April 21 Covid-19 Update

April 21, 2020

SENATE LEGISLATIVE ACTION

Virtual Notarization bill engrossed by Senate:

The Senate engrossed S.2642 – An Act providing for virtual notarization to address challenges related to COVID-19

A summary of this legislation is as follows:

  • Authorizes a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act utilizing electronic video conferencing in real time.

  • Provides that an acknowledgment, affirmation or other notarial act utilizing electronic video conferencing will be valid and effective if: the notary public observes each principal’s execution of a document; to both the notary public and each principal are physically located within the commonwealth;

    • each principal provides the notary public with satisfactory evidence of identity;

    • each principal makes the acknowledgment, affirmation or other act to the notary public, as appropriate;

    • a principal causes the executed document to be delivered to the notary public by delivery service, courier or other means in accordance with the notary public’s instructions; and

    • if the document requiring notarization and executed in the course of closing a transaction involves a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate, upon receipt of the executed document, the notary public and each principal engage in a second video conference during which each principal verifies to the notary public that the document received by the notary public is the same document executed during the first video conference.

  • Requires each principal, during a video conference executed under this act, to:

    • (i) swear or affirm under the penalties of perjury that the principal is physically located within the commonwealth; and

    • (ii) make a disclosure of any person present in the room with the principal and make that person viewable to the notary public.

  • Requires that the notarial certificate attached to an executed document include a recital indicating that the document was notarized remotely under this act.

  • States that a document executed, acknowledged or notarized under this act, shall be a properly executed, acknowledged and notarized document for all legal purposes in the Commonwealth.

  • Provides that nothing in this act shall affect any law or regulation governing, authorizing or prohibiting the practice of law, including, but not limited to, that the requirement that the closing of a transaction involving a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate only be conducted by an attorney duly admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth.

  • Requires that only a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth who is an attorney licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth, or a paralegal under the direct supervision of such an attorney, may perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act utilizing electronic video conferencing in real time for any document requiring notarization and executed in the course of closing a transaction involving a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate, or with respect to any will, nomination of guardian or conservator, caregiver authorization affidavit, trust, durable power of attorney, health care proxy or authorization under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

  • Repeals authorization for this Act 3 business days after termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.


FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES

 

Senate passes coronavirus relief bill, which Trump is expected to sign – NBC News

“The Senate passed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill by voice vote Tuesday that includes additional money for the small business loan program as well as for hospitals and testing, making way for the legislation to become law as soon as the end of the week.”

 


BAKER ADMINISTRATION UPDATES

Extension of School and Non-Emergency Child Care Program Closures:

Governor Charlie Baker issued an emergency order extending the closure of all public and private schools through the end of the school year, and the closure of all non-emergency child care programs until June 29, 2020 in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth.

This order expands the March 25 order suspending normal educational operations at schools and non-emergency child care programs. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) established a process to approve Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs (https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents) to serve families of first responders, medical personnel and essential workers.

Emergency Child Care programs approved by EEC will continue operating. Currently there are 523 emergency child care programs statewide serving families of essential workers. Weekly attendance averages about 2,500 children in these programs across the Commonwealth. EEC will continue to pay subsidies to child care providers based on their pre-COVID-19 enrollment, in order to support the workforce. The order does not apply to residential special education schools.

Read the Orders here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-school-closure-extension-order

Child Care Program Link is here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/april-21-2020-childcare-programs-closure-extension

Child care program resources for essential workers: 

To support families of essential workers and families with children who have special needs, EEC and Care.com have partnered to assist currently unemployed child care workers and provide skilled in-home care. Care.com is offering both eligible families and child care workers free 90-day premium memberships.

The free memberships are accessible here: https://www.care.com/mass

STEM and Remote Learning Resources: 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will issue updated guidelines for schools to support remote learning efforts through the duration of the school year, including expanded STEM learning, and will prepare recommendations to strengthen summer learning opportunities for students.

  • DESE has launched a Remote Learning Essentials initiative, focused on addressing access to tools, Internet connectivity, and educator training necessary to enhance remote learning during school closures.

  • The department is conducting a survey of school districts to identify barriers that inhibit effective remote learning, including challenges around inequitable access to technology.

  • An advisory group of administrators, educators, parents, students and business leaders will engage external partners to mobilize resources for schools, including philanthropic gifts and in-kind contributions.

  • DESE will also solicit input from national and local education vendors regarding the potential to create a statewide online education platform for districts to opt into and customize.

