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Your Tewksbury Today

Covid-19 Updates #18: Phase III, 2020 Census, and More

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope everyone had a safe and joyous Fourth of July weekend. My colleagues and I continue to work on many ways to help address the impact that Covid-19 is having on the Commonwealth. One of the things we are seeing right now is how important it is to get federal funding to support crucial services that were needed before Covid-19, but are especially vital right now to help our economy and people facing hardships recover. Which is why it is important for everyone in Massachusetts to fill out the 2020 Census. The amount of federal dollars we receive for local community and statewide programs will be determined by the Census! For every person who does not get counted, Massachusetts loses out on thousands of dollars per year for the next ten years.

Having worked on the 2010 Census, I know the enormous impact that it has - Massachusetts receives more than $16 billion in federal funds to help pay for hospitals, schools, roads, transportation, unemployment benefits, financial aid, healthcare, and more! These are tough times for all of us. Help our community receive the federal funding it needs for the next 10 years by taking 10 minutes to complete your 2020 Census.

Also, please spread the word about our virtual town hall on the 2020 Census. Details are in the next section. I hope you can join us!

Town Halls
Please join me on Tuesday, July 21st, at 5:00 p.m. for a town hall conversation on the 2020 Census, why it’s important and easy to complete, and how we can help our neighbors do the same. I will be joined by the State Delegation, Redistricting Chair Paul Mark, as well as representatives from the US Census Bureau. Join us and get your questions about the census answered!

We are live streaming the town hall on my Facebook Page. You don’t need a Facebook account to watch the Facebook Live stream or to replay the recording afterwards. You simply need to visit my page at facebook.com/TeamTram.MA and a link to my scheduled live streams should appear near the top of the page. Please let me know if you need closed captioning accommodations.

You can replay my previous town halls on my Facebook page. The links are provided below. You do not need a Facebook account to watch them. I really enjoyed hosting these events, and I hope they were informative.

Replay the recording of previous town halls:
Covid-19
2020 Elections
Food Insecurity
Environmental Issues
Healthy Relationships
 
Resources
  • Many families are struggling right now. Know that you are not alone. Please reach out to the 2-1-1 resource hotline to get connected with resources that you may need.
  • If you feel overwhelmed with emotions like sadness or anxiety, or feel like harming yourself or others, Call2Talk is a resource available through the 2-1-1 resource hotline.
  • Massachusetts Network of Care, a searchable behavioral health directory of mental health services and over 5,000 organizations, is available here.
  • Resources for people in need can be found at https://findhelp.org/ and on this map developed by MEMA, MA VOAD, and other partners.
  • Resources for people with disabilities can be found through the Disability Resource Center on this spreadsheet.
  • For Covid housing and emergency needs you can reach out to Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm at their general hotline 978-654-5607 or by emailing them at CovidResponseCTI@commteam.orgClick here to check CTI’s website for updates.
  • Massachusetts has launched the Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) program, which builds upon the popular and effective Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. It provides organizations like CTI with the resources to help families with incomes up to 80 percent of the area median. The previous limit with RAFT was 50 percent of area median income. Reach out to CTI for more information and assistance applying.
  • State Attorney General Healey’s Office (AGO) has resources here. You can find information about protecting yourself from scams and fraud, division hotline numbers, and more.
  • UI Fraud Alert: Criminal enterprises using stolen personal information from earlier national data breaches have been attempting to file fraudulent unemployment claims through the DUA system. If you have received notification that you've been approved for benefits that you never applied for, please report it right away. Click here for more information and to report DUA fraud online. It is also recommended that you file a police report and freeze your credit with all three major credit reporting agencies.
  • The COVID-19 Command Center and MEMA currently have isolation and recovery sites located in Northampton and Everett. Providers or individuals can access these sites by calling (617) 367-5150 between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm. More information, including clinical and financial eligibility, can be found here.

