Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID 19: An Update From Senator Collins

Please note the following is an abridged version of Senator Collin's Covid 19 Update to his constituents. View Senator Collin's Update in its entirety. 

Dear Neighbor: 

I wanted to reach out to you to share a little bit about what I and my colleagues have been working on to address the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. While this is a time of uncertainty for many, we are working on your behalf to protect the public and stabilize the economy. Here are some developments from the past several days: 

To deal with increased demand, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will be holding virtual town halls for claimants to ask questions about applying and benefits.

Last week, my colleagues and I passed an emergency $15 million supplemental budget to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Those funds will support the Commonwealth’s monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts against the novel coronavirus by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, regional and local boards of health, and other public entities.

Last week, the Commonwealth announced a $200 million emergency investment in MassHealth for critical healthcare providers, including community health centers and acute, safety-net providers.

The Massachusetts DPH issued guidance on March 15 that stipulates that all commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services.

I have also called on the DivisiĆ³n of Insurance (DOI) to restrict insurance providers from canceling coverage due to nonpayment during this crisis. No one should be without health insurance at this critical moment, and MassHealth has also opened up a special enrollment period for all uninsured residents.

In the same spirit of continued services, the State’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU), announced a moratorium on utility shut offs, service disconnections, and other collection related activities during this crisis to make sure that seniors, families, and all residents continue to have access to basic utilities.

The state announced a $10 million low-interest loan program to small businesses and nonprofits with no payments for the first 6 months. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) provide small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses until normal operations resume. To apply for EIDL, see here.

Similarly, I have cosponsored legislation that would restrict evictions and foreclosures. (HD. 4935) No one should be displaced at this critical time.
I have also cosponsored legislation to allow collection of unemployment assistance for an additional 13 weeks beyond the 26-week limit currently in place for those who apply during this public health emergency (HD.4962).

Recognizing the hardships many restaurants are facing, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) has extended credit terms by 30 days. I called on the ABCC to suspend fees for license holders at this time. I also cosponsored legislation (HD. 4967) to give restaurants, bars, and other on premises-licensees to sell their current unopened inventory of canned or bottled beer, wine and spirits to the general public through pickup or delivery.

I have been in constant contact with my colleagues, public health officials, and organizations across my district during this difficult time. As these conversations continue, our sole focus is the medical and economic health and wellbeing of our Commonwealth.  If you have more questions, concerns, or comments, please call the Commonwealth’s hotline at 211, where you can access all the most up to date information on the state's efforts. Please continue to practice physical distancing, washing your hands, and doing your part to flatten the curve and slow this outbreak. These coming weeks are crucial in that mission.
Together, we will get through this and come out stronger than before! 


Nick Collins

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