (SBCC), Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH), and at the MA Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center (MASAC). Visit the DOC's visitation page to get more information about how to access a video visitation.

The Bottom Line

  • Although some policies are the same in every court, courthouses have been updating their policies and procedures to address local needs. It is important to check the policies of a particular courthouse before going in person.
  • Court closures happen often because of COVID-19. Check for court closures by calling the court or checking online.
Menu


Education_Childcare

Headline: DESE announced that on April 5, 2021, all elementary schools (grades K-5) must return to full-time, in-person instruction and that on April 28, 2021 all middle schools (grades 6-8) must return to full-time, in-person instruction. However, many districts were given waivers to open at a later date.

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. MA Dept.of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE)

2. Dept. of Early Ed & Care (EEC)

  • Each elementary and secondary school (K-12) district has its own dynamic plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. Check district websites for additional information.
  • Licensed Child Care Programs have reopened. To search for a program by location, visit the EEC.
  • Early Intervention (EI) providers are using a telehealth model.
  • The ED agreed to pause federal student loan payments and collections. 
The Breakdown:
  • DESE announced that on April 5, 2021, all elementary schools (grades K-5) must return to full-time, in-person instruction and that on April 28, 2021 all middle schools (grades 6-8) must return to full-time, in-person instruction. The deadline for high school students (grades 9-12) has not yet been announced. Many districts have been given waivers to delay opening. Families can check their district's website for specifics. 
  • When returning to in-person learning, students in grades 2-12 must wear a mask in classrooms and students in grades K-12 must wear a mask on school buses. For additional information, view DESE's FAQ.
  • Project 10Million offers free internet access (100GB of data and a mobile hotspot) to students who are enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. Households can apply online.
  • COVID-19 tests are available in many K-12 schools to test symptomatic students. DESE publishes a weekly report of positive COVID-19 cases by school district. 
  • People with certain federal student loans will be excused from making payments until September 30, 2021. During this time, the loans will have a 0% interest rate. This does not apply to private loans. Visit studentaid.gov for additional information.  

The Bottom Line:

  • The plans for K-12 schools and childcare centers will vary.Menu
 

Employment

Headlines: The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation, which will ensure that workers have access to paid leave if they are unable to work as a result of a COVID-19 infection or quarantine order or needing to care for a family member because of COVID-19. Governor Baker proposed amendments to the bill, including denying Emergency Paid Sick Time benefits to municipal employees, and sent it back to the Legislature.

Last-reviewed: 9am, April 14, 2021

Paid Leave and Work Safety

Key Employment Resources

1. Fair Employment Project

2. Mass Gov FAQ

3. MA AG's Guide to Employee Rights during COVID-19 

The Basics:

  • The MA House and Senate have passed legislation to provide workers with COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Time. The bill will allow workers to take up to 40 hours of paid time off if they contract COVID-19, need to quarantine, or care for a family member due to COVID. Raise Up Massachusetts provides a fact sheet here
  • Although employers are no longer required to provide paid leave under the FFCRA, under the newly-signed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, some employers with fewer than 500 employees are choosing to continue to provide leave. Contact your employer's HR department to see if this paid leave benefit may be available to you. 
  • Most MA employees have the right to earn and use up to 40 hours of job-protected sick leave per year. Multilingual resources on earned sick time are available here. If you are denied access to earned sick time by your employer, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division.  
  • The MA Attorney General's Office guidance states that if a public health official or health care provider recommends that a person quarantine, that is an acceptable use of earned sick time. Additional information on what leave and benefit options workers may have available if they need to quarantine is here.
  • On January 1, 2021, most Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) benefits became available to eligible Massachusetts employees. To learn more about eligibility, create a PFML account, and begin your application, visit this DFML website or call (833) 344-7365 between 8am - 5pm. Keep informed by signing up here for DFML's PFML Newsletter.

Beginning January 1, 2021, eligible workers may be entitled to the following PFML benefits:

  • Up to 20 weeks of paid leave for an employee's own serious health condition;
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child; and
  • Up to 26 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member in the armed services who has a serious health condition.

Beginning July 1, 2021, the PFML provides additional family leave benefits: 

  • Up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • The Certification of a Serious Health Condition form is available here. Find out more about the role of health care providers for PFML applicants here
An eligible employee may take no more than 26 weeks of PFML per benefit year. The employee's benefit amount is determined by the worker's average weekly earnings, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $850.

The Department of Family and Medical Leave, which oversees the Commonwealth's PFML program, provides an online PFML webinar, a PFML fact sheet and a workplace poster, among other guidance. 

  • The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development has prepared workplace posters in 11 languages regarding the state's mandatory standards for safety protocols. 
  • People may report businesses or employers that are not following the state’s health and safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic via this online portal: mass.gov/covidcompliance.

 The Breakdown:

  • MA workers may soon be eligible to access five days of emergency sick time for COVID-related sickness, quarantine, caregiving, and vaccination. Governor Baker proposed amendments to recently-passed Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation, and sent the bill back to the MA Legislature. 
  • Beginning January 1, 2021, the Commonwealth's Paid Family and Medical Leave program offers eligible employees up to 12, 20, or 26 weeks of paid leave for certain family and medical leaves. The Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) has issued a PFML fact sheet explaining the PFML program, who is covered, when PFML can be used, and providing other links to more detailed answers.  
  • The DFML also offers a video on how PFML is different from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that provides unpaid, job-protected leave to certain employees. 
  • The MA Attorney General’s Office provides a workplace health and safety resource guide for employees during COVID-19 here.
  • There are two ways to file a complaint to report an unsafe business or employer practice – either through a local Board of Health or by call or email to Department of Labor Standards (DLS): (508) 616-0461 x 9488 safepublicworkplacemailbox@mass.gov. 