Latest updates on the State of Emergency
  • Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19.
  • Click here for the latest guidance on prevention and treatment.
  • On Thursday, June 9th, we tested 9,648 individuals and had 177 new positive cases (about 1.8%). In total, 920,002 patients have been tested. There are 105,138 total reported cases of Covid-19 and 8,053 deaths in the Commonwealth. The latest updates can be found here.
  • Hospital capacity: As of July 9th, there are about 12,300 beds statewide and about 33% are currently empty and available. There are 635 patients hospitalized statewide for Covid-19 with 103 in the ICU.
  • Contact Tracing: as the Contact Tracing Collaborative continues its work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that Massachusetts residents answer the phone when a contact tracer calls or texts. Contact tracers will only reach out from phone numbers with 833 or 857 area codes, and the caller ID will say MA COVID Team. Click here to learn more.
  • On May 18th, the Governor issued a “safer at home” advisory, urging that people should stay at home unless heading to an essential service or a newly reopened facility or activity. Residents aged 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions should stay home except for necessary trips.
  • Face coverings are required in public when physical distancing is not possible. Full details of the order can be found here.
  • We are in Phase III (“Vigilant”) of the four-phase reopening plan. It will last considerably longer than the previous phases, because we do not plan to advance to the final phase until there is a Covid-19 vaccine or treatment. You can find the Governor’s announcement here. Gyms, fitness centers, museums, movie theaters, casinos, and more may reopen with safety measures in place. Additional details about the reopening can be found here.
Legislative Updates
As we continue to adapt to address and support the Governor’s actions, the House has successfully passed important bills such as:
The American Red Cross Needs Our Help!
  • Blood drives are being cancelled at an alarming rate. Low donor turnout could hurt U.S. blood supply. The Red Cross understands people may be hesitant to give blood due to coronavirus, but wants to reassure everyone on the precautions their teams are taking to keep you safe. The Red Cross urges healthy individuals to give blood. Learn more and schedule an appointment at rcblood.org/2IAWGba.

