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:
- Pass the COVID-19 Housing Equity Bill: The state moratorium expired one year ago, and over 24,166 needless evictions have been filed and tens of thousands are at risk of foreclosure across the Commonwealth—despite the hundreds of millions of dollars of available rental assistance. The critical COVID-19 Housing Equity bill (H.1434/S.891), sponsored by Reps. Frank Moran and Kevin Honan and Senator Pat Jehlen, would prevent evictions and foreclosures and promote housing equity during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) stands with the Homes for All Massachusetts (HFA) Coalition and housing justice leaders in calling for immediate passage of this bill.
- If you would like to take action, you can contact your State Representative and Senator. HFA’s easy online tool can assist.
- Pass Emergency Paid Sick Time: On September 30th, Gov. Baker signed legislation to extend the Commonwealth’s emergency paid sick time protections to March 31, 2022. This law was enacted following pressure from a coalition of community groups, faith-based organizations, and labor unions, which has advocated for emergency paid sick time throughout the pandemic. The legislation requires all Massachusetts employers to provide 40 hours of emergency paid sick time to a full-time worker, and an equivalent amount for part-time workers. The sick time can be used for COVID-related sickness, quarantine, caregiving, and vaccination, and it is job-protected, meaning that workers cannot be fired or otherwise penalized for using it. For a press statement from Raise up Massachusetts, click here.
- De-carcerate Vulnerable Populations in Massachusetts' Prisons and Jails: For ten months, the Department of Correction (DOC) has defied a legislative mandate to release people who may be safely released in the interests of public health and to establish an independent ombudsperson to oversee the COVID-19 pandemic response. In the spring of 2021, pursuant to a required process in the Commonwealth’s FY2021 budget, Attorney General Healey fully vetted Dr. Monik Jiménez, Associate Epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, to serve as an independent ombudsperson to oversee public health measures in the Department of Correction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Jiménez was recommended for the position by a range of stakeholders and by the Attorney General, and is a subject-matter expert with impeccable qualifications. The Department of Correction failed to finalize a contract with her and did not provide her with the resources necessary to carry out the mandate of the budget language. Instead, months later–after the mandate for the ombudsperson’s office was renewed and funds were appropriated in the FY2022 budget–the DOC filled the vacancy it had left open for six months with Seth Peters pursuant to a new contract with the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School that failed to solicit or even consider stakeholder input. One week after submitting an initial report to the Legislature required by the budget language, Mr. Peters was placed on leave and then subsequently fired from the role after reporting revealed his involvement in a wrongful death lawsuit which alleged he had forged records to cover up his own violation of care protocols when he was an EMT. It is clear that very little if any vetting was conducted in relation to his appointment to the ombudsman role. The position is now vacant once again over 10 months since the budget language first mandated the appointment by the Attorney General.”
- Pass the Safe Families Act: This bill was filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Reps. Ruth Balser and Liz Miranda (S.1579/H.2418) in an effort to restore community trust in public institutions by avoiding entanglement in immigration matters, and to protect due process for all. The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the impact of longstanding state and local involvement in deportations-- undermining testing, treatment and contact tracing efforts in immigrant communities, and impeding access to court and police protection. This bill would 1) ensure court and police officials do not inquire about immigration status unless required by law, 2) protect basic rights, just like a “Miranda” warning, 3) ensure that everyone has access to justice in our courts, 4) end 287(g) agreements that require local officials to do the federal government’s job, at state expense and 5) require law enforcement training on SCA guidelines and provide state oversight.
- Pass the Work and Family Mobility Act: This bill was filed by Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Christine Barber and Sens. Brendan Crighton and Adam Gomez (H.3456/S.2289) to address gaps in access to driver’s licenses. Driving is essential to mobility in Massachusetts, especially outside Greater Boston. However, under current law, you can’t get a driver’s license in Massachusetts without proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence. This bill would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard state driver’s license, regardless of immigrant status.
- To learn more about the campaign, check out the Work and Family Mobility factsheets (available in multiple languages).
- You can take action to support this bill by: 1) Call or email your legislators and urge them to prioritize this bill, or use this letter-writing tool, 2) Follow the Driving Families Forward campaign and share their posts!
Ways to contact elected officials:
- 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
COVID Impact and Equity
The MA Department of Public Health is partnering with the PHIWM to provide support to municipalities, community-based organizations, and other community partners and residents in accessing, analyzing, and contextualizing critical health equity data from the COVID Community Impact Survey (CCIS). The goal of this effort is to provide data on specific geographies, populations, and topics to help us better understand where to most equitably and impactfully provide pandemic assistance and resources across the commonwealth.
Data was collected in 8 domains below and can be further broken down and analyzed by disability, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, geography, income, education, age, industry/occupation, and more.
- Demographics (race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, status, education, income, etc.)
- Perceptions & experiences of COVID (access to testing, ability to social distance, level of concern, etc.)
- Basic needs (access to goods, services, information, etc.)
- Access to healthcare (health needs, types of care, barriers to care)
- Employment (changes in employment, barriers, ability to work from home, access to protections, etc.)
- Mental health (trauma, challenges, resource needs. etc.)
- Substance use (change in use, resource needs, etc.)
- Safety (intimate partner violence, discrimination, etc.)
Learn more about this data and how it can be useful for you or your organization on PHIWM's CCIS webpage. You can request further services from PHIWM with this data.