The Bottom Line:

  • MA workers may be eligible for a variety of leave options if they need to quarantine or care for a family member due to COVID-19, including earned sick time, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation. Beginning January 1, 2021, MA employees also became eligible for paid, job-protected leave under the PFML program.
  • Additional paid sick time should be available soon for MA workers through the Emergency Paid Sick Leave legislation enacted by the MA legislature. 
  • Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) continues to advocate for stronger MA worker protections during the pandemic. MassCOSH has developed a detailed and regularly updated workplace safety advocacy tool kit to help workers (a) know the relevant safety facts, (b) know their rights, (c) assert their rights, and (d) advocate for improved safety practices in their workplaces.
  • Know your rights as an employee! Review the Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces that apply universally to workplaces in Massachusetts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Report unsafe work environments or practices here: mass.gov/covidcompliance.

Unpaid Leave

The Basics:

  • Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, MA workers can receive job-protected unpaid leave to address their own illness or to provide caregiving to a close family member.
  • Employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year may be eligible for FMLA unpaid time off for personal or family health needs, whether directly or indirectly related to COVID-19, or related to another covered health issue.

The Breakdown:

  • MA workers may be eligible for unpaid, job-protected leave for personal or family health needs and should contact their employer's HR department for more information.

The Bottom Line:

  • Employees may be eligible for unpaid, job-protected FMLA leave but should also consider paid, job-protected leave benefits for which they may be eligible.

Job Loss

The Basics:

  • Unemployed MA workers may be eligible for a child care voucher. This benefit provides 26 weeks of full-time child care, which unemployed workers can keep even if they obtain a job during that time period. For more information on this benefit, click here
  • DUA recently announced new security measures to speed up identity verification and to protect unemployment insurance claimant accounts from fraud. DUA is now using ID.me to verify UI claimants' identification. ID.me account setup instructions are available here
  • The American Rescue Plan Act extends unemployment compensation benefits to hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents. Among the changes are:

-- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provides an additional $300 weekly benefit until 9/4/2021.
-- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors, will be available until 9/4/2021. PUA FAQs are posted here. PUA recipients can get the Dependency Allowance for children. 
-- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) will be available at least until 9/4/21 and the maximum benefit weeks has been extended from 24 to 53.
-- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) -- for those who get any type of unemployment except PUA -- provides an extra $100 per week until 9/4/21. 
-- High Unemployment Period Extended Benefits (HUP EB) ended as of 2/20/2021 because the unemployment rate has dropped. 

  • Any person receiving PUA benefits after December 27, 2020 must provide documentation proving their employment, self-employment, or plans to begin employment. For more information, click here. Importantly, the substantiation requirement only applies to payments received after December 27, 2020.
  • If you have dependent children, you may get a Dependency Allowance ($25 each week for each dependent child) added to your weekly benefit amount.
  • The American Rescue Plan also waives federal taxes on an individual's first $10,200 of unemployment benefits collected last year (and the first $20,400 of unemployment income for a married couple who file a joint tax return). This tax break applies to individuals and married couples who made less than $150,000 in 2020.
  • This "Unemployment and COVID-19" resource makes sense of regular programs and pandemic programs, eligibility rules, and how to apply. Note that if you work while you are getting UI or PUA, you must tell DUA what you earn each week
  • If you received UI benefits that you did not qualify for, you must repay the money unless you get a waiver. You can ask for a waiver of overpayment if (1) the overpayment was not your fault; and (2) you used the money for things that were not ordinary expenses or you gave up other money/benefits because you received UI.
  • Termination of a worker's employment based on national origin or race, age, gender, or the perception that one has a disability, is illegal. The MCAD has issued guidance on its COVID-19 processes and complaints can be filed with them, telephonically or electronically.
  • The federal Department of Labor issued a disability and language access Advisory, affirming that Unemployment Insurance agencies must make services available to people in ways that provide equal access regardless of disability or limited English proficiency.
  • Scams involving identity theft used for fraudulent unemployment applications are leading to increased demands on claimants to verify identity, and delays in application approval. As of March 5, 2021, DUA implemented ID.me, a federally certified identity verification provider, for existing UI claimants. The MA Attorney General issued an Advisory about what impacted claimants can do. The MA Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides similar warnings and instructions.

The Breakdown:

  • MA workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic are facing significant barriers to their legitimate unemployment claims, including the consequences of fraudulent claims. DUA has implemented new identity verification measures through ID.me to combat fraud.
  • A useful summary of unemployment benefits, including the three pandemic-specific programs (FPUC, PUA, and PEUC), can be found here.
  • The American Rescue Plan Act extended unemployment benefits to the week ending September 4, 2021. Helpful FAQs are posted here.  
  • Employment law advocates are strategizing about how to assure benefits are paid promptly as required by law, despite the impact of the pervasive unemployment claim scams on a system already under pressure. Distressed claimants can consider contacting their state senators. 
  • COVID-19 unemployment scams have been targeting MA residents. Learn more about fraud prevention and how to protect yourself here

The Bottom Line:

  • Continuing issues plague the MA unemployment insurance program and hamper former workers' abilities to receive UI benefits. DUA has just rolled out ID.me, a secure identity verification process, to remedy some of the verification issues.
  • The American Rescue Plan Act has extended unemployment compensation benefits under the FPUC, PEUC, and PUA programs until September 4, 2021. View these DUA COVID-19 unemployment information resources to find out more information or call Unemployment Customer Assistance at (877) 626-6800.
  • A new pro bono initiative has been launched at Lawyers for Civil Rights, which may help some workers apply for unemployment benefits by connecting applicants with volunteers who speak English and Spanish.
  • Important DUA Unemployment Insurance updates, including accessing 1099-G forms and identity verification, are available here.
    Menu

Food_Income Insecurity

Headline: The deadline for MA and federal 2020 taxes have both been extended to May 17, 2021. Low-income individuals can get free tax preparation assistance from a MASSCAP Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or online from a mass.gov recommended site

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Dept. of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

2. Women Infants & Children Nutrition Program (WIC)

3. Project Bread

  • At President Biden's request, Congress is considering another relief bill that may include an increase to SNAP and WIC benefits, as well as another stimulus check. Track the American Rescue Plan Act at govtrack.us.
  • DTA offices are closed to the public. Information about SNAP applications and additional service can be access by calling DTA at 877-382-2363 or visiting the DTA Connect website.
  • WIC offices are closed to the public. All services are available by phone at 800-942-1007.
  • The Grab & Go Meal program will be available through September 30, 2021 for kids ages 0-18. No registration or identification is required. Find a local meal site. Find locations and other food resources through the FoodSource Hotline at 800-645-8333 or Project Bread.
  • Meals on Wheels is providing nutritional support to homebound seniors. Find a local nutrition program site.

