LSC Daily Coronavirus Updates

Friday, March 27, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

An update from Massachusetts Advocates for Children, with information on what the state is required to provide for students with disabilities. Visit MAC’s website for additional COVD-19-related resources.

From our friends at the National Consumer Law Center: “The Massachusetts Attorney General has issued emergency regulations regarding debt collection (see attached). One provision applies to creditors and debt collectors and the other provision only to debt collectors’ telephone calls. Both provisions apply for 90 days or when the state or emergency expires, whichever comes first.

The provision applicable to creditors and collectors provides that it is unfair or deceptive for any creditor or debt collector to threaten or act upon: a new collection lawsuit; garnishment, seizure, or attachment of the debtor’s wages or property; a motor vehicle repossession; a capias warrant; a visit to the consumer’s household or place of employment; or communicate in person with the consumer. Exceptions are made for mortgage loans, rent, and utilities. 

The provision applicable to debt collector phone calls declares it unfair and deceptive for a debt collector to initiate a telephone communication, either live or recorded,  to the debtor’s residence, cellular telephone, or other telephone number provided by the debtor. Exceptions are made for communications initiated by the debtor, for informing the debtor of a rescheduled court hearing, or for debts involving mortgage loans or rent payments.”

Widespread computer glitches foil residents filing for unemployment benefits – Boston Globe, March 26

News

Public Health New & Perspectives

Better News


Thursday, March 26, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

The Social Security Administration has issued updated information and guidelines (see attached document) about accessing help by phone and online.

In case you missed Destini’s email yesterday, here is the Supreme Judicial Court’s order relating to electronic signatures, effective today.

Massachusetts is under pressure to extend its tax filing deadline, which remains April 15, despite the IRS deferring federal tax filing to July 15. The Globe Editorial Board is urging the state to follow the feds—as many other states have—and the Massachusetts Society of CPAs recently launched a letter-writing campaign to push for the extension.

The Washington Post has a calculator for individuals and families to calculate the amount of the economic stimulus provided by the soon-to-be-passed bill

News

Public Health News & Information

FYI

Zoom and other online meeting software can track your attention during a video call and rat on you if you zone out. The good news? There are ways to make it seem like you’re paying closer attention than you really are.

Good News & Interesting Information

 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

TAFDC and EAEDC applications can now be submitted online: As of today, cash assistance applications can be filed online at DTAConnect.com (click the blue “apply” banner). Just like with SNAP, a case manager will need to speak with the client after the application is filed. Please encourage families with children and very low or no income, or adults 65+ or disabled who don’t have income and have very low assets, to apply for cash assistance benefits. The Mass Law Reform Institute is sharing the most up-to-date information we have about DTA COVID-19 policy and procedures on this google doc. Report issues clients are having accessing DTA benefits by filling out this google form.

Message from WIC: ALL WIC Programs are able to provide all services by phone. WIC participants can contact their local WIC office with any questions. Please refer to Mass.gov/wic or facebook.com/MassWIC  for ongoing updated information.

SNAP and Low-Income College Students: For the most up to date information we have on SNAP for college students, see MassLegalServices.org/food4students

MassHealth COVID-related updates can be found here.

Scam Alert: Inspector General Warns Public About New Social Security Benefit Suspension Scam

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) to Host Three Virtual Town Halls this week.

Advocacy Alert

From Greater Boston Legal Services: Please ask your state legislators to co-sponsor HD 4951, Act to Provide Short Term Relief to Families in Deep Poverty, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Sal DiDomenico. Click here to send them an e-mail. HD 4951 would provide an immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 families with children who receive TAFDC benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive EAEDC benefits. Deadline for legislators to sign on to co-sponsor is today, 3/25, at 5 PM.

News 

Public Health Information

Potentially Useful and/or Entertaining

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Resources

Happening TODAY at 10 am: SNAP Coalition Zoom call. Agenda includes a federal update, discussion of DTA policies during the crisis, a state legislative update, and updates from the emergency food system. Join the meeting online here. Meeting ID is 422 568 964; Password: 889300; Mobile call in: +16465588656, 422568964#

The Attorney General’s website has a section on legal issues related to COVID-19. Topics include: Your rights as an employee | Multilingual resources on earned sick time | Protect yourself from scams and fraud | Get help with health insurance questions | Child care and resources for families & young children | Resources for immigrant communities | Students and student borrowers | Protecting your civil rights | Small Businesses | Advocacy & Other Actions

See attached document for in-depth info from Greater Boston Legal Services on Emergency Back-Up Child Care and Child Care Closures—with a late-breaking addendum from Monica Halas at GBLS: “Being out of work for any reason related to COVID-19 including school closures and lack of childcare qualifies you for unemployment benefits. The amount is tied to prior earnings but will hopefully increase. Information is being posted, updated and translated on www.masslegalservices.org.”

