April 24, 2020
SENATE LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
Summary of remote notarization bill
A summary of the remote notarization bill passed by the House and Senate is as follows:
The legislation applies requirements for authorized notary publics to use electronic video conferencing for documents requiring notarization including those related to a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate, will, nomination of guardian or conservator, caregiver authorization affidavit, trust, durable power of attorney, or health care proxy.
The legislation includes the following provisions, which will be in place until three business days after termination of the March 10, 2020 declaration of a State of Emergency:
- Authorizes a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act using video conferencing in real time;
- Makes valid notarial acts using video conferencing when the notary public and each principal are physically located within the Commonwealth as well as other provisions;
- Requires notaries to record the video conference and retain a copy of the conference; and related documentation for 10 years
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UPDATES
Summary of federal government Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement legislation:
The US Senate and Congress have both passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
An FFIS summary of that legislation is here:
IRS Toolkit for constituent and tax filing help:
The Internal Revenue Service has prepared a toolkit with answers to commonly asked questions regarding stimulus payments, the Get My Payment and Non-Filers tools, and more.
The toolkit can be found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xn7_DnISJt8PdJHLj2qaFA7F8D7aWeFs/view
Some helpful websites people may visit for tax prep resources include:
- Boston-area: https://www.bostontaxhelp.org/tax-sites/
- IRS: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers
- DOR: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/find-a-tax-professional-to-help-with-your-taxes
BAKER ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS
Video from hospitals encouraging residents not to avoid emergency care:
Recently, six Boston teaching hospitals (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Brigham Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center) collaborated to develop a televised public service announcement urging residents not to delay seeking needed medical care due to COVID-19.
You can find this PSA here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWITRRS0WZ4
Attorney General extending deadlines, signature guidance for non-profit and charities filing:
Because of widespread disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Attorney General’s Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division is extending by six months the deadlines for annual charities filings for fiscal year 2019. In addition, where a signature is required, the Division will accept original signatures, photocopies of signatures, and e-signatures (e.g., DocuSign).
More information is available in the attached and here: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/annual-charities-filings.
Update on Command Center Food Security Task Force:
The Baker-Polito Administration, though the COVID-19 Command Center has launched a Food Security Task Force which is comprised of representatives from state agencies, the Legislature, non-governmental organizations, local partners (such as Greater Boston Food Bank), and faith-based organizations. The Task Force will work to coordinate resources and communication across sectors, stakeholder group, and government at all levels to ensure food insecurity and issue related to the food supply chain are addressed.
The goals of the panel are to:
- Identify immediate needs to be addressed across the state
- Maximize nutrition program access, enrollment and participation
- Create and implement plans that address all regions of the state and their unique challenges in the food supply chain, short and long term
- Explore creative partnerships to maximize resource available in the Commonwealth
The Task Force will present their recommendations to the Governor by the end of this month.
Governor’s Council To Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence updates on abuse and harassment prevention orders:
Although no members of the public are allowed in courthouses during the COVID-19 emergency, the courts are open for emergency matters, which include requests for abuse prevention and harassment prevention orders. Courts can be reached during normal court business hours (8:30 AM – 4:30 PM) by calling the court directly (numbers are available on mass.gov) or by calling the Trial Court Help Line: 1-833-91COURT. Judges are also available after hours through the judicial response system that can be accessed by police departments.
Some key points to keep in mind:
- During court business hours you do not need to come into court or go to a police station to file a restraining order, the entire process can take place remotely, over the phone.
- Anyone seeking a restraining order during court business hours should call their local court for information on how to file over the phone. If an individual does not know their local court, cannot reach anyone at their local court, or knows that their local court is closed, they should call the Trial Court Help Line and they will be connected to the appropriate court.
- Fillable PDF versions of the 209A and 258E orders and corresponding ancillary forms were promulgated last week. Though these ancillary forms are available on mass.gov, individuals applying for restraining orders should not email anything directly to the court without first speaking to a court staff member. To begin the process of applying for a restraining order an individual must first call their local court.
- Court staff have access to a c. 209A and c. 258E Resource Guide and are able to provide regionally specific information on available advocacy services to individuals seeking abuse prevention orders and, in appropriate cases, harassment prevention orders. Court staff may consider utilizing these services to facilitate contact regarding the next scheduled court hearings.
Please continue to monitor the Trial Court’s COVID-19 Resources for Abuse Prevention Orders (209A) and Harassment Prevention (258E) Orders webpage for up to date processes and procedures, here: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-resources-for-abuse-protection-orders-209a-and-harassment-prevention-orders
MassHealth Waiver Requests with CMS:
Massachusetts is filing two waiver requests with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that will give the state and its Medicaid program, MassHealth, more flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. If allowed, the waivers will build upon the two previously submitted waivers and enable MassHealth to deliver the most effective care to its members and support health care providers.
Through these waiver requests, the Commonwealth is seeking flexibility to address key areas of need:
- Expand Medicare telehealth coverage to include services provided by phone and video, to increase access to health care for seniors and individuals with disabilities without readily accessible video technology. This expansion is consistent with telehealth coverage currently provided by MassHealth and commercial plans.
- Allow MassHealth to waive the requirement that certain applicants and members spend down to qualify for coverage in cases of financial hardship.
- Extend retroactive coverage for individuals who qualify for MassHealth to allow individuals to be covered up to 90 days prior to submitting their application.
- Provide flexibility for federal provider payment limits to enable MassHealth to provide critical stabilization funds to health care providers.
- Ease provider requirements that could result in unnecessary administrative burdens or barriers to care.