 The Breakdown:

  • Students who qualify for free and reduced school lunch will receive P-EBT benefits for the 2020-2021 school year. Eligible families will receive $68.20 per month for students in hybrid learning, and $136.40 per month for students in remote learning. On April 12, 2021, these households should have received a retroactive payment for past due increases. Check the K-12 factsheet for more information. 
  • Households that receive SNAP will receive monthly P-EBT for any children ages 0-5. On April 12, 2021, these households should have received a retroactive payment for past due P-EBT payments. Check the 0-5 factsheet for more information.
  • P-EBT is also available for some adults with disabilities ages 18-21 who are enrolled in school. Check the FAQ's for more information. 
  • Many food pantries now allow clients to self-report their identity and nutritional needs, eliminating the requirement to show photo identification and share social security numbers. 
  • When determining eligibility for benefits, DTA will not count the stimulus check or the extra $300/week in unemployment benefits toward household income. Check the FAQ's for more information. 
  • If families do not agree with a SNAP or food assistance decision, they can appeal by calling the DTA Hearings Division at 617-348-5321. They must leave a message requesting an appeal with their name, agency ID, telephone number, and the reason for the appeal. Families can use this same number to reschedule a hearing.
  • Many rules including work requirements are still on hold. Visit the DTA COVID-19 FAQ website for additional information. 
  • All SNAP benefits are increased by 15% from January 2021 to June 2021. Most families will also receive an additional emergency SNAP payment. Some families who were not already receiving the maximum SNAP allotment for their household size will also receive emergency supplemental SNAP payments. Call the DTA Assistance Line at 877-382-2363 for additional information.
  • Low-income SNAP households who did not previously receive an extra SNAP allotment should get up to $95 per month in SNAP benefits. Check the DTA website for updates. 
  • DTA can mail EBT cards overnight in emergency situations like when an applicant is experiencing interpersonal violence (IPV) or homelessness.
  • Many DTA offices are no longer allowing people experiencing homelessness to receive mail at their offices. As a result, individuals and families may be missing out on important notifications and benefits. Healthcare teams can make a big impact by helping patients find a reliable way to receive mail (e.g., PO Box).
  • WIC has added approved stores and approved foods.
  • SNAP recipients can use their EBT card for grocery delivery and pick up through Amazon, Walmart, and Aldi. Delivery fees and bag fees are not covered by SNAP.

The Bottom Line:

  • Sharing reliable, up-to-date information about the changing resource landscape with families is key to reducing hunger and increasing food security. Menu


Financial Assistance

The Basics: 

  • The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 includes a third stimulus check as well as an expansion of the child tax credit.
  • DTA offices are closed to the public. Information about cash assistance applications and additional service can be access by calling a local DTA office or by visiting the DTA Connect website.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed for welk-ins, but services are available by appointment. Some services can also be completed online or by calling your local office.
The Breakdown:
  • The IRS will distribute an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) of $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for couples, and $1,400 for dependents. The full payment will go to individuals with a 2019 or 2020 taxable income of $75,000 or less and couples with a joint taxable of $150,000 or less. Families can track their rebate on the IRS website.
  • Starting March 30, 2021, EIPs were issued to disability recipients who do not normally file taxes. For SSI recipients, the EIP will not be counted as income for the first 12 months. Careful documentation of how they spend the EIP is recommended. Disability recipients can get up-to-date information on the SSA website
  • The 2021 Child Tax Credit will include $3,600 for every child under 6 and $3,000 for every child from 6-17. From July 2021 to December 2021, families will receive a part of that credit in direct payments of $300 (per child under 6) or $250 (per child 5-17). Families will need to file their 2021 taxes to receive the remainder of that benefit. The income and dependency requirements are similar to the stimulus check requirements. 
  • Individuals and families who did not receive their 2020 EIP's or who received the incorrect amount must file for a Recovery Rebate Credit
  • Low-income individuals can maximize their 2020 tax credits by getting free tax preparation assistance from a MASSCAP Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or online from a mass.gov recommended site.
  • The deadlines for MA and federal 2020 taxes have both been extended to May 17, 2020.
  • Cash assistance work requirements and the 24-month time limit are still on hold. Funeral and burial assistance is available. For additional information, see DTA’s program outline.
  • Veterans and their families may also qualify for “chapter 115” financial assistance. Additional information can be found on the Mass Vets Advisor website.
The Bottom Line:
  • Sharing reliable, up-to-date information about the changing resource landscape with families is key to optimizing household income. Menu


Gov ID

Headline: The RMV continues to designate Wednesday appointment hours for customers 65 years of age or older. 

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 13, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resource

RMV COVID-19 Page

  • The RMV has limited in-person appointments. No walk-ins are allowed; appointments must be reserved on the RMV website. Many services are also available through the Online Service Center or at AAA locations by appointment.
  • Renewal appointments will continue to be offered across several towns and cities in MA. In October, additional cities and towns in MA began dedicating Wednesdays to customers 65 years of age or older. Seniors can make an appointment on the RMV website.

The Breakdown

  • Standard MA Driver’s Licenses and ID Card renewals that are made through the Online Service Center between June 12, 2020 and the end of the State of Emergency will be eligible for an updated REAL ID at no additional charge.
  • The RMV is not offering additional extensions for expired driver's licenses and ID cards. If your driver's license or ID has expired, you must renew it. Online renewal through the RMV Online Service Center may be available to people who are eligible. For updates, visit the RMV website
  • The RMV has also announced that they will not offer extensions for expired learner's permits. If your learner permit has expired, you will need to retake the exam. More information can be found on the RMV website

The Bottom Line

  • Access to government identification will likely be disrupted by limited access to services.
    Menu



Health Insurance

Headline: MassHealth is providing free transportation to vaccine appointments to any person with MassHealth coverage or the Health Safety Net. Members can request transportation services by calling MassHealth's Customer Service: 800-841-2900.

