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Senator Warren calls on banks to end the seizure of stimulus checks

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, sent letters to banks and credit unions — through their trade organizations: the American Bankers Association, Bank Policy Institute, Consumer Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America, National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, and the Credit Union National Association — urging them to cease the seizure of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus payments from hardworking American families. The senators’ push follows recent reports that banks are seizing the CARES Act stimulus payments from their customers to pay themselves.

“During this time of crisis, we must come together to protect our collective health and mitigating the financial blow that Covid-19 is taking on our workers and our economy. We ask that your member banks do the right thing–for their customers, our country, and our economy–and publicly commit that they will not offset their customers’ stimulus payments to pay for any fees, charges, or allegedly past due debts,” wrote the senators.

Earlier this month Senator Warren joined Senators Brown and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in calling for Treasury Sec. Mnuchin to protect stimulus payments from being garnished by debt collectors.

2020-04-15 Letter to ABA re offsets




Three more COVID-19 cases reported in New Bedford, total up to 183

UPDATE: New Bedford health officials reported one more COVID-19 related death since this article was published.

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported three additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Saturday morning, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 183, up from 180 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford remains at nine. Mayor Mitchell’s office reported another death on Saturday and one new COVID-19 related death on Thursday. No specific details (age, sex of the patient, etc) is available.

Due to Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 20, there will be no residential trash and recycling collection on Monday, April 20 in New Bedford. Full details here.

According to Mayor Coogan, Fall River has 178 total cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. 82 individuals have recovered. Full details here.

On April 17, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,221 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 34,402. This is a decrease from Thursday’s 2,263 reported cases. 159 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, up from 137, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,404. Full details here.

Governor Baker yesterday outlined its ongoing comprehensive strategy to address homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Administration also announced additional support for foster families and a new emergency order authorizing the creation of emergency childcare sites. Full details here.

A bill that hospital representatives said would provide urgently needed new legal protections to health care professionals working in unprecedented situations during the COVID-19 crisis passed the state Senate on Thursday. Full details here.




Three more COVID-19 cases reported in New Bedford, total up to 183

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported three additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Satruday morning afternoon, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 183, up from 180 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford remains at eight. Mayor Mitchell reported one new COVID-19 related death on Thursday. No further information on the death is available.

Due to Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 20, there will be no residential trash and recycling collection on Monday, April 20 in New Bedford. Full details here.

According to Mayor Coogan, Fall River has 178 total cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. 82 individuals have recovered. Full details here.

On April 17, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,221 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 34,402. This is a decrease from Thursday’s 2,263 reported cases. 159 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, up from 137, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,404. Full details here.

Governor Baker yesterday outlined its ongoing comprehensive strategy to address homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Administration also announced additional support for foster families and a new emergency order authorizing the creation of emergency childcare sites. Full details here.

A bill that hospital representatives said would provide urgently needed new legal protections to health care professionals working in unprecedented situations during the COVID-19 crisis passed the state Senate on Thursday. Full details here.




New Bedford’s Cape Verdean parade canceled

New Bedford’s Annual Cape Verdean Recognition Parade has been canceled. This year’s parade would have been the 48th year.

According to a post in the Facebook group, the organizers canceled the parade as it was “necessary to prioritize the health and safety of our participants, vendors and our committee members”.

The New Bedford Mayor’s office confirmed the cancelation but wasn’t aware of any specific details.

Here’s a look at last year’s parade.




Warren to Fed, Treasury: Your New $1.45 Trillion Dollar Bailout Loan Program for Businesses Fails to Protect Workers, Taxpayers and Economy

United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent two letters to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expressing concern with the inadequate oversight provisions of a new $600 billion loan program to bail out thousands of mid-sized businesses and a new $850 billion program to bail out large corporations. Both programs use billions of dollars in aid provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. She also called on Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin to include specific requirements for companies that receive bailouts to protect workers, taxpayers, and the economy.