In partnership with EEC, DHE, the STEM Advisory Council and Regional STEM Networks, DESE has established online STEM education resources to provide continued support for remote learning opportunities. This includes virtual STEM learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

EEC’s STEM Resources are available here: http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/stem/

No-Interest Student Loan Program: 

The Massachusetts 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 that participate in the $5 million program annually funded through the repayment of loans.

  • All no-interest loan accounts currently in repayment will automatically be placed in a deferment from April 2020 through July 2020. This deferment will not count toward the program’s permissible 36 months of available deferment.

  • If a payment has already been made for April, that payment will be applied to the outstanding balance and not refunded. While accounts are in deferment, borrowers who wish to continue monthly payments may do so, without incurring late fees until July 31, 2020.

  • Accounts currently 120 days past due will not be placed into collections until August 2020, and regular credit bureau reporting will resume at the end of August.

 

New DPH Daily Dashboard Released:

The Administration released an enhanced, comprehensive and detailed COVID-19 data report, including trend data in a variety of areas. The new daily dashboard is 23 pages in length and includes information on cases rates, testing, and breakdowns by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and geography of confirmed cases. It also includes a similar breakdown of death data. Beyond the case data, the report also includes specific information on COVID-19 hospital census information, a list of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and rest homes with known clusters of COVID-19 cases and data on PPE distribution by recipient type and geography.

The daily dashboard report can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-dashboard-april-20-2020/download

PPE in BSAS Outpatient Programs

The DPH has provided guidance to all Acute Treatment Services (ATS), Clinical Stabilization

 Services (CSS), Transitional Support Services (TSS), Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP), Office Based Opioid Treatment (OBOT), and outpatient service programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction

 Services (BSAS) regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This guidance will be updated as needed and as additional information is available.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-ats-css-tss-otp-obot-and 

PPE in BSAS Residential Programs

The DPH has provided guidance to all residential programs licensed/contracted by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Bureau of Substance Addiction Services (BSAS) regarding Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This guidance will be updated as needed and as additional information is available.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/personal-protective-equipment-ppe-in-bsas-licensedcontracted-residential-programs

Notice of Dedicated Care Capacity at Nursing Facilities for COVID-19 Patients: 

As part of its ongoing efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has issued this notice to assist acute care hospitals and other individuals or health care entities with the identification of nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for nursing facility levels of care. A number of facilities have partnered with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to provide dedicated and isolated space and staffing to serve the individuals who are infected with COVID-19 needing ongoing nursing facility level of care.

This notice is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference, and does not contain any requirements for providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service  rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships.

This notice will be updated twice per week, with new versions being posted each Tuesday and Friday by 4pm E.T.

The notice can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/notice-of-dedicated-care-capacity-at-nursing-facilities-for-covid-19-patients/download 

Expanded Care Capacity at Sub-Acute Sites for COVID-19 Patients:

As part of its efforts to expand existing health care capacity to serve individuals infected with COVID-19, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has issued this list to assist acute care hospitals to identify nearby facilities that are accepting COVID-19 patients for sub-acute levels of care. A number of chronic disease and rehabilitation hospitals (CDRHs) have confirmed the availability of dedicated and isolated space to provide services, including respiratory support as needed, to COVID-19 patients. This list is intended only to offer guidance and serve as a reference for the provider community, and does not contain any requirements for care providers, issue updates to current MassHealth service rates, or endorse specific institutions or referral relationships. As this is a reference document, acute hospital providers should contact CDRH providers to confirm the availability of beds after April 7, 2020.  (This guidance replaces guidance issued on April 14)

The guidance can be found here:

https://www.mass.gov/doc/expanded-care-capacity-at-sub-acute-sites-for-covid-19-patients/download

Division of Banks Joins Multi-State Initiative to Provide Relief to Massachusetts Student Loan Borrowers

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, as well as the recently announced Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s deferment of payments in its No-Interest Loan Program until August 1, 2020.

Under this initiative, borrowers with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers in need of assistance must immediately contact their student loan servicer to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances. Relief options include:

  • Providing a minimum of 90 days of forbearance

  • Waiving late payment fees

  • Ensuring that no borrower is subject to negative credit reporting

  • Ceasing debt collection lawsuits for 90 days

  • Working with borrowers to enroll them in other borrower assistance programs, such as income based repayment.

Additional information and resources, including a full list of participating private student loan servicers, are included in the Division’s Consumer Advisory.

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