April 13 Covid-19 Update

April 13, 2020

 

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

Helpful CARES Act small business program summaries and loan application tracker

To help navigate these new federal programs and access accurate information, please find below a compilation of resources.

Click here to access the Small Business Guide to the Coronavirus, which provides detailed information about each CARES program: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/small_biz_cares_guide_update_4-6.pdf

The CARES Act provided $275 million for SBA’s Resource Partners to provide vital guidance and expertise to small business owners and entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19. Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers (https://www.awbc.org/), and SCORE (https://www.score.org/) counselors are available to help guide small businesses with their specific questions about their eligibility and the application process.

To connect a small business with a local resource partner for COVID-19 advice please click here: https://smallbusiness.house.gov/uploadedfiles/lead_small_business_development_centers.pdf

Click here to learn more about SBA’s COVID-19 programs and how to apply: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options

The SBA now provides an application tracker for those who have applied for loans: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Login

Tax return non-filer web tool for Economic Impact Payment

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service launched a new web tool allowing quick registration for Economic Impact Payments for those who don’t normally file a tax return. The Non-filer Tool provides a free and easy option designed for people who don’t have a return filing obligation, including those with too little income to file. The feature is available only on IRS.gov, and users should look for Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here to take them directly to the tool. The tool is a Free File fillable forms product developed in partnership with the Free File Alliance. Please see attached EIP Rebate documents for more information.

FDA best practices for food service during the pandemic

The FDA issued information and best practices for retail food stores, restaurants, and pick-up and delivery services during the pandemic to protect both workers and customers. Information shared includes smart food safety practices that employers can consider at any time.

The FDA guidance is here: https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-issues-best-practices-safe-food-handling-and-employee-health-retail-food-settings-during-covid

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Emergency Response Team funding and update:

The M-ERT is a coordinated response by the Baker-Polito Administration and leading academic and industry stakeholders to support the Commonwealth’s manufacturers in their efforts to produce much-needed supplies for front-line workers and the health care system. Members of the M-ERT include representatives from: Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), MIT, MIT Lincoln Labs, the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP), Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and other industry partners.

The M-ERT is being launched alongside $10.6 million in new funding to help manufacturers scale their operations to produce PPE and other critical items. Companies can apply for grants through an online form (https://masstech.org/manufacturing-emergency-response-team-funding-program) for equipment, materials, supplies, workforce training and other needs. A Review Committee will process applications based on criteria including production timeline and recommend grant awards.

MassTech and AFFOA (Advanced Functional Fabrics of America), a member of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation Institutes based in Cambridge, will administer $5.6 million in funds through the existing Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Institute (M2I2) program. Another $4 million has been made available through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), with an additional $1 million for workforce training contributed by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Commonwealth Corporation through the existing Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP).

In addition to this funding, the M-ERT will offer other assistance to manufacturers, including:

  • Understanding what PPE and COVID-19 related materials are of highest priority to produce;
  • Regulatory compliance, including insight into FDA guidance;
  • Addressing specifications and testing that is necessary, and identifying in-state test centers;
  • Retraining workers on new production lines and standards; and
  • Sharing design and CAD files for critical items.

Hospital surge capacity update

As of today, the Commonwealth has worked to make a total of approximately 14,500 treatment beds available ahead of the surge: 11,000 beds could be available for ICU and acute care in the existing hospital system. This represents a breakdown of roughly 9,400 acute care beds and 1,500 ICU beds.  Through hospital surge planning and field hospitals, the Commonwealth is bringing approximately 3,500 new beds online for ICU and acute care. This breaks down to approximately 2,500 new hospital beds coming online from hospital surge planning, and 1,000 beds coming online though field hospitals.

The Command Center continues to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on different regions and tracking how many hospital beds are available across the Commonwealth. As of today, hospitals have reported that 8,100 beds are occupied now statewide, or approximately 55% (this figure includes hospitalizations for non COVID-19 patients). This means that 6,400 beds are currently available for both ICU and acute care, or roughly 45%.

Field hospitals update

In the coming days, hundreds of new beds will come online that will help the Commonwealth significantly ramp up care capacity ahead of the surge to support existing hospitals. The Command Center is targeting five alternate care sites. These field hospitals will serve as an alternative site for hospitals to treat patients, particularly individuals who need acute care. They are being built all around the state to ensure all residents have access to this emergency care. The field hospital at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center opened already.  Field hospitals at the DCU Center in Worcester and Newton Pavilion started accepting patients as well. Over the coming week, additional facilities will open up in Cape Cod, Springfield, and Lowell. These facilities will provide approximately 1,000 additional beds for patients who do not require ICU-level care. The Administration is grateful to federal partners and to the hospital systems of UMass Memorial, Partners Healthcare, Beth Israel Lahey, Cape Cod Hospital, Baystate Hospital, and Lowell General for their efforts to stand these facilities up.