The Health Connector open enrollment period has been extended through May 23, 2021. Call the Health Care For All HelpLine to apply for state health insurance programs over the phone: 800-272-4232.

Last-reviewed: 9am, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Healthcare for All MA

2. Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)

3. BCBFMA - MLRI resource on stabilizing MassHealth coverage during COVID-19

  • On April 19, 2021, MA will expand vaccine eligibility to all residents age 16 and older. Find out the latest about the Massachusetts COVID-19 vaccine response, and pre-register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, here
  • MassHealth members can call MassHealth directly at 800-841-2900 to schedule free transportation to a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointment. For more information, click on these FAQs.
  • Open enrollment in MA continues through May 23, 2021. Along with people who do not have health insurance, people who are currently in COBRA coverage after losing their jobs can switch to a Health Connector plan during this period. Visit MAhealthconnector.org or call the Health Care For All (HCFA) HelpLine Monday through Thursday, 7 am to 5 pm, and Friday from 8 am to 3 pm at (800) 272-4232 to enroll in health insurance. Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • MassHealth Enrollment Centers are still closed to walk-in visitors, but are accepting applications by phone: (800) 841-2900. 
  • If you have MassHealth but are making less money than usual, you may be able to reduce your monthly premium by May 23, 2021 to reflect your current income. You may also request a premium hardship waiver.
  • All health insurance carriers are required to provide medically necessary testing, treatment, and telehealth services. This must be provided without a copay, use of coinsurance or deductible.
  • Learn about the phased approach for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in MA here
  • Free testing for asymptomatic people is available in communities throughout Massachusetts. To find a COVID-19 test near you, click here. A map and list of Boston testing sites are available here. Call the multilingual Mayor’s Health Line (617-534-5050) for help with health insurance applications or other COVID-19 health questions. Additional state-wide test-site information is posted here.
  • If you have a problem with health insurance claims or medical bills, the Attorney General's Health Care Division may be able to help. Call the helpline with questions or complaints at (888) 830-6277.

The Breakdown:

  • MassHealth members can call MassHealth directly at (800) 841-2900 to schedule free transportation to a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointment. Comprehensive vaccine information is available here.  
  • Open enrollment is underway for plans on the MA Health Connector and will run until May 23, 2021. For more information, contact a trained navigator at Health Care For All by calling the multilingual Helpline at (800) 272-4232.
  • MassHealth members will not lose coverage during the COVID-19 state of emergency and will be covered for COVID-19 testing and treatment at no cost. 
  • The Commonwealth continues to provide free COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic residents in communities across Massachusetts. More information is available here

The Bottom Line

  • Enrolled MassHealth members will not lose MassHealth coverage during the COVID-19 outbreak. MassHealth covers testing and treatment for COVID-19 at no cost to members.
  • For important information about MassHealth's coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment, click here. Visit this website for information on MA's COVID-19 vaccine program.
  • Although MassHealth Enrollment sites remain closed for walk-in visitors, applicants can apply for benefits by phone at (800) 841-2900 or online. Open enrollment runs until May 23, 2021. 
  • Find a COVID-19 test near you by visiting mass.gov/GetTested.
  • MassHealth members can call Masshealth directly at (800) 841-2900 to schedule free transportation to a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointment. 
Menu


Housing Instability

Headline: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium has been extended through at least June 30, 2021

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 13, 2021

Eviction Moratorium

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. CDC.gov - Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

2. Mass.gov - COVID-19 Eviction Diversion -FAQ

3. Mass.gov - COVID-19 Eviction Information

  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) Moratorium (the national moratorium) has been extended through at least June 30, 2021
  • On January 15, 2021, the Housing Court updated its Standing Order to reflect the extended eviction moratorium. The order went into effect on January 19, 2021. Although the Housing Court has acknowledged the extension of the CDC moratorium, it has not updated the standing order. 
  • For more detail on court operations see the Court Systems section of this Digital Digest. While the Housing Court will continue to conduct most business “virtually,” effective July 13, 2020 the housing court has reopened and will consider hearing some cases in person at court if it would be more efficient and effective to do so. The Housing Court’s contact information is listed here.
  • The Boston Municipal Court (BMC) and the District Court have also published standing orders in preparation for eviction cases. The BMC standing order can be found here, and the District Court standing order can be found here.
  • The Department of Research and Planning has launched an online tool to track all residential evictions in Massachusetts. 
  • The Office of Housing Stability will begin hosting virtual legal clinics for tenants and small landlords every Tuesday from 5:30-7:30pm. The clinic aims to provide community members with eviction defense information and assistance. Tenants and small landlords can register for the clinic here.  
  • Housing discrimination – including eviction or refusal to rent – based on national origin or race, age, gender, or the perception that one has a disability, is illegal. If discrimination is experienced for these or other reasons, one option is to file a complaint with the MCAD telephonically or electronically.

-- Discrimination based on public assistance is illegal in Massachusetts. More information on income discrimination can be found here. A complaint can be filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and/or MCAD.