Healthcare
  • Buoy Health offers a free 24/7 online tool for Massachusetts residents to give personalized guidance on what to do if residents experience symptoms of Covid-19. Visit Buoy Health Covid-19 Web App to use the tool.
  • Massachusetts launched a Covid-19 test site locator map for people who qualify for testing, which was expanded to include people with mild symptoms and those who are close contacts of a positive case.
  • There is a dedicated phone line operating 7 days a week for any family concerns about loved ones in nursing homes and rest homes: 617-660-5399.
  • Visitation guidelines at long term care facilities, nursing homes, rest homes, and assisted living residences have been updated to establish a minimum duration of 30 minutes. You can find the latest visitation guidance here.
  • People in need of Personal Care Attendant (PCA) services, which support individuals with disabilities and older adults with activities of daily living (ADL), such as dressing, grooming, bathing, and ambulating, can call 1-844-422-6277 to be connected to home health services in your region.
  • MassHealth and the Health Connector will protect coverage for all individuals who have Medicaid coverage as of March 18th and for all individuals approved for coverage during the national emergency.
  • Under Phase III of the reopening, more Health and Human Services programs will be able to reopen, including certain group treatment programs and day programs. More information about that is available here.
  • In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Health Connector announced an extended enrollment period for Massachusetts residents, which is open through July 23, 2020.
Employment
  • People may use this contact form to submit questions and comments to the Administration about the Reopening Plan. It also outlines the process for reporting non-compliant businesses.
  • Minors under the age of 18 who have been employed part-time but are not eligible for regular UI should be eligible under the CARES Act for PUA benefits. According to Secretary Acosta, those who are under the age of 18 can file for unemployment insurance under the PUA program, but they must do so over the phone at (877) 626-6800. There is no timeline for creating the ability for minors to file for UI online at this point.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): the CARES Act expands unemployment benefits for individuals who may have already exhausted regular unemployment compensation for an additional 13 weeks – this benefit is now available. PEUC will begin automatically for individuals who have been receiving regular standard benefits on an active claim. If an individual's standard unemployment claim has expired, they must file a new standard claim. Individuals who exhausted regular benefits but were receiving benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) established under the CARES Act must apply through the standard unemployment benefits portal here. Individuals will automatically receive the additional $600 weekly through the week ending July 25, 2020. Get more information at www.mass.gov/peuc.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The PUA application form for self employed, gig workers, and those who have exhausted their state benefits launched on April 21st. Click here for more information about the CARES Act implementation.
  • Click here for the latest updates and resources to apply for UI Benefits. The application is now available in m English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance on emergency paid leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18th. This includes guidance for employer requirementsemployee rights, and potential frequently asked questions.
  • Here is a Guide for Workers on returning to work, as it relates to unemployment insurance (UI).
  • In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Health Connector announced an extended enrollment period for Massachusetts residents, which is open through July 23, 2020. They are also taking steps to reach, assist, and enroll people who may be losing job-based health coverage. On Wednesday, July 15th, 4 - 5 pm, the Health Connector is hosting a live webinar to help Massachusetts residents who have lost employer-sponsored health insurance learn about their health coverage options through the Health Connector. You can get more information and register here.
Employers
Students, Borrowers, and Parents
  • On June 25th, DESE sent initial guidance (download) to school districts to prepare for reopening schools in the fall. DESE is asking that schools prepare for three models: in-school learning, a hybrid of in-school and remote learning, and remote learning. The goal is to get as many children back to in-person classroom learning this fall as is safely possible. Guidance calls for physical distancing, face coverings, emphasizing hand hygiene, staying home when sick, and more. The guidance can be downloaded here. You can submit questions to DESE at COVID19K12ParentInfo@mass.gov.
  • The Massachusetts Division of Banks (DOB) has joined a multi-state initiative to secure payment relief options for Massachusetts student loan borrowers and issued a Consumer Advisory with important information and resources for private student loan borrowers. Through this initiative, DOB has secured relief options with 15 private student loan servicers to expand on the protections the federal government granted to federal student loan borrowers. These new options stand to benefit over 182,000 Massachusetts borrowers with privately held student loans. This response builds on the federal CARES Act, which provided much needed relief for students with federal loans, including the suspension of monthly payments, interest and involuntary collection activity until September 30, 2020. Check the advisory linked above for more information.
  • In addition, the MA Department of Higher Education (DHE) is deferring scheduled repayments for its No-Interest Loan Program for a duration of four months to support relief efforts during the Covid-19 public health emergency. These deferments will help approximately 12,000 students. All no-interest loan accounts currently in repayment will automatically be placed in a deferment from April 2020 through July 2020. More information can be found here.
  • Student Aid Relief: an administrative forbearance and zero interest loan relief was implemented for certain federal loans from March 13th through September 30, 2020. Click here for more information.