“I am concerned that, in establishing this new program to bail out thousands of medium-sized companies, you did not use your authority to appropriately protect workers and taxpayers, and that you chose not to use a specific provision in the CARES Act that gave you explicit recommendations on how to do so,” the senator wrote in her letter about the Main Street Lending Facility for mid-sized businesses. “Congress provided you with this funding to protect workers, taxpayers, and the economy, and I urge you to reconsider program requirements to make sure that these funds are used for those purposes.”

The CARES Act contained a specific provision directing the Treasury Secretary to implement a program to provide financing to small and medium-sized businesses, and recommended that this program require participating businesses to take a number of steps to prevent layoffs, end stock buy-backs, end outsourcing, and protect workers.

However, rather than creating a program with these requirements in place, the Federal Reserve and Treasury instead proceeded to use $75 billion in taxpayer funds to create the Main Street Lending Program with more limited requirements.

“In other words, the Federal Reserve is handing out billions of dollars with little oversight and failing to require basic protections that companies retain workers and maintain payroll, failing to include protections against outsourcing, and failing to retain basic protections for union workers,” the senator continued. “Absent these protections, it is not clear how these bailouts will help American families and workers.”

Senator Warren also sent a separate letter to Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin regarding the Fed’s announcement that it will provide $850 billion worth of loans to large corporations through the new Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. In this letter, the senator criticized Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin for doing “virtually nothing” to assure that these bailouts help workers, taxpayers, and the economy, and called on them to incorporate the principles she outlined in her March 31, 2020 letter to achieve these goals.

“I am extraordinarily disappointed that you have failed to even put in place basic protections to make sure that this nearly $1 trillion worth of new loans achieve these goals,” the senator wrote. “You can and must do better for American workers, taxpayers, and the economy.”

To address her concerns about these programs, Senator Warren asked Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin to include the following for any recipient of bailouts:

– Ironclad workforce retention and restoration protections;
– Protections against outsourcing;
– Protections for collective bargaining agreements and unionized workers;
– Requirements that the loan recipient provide a $15 minimum wage within one year of receiving a loan;
– Requirements that the CEOs of companies receiving bailout make personal, annual certifications to Treasury and the Federal Reserve that their companies are complying with the rules, ensuring that these CEOs would face civil and criminal penalties for violating these terms;
– Requirements that recipients of funds be held liable to the federal government for all assistance received if they violate any of the terms of their agreements with taxpayers; and
– A ban on political spending or lobbying expenditures for the duration of the assistance for any recipients of bailout funds.
– The senator also asked that they administer the programs in a transparent manner, so that Congress and the public have a clear understanding of the rationale for all actions taken by Treasury and the Federal Reserve, knowledge of all recipients of bailout funds, and a clear explanation of the terms and conditions of all loans or assistance.

Last month, Senator Warren wrote to Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin urging them to use their broad authority under the CARES Act to ensure that bailout funds protect workers and do not reward corporate misbehavior, and to ensure that the funds are protected by strong anti-corruption and transparency rules. The senator had previously written to Secretary Mnuchin urging him to fully meet the needs of state and local governments before using any taxpayer dollars to bail out large companies.




Massachusetts Senate approves legal protections for health workers

By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

A bill that hospital representatives said would provide urgently needed new legal protections to health care professionals working in unprecedented situations during the COVID-19 crisis passed the state Senate on Thursday.

Based on legislation Gov. Charlie Baker filed last week, the bill (S 2640) would give health care professionals immunity from lawsuits and civil liability for alleged damages related to COVID-19, as long as they provided services in good faith and the damages were not caused by gross negligence, recklessness or an intent to harm or discriminate.

Volunteer organizations providing use of their facilities would also receive similar immunity, according to a Senate Ways and Means Committee summary.

Kate Walsh, the president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, said in testimony to the Financial Services Committee, that the need for the bill “is days away.”

“We hope to see this bill pass as soon as possible in its current form to ensure that Massachusetts healthcare professionals have confidence that they will be protected from personal liability while making extraordinary contributions under the most challenging circumstances [of] our lifetimes,” Walsh wrote.

The Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association characterized it as “essential” that the bill become law “immediately to ensure that Massachusetts healthcare professionals are confident as they work through overwhelming challenges and patient surges.”

