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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Actions You Can Take from Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

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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The MA Senate's Next Generation Climate Package: What's in & What's out

Last fall, Senate President Karen Spilka promised that the MA State Senate would take up a climate package by the end of January. And the Senate did, passing a trio of bills this past Thursday:

S.2476: An Act to accelerate the transition of cars, trucks and buses to carbon-free power

S.2477: An Act Setting Next Generation Climate Policy

S.2478: An Act relative to Energy Savings Efficiency (Energy SAVE)

In the lead-up to the vote, senators filed 155 amendments, the vast majority of them to the Next Generation climate bill. So let's save that one for last.

What did the three bills do?

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Take Action: The MA Senate Votes on Climate Action This Week

This decade -- the 2020s -- will be the decade in which our collective actions determine whether or not we'll continue to have an inhabitable planet. And that means we need to start taking action--fast.

Tomorrow, the Massachusetts State Senate will be voting on omnibus climate legislation (for a good overview, read this).

The bill is strong in many ways, but it can be bolder and more equitable.

And that's where you come in.

Can you call your state senator today in support of the amendments below?

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We Need to Use Every Tool in the Toolbox

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Housing on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

 

Chairman Crighton, Chairman Honan, and Members of the Joint Committee on Housing:

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide grassroots advocacy group committed to fighting for an equitable, just, democratic, and sustainable Commonwealth.

It is because of those values that we write today in support of H.3924 (An Act enabling local options for tenant protections) and S.773 (An Act supporting affordable housing with a local option for a fee to be applied to certain real estate transactions).

 

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We Cannot Achieve Shared Prosperity Under Water

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.

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Chairman Barrett, Chairman Golden, and Members of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy:

 I, Jonathan Cohn, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, am pleased to offer this testimony on behalf of Progressive Massachusetts. Progressive Massachusetts is a multi-issue, grassroots, member-based advocacy organization committed to an agenda of shared prosperity, racial and social justice, good governance and strong democracy, and sustainable infrastructure and environmental protection.

Progressive Massachusetts would like to go on the record IN SUPPORT of bills H.2810.

As a coastal state, Massachusetts is especially vulnerable to climate change. To put it bluntly, we cannot achieve shared prosperity under water.

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Help Us Start off 2020 Strong

Optimism! It’s a word we don’t hear much of these days. But, friends, we can be optimistic because, despite all the bad news we receive daily, together we are doing good work and making progress. 

With your help, we are making Massachusetts legislators fulfill our state’s progressive promise. Chapters working in unison bring pressure to legislators. Progressive Mass working in unison with ally organizations to coordinate and amplify brings even more pressure. Organized activism - multi-issue and single-vision - is necessary to counter big money, deeply-rooted prejudice, and legislative inertia. Organized action is also necessary to counter the angst and anxiety we all feel!

Our success is driven by small, monthly donations. Donate today to help our 2020 push to make Massachusetts a leader on progressive policy.

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It's about Respect

The following testimony was submitted to the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.

 

Chairman Pacheco, Chairwoman Gregoire, and Members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight:

My name is Jonathan Cohn, and I am the chair of the Issues Committee of Progressive Massachusetts, a statewide grassroots advocacy organization focused on advancing progressive policy here in the Commonwealth.

One of the most foundational progressive values is respect—treating every person with dignity and worth—and that is why we urge you to give a favorable report to H.2776/S.1877 (Resolve providing for the creation of a special commission relative to the seal and motto of the Commonwealth) and H.3572/S.1898 (An Act promoting equality and respect in the legislature).

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