PHIWM's current policy efforts include a variety of COVID-related policies, which are described in detail below.
Coronavirus and Equity
The PHIWM is a member of the Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity, which was convened by the Massachusetts Public Health Association to rapidly develop policy recommendations. The outbreak of COVID-19 is not impacting all Massachusetts residents equally. Communities that are already facing marginalization are hardest hit by the virus and its economic repercussions. The people most impacted include low-wage workers, immigrants, non-English speakers, people who are housing insecure or experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, people who are food insecure, and people who are incarcerated. Below are the policies supported by the Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity:
- Moratorium on Evictions & Foreclosures: This legislation was enacted 4/20/2020 following pressure from community organizations, tenants, public health leaders, and many others. For more information, view the MPHA's fact sheet and check out MassLegalHelp's webpage on COVID and housing. The moratorium will remain in effect until August 18, 2020 or 45 days following the end of the state of emergency (whichever is sooner).
- Take Action: An Act to Guarantee Stable Housing During the COVID-19 Epidemic, is a comprehensive follow-up to the Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures, which is set to expire in August. Organizations & elected officials can add their name to the sign-on letter and join a growing list of groups supporting the bill. Individuals are encouraged to sign the Housing Guarantee petition.
- Collect and Report Equity Data: On Sunday June 7th Governor Baker signed An Act Addressing COVID-19 Data Collection and Disparities in Treatment into law (formerly known as Bill H.4672 / S.2708). The Equity Task Force worked to advance the strongest possible version of the bill. Efforts included a letter from the Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity to Senate President Karen Spilka with recommendations to strengthen H4672. The PHIWM also wrote a letter to MA Public Health Commissioner Bharel asking for the Governor's 4/8/2020 Executive Order to be expanded. Under the new law, the state will now have to collect and report on more information about COVID-19, with the intention of addresses inequities. If the law is implemented as intended, this data will help us to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading through specific communities and put appropriate resources and interventions where they are most needed.
- Pass Emergency Paid Sick Time: Rep. Paul Donato and Sen. Jason Lewis filed An Act Relative to Emergency Paid Sick Time (HD.5039 / SD.2918) on 4/21/2020 to address gaps in benefits provided by current state and federal laws. This bill would guarantee all workers at least 10 additional paid workdays (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 outbreak or future public health emergencies. To learn more, check out this fact sheet from Raise Up Massachusetts. The Joint Committee on Labor & Workforce Development held a virtual hearing during the week of 5/25/2020. RaiseUp Massachusetts collected video testimonials from essential workers, small business owners, activists and more.
- Provide Safe Quarantine for People Experiencing Homelessness: The Baker Administration has recently taken some positive steps, including opening several hotels around the state to provide safe quarantine for people experiencing homelessness. There is still much work to do.
- Ensure Immigrants Have Safe Access to Testing & Treatment: Attorney General Maura Healy has stepped up her outreach to immigrant communities, reassuring them they can safely receive access to testing and treatment regardless of their status. Click here for information on COVID-19 resources available to immigrants and refugees. The AGO's office has produced informational posters in multiple languages regarding access to health care and other rights community members have during the time of COVID-19. All the multilingual versions can be found here.
- De-carcerate Vulnerable Populations in Massachusetts' Prisons and Jails: The Task Force has called on Governor Baker to develop a plan for both safe and swift decarceration and for those who remain incarcerated, social distancing and hygiene in accordance with CDC guidelines. Rep. Sabadosa filed An Act Regarding Decarceration and COVID-19 (H.4652) calling for the decarceration of as many people as possible to limit the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more, read this Prisoners' Legal Services' fact sheet or MPHA's press release about the legislation.
- Take Action: Sign this petition from Families for Justice as Healing, requesting a meeting with Governor Baker. The mission of Families for Justice as Healing is to end the incarceration of women and girls. Families for Justice as Healing is led by incarcerated women, formerly incarcerated women, and women with incarcerated loved ones.
- Amend the State's Crisis Standards for Care to Ensure Equity: On 4/17/2020 the Equity Task Force and other advocates called for the immediate revision of the state's "crisis standards of care". The Administration released voluntary guidelines for how to allocate scare medical equipment in the event that the demand exceeds the supply. The standards discriminate against people of color and people with disabilities. On 4/20/2020 the Administration revised the standards, and while substantially improved, they remain inadequate. MPHA is working with partners to seek additional changes and to secure broader community participation in the development of this and other policies.
- Criteria for an Equitable Reopening: On 6/4/2020, MPHA and the Task Force on Coronavirus and Equity held a virtual press conference to release the Criteria for an Equitable Reopening. The Criteria was endorsed by more than 100 community, labor, and public health organizations. It requests that 4 conditions are met before moving to Phase 2 reopening. On 6/4/202, the MPHA issued a statement in opposition to Governor Baker’s announcement about Phase Two reopening, noting that we moved into phase 2 without meeting all the of Criteria.
The Task Force recognizes these recommendations are not comprehensive and do not address all populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The Task Force will issue further recommendations.
Take action today and ask your elected officials to support these recommendations
- Contact Governor Baker: Call 617-725-4005, Tweet @MassGovernor, Email the Governor's Office
- Contact Attorney General Healey: Call 617-727-2200, Tweet @MassAGO, Email the Attorney General
- Contact your State Rep and Senator: Call the Statehouse Switchboard 617-722-2000
Other Equity Related Initiatives
PHIWM has also been working on several other equity-related initiatives that impact our local residents:
Safe quarantine space for people living unhoused
COVID 19 testing sites in western Massachusetts
Ability to purchase or access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Equity in resource distribution between eastern MA and western MA
Standards of care guideline for who receives ventilator care (statewide, related to persons with disabilities)
We'd like to thank our western MA legislative delegation for their support and leadership on the above initiatives to ensure that no one is forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic and that no amount of deaths become acceptable as the Governor reopens. We recognize that these times are incredibly busy, and we continue to be grateful that we have such equity-mined leaders representing us and fighting with and for people who carry the greatest burdens and now risk.