The Breakdown:

  • The CDC Eviction Moratorium protects eligible tenants through June 30, 2021. Tenants must submit a declaration to their landlord to be covered by the moratorium. 
  • Tenants may also submit a declaration that has been prepared by legal aid attorneys. The declaration is available on MassLegal Help. 
  • The Biden-Harris administration has published a fact sheet related to the eviction moratorium and resources available to renters and landlords.
  • Tenants do not need to submit a new declaration to their landlord if they have already done so. 
  • The CDC moratorium does not prevent a landlord from filing a complaint in housing court for eviction, but it does protect the tenant against a physical removal from their home.
  • On February 1, 2021, the City of Boston announced the launch of the City of Boston Rental Voucher Program. The program is stated to be like Section 8, funded by the city and administered by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). BHA will begin issuing a Request for Proposals from housing operators and developers interested in incorporating Project Based Vouchers into their developments.  
  • The Trial Court has created "Zoom Rooms" in four courthouses in MA to ensure court participants have access to technology. The Zoom Rooms are currently available at the Covett Courthouse in Brockton, Chelsea District Court, the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse in Springfield, and the Worcester Trial Court. More Zoom Rooms may become available in other courthouses across the state depending on need. 
  • DHCD has partnered with community mediation centers to expand access to mediation resources in an effort to prevent eviction. A list of community mediation centers can be found here.
  • People with court cases relating to housing who do not have a lawyer, may contact the Housing Court "Virtual" Front Counter and Specialists Counter, the Housing Court helpline or the Housing Court for their region to confirm the scheduling and deadlines in their case.
The Bottom Line:
  • Although there is some uniformity between courts, things will happen differently in Housing, District, and BMC courts. Contact the clerk's office in the court where the eviction is taking place for the most up to date information. 
  • The CDC recently published a frequently asked questions letter to help people understand how the CDC moratorium protects renters, and who is covered by the moratorium.
  • Mass.gov has compiled eviction forms and information sheets for people looking for information related to eviction proceedings during COVID-19.
  • Landlords serving a notice to quit must also provide the tenant with a completed form swearing to certain facts. More information can be found on the Mass.gov Required Attestation Form to Accompany a Notice Quit page online.  
  • Statewide financial assistance is available through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for families who qualify for RAFT or ERMA or Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP) through the federal government. Some landlords may be able to apply for RAFT on behalf of their tenants. The full details can be found here. To apply as a landlord, the landlord:

-- Must have less than 21 units.
-- Cannot apply if the tenant has already applied.
-- Must get the tenant's written permission on the required form.

  • Some local cities, like Boston, are offering rental relief assistance in addition to statewide financial aid.
  • The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) and the City of Boston has partnered to create a new Public Housing Rental Relief Fund for residents who are living in public housing and are struggling with paying back rent due to COVID-19. BHA residents should contact their site manager to see if they qualify for assistance. 
  • The COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) recently launched a website to help tenants find legal aid. Tenants must meet income and other COVID-related requirements.
  • Emergency shelter may be available for families who qualify.
  • For renters in need of additional help during COVID-19, City Life/Vida Urbana is offering assistance to renters who are facing evictions. They can be reached at (617) 934-5006 (English) or (617) 397-7773 (Spanish).
  • Greater Boston Legal Services has put together a self-guided eviction help site for tenants facing eviction without an attorney. The site offers resources to help tenants answer their landlord's complaint for eviction properly.  
  • Additional, free legal assistance can be found here.
  • Statewide resources are available to homeowners and tenants. More information can be found here.

Foreclosure

The Basics:

  • The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium for homeowners with FHA-insured single-family mortgages through at least June 30, 2021.
  • Homeowners with USDA direct and guaranteed home loans will also be protected through June 30, 2021. The full announcement can be found here.  
  • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have extended their foreclosure moratorium through June 30, 2021. Homeowners can check if their mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  • On February 16, 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they will be extending the foreclosure moratorium through at least June 30, 2021. The full announcement can be found here.
  • The city of Boston recently launched a mortgage relief partnership with twelve housing lenders. The lenders will offer at least three months of deferred mortgages payments for homeowners who contact them and demonstrate that they have been financially impacted by the public health crises. More information can be found here
The Breakdown:

The Bottom Line:

  • Statewide financial assistance is available through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for families who qualify for RAFT or ERMA, or Emergency Rental Assistance (ERAP). Some local cities, like Boston, are offering rental relief assistance in addition to statewide financial aid.
  • Emergency shelter may be available for families who qualify.
  • For renters in need of additional help during COVID-19, City Life/Vida Urbana is offering assistance to renters who are facing evictions. They can be reached at (617) 934-5006 (English) or (617) 397-7773 (Spanish).
  • Additional, free legal assistance can be found here.

Homelessness and Shelter

The Basics:

  • The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has committed to providing emergency assistance (EA) shelter residents alternative shelter, which may include paid hotel stay, if they need to self-quarantine.
  • DHCD now has guidance on COVID-19 screening in congregate shelter which allows members of shelter households to quarantine or self-isolate without exposing others.

The Breakdown:

  • Families and individuals in shelters have newly implemented options to isolate and recover without exposing others to COVID-19.
  • Families who receive HomeBASE benefits to help stabilize housing related needs may be able to access more funds quickly. Families can expect flexibility around stabilization plan requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Major challenges continue to confront people living in single-adult shelters, especially for older adults and immunocompromised persons. Efforts to support physical distancing unfortunately will require creativity and resources.
  • There is no clear policy statement about families who would ordinarily be “barred” from entering shelter for 12 months because they were found to have “abandoned” shelter.
  • With office closures, families with children seeking to apply for Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter can only apply by phone with the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD): 1-866-584-0653.

Conditions of Disrepair

The Basics:

  • Because critical services/emergency conditions of disrepair during COVID-19 is not defined yet by law, each local Board of Health may have its own priorities/restrictions. Contact the local Board of Health for information.

The Breakdown:

  • The Housing Court’s Frequently Asked Questions explain what counts as an “Emergency Matter.” Recognized emergencies include: Lockout, condemnation, no heat, no water, and/or no utilities; conduct and or conditions endangering health and safety; or stay of levy on an execution (48-hour notice/move-out).

The Bottom Line:

  • Frontline workforces at large agencies or companies may need time to learn changed rules. Try to have something in writing on hand – like a link to a consumer protection announcement – that indicates a right or eligibility for benefits. Menu



Immigration

Headline: On March 9, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the end to the 2019 public charge rule.   