Sen. James Welch, a West Springfield Democrat who chairs the Financial Services Committee with Rep. James Murphy of Weymouth, said the bill was one that needed “quick action” and the committee would try to “live up to that responsibility.”

When he filed the bill, Baker said in a message to lawmakers that he “cannot overstate the urgency of enacting this legislation.” He said it would provide “critical protections” for the health care workers staffing new field hospitals set up in “facilities that are not contemplated under traditional standards of care but that are absolutely required to expand our health care system’s capacity in this time of crisis.”

Those field hospitals include the DCU Center in Worcester and the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston.

Baker filed the bill on April 8, and, in lieu of an in-person hearing, the Financial Services Committee accepted emailed testimony on the bill through Monday. The panel advanced a version of the legislation to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which redrafted and endorsed it Thursday morning.

“We want to make sure that our health care professionals who are going above and beyond what they normally do, which is a lot, that they don’t have something hanging over their head,” Welch told the News Service. “We as a commonwealth, that’s probably the least we can do on their behalf to help them focus on their work and help people navigate through some very difficult times.”

The bill cleared the Senate on a voice vote. Before passing it, senators rejected an amendment from Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz that sought to address the state’s crisis standards of care, a set of voluntary Department of Public Health guidelines intended to help hospitals determine how to allocate scarce resources during the pandemic.

Groups including the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, of which Chang-Diaz is a member, have raised concerns that the guidelines could disadvantage people of color who need treatment.

Chang-Diaz’s amendment would have required the DPH “to consult with the Massachusetts affiliates of the National Medical Association and the Hispanic Medical Association, the NAACP New England Area Council, the Disability Law Center, and the Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity” and issue revised standards by April 24 that “consider the social determinants of health and documented racial and ethnic health disparities in comorbidities such as, but not limited, to heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.”




Gov. Baker addresses homelessness during COVID-19, announces new childcare actions

The Baker-Polito Administration today outlined its ongoing comprehensive strategy to address homelessness during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Administration also announced additional support for foster families and a new emergency order authorizing the creation of emergency childcare sites.

Comprehensive Steps To Address Homelessness: The Baker-Polito Administration recognizes that the challenges of COVID-19 are being felt especially hard among most vulnerable populations, including the 18,000 Massachusetts residents experiencing homelessness. Massachusetts was among the first states to create designated isolation sites for COVID-positive homeless individuals, the result of a partnership between the Commonwealth, homeless shelters and municipalities that has been underway for weeks.

The Administration’s strategy to support homeless individuals and families includes five key initiatives:

Establishing Isolation & Recovery Sites For COVID-19 Positive Homeless Individuals: The Administration has opened five state-operated isolation and recovery sites across the state to provide regional solutions for people experiencing homelessness that need a safe place to isolate and recover after testing positive for COVID-19. Statewide, these sites have a capacity of 550 beds and are staffed with 24/7 security and nursing staff, and are located in Everett, Lexington, Northampton, Pittsfield, and Taunton. These sites augment medical facilities at the Boston Hope field hospital and Newton Pavilion, which offer 732 respite beds for individuals who are homeless. As of April 15, over 160 people experiencing homelessness have been served by a state-operated Isolation and Recovery Site.

Deploying Supplies To Support Local Quarantine Solutions: With the Administration’s support, communities across the Commonwealth are standing up quarantine sites to provide a safe place for homeless individuals who were exposed to COVID-19 but are not symptomatic. Exposed individuals quarantine for 14 days to ensure they do not develop symptoms of COVID-19. The Administration created an expedited process for homeless shelters and municipalities to request equipment and supplies for quarantine solutions, such as tents, beds, and portable showers. Additional information on requesting support can be found here. To date, eleven communities have received supplies from MEMA to support their quarantine efforts: Brockton, Cambridge, Fitchburg, Framingham, Greenfield, Hyannis, Lowell, Southbridge, Taunton, Waltham, and Worcester.

