I wanted to reach out to provide another update on what I’m working on in the Legislature and on a district level during the COVID-19 outbreak. As Massachusetts begins to reopen, it’s important that we continue to stay vigilant, informed, and remember to take care of ourselves, our families, and our community.
This week, the Reopening Advisory Board released their report outlining strategies and phases to our economic reopening timeline in Massachusetts. As we begin “Phase One” of reopening, you may have some questions about safely opening your business or what services will be available in the coming weeks. You can visit the reopening page to learn more and can also submit questions and comments on the plan.
As I’ve shared in previous emails, I have been helping lead the economic recovery and response efforts for the State Senate in my capacity as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. In that capacity, I am in regular communication with Secretary of Economic Development Michael Kennealy, the Co-Chair of the Governor’s Reopening Task Force, as well as Secretary of Labor Rosalin Acosta, who oversees the Massachusetts unemployment insurance system, which now has more than 1 million weekly recipients. I also host twice-weekly coordinating calls with my colleagues in the Senate who chair committees with jurisdiction over workforce, consumer protection, small business, tourism, financial services, and other relevant economic recovery and response efforts. In the coming weeks, my Committee will be conducting hearings to receive input from stakeholders about the economy and the necessary steps our Commonwealth must take to recover and reinvest after this crisis. I’m also a member of the State Senate’s COVID-19 task force, chaired by our neighbor, Senator Jo Comerford of Northampton. Locally, I have maintained open lines of communication with hospital leaders, healthcare experts, local officials, business leaders, human service providers, and emergency response personnel.
My team and I are working to share trusted information and be a resource to the public. Over the past month, I’ve hosted regular livestreams with guests in sectors ranging from mental health, tourism, health care, education, and local government. Each livestream has garnered well over a thousand viewers, and some significantly more than that. If you’d like to catch up on those sessions, the links are located toward the bottom of this update.
This Friday at noon, I’ll be hosting another livestream with Pia Kumar, co-owner and chief strategy officer of Universal Plastics in Holyoke. Please mark your calendar! You can watch on either Facebook or Twitter. Universal Plastics quickly developed a face-shield they are distributing to local first responders and healthcare workers. Pia and I will discuss that effort as well as broader questions about manufacturing, PPE, and the state of our economy. It will be a great conversation!
Below, please find some additional resources and updates that we have put together for you. Please remember that much more is also at senatorlesser.com/covid19.
Expanding voting options: On May 6, 2020, I signed-on as the lead Senate sponsor of legislation (HD5075) that expands voting options for this fall’s primary and general elections. The bill, filed in the House by Representative Michael J. Moran, Second Assistant Majority Leader, and Representative John J. Law, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws, was written in collaboration with Common Cause, ACLU Massachusetts, the League of Women Voters, and a large coalition of other Massachusetts voting-rights organizations, includes provisions regarding mail-in voting, early voting, no-fault absentee ballots, and public health measures for the protection of voters and poll workers.
Short-term borrowing bill: On May 15, 2020, the Governor signed a short-term borrowing bill (H.4677) authorizing the treasurer to borrow in anticipation of delayed tax revenues. This borrowing bill is intended to help avoid any cash flow problems that would otherwise arise as a result of pushing the state tax filing deadline from the usual April 15 date to July 15. I enthusiastically supported this measure, since delaying tax payments helped many families stay afloat in the midst of the COVID19 shutdowns.
Strengthening local boards of health: On April 29, 2020, the Governor signed a bill (H.4503) directing the Department of Public Health to establish a “state action for public health excellence” program, and a related competitive grant program, to encourage boards of health and regional health districts to adopt practices improving the efficiency and effectiveness of local public health services. I was an enthusiastic supporter of this measure.
Virtual notarizations: On April 23, 2020, the Governor signed a bill (S.2645) allowing the use of videoconferencing so notarizations can be accomplished without jeopardizing social distancing. Notaries public in Massachusetts would be permitted to perform "an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act" through real-time video conference rather than an in-person transaction for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. This will allow important documents like wills, trusts, and real estate transactions to be notarized without violating social-distancing practices.
Lampson Brook Farm: On May 13, 2020, I filed legislation (SD2943) that provides for the disposition and permanent protection of the five separate parcels that comprise the 430-acre historic Lampson Brook Farm in Belchertown. Representative Thomas Petrolati is the lead House sponsor of the bill.
