April 15 Covid-19 Update

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

Coronavirus Relief Funds Made Available To States (urgent action needed by towns over 500,000 people):

The Department of Treasury launched a portal by which states and localities over 500,000 people can apply for funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund through the CARES Act to help cover expenses resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. While the Treasury has yet to release official guidance on what expenses qualify states and eligible localities can begin the certification process here (https://forms.treasury.gov/caresact/stateandlocal) and receive half the funds. Once officially certified, the remainder of funds will be distributed no later than April 24. To ensure payments are made within the 30 day period specified by the CARES Act, governments must submit completed payment materials not later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2020.  Eligible local and Tribal governments that do not provide required information—and in the case of a local government, the required certification—by 11:59 p.m. EDT on April 17, 2020, may not receive any payment from the Fund.

For more information on distribution methodology and eligible units of government, click here: (https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/state-and-local-governments).

Press Release: https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm974

            STATE GOVERNMENT ACTIONS

AGO Resource to connect frontline workers to supports:

The Attorney General’s Office rolled out FrontlineMA.org, a resource to connect frontline workers with various supports such as free/discounted meals, guidance on accessing PPE and priority testing, emergency child care, and alternate housing options

DUA unemployment FAQs updated:

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance have updated the Unemployment Assistance CARES Act webpage by adding FAQs about qualifying for the additional programs.

That info can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/update-massachusetts-department-of-unemployment-assistance-announces-guidance-on-cares#frequently-asked-questions-

Long-Term Care Facility Support:

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working to detect, prevent and manage the outbreaks of COVID-19 throughout the state and is intensely focused on mitigating the spread of illness in senior living facilities. Statewide, there are 383 nursing homes, 255 assisted living residences, and 93 rest homes in Massachusetts. There are approximately 38,000 residents in nursing homes; 16,500 in assisted living residences; and 3,000 residents in rest homes. Recognizing that these facilities are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19, the Administration in March implemented stringent visitation restrictions and screening guidelines for staff at long-term care facilities.

Today, the Administration outlined ongoing steps and new resources to support these facilities:

$130 Million In New Funding

  • In early April, the Administration announced a 10% MassHealth rate increase (approximately $50 million) across the board
  •  for all nursing facilities.
  • Facilities that create dedicated COVID-19 wings and units and follow necessary safety protocols will be eligible for an
  •  additional 15% rate increase, or a net increase of 25% (approximately $50 million). These funds support additional staffing, infection control and supply costs throughout the state of emergency
  • An estimated $30 million will support facilities that established dedicated skilled nursing facilities.

Expanded Mobile Testing

The Commonwealth’s Mobile Testing program, a partnership between the Department of Public Health, the National Guard, and the Broad Institute has improved access to testing for nursing home, rest home, and assisted living facilities to test more people. On April 13th, the Administration updated testing guidance to encourage long-term care facilities to conduct widespread testing for residents, even if they have no symptoms, and staff. In addition to the mobile testing program, facilities can conduct their own on-site testing using kits supplied by the Broad Institute.

As of April 14, more than 4,500 tests have been collected at 264 facilities.

As of yesterday, 77 facilities had requested more than 8,600 test kits.

PPE Distribution:

Since the beginning of March, the Command Center has distributed nearly 1.3 million masks, almost 200,000 gowns and over 2 million gloves to long-term care facilities.

Rapid Response Clinical Team & Staff Resources

The Commonwealth has also mobilized rapid-response clinical teams to provide short-term support for facilities with a high volume of cases or with critical staffing needs. These teams are made up of EMS technicians, nurses, and other health care professionals.

To meet staffing needs, the Administration has

  • Stood up a Long-Term Care Portal to match individuals that have registered through the portal with the staffing requests submitted by facilities;
  • Announced a $1,000 signing bonus to all individuals that register through the LTC portal to work for a certain amount of time in a nursing home, and;
  • Tapped into the volunteers who’ve signed up through the Health Professionals Volunteer portal

Crisis Management Support:

To provide crisis management support for long-term care facilities, the Administration has also contracted with a firm specializing in nursing home crisis management. They will be available to provide facilities with on-site management and operational support to assist with staffing, vendors, implementing infection control measures, etc. The firm will also support efforts to stand up dedicated COVID-19 facilities and wings/units within existing nursing facilities.

Dedicated COVID-19 Skilled Nursing Facility Capacity Update:

The Administration has pursued three parallel options for expanding COVID-19 dedicated nursing facility capacity:

  •  Approach 1: Converting existing occupied facilities to fully dedicated COVID-19 facilities. An example of this is the Beaumont Facility in Worcester.
  • Approach 2: Converting empty facilities to stand up a new dedicated COVID-19 nursing facility. An example of this is the Pioneer Valley Recovery Center in East Longmeadow.
  • Approach 3: Creating dedicated COVID-19 wings within a broader nursing facility.

To date, in addition to the Beaumont facility, the Commonwealth currently has 5 dedicated COVID-19 facilities opening within the next 7-10 days in Brewster, Falmouth, New Bedford, East Longmeadow and Great Barrington; and several others in the planning stages.

Health Connector message about open enrollment:

The Health Connector is working to ensure that Massachusetts residents losing their jobs and job-based health coverage can swiftly and easily make their way into health coverage through the Health Connector. In many ways, state-based marketplaces like the Health Connector are designed to help people in exactly these circumstances, but that help can only work if people know to come to www.mahealthconnector.org to apply for coverage. In Massachusetts, we are especially fortunate to have the unique ConnectorCare program which connects qualifying Massachusetts residents with affordable health coverage with low or $0 premiums and low co-pays and no deductibles.

The Health Connector needs your help spreading the word to Massachusetts residents, associations, and communities so we can ensure that everyone who needs coverage or is about to lose job-based coverage can get the help they need. We want to make sure that everyone in Massachusetts knows that if they need coverage, they can do so through our special enrollment period which runs through May 25. To support this request for your help, we’ve created an easy to use social media toolkit that provides ready-to-use content and directions for how to help spread the word on social media and elsewhere about the Health Connector as a coverage source.

You can find the toolkit here: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/wp-content/uploads/Health-Connector-May-25-Enrollment-Toolkit.pdf. Please use this to help us get the word out as widely as possible so we can keep Massachusetts residents covered, even in the midst of significant economic challenges and change.

A few other notes and resources:

As you will see, much of the social media toolkit’s content links to a new webpage that the Health Connector has created that includes all the information someone would need to get into coverage after having lost employment/employment-based coverage – it even includes a detailed FAQ for people trying to understand their different coverage options (e.g., COBRA, Health Connector, etc.).

You can find that webpage here: https://www.mahealthconnector.org/the-right-plan-right-now.

You can find shorter PDF flyers here for individuals that have recently lost jobs and job-based health coverage – these are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese. https://www.mahealthconnector.org/help-center/resource-download-center.

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