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 13, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. MIRA Coalition COVID-19 Page

2. Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition

  • Most USCIS field offices and asylum offices have reopened. Visitors must follow this policy. Naturalization ceremonies have also resumed.
  • Immigration Courts have different operational statuses. Boston Immigration Court reopened for all matters. Case information is available online with a 9-digit alien registration number (A-#########) or by calling the Executive Office of Administration Review at 1-800-898-7180.
  • On March 9, 2021, DHS announced the end to the 2019 public charge rule in a statement to the public. As a result, the 1999 interim field guidance on public charge will now be in effect (the policy that was in place prior to the 2019 public charge rule). As a result, the items on this non exhaustive list are no longer considered public charge:

-- SNAP (food stamps)
-- MassHealth/Medicaid (except for long-term institutionalization)
-- Public housing
-- Section 8

  • On March 8, 2021, in an announcement to the public, DHS announced that it is designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, until September 2022.
  • On February 1, 2021, DHS put out a statement ensuring the public that all individuals living in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. DHS has stated that it will not conduct enforcement operations at or near vaccination distribution sites or clinics.
  • On January 20, 2021, President Biden signed several executive orders repealing executive orders from the previous administration. Among the newest executive orders is an order banning discriminatory travel bans into the United States.
  • On December 4, 2020, a federal judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security to notify the public that it will be accepting and adjudicating new DACA petitions. The decision also orders DHS to grant 2-year work permits to approved applicants, instead of the proposed 1-year limit. More information and application forms can be found on the USCIS website.
  • DHS announced that they are extending the validity of Temporary Protected Status (TPS)-related documentations for beneficiaries for six countries through October 4, 2021, including employment-related documentation. The full announcement can be found here
  • On February 22, 2021, USCIS announced that beginning on March 1, 2021, applicants for naturalization may choose to take the 2008 or the 2020 civics test. The full announcement can be found here

The Breakdown

  • The RIAN Center has canceled all in-person immigration clinics. Apply for a free legal consultation by calling 617-542-7654.
  • The US will not allow entry to foreign nationals from several countries around the world. As a result, many may find it difficult to enter the country, or may find it difficult to re-enter upon leaving.
  • The Higher Ed Immigration Portal is a new website aimed at providing resources to immigrant students. The website provides information related to financial assistance for undocumented students. It also provides other information that may be helpful while navigating the education system as an immigrant. 

The Bottom Line

  • These changes make an uncertain time even more uncertain for immigrant populations. Families with questions about public charge should connect with immigration experts to have their specific questions and needs evaluated.
Menu


Best Sources (4)

Headline: SafeLink, MA's statewide hotline, has both a Phone and Chat Helpline; the National DV hotline also offers a chat option with trained advocates who can help survivors with safety planning.

Last-reviewed: 10am, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. SafeLink Phone and Online Chat Helpline

2. Jane Doe

3. Futures Without Violence

4. Police Accountability Project

5. DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended)

  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
  • Interpersonal safety resources address intimate partner violence, domestic violence, abuse and neglect of children, older adults, and persons with disabilities.
  • To find a sexual assault or domestic violence program in MA, you can call or chat with someone at SafeLink, the statewide hotline, or you can search by zip code on this interactive search directory
  • MA courts are issuing protection orders, including restraining orders and harassment prevention orders. COVID-19-specific resources, including a video on asking for a restraining order during the pandemic, are available here and FAQs regarding protection orders are available here. Additional safeguards are in place to ensure that emergency orders can be issued for elder neglect or abuse, child neglect or abuse, and neglect or abuse of persons with disabilities.
  • Check with individual community-based organizations such as DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended) to learn how they are operating during the crisis.
  • The Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence has a 24-hour multilingual hotline and offers resources, safety planning, and support.
  • The Community Advocacy Program based at several Boston health centers is offering phone consultation 8am-5pm Mon.-Fri. in English, Cape Verdean Creole, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Vietnamese
  • The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance offers free resources for victims, survivors, and providers at (844) 878-MOVA or mass.gov/askMOVA.
  • If you have experienced sexual violence, you can get access to confidential services, including a sexual assault kit, at no cost by contacting Jane Doe, Inc. at (617) 248-0922.
  • YWCA Central Massachusetts offers a 24-Hour Helpline at (508) 755-9030 and online chat to provide support, advocacy, referrals, safety planning, and crisis intervention.
  • The Network/LaRed is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other communities. Call the 24-hour hotline at (617) 742-4911 for support, information, referrals, safety planning, and crisis information for LGBTQ+ survivors.

The Breakdown:

  • Research shows that the social/physical distancing orders and recommendations issued during the COVID-19 pandemic are impeding intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors’ access to supports and services. The SafeLink 24/7 statewide helpline can be reached at (877) 785-2020 or by online chat to address intimate partner violence. 
  • Essential safety services through police and courts (e.g., restraining orders and harassment prevention orders) are available.
  • For many victims, these resources may not be good, sufficient, or safe options. For those individuals, the above-referenced helplines are available 24 hours a day and offer chat options with trained advocates who can help survivors with safety planning. 
  • Police brutality is an interpersonal safety issue. Police have the responsibility and power to protect people. That same power can be dangerous, sometimes lethal, especially when fueled by racism and other prejudice like homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia. While this is not a pathway to emergency response, the National Lawyers Guild can be a resource: Police Accountability Project.
  • On December 31, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law police reform legislation that creates a civilian-led commission with the power to certify officers, investigate claims of misconduct, and revoke the certification officers for certain violations. The law also bans the use of choke holds and limits the use of "no-knock" warrants, among other measures. For more information, click here

The Bottom Line:

  • MA crime victims and survivors of domestic violence may be eligible for Lifeline voice or broadband internet service.
  • Local community-based organizations are addressing COVID-19 challenges – both maintaining protective services for current clients, and initiating new investigations relating to suspicion of neglect or abuse. Jane Doe Inc. has developed a COVID-19 Fact Sheet highlighting the impact of the pandemic in Massachusetts on sexual and domestic violence survivors.
  • Outreach directly to agencies to learn of new resources and evolving best practices:

    • Child neglect/abuse: The Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers COVID-19 resources and information here. Learn how to report suspected child abuse or neglect here.
    • Elder neglect/abuse reporting is conducted by phone or online (online reporting guide here). The state has developed a specific nursing home resource page for people concerned about their loved ones isolated in long term care facilities during COVID-19.
    • Report neglect/abuse of persons with disabilities by phone to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) hotline: 800-426-9009. The MA Coalition of Families and Advocates (COFAR) maintains a COVID-19 resource page relating to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the care of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). COFAR works to improve protections for residents who live in staffed group homes and who remain particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure and the trauma of social isolation from loved ones.
    • DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended) offers a 24-Hour Hotline at (617) 471-1234, a host of COVID-19 resources as well as tailored information for teens and young adults, legal advocacy resources, LGBTQ+ resources, and general domestic and intimate partner violence information.  
Menu


Mental Health

Headline: Behavioral health and other wellness resources are available for people who are looking for resources that are specific to their racial, ethnic, or cultural identity group.