Guidance for the public on Massachusetts State of Emergency, Emergency Orders, and Other COVID-19 Updates

New York Times: A Hub For Help During the Coronavirus Crisis, with info on unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, pausing your student loans, and more

A recording of last week’s webinar from the Legal Services Funders Network on COVID-19’s Impact on the Need for and Delivery of Legal Services can be found here.

News

Public Health Updates

About Community Health Centers: Across the state there are 52 community health centers responding to COVID-19 in their communities, reaching lower income residents. They are adjusting and strengthening their operations on a daily basis to help address and mitigate this crisis. Just like hospitals and emergency rooms, they too are facing the same severe shortage of PPE. When you consider making a charitable contribution — or just doing a shout out on Facebook — please also consider your local community health center in addition to hospitals/ERs. The community health centers nearest LSC are: Brookside Community Health Center and Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center.

The World Health Organization says the US has the potential to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus.

The Good News(?)

Monday, March 23, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

Department of Transitional Assistance updates from the Mass Law Reform Institute:

  • DTA has significantly changed their operations to contend with the crisis and ensure households can get on and keep benefits. These changes includes extending certification periods (delaying due dates for Interim Reports and Recertifications), significantly reducing verification requests, halting reductions and terminations, and more.
  • Here is a link to DTA’s guidance to workers on changes.  Advocates with questions can fill out this google form; questions will be consolidated and submitted to DTA.
  • MLRI has put together a set of immediate, urgent recommendations, ranging from addressing food security, housing, employment/Unemployment Insurance, helping families in extreme poverty, and more. Click here for the list of priority / immediate recommendations for action.

For Families with Special Education Needs: Parents/caregivers from anywhere in the state can sign up to be connected with volunteer occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, etc., for remote consultation. Families can request help via this form, which is in English and Spanish. This effort is led by Emma Fialka Feldman, a Boston Public Schools special education teacher, and Sophia Johansson, a leader of Mass Families Organizing for Change.

UPDATE: Tax Day now July 15: Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount owed   Massachusetts has not yet extended its deadline for filing state tax returns

News 

Public Health Information

If you’re on Twitter, here are a few good public health experts to follow:

  • Trevor Bedford – Virologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle
  • Laurie Garrett – Science journalist and pandemic expert
  • Jeremy Konyndyk – Former director of USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance
  • Mark Lipsitch – Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health

Info for LSC Staff

It recently came to Dan’s attention that there are a lot of plants in the LSC office that need care! Please be in touch with Dan if you have plants in need of assistance. He will do his best to meet their needs, but requests that he not be held liable for any harm that may befall your plants.

From Fedex: FedEx is considered an essential business and may continue to operate under state of emergency and shelter-in-place orders. Prior to shipping, please check to see if your recipient is open, as many commercial businesses are now closed. In the event a business is closed, FedEx will follow our current operating procedures to attempt to complete delivery at a later time. If your business recipient is unable to receive a package at their normal business address, our Hold at Location option is available to over 14,000 locations including FedEx Office and Walgreens locations. Select Hold when preparing the shipment. More info here.

Ring Central, which provides online fax services as well as other cloud-based communications, is offering three months free to nonprofits. Learn more.

On the Lighter Side

Friday, March 20, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Claimant & Employer Information – Questions and Answers about Unemployment Insurance Attached

COVID-19 Resources for Businesses & Partners

Special Small Business Loan Fund:

BostonThe Boston Resiliency Fund is the City of Boston’s effort to help coordinate fundraising and philanthropic efforts to provide essential services to Boston residents whose health and well-being are most immediate. For individuals in BostonUnion Capital Boston established a one-time direct gift campaign to send Visa gift cards to those who need it urgently in the Greater Boston area. 100% of donations will go to families in need.

Framingham: The Feed Framingham COVID-19 Fund has been established to help ensure food access to vulnerable populations across the City of Framingham. All of the proceeds of this emergency fund will go directly to nonprofit organizations working to facilitate direct access to hunger relief efforts in Framingham. Established by the Foundation for MetroWest in partnership with The City of Framingham.

Free Webcast: Strategies for Providing Remote Legal Services to Older Adults: Wednesday, Mar 25, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT |  Register here

Legal assistance providers and aging services advocates are evolving their service delivery models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote legal services are particularly important for older adults and people of all ages with compromised immune systems who are at high-risk if exposed to COVID-19. This webinar will share strategies and highlight technology-based tools that can enhance the provision of virtual legal assistance. The Administration for Community Living will provide an introduction to this topic and will share information on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Help wanted: There are industries that are hiring. In addition to those listed in the article, jobs are also growing rapidly in health care and at places like CVS and Walgreen’s in everything from stocking shelves and cashiering to pharmacy workers and health service workers for their in-store clinics. The question: will these jobs pay a living wage, particularly given the health dangers involved.