Supporting Families In Emergency Assistance and Domestic Violence Shelters: The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Department of Public Health (DPH) have instituted practices outlined by the CDC to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks within congregate shelters. Shelter coordinators have implemented health screening procedures during the placement process and have reinforced social distancing and infection control practices for shared spaces. DHCD has increased the state’s scattered site capacity to enable additional depopulation, quarantine, and isolation of families at various stages of COVID-19 exposure. Extended leaves from shelter have also been approved for families that have temporary alternative housing available with relatives. DHCD has developed protocols for shelters dealing with families that have tested positive for COVID-19, especially when some family members test negative. This group has also convened a case team to triage unique circumstances.

Expediting PPE Distribution To Shelters: The Administration has established an expedited process for homeless shelters to request PPE and other supplies necessary to maintain appropriate cleaning and sanitation practices. As of April 15th, Massachusetts has distributed masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves, partitions, temperature strips, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies to 84 shelter sites.

Providing Technical Assistance To Organizations, Municipalities Seeking Funding Through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program: FEMA will reimburse 75% of municipality and non-profit organization costs associated with qualifying quarantine and isolation services for people experiencing homelessness. Massachusetts has established a dedicated portal to support municipalities and organizations through the grant application process, developing robust partnerships across the state to ensure all applicants are well-supported. As of April 15, 236 applicants have been processed and approved by MEMA.

Foster Care Relief: The Administration recognizes that as result of schools closing and closure of non-essential businesses, foster families are incurring increased costs. Foster parents are vital to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its mission to keep children safe, as they care for some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable children who have been abused and neglected.

To support foster parents providing departmental foster care, DCF will be making a $100 monthly payment for each child in placement on the 15th of April, May and June. Currently, on average, foster parents are reimbursed between $830 to $975 per child per month, depending on the age of the child in their care. This $100 additional payment represents a 10% – 12% increase over current reimbursements for foster parents. The relief will benefit the approximately 4,500 foster families who provide departmental foster care for 6,700 children. This includes unrestricted and kinship foster families.

Emergency Childcare: Yesterday, Governor Baker issued an emergency order authorizing the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to establish emergency sites for children and youth living in residential homes that have tested positive for COVID-19 and need to be cared for in quarantine or isolation.

The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to update the public on developments related to COVID-19. Residents can visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information, call 2-1-1 with questions, and subscribe to text-alerts by texting “COVIDMA” or “COVIDMAESP” (for Spanish alerts) to 888-777.




Massachusetts officials report 2,221 new COVID-19 cases, 159 new deaths

Massachusetts Coronavirus Update

On April 17, the Massachusetts Public Health Department reported that the state added 2,221 more positive cases of COVID-19 bringing to total to 34,402. This is a decrease from Thursday’s 2,263 reported cases. 159 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported since yesterday, up from 137, bringing the total deaths in Massachusetts to 1,404.

As of 4 pm today, 148,744 people in Massachusetts have been tested for COVID-19 – 7,971 in the past 24 hours compared to the previous day’s total of 8,750.

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters to ensure they have the protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. Full details here.

New Bedford Coronavirus Update

Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office reported six additional confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Bedford Thursday afternoon, bringing the total positive cases in the city to 180, up from 174 yesterday. The total COVID-19 related deaths in New Bedford is now at eight. Mayor Mitchell reported one new COVID-19 related death on Thursday. No further information on the death is available.

Due to Patriots’ Day, Monday, April 20, there will be no residential trash and recycling collection on Monday, April 20 in New Bedford. Full details here.

Fall River Coronavirus Update

According to Mayor Coogan, the City of Fall River is down 4 positive cases from yesterday making the total identified number of cases of COVID-19 in Fall River 178. 82 individuals have recovered. Full details here.

The Diocese of Fall River announced today that the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis requires it to close two Catholic schools at the end of this school year. Full details here.




New Bedford’s Zeiterion Performing Arts Center announces outcome of Covid-19 restrictions

In response to the disruption caused by COVID-19 outbreak, The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, and their resident companies The New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and The New Bedford Festival Theater, have extended the postponement of all programming through August 2.

As a result of the closure, the Zeiterion furloughed 70% of staff. Beginning with the first performance cancellation in mid-March, 30 show-related employees were immediately without work. Three weeks later, a combination of 15 full-time and part-time positions were furloughed.

