***Congress has appropriated additional resources for state unemployment assistance programs. In Massachusetts, this program is run by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. Visit their website to learn more.***
COVID-19 is a novel strain of a respiratory disease that is a part of the Coronavirus family. On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The virus is spread through close contact with infected individuals, contact with infected surfaces, and respiratory droplets produced through coughs or sneezes from infected individuals.
For more information on COVID-19 and the federal government's response, please visit: coronavirus.gov.
Mass. Department of Public Health: We want you to know that Massachusetts is prepared for this outbreak. Massachusetts public health departments and our world-class health care providers are well-versed in emergency preparedness and our healthcare workers, institutions and public health partners across the Commonwealth are constantly training for the possible emergence of diseases.
We are engaging in daily communications with the CDC, US Health and Human Services, and other federal and regional agencies to make sure we are sharing with you and all of our Massachusetts partners the latest guidance and recommendations.
While there is no vaccine available for the virus, the CDC has released recommendations measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC's recommendations for using a facemask and social distancing.
- CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in settings where social distancing methods are difficult to maintain.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
If you need health insurance or have experienced a job change and no longer have health insurance through work, apply through the Massachusetts Health Connector https://www.mahealthconnector.org/covid-19 and https://www.mahealthconnector.org/the-right-plan-right-now.
This legislation is far from perfect, but families, workers, and small businesses are desperate for help right now and the resources in this package will support countless Americans. Democrats fought tooth and nail, and we were successful in securing worker retention protections, larger direct payments to families, expanded small business relief, support for our beleaguered hospitals, more resources for our cities and states, and much-needed transparency for the $500 billion corporate fund. This package is massive, it is historic, but it will still need to be followed by additional relief and legislation to ensure that our economy and our families survive.
I called for special protections for our gig workers and independent contractors, including self-employed fishermen, in this package, and now they will have a new Unemployment Insurance program to provide benefits.
I have been fighting for the Trump administration to fully utilize the Defense Production Act to secure, distribute, and ramp up production of key medical supplies, and there is $1 billion appropriated for using authorities in Title III of the Act, as well as $16 billion to replenish the Strategic National Stockpile.
I led the call for major strings to be attached to any airline bailout, and I am proud this bill keeps millions of airline workers on the job while also prohibiting stock buy backs and puts limits on executive pay.
This legislation also includes $10 billion for airports such as Logan International and Nantucket Memorial that I fought for, so that these essential hubs of travel can continue to keep their facilities operational, safe, and secure. And I helped work to secure $25 billion for public transit agencies such as the MBTA, to help allow families and workers return to work and school after the crisis, while also preserving good-paying jobs on the system.
For our seniors, the bill includes my legislation to suspend unfair penalties on retirement accounts so that they don't face unfair tax burdens due to this emergency.
The package provides $300 million to help fishermen in Massachusetts and around the country. I called on Senate leadership to support our fishing and seafood industries, and now they will be eligible for disaster assistance.
For the more than 669,000 Massachusetts small businesses fighting for their economic survival, this bill will provide some much-needed relief with more than $350 billion in loan forgiveness grants to small businesses and non-profits, so they can maintain their payroll and pay expenses. As a member of the Small Business Committee, I joined the fight to secure provisions to waive the payments for every small business with an existing loan from the Small Business Administration.
I spoke directly to Senate leadership on behalf Massachusetts hospitals, including smaller community hospitals that could face bankruptcy due to collapsing revenues and strained resources. This package includes more than $150 billion - $55 billion more than the Republican proposal - to stabilize our health care system during this crisis.
I joined Senator Warren to urge immediate stopgap funding to prevent colleges and universities in Massachusetts from raising tuition costs or laying off workers. This bill provides some funding for these educational institutions, but we must continue fighting for financial support for our institutions of higher education.
Some of Massachusetts's most vulnerable residents will also benefit from an additional $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps families pay their electric and gas bills, and which I have fought to protect.
I called on the Administration to devote more resources to ensuring U.S. citizens stuck overseas could get home safely, and this package provides $264 million in additional funds to support consular services such as evacuations.
A bailout I'm glad to see missing from this package? It does not include a $3 billion direct bailout for the oil industry, which I have led the fight against.
Unfortunately, this bill does not do enough for our students, the climate, and it is woefully insufficient on providing paid sick time to workers. Republicans continue to block meaningful action to provide this critical benefit to America's workers, but I will not stop until all workers have the paid sick time they have earned and deserve. And despite fighting for the immediate cancellation of student loan payments during this national emergency, this package does little for the millions of Americans saddled with student debt. Future stimulus bills must include significant relief for these borrowers.
This bill also does not include my push for a nationwide moratorium on gas and electric utility shut-offs, fees, and cost hikes. We did not address dangerous carbon emissions from our airline industry, nor the need to provide cash to consumers for unused tickets despite its bailout. And this package neglected to address funding for vital needs right now such as closing the homework gap and protecting low-income students, nor to protect emergency spectrum for our first responders.
This will not be the last relief package that our families, workers, and economy will need as this pandemic grows. I will continue to fight so that future relief efforts protect our workers, our families, and our planet.
*Last updated May 21, 2020.