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 13, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. HandholdMA.org

2. Therapy for Black Girls

3. APA COVID-19 Resources for Providers, Families, & Community Leaders

  • Network of Care Massachusetts has launched a culturally responsive behavioral health resource HUB. The HUB provides resources to people who are looking for resources that are specific to their racial, ethnic, or cultural identity group.
  • Mental health can be a difficult topic to discuss with family and people outside of an individual's ethnic community. Members of the AAPI community can receive additional support at these five Asian-founded wellness organizations:

-- The Asian Mental Health Project
-- Project Lotus
-- The National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
-- Asian Health Coalition
-- Asian Mental Health Collective

  • On April 15, 2021, at 12:00pm EST, the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts will be hosting a virtual conversation on Suicide Prevention and Mental Health in the Black Community. Community members that are interested can register here.   
  • On January 19, 2021, the APA Board of Trustees apologized for subjecting people of African descent and Indigenous people to abusive treatment, experimentation, victimization for "scientific evidence," and racialized theories since the inception of the APA. In its statement, the APA stated that is recognizes that its inaction has contributed to perpetuation of structural racism that has adversely affected members of the APA, in addition to psychiatric patients across America. The full statement can be found here
  • The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide support and bring awareness to mental health issues that plague the African-American community. In addition to bringing awareness, the foundation also offers scholarships to African-Americans who are interested in pursuing a career in the mental health field. The foundation has compiled a resource guide with providers and programs that serve the African-American community.
  • HandholdMA.org is a website aimed at helping families find additional support for their child's mental health. The website was launched in response to the pressures that COVID-19 has put on families.
  • Therapy for Black Girls is an online community that encourages mental health wellness to Black women and girls. The site offers a therapist search function, access to the Therapy for Black Girls podcast, and a blog dedicated to mental health.
  • Talkspace is a virtual therapy service that connects individuals to a licensed therapist in the state they are in. Individuals can check if their health plan or employer covers the service here

The Breakdown

  • One Village Healing offers a healing community to folks in New Haven, CT, and its online community. The Village offers free virtual wellness sessions including meditation, art, Reiki, and many more wellness supports. Visit their website for more information on how to sign up for a virtual wellness session.
  • Mental Health America has put together some COVID-19 resources designed to help people cope with staying at home and managing pandemic-related anxiety.
  • The MA Court System has issued a list of suggested mental health and recovery resources while relief is less available from the courts.
  • The MA Department of Mental Health has also put together resources to help with maintaining emotional health and well-being during the pandemic.
  • The Crisis Textline provides crisis supports to people nationwide 24/7. Text HOME to 741741.
  • SAMHSA has a Disaster Distress Hotline that operates 24/7 to support people experiencing difficulties related to the pandemic. The number is 1-800-985-5990.

The Bottom Line

  • It is understandable and normative to struggle with the new routines and process created by the pandemic, to say nothing of the difficulties created by the virus itself. Resources remain available to help anyone having difficulty with this challenging time.
    Menu
 
 


Transportation Needs-1

Headline: Inspection deadlines for vehicles with stickers that expire in March 2021 and April 2021 are extended until May 31, 2021.

Last-reviewed: 12pm, April 14, 2021

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. MA Bay Transit Authority (MBTA)

2. MA Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) 

  • The Baker administration issued an advisory asking that MA residents and visitors to take precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while traveling.
  • The MBTA and most other Regional Transit Authorities are running on a reduced service schedule.
  • The RMV has limited in-person appointments.
  • President Biden ordered that international and domestic (within the US) travelers wear masks (e.g., while in airports, on commercial flights, on trains, and on buses).
  • The US Department of State has country-specific advisories for international travelers. Many states have issued stay-at-home orders and/or mandatory quarantine for out-of-state visitors.

The Breakdown:

  • Airplane passengers entering the US must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. For additional details, see the full CDC statement.
  • The Travel Advisory no longer requires travelers to complete a MA Travel Form or to quarantine. However, it does still advise visitors and some residents who have been out-of-state to voluntarily quarantine for 10 days
  • Before traveling internationally, travelers should check for guidance from the US Department of State or sign up for alerts through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • All MBTA riders are required to wear a face covering. Bus drivers are allowed to skip a stop if the bus is too crowded. Transit police can issue a $300 fine per violation. 
  • RIDE has changed some policies. Trips must now be booked 1-3 days in advance.
  • The RMV has limited in-person appointments. No walk-ins are allowed; appointments must be reserved on the RMV website. Some RMV services are also available at AAA locations by appointment.
  • The RMV continues to designate Wednesday appointment hours for customers 65 years of age or older.
  • The RMV announced that anyone who electronically renews a driver's license or identification card before the end of the State of Emergency will be automatically upgraded to a REAL ID. 
  • Inspection deadlines for vehicles with stickers that expire in March 2021 and April 2021 are extended until May 31, 2021.

The Bottom Line:

    • Before traveling internationally, travelers should check for guidance from the US Department of State. Before traveling between states, travelers should check for guidance from each state that they plan to enter. Travelers must also comply with the MA travel rules when they return to the state.
      Menu


 

Utility Needs

Headline: The moratorium on residential utility shut-offs has been extended to July 1, 2021.

The American Rescue Plan Act provides $4.5 billion for utility assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Eligible MA residents can still apply for fuel assistance and Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds to pay off utilities arrearages.

