Thursday, April 02, 2020

Boston City Council Looks At Insurance Coverage, Healthcare Workers, Rent & Mortgage Moratorium And More

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. Here are the notes from April 1, 2020:

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Insurance Coverage Resolution: We voted to adopt a resolution filed by Councilor Flynn urging insurance carriers to provide continuous coverage to residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasized that we must ensure everyone has access to health insurance that pays for COVID-19 testing, treatment, and other critical health services, even as workers may lose coverage because of job loss and income loss.

Resolution to Support Nurses & Healthcare workers: We voted to adopt Councilor Flynn’s resolution supporting our nurses and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to grapple with the spread of COVID-19,our nurses and healthcare workers are on the front lines and risking their own health to serve patients. We need to support them by ensuring that they have the sufficient equipment and appropriate facilities to handle COVID-19 cases, and doing our part to alleviate their workload by practicing physical distancing and frequent cleaning.

Resolution on Lifting the Ban on Blood Donation: We voted to adopt Councilor Edwards’ resolution urging the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to lift the ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men. She noted that from 1983-2015, the FDA imposed a lifetime ban on blood donation from gay men, and in 2015 revised its policy to a twelve-month blood donation deferral for gay men; while these policies are not based in empirical studies and are inconsistent with allowable blood donation by heterosexual individuals with multiple partners, and all donated blood is tested for infectious diseases. In this time when there may be even greater need for donated blood, we should especially lift discriminatory bans on blood donation.

Resolution on Housing Security: After several discussions on proposed amendments, we voted to adopt the resolution filed by Councilor Arroyo last week urging a moratorium on rent, mortgages, evictions and foreclosures in Boston to provide housing security in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, Councilor Arroyo had asked for an immediate vote on the nonbinding resolution, but the City Council rules state that no action can be taken on dockets on the same day as the filing unless there is unanimous consent, and Councilor Baker had objected to taking the vote at last week’s meeting. Councilor Arroyo noted that many other jurisdictions have introduced rent or mortgage moratoriums, while Massachusetts has not; and although the Council does not have the power to institute this, the Council can advocate through an official resolution. Councilor Flaherty offered amendments: to narrow the resolution to require documentation about an inability to pay mortgage or rent due to circumstances related to COVID-19 (failed 9-4, Baker, Essaibi George, Flaherty & Flynn supporting the 1st amendment), to emphasize that there would still be a lawful obligation to pay lawfully charged mortgage or rent unless there was a demonstrated loss of income (failed 10-3, Baker, Essaibi George & Flaherty supporting the amendment), and to require a 90-day time limit with options to renew quarterly (to which Councilor Bok introduced an amendment removing eligibility language and that Councilor Flaherty accepted)(passed 12-1, Baker opposed). Councilor Baker stated that telling people not to pay rent is dangerous and we ought not to mislead our constituents. The newly amended non-binding resolution (with a sunset clause added) was passed 12-1 (Councilor Baker opposed).


Veteran Services during COVID-19: Councilor Flynn ordered a hearing to discuss resources available through Boston's Veteran Services during the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that COVID-19 is impacting everyone, including veterans and military families, many of whom are in need of services and benefits that may be disrupted because of COVID-19. He intends to discuss specific programs and services available to veterans and military families, including the Veterans Administration Health Care System, city and state financial assistance available to low-income veterans, ensuring we continue to identify homeless veterans and provide them with access to housing and recovery services. The matter was assigned to the Committee Veterans & Military Affairs for a hearing.

Invest in Boston: Councilor Arroyo called for a hearing to audit the implementation of the "Invest in Boston" Ordinance that had legislated responsible banking practices in the City of Boston. The language requires that all banks receiving City of Boston deposits to publicly disclose to the Municipal Banking Commission their banking practices in Boston, including, but not limited to, mortgage lending, small business lending, hiring, loan modifications and foreclosure prevention. The “Invest in Boston” Ordinance also required Banks to prove that City of Boston funds are both safe in their institution and that City of Boston Funds would be easily accessible in the event of an emergency, such as the emergency we are currently experiencing due to COVID-19. The matter was assigned to the Post Audit Committee for a hearing.

Relief for Restaurants & Restaurant Workers: Councilor Edwards, Mejia & I called for a hearing regarding economic relief and incentives for the restaurant industry and restaurant workers. Restaurants and their workers are disproportionately vulnerable to economic disruption due to the nature of the work and services provided, the unavailability and inadequacy of unemployment insurance to many restaurant workers, tight margins for businesses, and the high cost of commercial rent and mortgages. Restaurant workers’ economic situation is particularly precarious due to subminimum wages for tipped workers, which affects stability of income as well as the amount received through unemployment insurance; and the transience or duration of employment, which affects eligibility for unemployment insurance; and the significant number of undocumented workers in the restaurant and food services industries. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Small Business & Workforce Development for a hearing.

Business Acquisition and Conversion Program: Councilor Edwards called for a hearing regarding the creation of a Business Acquisition and Conversion Program to support and stabilize local businesses undergoing economic hardship, with retiring leadership, or seeking assistance to promote employee autonomy, control and innovation. She noted that perhaps legacy businesses such as Doyle’s could have been saved if the employees had a chance to purchase that business. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Small Business & Workforce Development for a hearing.

Equitable Recovery from COVID-19: Councilors Arroyo, Mejia & I called for a hearing to begin planning for an equitable recovery from the economic, social, and public health impacts of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose systemic inequities, and necessary social-distancing policies are deepening disparities across communities. The impacts of closing down non-essential businesses, schools, child care, and community spaces create tremendous financial and emotional distress disproportionately borne by communities who were already at greater risk of displacement, including renters, youth, hourly wage workers, communities of color and immigrant residents. When all non-essential travel is limited, the presence or absence of resources available to residents in each neighborhood is amplified--residents face even greater barriers to food access, digital connectivity, open space without full mobility. Councilor Arroyo noted that communities of color and vulnerable populations have faced systemic inequities from the very creation of these systems, and there is a history of crises exacerbating inequities. Councilor Mejia stated that Boston is resource rich and coordination poor, and the planning efforts should focus on sustainable resource sharing in the long run--equity in language access, transportation, digital access, and more. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Planning, Development and Transportation for a hearing.

Temporary Rental Assistance to Residents Impacted by COVID-19: Councilor Edwards called for a hearing to discuss an emergency rental assistance program and other rental subsidy programs in order to align resources with the urgency of need. She noted that $24M in Community Preservation Action funding is available, including $8M for the City’s long-term housing assistance programs (Acquisition Opportunity Program & the first-time homebuyers program). She suggested redirecting some of this funding on a short-term basis to support landlords who commit to providing relief to landlords. Her goal is to support the people who do not qualify for vouchers or federal assistance with bridge funding to get through this crisis. Councilor Bok noted her support for emergency rental assistance but opposed the use of CPA funds for this purpose, because the Council should not override the Community Preservation Committee and because we need a fully-funded Acquisition Opportunity Program and first-time homebuyers program when there will be opportunities for recovery. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Housing & Community Development for a hearing.


  • $157,500 FY18 Hazard Mitigation Grant, awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Program. Passed through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to be administered by Emergency Management to fund the Boston Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan (Passed unanimously)

UPCOMING HEARINGS (In the City Council Chamber unless otherwise noted. Watch at:

  • Our next City Council meeting will be on Wednesday, April 8th at 12 PM
For complete notes of Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.

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