Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Boston City Council Looks At Care, Remote Learning, 2020 Elections, Budget & More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Here are highlights from April 4 and April 15, 2020:

Resolution Supporting Immigrant Communities During COVID-19: The Council voted to adopt the resolution introduced by Councilor Flynn supporting our immigrant communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sponsors noted that immigrant communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and are disproportionately left out of the stimulus.

Resolution Supporting SNAP benefits: The Council voted to adopt the resolution from Councilors Janey and Bok in support of expanding SNAP benefits for online and delivery services. With no EBT Online Purchasing Program in Massachusetts, people who rely on this benefit are forced to put themselves and their families at risk because their only option is going out to grocery stores to get food, whereas others can shop online from the safety of their home. Given current shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, it is imperative that the federal government allow more states to implement the EBT Online Purchasing Program so that we are able to create more opportunities for food access for those who use SNAP while they can continue to adhere to safety guidelines for COVID- 19.

Resolution for Equity in BPS Remote Learning: The Council voted to adopt the resolution from Councilor Campbell and Janey urging Boston Public Schools to ensure equity in access to quality remote learning. They noted that the given the lack of universal access to technology and broadband internet across the city of Boston, especially for lower income communities and communities of color, some students do not have access to remote learning. Access to educators and materials varies by school, and even within schools, with some students reporting several virtual sessions per week with a teacher and other students reporting one or none. Students who were already struggling in schools are likely to be the worst impacted by this time of remote learning and increased stress and uncertainty. Students who receive special education services, are on IEPs (Individualized Education Plan), or who are learning English as a second language may not be receiving any of the targeted services and instruction they are entitled to during this remote learning period.

Rationing of Care: Councilors Arroyo and Campbell called for a hearing on the proposed guidelines for ventilator distribution and ICU beds in the event of a shortage and ensuring that health inequities do not dictate medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidelines issued by the state last week ask hospitals to assign patients a score that gives preference to healthier patients who have a greater chance of surviving their illness, and living longer overall, with additional preference to medical personnel who are vital to treating others, and to women further along in pregnancy. In the event of tie scores, younger patients are given priority. The sponsors and several Councilors emphasized that racial health disparities should not lead to a systematic exclusion of patients of color according to these guidelines, and we must ensure that treatment is equitable. This matter was assigned to the Committee on Public Health.
Language Access: Councilors Mejia and Flynn called for a hearing on language access and information parity during the COVID-19 outbreak. 111,409 Boston residents speak English less than very well, and although Boston’s COVID-19 website and resources are being updated and translated daily, but delays in resources being translated can lead to confusion and misinformation. Getting information out to people who speak languages other than English is crucial for the health and safety of all Bostonians. This matter was assigned to the Committee on Civil Rights.
2020 Elections: Councilor O'Malley called for a hearing to explore preparations for the upcoming 2020 elections in September and November. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which dictates the City of Boston’s election policies and procedures, has already begun implementing voting reform measures such as early voting for certain elections, but MA does not currently allow for no-excuse absentee voting. This matter was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations.

Liquor Licenses: Councilor Edwards reported back on the virtual hearing on the home-rule petition sponsored by Councilor Baker to increase the number of liquor licenses available to Boston neighborhoods. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association opposed discussion of adding new liquor licenses (which they expect would destabilize existing restaurants that invested in purchasing liquor licenses) during this pandemic when so many restaurants are struggling and may not survive. Councilor Baker suggested reducing the total number of proposed new licenses from 184 to 33 to address the concerns. The Councilors mentioned that the State House has a legislative deadline in July to pass any home-rule petitions, so the Council would need to take action in the next few months, but could wait to assess the reality of the liquor license market after the pandemic eases.
FY2021 Budget: As required by City Charter, the Mayor must transmit each year’s budget to the City Council on the 2nd Wednesday of April. Today all the dockets that make up the City’s Operating Budget, Schools Budget, and Capital Budget were officially read into the record. Council hearings hosted by the Ways & Means Committee slated to begin on Monday, April 13th.

UPCOMING HEARINGS (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Zoom meetings linked below:

For complete notes of Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.