Last-reviewed: 9am, April 14, 2021

Home Energy Utilities

The Basics:

Key Resources

1. Mass Gov

2. MASSCAP

3. Everyone On - low cost connectivity resources during COVID-19

  • The current moratorium on electric or gas service shut-offs for residents who receive their service from and investor-owned utility (such as Eversource, National Grid, Until, Liberty Utilities, or Berkshire Gas) is in effect through July 1, 2021. MA residents may want to call their local Community Assistance Program (CAP) for information on filing a Fuel Assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or “LIHEAP”) application by phone. Residents can also contact their utility company to see if they are eligible for a discount on electricity or gas service or for a payment plan or Arrearage Management Program (AMP).
  • The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has compiled resources online for MA residents or business owners experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19. LIHEAP income eligibility and benefit levels are available here
  • A Massachusetts household with income up to 60% of area median income qualifies under "financial hardship" and is eligible for protection from termination. For more information about Cold Relief, call the Cold Relief Heatline: 1-800-632-8175.
  • Importantly, after the expiration of the shut-off moratorium, serious or chronic illness protection may be available with verification from an authorized healthcare provider in addition to verification of financial hardship. Detailed information on these verification processes and other potential utility stabilizing strategies after COVID-19 protections expire is available in this National Consumer Law Center Handbook.
  • Residential customers should continue to pay what they can to avoid large balances and shut-off once the moratorium ends.
  • Limited income households who are not eligible for Fuel Assistance may want to contact the Good Neighbor Energy Fund operated by local Salvation Army offices: 1-800-334-3047 or 1-800-262-1320.
  • Eversource is providing guidance to customers who may be behind on their bill with respect to payment plans, state and federal financial stimulus programs, and other ways to reduce their energy use and bills.
  • National Grid is also offering resources to customers in arrears.
  • Eversource and National Grid prepared a free webinar to share information about discount rates, grants, payments, and other offers.

The Breakdown:

  • After the utility shut-off moratorium ends on July 1, 2021, customers who have not paid bills may have accrued tremendous debt. Residential customers making payments under payment plans with their electric or gas utility company will remain protected from shut-off after the moratorium ends for the duration of the payment plan. 
  • For those who are able to pay current bills, there is good news about Arrearage Management Plans (AMPs) with electric and gas companies: customers who are on the low-income discounted rate are eligible to have varying amounts of debt forgiven if they pay 12 current monthly bills. Unlike past restrictions, now any low-income customer is eligible to enroll or re-enroll in an AMP program. Information is available directly from utility companies. Local CAP Agencies may be able to help people with AMP enrollment questions. Eversource has prepared materials that summarize various COVID-19 programs and protections, linked here.

The Bottom Line

  • Due to the pandemic, the current moratorium on residential electric and gas shut-offs has been extended through July 1, 2021.
  • If the pandemic has made it difficult for people to pay energy bills, there are programs and options that can help. Learn more about applying for fuel assistance, payment programs, and utility discounts here.
  • At the expiration of the utility shut-off protections on July 1, 2021, disconnections of utility service may begin again at a large scale. Households should be prepared to assert the usual utility shut-off protection verifications (financial hardship + age or illness) promptly with the information in this National Consumer Law Center Handbook and support from healthcare providers and consumer advocates.
  • Action alert: In case of any threats, but especially if municipal electric and gas companies threaten service disconnection, please inform the fuel program at the neighborhood CAP Agency and ask them to alert the National Consumer Law Center, which is tracking this concern.
  • For more information about electric and gas utilities during COVID-19, click here

Telephone & Internet

The Basics:

  • Help is coming to support eligible families access broadband service! For information on the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the forthcoming $50 monthly emergency internet subsidy, as well as other resources for affordable internet and phone service, click here
  • The MA Department of Telecommunications and Cable has issued information about telephone, broadband, and cable service during COVID-19. 
  • The FCC has taken action to raise awareness about the Nationwide Lifeline Program for affordable telephone or internet service, a benefit for which many consumers may be newly eligible during the pandemic. For more information on how to enroll, MA consumers can visit this website
  • Contact the Attorney General’s office via the AGO’s Consumer Hotline (617-727-8400) if a consumer has difficulty reaching a service provider or if telephone or broadband service has been shut off.
  • Telecommunications companies have made some commitments to keep MA residents connected during the COVID-19 crisis. Here is a list of free and discounted internet services offered by some companies. Visit EveryoneOn to search low-cost internet service providers. 

Water

  • Due to COVID-19, DPU has extended the moratorium on residential shut-offs for customers of investor-owned water utility companies until July 1, 2021. To verify what type of water utility provides your water service, click here and scroll to Exhibit C to see which water companies must comply with the moratorium.
  • Check with local public water and sewer commissions regarding general water shut-off protections and any moratoria during the State of Emergency in MA. The Boston Water & Sewer Commission has begun notifying customers of delinquency charges and overdue payments. To assure no interruption in service, customers may want to consider a payment arrangement and can submit a medical or financial hardship form.
  • Do not assume that there is no protection because it isn’t prominent on the company’s website – sometimes it can be very hard to find.
  • The DPU Consumer Division and the Attorney General's Energy & Environment Bureau may be able to help if public water companies threaten or actually disconnect service.
  • For more information about water utilities during COVID-19, click here
    Menu
 


WTD

  • MLPB's What You Can Do When There's Nothing to Do
  • Support those who rely on benefits by purchasing your groceries after the 14th day of the month and avoiding items that are labeled WIC-approved.
  • Find your state and federal representatives and tell them how you feel about important legislation.
  • Find organizations that are advocating for others and join their cause.
  • Take time to relax by virtually visiting museums or watching fitness videos.
  • If you have the funds, support organizations that are helping others. Donate locally!

The Breakdown: 

  • The future progression of COVID-19 is unknown.
  • In this time of stress and uncertainty, self-care is also highly important.

The Bottom Line

  • As the situation unfolds, more advocacy may be needed to address further inequities that arise as a result of the pandemic.

Menu

 

 

© 2020 MLPB, a fiscally sponsored program of TSNE MissionWorks