We’re excited to share that Mass Appeal will host a televised version of our annual “Thrive After 55 Health and Wellness Fair” at 11 a.m. on June 19th. The event will feature several interviews and segments from key contributors to provide resources traditionally presented during the in-person event.
The State’s COVID-19 website is the best source for updates and guidance in regards to the current confirmed case data, the State of Emergency, Stay at Home Advisory, donating or selling PPE, and the list of Essential Businesses.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) portal online is the best source for applying, checking the status of your claim for traditional employee assistance. Contact Community Legal Aid if you need translation help in your application process or call 413-781-7814.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles will assist you in the many services available online. Most registration and license renewals can be done on line- also there are 60 day extensions for most registrations and license renewals. This includes Commercial Driver's Licenses and the accompanying medical card and information about Real ID.
The Secretary of State’s website will answer your questions about upcoming elections and voting, signatures for getting on the ballot, census completion, and more.
The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s website is useful for questions about housing choice, affordable housing businesses, and business development.
The Department of Revenue’s website provides information on tax filing, forms, refunds, and questions about child support.
The Reopening website will answer questions on industry-specific guidelines as well as the timeline of businesses reopening for the coming months.
I am in close touch with our City and Town leaders. The Springfield legislative delegation does a regular call with Mayor Sarno and his leadership team to ensure we are working together to elevate vital issues like testing capacity, PPE for frontline workers, and support for vulnerable populations like the homeless. I have maintained consistent contact with our local leaders as we transition and implement the reopening guidelines and strategies.
Springfield and Chicopee have created pages with information for reopening (Springfield | Chicopee) as well as resources for businesses (Springfield | Chicopee) during this time.
Local governmental meetings continue to carry on remotely and many of these meetings are available to view via livestream or on-demand using the following links.
Belchertown | Chicopee | East Longmeadow | Granby | Hampden | Longmeadow | Ludlow | Springfield | Wilbraham
CATCH UP ON PAST LIVESTREAMS
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding on the impacts of COVID-19 (Facebook | Twitter)
Dr. Mark Keroack, President & CEO of Baystate Health (Facebook | Twitter)
Mary Kay Wydra & John Doleva on tourism, hospitality, and small business impacts (Facebook | Twitter)
Springfield Health & Human Services Commissioner Caulton-Harris on testing, tracing, and community response (Facebook | Twitter)
Belchertown High School Student Ben Schrenzel, our 2020 High School Essay Contest winner (Facebook | Twitter)
Dr. Joan Lesser on mental health during COVID-19 (Facebook | Twitter)
Baird Middle School Principal Stacy Monette, Massachuetts Middle School Principal of the Year (Facebook | Twitter)
IN THE NEWS
Lawmakers work to provide financial relief for small businesses in MA by Jodi Reed for 22 News
Elected officials like Longmeadow State Senator Eric Lesser, say they’re looking for a plan to both protect public health and re-open businesses in a way that allows them to stay open.
Potential MGM Springfield Layoffs with Sen. Lesser by Carrie Saldo for Connecting Point on WGBY
As chairman of Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, State Sen. Eric Lesser keeps tabs on one of the state’s newest industries. Carrie Saldo spoke with him about the announcement and its impact on western Massachusetts.
Maintaining your mental health during Covid-19 by Lianne Zana for 22 News
State Senator Eric Lesser hosted a livestream Q&A Friday on mental health and social work in wake of the pandemic. He was joined by his mother, Dr. Joan Lesser, who specializes in clinical mental health.
Belchertown junior winner of essay contest by Melina Bourdeaux for Belchertown Sentinel
Senator Eric Lesser congratulated Benjamin Schrenzel, Belchertown resident and junior at Belchertown High School, during a livestream conversation on his winning essay on Monday.
Anti-Semitic Crime In The U.S. Reaches Record Levels by Quincy Walters for WBUR
Lesser worries the pandemic could possibly stoke incidents of anti-Jewish crime, as it has in the past.
Vote-by-mail bill filed in light of coronavirus pandemic gets support from Western Massachusetts lawmakers by Steph Solis for MassLive
Sen. Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, and Sen. Adam Hinds, a Pittsfield Democrat, sponsored legislation filed in the House by Reps. John Lawn and Michael Moran.
Lastly, our COVID-19 page on our website continues to be updated as more information and resources become available. I hope you find this information useful and if I can be of further assistance on this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contact my office. Our Statehouse line is 617-722-1291 and our District line is 413-526-6501.