Michael Tavares, President of the Zeiterion Board of Trustees stated, “We made the difficult decision to furlough most of our staff temporarily, in order to protect the financial stability of our organization. The Board is committed to preserving The Z as the heart of our community well into the future and is taking the necessary short-term measures to ensure the best outcome.”

The closure also affects over 700 performing artists. This includes all artists, musicians and dancers employed by the The Zeiterion, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the New Bedford Festival Theatre.

On March 12, The Zeiterion was among the first cultural organizations in New Bedford to cancel a major event in response to the virus. Following the initial cancellation, performances were postponed through April 30. That postponement date has now been extended through early August and affects over 50 performances, 10 school student shows, and the annual two-day New Bedford Folk Festival.

In total, the three non-profits estimate over 31,000 people would have attended performances at the Zeiterion during the closure between mid-March and early August, and that translates into a $2.3 million dollar economic loss for the region. Annually, The Zeiterion, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and New Bedford Festival Theatre attract 100,000 visitors to downtown New Bedford which represents a $7.6 million dollar impact on the regional economy.

Zeiterion’s Executive Director Rosemary Gill added, “We are acutely aware of our influence on the local economy and we are all doing everything we can to ensure the strongest possible reopening.”

The COVID-19 closure has a deep financial impact on the all three organizations. Like many non-profits presenting entertainment, a majority of their annual budgets are derived from earned revenue through ticket sales. The Zeiterion alone will endure a $1.4 million dollar loss of income.

“Many supporters are asking how they help during this time. Charitable donations or memberships would immediately benefit any of the three non-profits that share the Zeiterion’s stage” says Rosemary Gill, the Zeiterion’s Executive Director. She added, “I’m so grateful to The Z’s board for their courage to make difficult decisions to protect our future, to our patrons for their patience and understanding, and to our donors and funders for their generosity.”

The Zeiterion, NBSO and NBFT are currently planning for days when safety allows people to gather again. New Bedford Festival Theatre has postponed its 2020 production of Annie and is working to secure the rights in order to bring Annie back in the summer of 2021. Many of the Zeiterion and some of the New Bedford Symphony shows have been rescheduled, and new performances will soon be announced. During the closure, The Z is offering pay-what-you-choose virtual classes like salsa dance and ukulele lessons, and both the NBSO and The Z are presenting virtual concerts on their social media channels.

For continued updates, please visit the web sites for all three organizations: www.zeiterion.org, www.nbsymphony.org, and www.nbfestivaltheatre.org.




Gov. Baker announces distribution of PPE to all emergency responders in Massachusetts

The Baker-Polito Administration today announced the distribution of approximately 200,000 respirator masks for all local law enforcement officers and firefighters to ensure they have the protective equipment during the COVID-19 crisis. These FDA-approved respirator masks will be distributed to all local law enforcement officers, including sheriffs and college and university police, and firefighters starting today through a coordinated effort by the COVID-19 Response Command Center and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers are continuing to receive these types of masks and other PPE.

To facilitate quick distribution of these masks, MEMA is employing a regional point of distribution (POD) model where communities can pick up their supply of masks at their designated MEMA POD. These POD sites are open today and have already distributed tens of thousands of masks to first responders in the first few hours.

This new distribution will ensure that local law enforcement and firefighters will have five respirator masks each, equivalent to a one month’s supply. Including conservation methods currently being used by some organizations, this will provide each individual a mask per week and a spare, allowing the mask to dry overnight and reuse for up to one week.

The Baker-Polito Administration and its COVID-19 Response Command Center continue to prioritize the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment for front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of yesterday, the Commonwealth has delivered over four million pieces of PPE statewide. This includes over 2.3 million gloves, over 370,000 masks from the “AirKraft” shipment, almost 190,000 gowns and 380 ventilators.

Daily distribution of PPE data can be found here.

The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to update the public on developments related to COVID-19. Residents can visit www.mass.gov/covid19 for the latest information, call 2-1-1 with questions, and subscribe to text-alerts by texting “COVIDMA” or “COVIDMAESP” (for Spanish alerts) to 888-777.

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