Issues Blog

Entries, updates on issue organizing and information, legislative action, and other material related to our Progressive Platform and Legislative Agenda

Send People Checks. Make It Simple. Do It Now.

Dear Chairman Hinds, Chairman Cusack, and Members of the Joint Committee on Revenue:

Progressive Massachusetts is a statewide, grassroots advocacy group with 16 chapters across the state committed to working toward the goals of equity, justice, democracy, and sustainability.

We are writing today to urge you to give a favorable report to the following bills:

  • 4634 (Miranda): An Act providing emergency access to equity and justice for all in response to COVID-19
  • 4726 (Barber / Farley-Bouvier) / S.2659 (Eldridge): An Act to provide equal stimulus checks to immigrant taxpayers
  • 4727 (Gouveia): An Act providing for emergency cash assistance in response to COVID-19
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Mass Incarceration is a Threat to Public Health

Testimony in support of Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa’s, bill HD.4963/H.4652
An Act Regarding Decarceration and COVID-19

Thank you for taking testimony in support of this critical bill during this terrible crisis.

My name is Caroline Bays, and I am testifying on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts as well as on behalf of those who are behind bars and do not have the ability to testify for themselves.

This has been a hard time for our state. We all have found this time difficult and sometimes even scary. Imagine if you had to live through this without any control of your surroundings. Imagine if you had to live with your ability to stay safe completely in the hands of others -- and imagine if those others are people who have previously shown no indication that they care about your welfare or well-being. This is a truly scary time for men and women in the prisons in Massachusetts.

In addition many in prison are more vulnerable to this disease. Those who are not fed appropriately or allowed appropriate exercise, are more likely than most to have comorbidities, a fact which increases the likelihood that they will die from this disease. Whatever reason they might be in prison for, nobody was sentenced to illness or death. When the state incarcerates someone, the state becomes responsible for ensuring their well-being.  Well, that is what the state needs to do. And that means releasing as many people as possible in order to ensure that these tragic deaths do not continue and spiral out of control.

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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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