April 20 Covid-19 Update

April 20, 2020

BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Updated crisis standards of care guidelines

Crisis standards of care guidelines initially released on April 7th have been updated and rereleased.

The updated crisis standards of care guidelines can be found here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/6843353-Revised-Crisis-Standards-of-Care-Planning-Guidance.html

Womens Infants and Children (WIC) program application update

Ordinarily, WIC services are provided at nearly 120 locations across Massachusetts. During the COVID19 emergency, all WIC appointments are being conducted by phone and WIC food benefits are being issued remotely.

To connect with the WIC Program, visit www.mass.gov/wic. New applicants are encouraged to click “Apply Online for WIC” to get started. After the online application is completed, it will automatically be sent to the local WIC program closest to the family’s home, and WIC staff will reach out.

Interested families can also contact a local WIC program directly by phone or email; the complete list of contact information can be found on the WIC website. Information is also available by calling 1-800-WIC-1007 or 617-721-6601.

Office of the Child Advocate notice to legislators

As our state grapples with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on all of our child- and family-serving state and local systems, I want to make sure you are aware that the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is here as a resource for you and your constituents who may be having difficulty navigating complex state services.

The OCA is an independent state agency that serves children and families across the Commonwealth. Our goal is to ensure all children receive appropriate, timely and quality services. The OCA regularly collects and analyzes data and makes recommendations to legislators and state agencies to improve services. Learn more about the OCA here: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-child-advocate

We know that state agencies are working very hard in response to the Covid-19 crisis, and that the challenges we are collectively experiencing are unprecedented. We also know that gaps exist and that there are opportunities for improvement.

If you or your staff are working with family that is having difficulty with a state service for children (e.g. foster care, residential treatment, special education services) that you have been unable to resolve through the normal state agency administrative resolution, please contact our staff at the OCA.

You can reach the OCA Complaint Line in the following ways:

Email: childadvocate@state.ma.us

Phone: 617-979-8360

The OCA is not a direct-advocacy agency. Although Complaint Line staff will follow-up with individual complaints, the OCA’s role is to advocate to state agencies for systematic changes.

Here is what we do when someone contacts the Complaint Line:

  1. OCA staff will read/listen to your concerns, and direct you to resources, information and other options to help you navigate complex service systems and address the problem.
  2. Of particular importance in this crisis, we track and analyze the complaints we receive and look for patterns. We will compile this information on a regular basis and bring the overarching concerns and trends to the relevant state agencies.

For more information on the OCA Complaint line, including a description of what we can and cannot do to help resolve complaints, see: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-complaint-withthe-oca

Implementation Of CARES Act unemployment benefits For self-employed, gig economy and other workers

The Baker-Polito Administration announced today that Massachusetts residents who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits can now apply online for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The new federal PUA program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits. This includes self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and those with limited work history. Applicants can learn more and apply at www.mass.gov/pua.

To be eligible for this new program, individuals must provide self-certification that they are otherwise able and available to work but are prevented from doing so by circumstances relating to COVID-19, including their own illness or that of a family member.

Those able to telework with pay and individuals receiving paid sick or other leave will not qualify for PUA. Individuals receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits for less than their customary work week, however, may still be eligible for PUA. Also, those working fewer hours, resulting in a loss of income due to COVID-19, who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for PUA.

The federal CARES Act signed into law on March 27 created PUA, as well as another temporary federal program called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) that provides an additional $600 weekly benefit for those receiving unemployment benefits or PUA. FPUC provides that additional benefit through July 25, 2020. The Commonwealth announced implementation of FPUC earlier this month, and you can read the full announcement here: https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-announces-initial-implementation-of-new-federal-unemployment-benefits-from-0

All approved PUA applications will initially receive the minimum weekly benefit amount, plus the additional $600 FPUC weekly benefit. Once a worker’s wages are verified, weekly benefit amounts may increase. The amount of PUA benefits received is based on the individual’s reported previous income.

PUA benefits may not be more than the state’s maximum weekly benefit rate for regular unemployment, which is $823 in Massachusetts.

Weekly benefits, including any increase to your weekly benefit amount, will be retroactive to January 27, 2020, or the date when you became unemployed, whichever is more recent, as long as you became unable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason.

PUA Application Process

To apply, individuals must provide their Social Security number or US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number if not a citizen of the United States, and their wage records for 2019, which includes 1099 forms, pay stubs, or bank statements. Applicants will also need the Social Security numbers and dates of birth for dependent children and, if requesting direct deposit for payment, your bank account and routing numbers. A full list of required documents is available at www.mass.gov/pua.

Please note that, initially, the system can only pay benefits retroactively to the week ending March 14, 2020. Eligible workers will be able to certify for benefits, and will be able to request benefits retroactively to January 27, 2020, if their dates of unemployment make them eligible.

Individuals who are determined ineligible for PUA will receive a written disqualification along with information on how to pursue an appeal. Additional information about the appeals process will be separately posted at a later date. Please visit www.mass.gov/dua for the latest information.

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