Command Center PPE distribution summary by county

The Command Center posted for the first time a PPE distribution summary that describes what and where 1,935,010 pieces of PPE have been delivered. The summary provides the numbers of respirators, masks, gowns and gloves that have been distributed through April 12. The chart also provides a breakdown of distribution by entity and by region and will be updated regularly.

See The PPE Distribution Chart: https://www.mass.gov/doc/ppe-distribution-summary-april-12-2020/download 

Update on mobile testing program for long term care, assisted living residences and DDS group homes

On March 31, the Commonwealth implemented a project that allows for safe, on-site testing of symptomatic residents of nursing and rest homes with a quick turnaround. The program, which has expanded to include Assisted Living Residences, and Department of Developmental Services group homes, is operating under the auspices of the Massachusetts National Guard in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Broad Institute of Cambridge. Since launching the initiative, nearly 3,700 tests have been collected at 221 facilities. Facilities with appropriately trained clinical staff can now conduct their own testing with test kits ordered through the mobile testing program; as of Saturday afternoon, 35 facilities had requested more than 4,400 test kits had been sent.

Spanish language state government resources announced

The Baker-Polito Administration launched a Spanish language online, mobile-friendly, unemployment benefits application. The new, secure application for Spanish speakers is available through mass.gov/desempleo, the Spanish language website for unemployment in Massachusetts. The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will make language applications available in Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Vietnamese and additional languages in the coming days.

Additionally, the COVID-19 text message alert system is available in Spanish. Users can subscribe to the Spanish-language service by texting COVIDMAESP to 888-777.

All of Mass.Gov (including Mass.Gov/COVID19) is available in 13 different languages  The Commonwealth’s non-emergency help line for COVID-19, 2-1-1 is available in over 150 languages. Several agencies, including the Department of Public Health, offer additional fact sheets available in multiple languages

Grocery store worker priority testing

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security expanded access to the free, priority COVID-19 testing sites for first responders to now include grocery store and supermarket workers. Beginning Saturday, April 11, the people who provide critical access to food and other necessities may schedule an appointment to receive COVID-19 testing at the sites located at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield.

All appointments must be made in advance by the worker’s supervisor or manager, and personnel do not need to be symptomatic to be eligible.

Massachusetts National Guard activated

The Baker-Polito Administration authorized the activation of an additional 3,000 military personnel of the Massachusetts National Guard to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response. This order raises the total authorization to up to 5,000 members statewide, who may be tasked with supporting requests from state agencies for equipment, logistics, warehousing and related duties. Local cities, towns and state agencies should submit requests for support through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The activation reflects Governor Baker’s statutory authority to activate the Massachusetts National Guard under state active duty to provide necessary assistance to state and municipal civilian authorities.

Commissioner Riley notification to school districts regarding legislation enacted on MCAS, SOA Plans, and Regional School District Budgets

Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Assistant Superintendents,

Earlier today, Governor Baker signed legislation that addresses many concerns municipalities and school districts might have because of the state of emergency related to COVID-19, including this year’s MCAS testing and the competency determination, the deadline for Student Opportunity Act plans, and the process for regional school districts to approve their annual budget.

  • MCAS

We previously requested and received a waiver from the federal requirement for annual statewide student assessment. Now, with the state legislation enacted, the MCAS testing requirement is waived for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

As a result of these federal and state actions and in light of the on-going health crisis, I am cancelling this spring’s regular administration of grade-level MCAS tests for students in grades 3-10.

In addition, the legislation allows the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, upon my recommendation, to modify or waive the requirements of the competency determination for high school graduation in order to address disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 or the state of emergency. I am considering various options, and further guidance will be forthcoming.

  • Student Opportunity Act

The legislation that the governor signed today gives me the ability to move the deadline for the three-year plans required by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) to May 15, 2020 or later. I appreciate the work that several dozen districts did to submit plans in time for the original April 1 deadline. I recognize how challenging it is for school districts to complete the SOA district planning work right now. I will announce a new deadline soon.

  • Regional School District Budgets

Approving budgets for regional school districts can be particularly challenging during a time of social distancing. The legislation that the governor signed today states that, if a town’s or city’s vote on the approval of a fiscal year 2021 regional school district budget is delayed beyond June 30, 2020 as a result of COVID-19 and the state of emergency, the district should notify DESE. At that point, we will certify an amount sufficient for the operation of the regional district starting July 1, 2020, in an amount not less than one-twelfth of the regional district’s total annual budget in FY20. The Department will set similar sums for each successive month as needed. We expect to issue guidance on FY21 regional school district budgets in the near future. If you have questions about this process in the meantime, please email Michelle Griffin.

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