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More Than Three Dozen Organizations Call on MA Legislature to Pass Urgent Safety Net Measures by April 10

Dear Members of the Legislature, 

In this time of crisis, instability, and fear we look to you for leadership—and the lives of Bay Staters will literally depend on it. We are grateful for the role the legislature has played over the past two weeks, from moving legislative offices to remote function, to encouraging Governor Baker to close schools and daycares statewide, to waiving the 1-week waiting period for unemployment assistance. However, this moment requires more from the legislative branch, and on a rapid timeline.   

Even as workplaces across the Commonwealth shutter and paychecks disappear, individuals’ expenses are increasing due to the demands of this emergency. And as we saw vividly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when disasters strike, it is people of limited means who bear the most unforgiving brunt of these crises. Low-income residents must now heat their homes during the hours when they used to be at school or work. Families must make daily pilgrimages to meal distribution sites—also often exposing themselves and their children to risk of coronavirus exposure on mass transit—to replace the two meals a day previously provided at schools. Formerly routine trips to the laundromat are now costly moral choices between leaving young children home alone longer, taking a less-frequently running bus, or paying for a TNC ride to get home to your kids faster. Residents in need are spending scarce cell phone minutes on long wait times to apply for emergency aid or to get telemedicine consults. 

Massachusetts’ assistance programs, as currently configured, are not adequate to meet this unprecedented need. Applications for SNAP benefits have increased fourfold in the last two weeks. The unemployment system has been flooded with applications, many of whom are ineligible for assistance under current parameters. And even for those who do qualify, the existing 50% wage replacement will not sustain already-low-income families. Advocates in the domestic violence space are steeling themselves for a wave of families in crisis. And these are just a few examples. The coronavirus pandemic has put immense stress on the safety net system. 

Many proposals have been floated for how to address different facets of this flood of need, and to keep circulation flowing in our local economies: a one-time supplemental payment to TAFDC and EAEDC cash assistance beneficiaries; a universal basic income intervention; closing holes in healthcare coverage for the underinsured; expansion of the UI benefit beyond 50%; supplementing the federal LifeLine program to ensure people have adequate minutes on their phone to enroll in these programs and to realistically practice social distancing; an infusion of dollars into the shelter system and RAFT program to help people be/stay safely housed. We implore you to choose some of these solutions and move on them now. 

Low-income families are in desperate, health-compromising situations and have been so for many days already. Specifically, we call on you to put a package of safety net measures on the floor of the House and Senate for a vote no later than April 10—a full month after the state of emergency was declared.

 

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Voting Rights Advocates Applaud Emergency Election Legislation; Call for Additional Actions

Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVOTE, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Progressive Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Voter Table today praised emergency legislation allowing municipalities to delay their spring elections until June, and expanding absentee and early voting by mail, among other reforms.

The bill, S. 2608, was passed yesterday and is expected to be signed by Governor Charles Baker imminently.

“Yesterday’s bill is a strong first step. However, there is no guarantee that the coronavirus crisis will have receded by September 1, when Massachusetts state primaries are scheduled, or even for the November elections,” the groups said. “The Election Modernization Coalition urges the Legislature to recognize that this crisis is of indeterminate length, and that we must also act quickly to ensure that the fall’s elections take place as scheduled, maximize participation, and maintain public health. To that end, the Legislature must protect the ability of all eligible voters to cast ballots from home in all elections, and ensure that in-person voting is as safe and participatory as possible.”

The full statement is below.

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🚨Actions You Can Take from Home During the COVID-19 Crisis (with UPDATES)

With the outbreak of COVID-19, Massachusetts is facing a crisis.

We have a public health crisis, as the number of those infected grows every day. We have an economic crisis, as the threat of a recession looms larger every day and workers risk weeks (or months) without a paycheck. And we have a democratic crisis, as the virus outbreak challenges our ability to hold traditional in-person elections.

And this is on top of the crises we already face, such as the inequality that affects all aspects of our society.

And our Legislature needs to respond with the requisite urgency and comprehensiveness. 

Can you email your state legislators to demand quick and comprehensive action? 

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