Resources for Survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault
  • For the latest information, please check mass.gov/covid19.
  • Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, know that you are not forgotten and we are here to provide resources to support and keep you safe. Physical spaces are temporarily closed, but there are resources available remotely. Also, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are still available at hospitals to collect forensics.
  • Trial courts can be reached during regular hours at 1-833-91COURT. Judges are available 24/7 to issue 209A restraining orders and 258E harassment orders. These forms have been repackaged as one document to streamline and expedite the process and can be found online. However, please note that you must still contact the trial courts to start the process.
  • The Safelink Hotline is a centralized number to call to talk to someone and receive services for sexual and domestic violence. Calls are confidential and available in many different languages to support survivors and their family. The hotline is available by calling 211 or toll free 1-877-785-2020. For people who are hearing impaired, call TTY 1-877-521-2601.
  • If you are not comfortable calling, you can instant message with a trained advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.orgwww.loveisrespect.org, or www.rainn.org.
  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
Preventing Child Abuse
  • Child abuse affects every community, whether you are aware of it or not. As adults, there are many things we can do to prevent child abuse, like actively acknowledging the signs of child abuse and knowing when and where to report instances of abuse or neglect. Check out the MA Children’s Alliance Resource Page to learn more.
Advisory Affecting Drivers
  • On June 12th, the RMV announced new initiatives to provide additional flexibility for customers, like expanding appointment hours at Open Service Centers (8:00 am - 8:00 pm), Leominster and Watertown service centers are to reopen exclusively for Learner’s Permit test appointments (which is also currently available online), eligible 16 year olds may apply for supervised driving privileges, REAL ID upgrade fee is waived for customers who renew online before August 12th, and junior operators are able to complete 6 hours of supervised driving instead of observation requirements. You can find the most up-to-date information by visiting https://www.mass.gov/info-details/rmv-covid-19-information.
  • Online Learner’s Permit Tests: as of June 10th, Class D and M learner’s permit exams are available online.
  • The RMV is cautioning customers to use only mass.gov/rmv when they are trying to renew a license or registration or process any business transactions online. Customers may inadvertently come across unofficial third-party websites or “mimic sites” that advertise similar services but have no affiliation with the RMV.
Law-related Resources
  • Courthouses in Massachusetts will reopen to the public on July 13th for limited purposes, with the courts continuing to conduct most business virtually. Reopening is planned to happen in phases, with the second phase scheduled for August 10th. You can find more information here.
  • Volunteer Lawyers Projects Eastern Region Legal Intake (ERLI) is available to callers seeking legal assistance, advice, and referral. If you’re looking for help with a legal matter check out the Get Help page, contact the ERLI helpline at 617-603-1700, or apply online for legal assistance here. ERLI is open on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9AM - 12PM; and Tuesday and Thursday at 12:30PM - 3:30PM. If you call and reach a voicemail, be sure to leave your name and number and they will contact you.
  • Northeast Legal Aid (NLA) has information and resources here.
  • For some law-related updates and help regarding Covid-19, you can visit https://www.masslegalhelp.org/health-mental-health/covid-19.
  • Massachusetts Covid-19 bills, summarized in plain English by the MassTrac Legal Division, are now available to the public for free here.
  • The Trial Court helpline is available. Assistance includes general information about cases & navigation of the court system, while it is closed to the public for all but emergency matters. It's staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please call 1-833-91COURT.
What You Can Do to Help
  • To donate goods for use in Massachusetts' response to the Covid-19 public health emergency click here.
  • To provide information about goods you are looking to sell to support Massachusetts' Covid-19 response efforts click here.
  • To adapt your business to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) click here.
  • To volunteer to assist in public health, health care, and emergency response click here.
Practicing Self-care
  • Do activities to reduce stress & cope with fear of Covid-19, like physical and mindfulness exercises, planting a garden, cooking, connecting with your friends and family on the phone or video chat, reading a book, and getting plenty of sleep.
  • Here are some resources for maintaining emotional health & well-being.
  • Essex Heritage’s Heritage at Home Initiative: Essex Heritage is rolling out a new initiative, "Heritage At Home", which provides the community with an online database of internet resources as well as natural sites around the county people can visit (when appropriate). You can check it out at www.heritageathome.org.
  • One way to stay connected virtually to our local communities is to watch locally-filmed movies and television series. Here is a list of 50 films and episodic series shot in Massachusetts, in just the last 5 years, that are available now to stream on popular video on demand services.

Finally, a reminder:
Massachusetts declared a state of emergency over the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. It is highly contagious and has the potential to completely overwhelm our healthcare system, which is why it’s vitally important that we take proactive steps to prevent community spread and contain the number of cases. The most common way for COVID-19 to spread is by people who are asymptomatic. For this reason, it is important to practice physical distancing: stay home as much as possible. When you are out, wear a face covering, keep 6 feet distance from others (no hugging or handshakes), and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with soap and water.
For the most up-to-date information, please dial the Massachusetts information hotline 2-1-1 or visit mass.gov/COVID19. You can also receive notifications on your phone by texting the keyword COVIDMA to 888-777. Spanish updates are available by texting the keyword COVIDMAESP to 888-777.
Our community is strong and we will get through this if we all do our part and work together for our collective health and well-being.
My team is working remotely. Please do not hesitate to reach out for assistance. We remain available for constituent services and to answer your questions/concerns. Please email Tram.Nguyen@mahouse.gov or call my office at 617-722-2060 ext. 5, and we will respond as soon as we're able.

Sincerely,
Tram T. Nguyen, Esq.
State Representative, 18th Essex District

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