As Massachusetts responds to the current surge in COVID-19 cases on Patriot’s Day, Representative Gordon and Senator Barrett provided the following updates to constituents outlining the State’s recent actions to support residents during the emergency:
Unemployment Benefits for Self-Employed, 1099, and Other Workers
The Baker Administration announced on Monday that Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The new federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. This includes self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and those with limited work history. Applicants can learn more and apply at www.mass.gov/pua.
To be eligible for this new program, individuals must provide self-certification that they are otherwise able and available to work but are prevented from doing so by circumstances relating to COVID-19, including their own illness or that of a family member. All approved PUA applications will initially receive the minimum weekly benefit amount, plus the additional $600 FPUC weekly benefit. Once a worker’s wages are verified, weekly benefit amounts may increase. The amount of PUA benefits received is based on the individual’s reported previous income.
Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures
The House and Senate sent Gov. Baker legislation that will address the adverse impacts on renters, homeowners and small businesses brought on by the COVID-19 emergency. Supported by the Bedford delegation in principle, the legislation halts all stages of eviction and foreclosures for the shorter of 120 days or 45 days after the State of Emergency is lifted, for both residential and small business properties.
The bill prevents landlords from terminating tenancy, issuing late fees, and sending reports to credit agencies for nonpayment of rent, provided that a tenant offers notice to the landlord within 30 days that the missed payment was related to the impact of COVID-19 . Evictions may only proceed during the moratorium for actions that involve allegations of criminal activity or lease violations that are detrimental to public health or public safety.
The legislation also allows landlords to use a tenant’s last month’s rent for expenses like mortgages payments and property maintenance while protecting tenant rights regarding rent paid in advance. Finally, the bill requires mortgage lenders to grant forbearance of up to 180-days on required mortgage payments if the homeowner submits a request demonstrating financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The bill was signed by the Governor on Monday.
Liability Protection for Healthcare Workers
The delegation also supported legislation passed and signed by the Governor on Friday to protect healthcare professionals working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 emergency from legal liability associated with caring for those with COVID-19. Under the legislation, health care professionals, facilities and volunteer organizations assisting in the state’s efforts to respond and treat COVID-19 would be protected from suit and civil liability for alleged damages related to the virus. Health care facilities and professionals would still be subject to consumer complaints brought by the Attorney General and protections would not extend to acts of negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm or acts of discrimination. These protections apply retroactively to March 10, 2020, and remain in effect for the duration of the State of Emergency.
Rep. Gordon’s Virtual Office Hours at 11 am on Thursday, April 23
Rep. Gordon invites Bedford residents to join him for another virtual office hours session on Thursday, April 23 at 11:00 a.m. If the Governor’s daily press conference conflicts with that time, the video conference will begin when his speech ends. For conference call-in information, please email [email protected].
Remain Vigilant as the Surge Emerges
Rep. Gordon and Sen. Barrett remind residents that as the surge of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts takes place, taking precautions to prevent the spread of the disease is as important as ever. “Everyone must continue to be vigilant,” said Gordon. “As our healthcare professionals and other frontline workers deal with incredible challenges, every one of us can make a difference by doing our part. This means going out only when absolutely necessary and wearing a face covering when you do, continuing to wash your hands and sanitize surfaces, and watching out for others who may need help”.