As we begin to feel the effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Boston and around the world, our ability to personally connect and communicate has been compromised, so I want to take time to reach out to you directly.
Let me start by saying, thank you. Thank you for your patience and resiliency during what has undoubtedly been a very difficult and challenging time for us all. Each one of us have been part of building this community and it’s our responsibility to remain steadfast in our support of our fellow neighbors by maintaining and practicing social distancing. With the stay at home advisory extended by Governor Baker into May, it is imperative that we continue to take these necessary steps to flatten the curve on this virus.
My colleagues and I in the House of Representatives, our partners in the Senate and Governor Baker have been working on extensive legislation addressing a myriad of issues to assist the Commonwealth’s residents in handling this public and economic crisis.
Over the past few weeks we have passed legislation relating to housing security , tax relief, unemployment benefits and a package of incentives for small businesses. We finalized legislation on Thursday to extend the the income tax filing date from April 15th to July 15th; allowing some breathing room for the next three months.
Massachusetts eliminated the one-week waiting period for unemployment assistance, which was used as a model in the federal stimulus package which codified that wavier for the rest of the country. The federal stimulus package additionally broadened the parameters to include self-employed individuals and contracted employees using 1099s. This was a vital step that will help thousands of people, especially those that work in new sectors of our workforce like the gig economy. However, the increase in eligibility creates new challenges. The Division of Unemployment Assistance has been inundated with claim filings and calls. At the same time awaiting guidance from the federal government. Massachusetts saw a record spike in new claims, from 20,000 claims in the first two months of the year to over 300,000 in the last three weeks alone. I have contacted the Administration to ensure that the DUA is working diligently to process these claims as quickly as possible. Should you have any problems navigating the process, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office.
The House has worked with priority to protect tenants and homeowners during this chaotic time. We passed a bill that places a moratorium on all non-criminal evictions for residential and commercial tenants during and 30 days after, the COVID-19 state of emergency. This bill also places a moratorium on foreclosures during for the duration of the emergency declaration. Additionally, emergency legislation passed by both legislative branches and signed by the Governor, gives cities and towns the ability to delay property tax payments for residents and businesses for the fourth quarter, an initiative that I am pleased Mayor Marty Walsh has committed to implement.
The Legislature has taken necessary steps to help many of our local small businesses deal with this unprecedented crisis. We have deferred the collection of meals, sales and occupancy taxes until June 20, this alone will provide relief for close to 90% of all businesses in the Commonwealth. We have also eliminated late payment penalties, further enabling small businesses the flexibility to navigate uncertain finances in the coming months. Just this week, we sent the Governor a bill that allows restaurants to offer beer and wine take-out with food purchases (growlers too!). This was a personal priority of mine, allowing the vital restaurant community in my district an additional tool in the toolbox. In addition the state and federal government provides funding for loan programs from both the Mass Growth Capital Corporation and Small Business Administration. These short-term loans allow us to continue to explore a more expansive and long term approach for small businesses. My office continues to monitor the implementation of the federal stimulus package for further benefits to the district.
While I believe these actions are vital and critical steps to address the crisis, I am abundantly aware that there may be more to do. As chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, I am focused on crafting and passing a balanced state budget that addresses the needs of all the Commonwealth. I am committed to answering the needs of our medical community, health care providers, homeless shelters and education and child care providers. It is imperative that as this crisis continues, we must protect our most vulnerable citizens.
I implore you to continue to patronize our local restaurants, bakeries and markets buy ordering take out and other essential items. Check in on elderly and infirm neighbors, follow CDC and DPH guidelines, maintain a hopeful attitude and outlook as we unite in navigating these uncertain times. Together as friends and neighbors we will get through this!
If there is anything my office can do to help, whether it’s for you or one of our neighbors, please do not hesitate to reach out either through the office or the numerous social media outlets.
Stay safe and be well,
3rd Suffolk District