For all your questions that involve taxes and coronavirus, you can visit Keith’s blog at procedurallytaxing.com

Distance Learning Center from WGBH offers resources by grade level for those in homeschooling mode:

News

The Good Stuff

Want to watch a show on Netflix at the same time as other friends? Here’s how to watch together.

Stuck inside? You can still experience some of the best exhibits and collections that places such as Harvard, the New England Aquarium, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner have to offer via virtual tours.

Working From Home During a Global Pandemic Bingo

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

Massachusetts school closure meal information, updated regularly: https://meals4kids.org/school-closure-meal-information

The City of Boston is launching a new daily text service with updates and information regarding COVID19. This is a free service with the latest developments and information related to the coronavirus. Text the keyword BOSCOVID to phone #99411 to opt-in.

The Social Security Administration has a new corona virus page, updated regularly. The page describes what’s available online, what help is available by telephone through the local offices, what work is being prioritized, etc.

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families has expanded emergency housing placements due to COVID 19. Emergency housing placements in hotels and motels of up to 45 days are now authorized for veterans over 60 or with chronic health issues or respiratory problems that would place them at high risk from the virus, even if congregate, shelter, or per diem beds were not available. This relaxes the prior rule which required veterans to exhaust those resources. VA guidance is available here: https://www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf/

VA Boston Facilities are open and operational, but are seeking to limit travel and on-site visits as much as possible. VA is asking Veterans to confirm appointments with primary care provider [or specialty clinic] prior to arrival. Most consultations are taking place by phone and VA caregivers and staff are calling Veterans accordingly.

  • Veterans enrolled with the VA Boston Healthcare System: If you have symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, sign-in to My HealtheVet and send a secure message to your primary care provider or call our patient call center at (617) 232-9500 and ask for guidance before visiting the VA medical center or a community clinic.
  • Screening: we are directing all patients and visitors to a screening process at all of our medical centers to include the community-based outpatient clinics. If necessary to travel to a VA facility for a procedure, etc. vehicles will be screened and directed towards parking accordingly.
  • Visitors: In addition to screening all Veterans and visitors, we will be implementing a new visitor policy. No visitors are permitted at our Brockton Campus. Visitation will be from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm for 30-minutes or less at our West Roxbury campus. Children under 12 will not be allowed access to the medical center.
  • Pharmacy: At this time, Pharmacy is switching to an all mail-order system in order to limit exposure to COVID-19. Outpatient Pharmacy will ONLY honor emergent prescription needs for in-person pick up. Emergent prescriptions include post-surgical, emergency department and discharge medication needs. All other medications and supplies will be mailed. Veterans may request refills and renewals by contacting the refill line at 1-857-364-4419 mailing in refill slips calling the Pharmacy Call Center at 1-800-865-3384 or requesting through My HealtheVet
  • For any other questions, please connect to the Call Center at 617) 232-9500.

Tax filing deadlines: Federal deadline for FILING taxes is still April 15, but paying taxes is waived for 90 days. Massachusetts is considering similar measures.

Kid Lit Authors Stepping Up During the COVID-19 Crisis and Quarantine – Book Riot has a roundup of children’s book authors and illustrators offering online read-alouds, drawing lessons, and other fun ways to ignite your whole family’s creativity.

Action Alert

Urgent Action Alert from Greater Boston Legal Services: Short-term Relief for Families in Deep Poverty: Please ask your state legislators to co-sponsor HD 4951, Act to Provide Short Term Relief to Families in Deep Poverty, filed on Tuesday by Rep. Marjorie Decker and Sen. Sal DiDomenico. HD 4951 would provide immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 families with children who receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits. Click here to send them an e-mail.

News

Non-Corona Trivia

Have you ever wanted to learn more about area codes? I did once upon a time, when I lived in the 314 (St. Louis) and got a call from a friend in the 315 (Central/Upstate NY). And I’ve got good news for you: there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to the North American Numbering Plan. Highlights include:

  • Most (but not all) area codes with zeros in the middle originally covered an entire state or province (i.e. the state’s area code was divided zero times). This is still true for a handful of states (New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming, among others).
  • Area codes were assigned first by population, not geography: when long-distance dialing became possible, large cities were assigned area codes that took the least amount of time to dial on a rotary phone (NY: 212; Chicago: 312; Los Angeles: 213). That’s also part of the reason that area codes that are close in number are rarely close to each other geographically.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Resources & Information for Clients

From Project Citizenship: General Order 20-6 Re: Coronavirus Public Emergency suspends naturalization ceremonies scheduled for March and April 2020 in Massachusetts.

Please help spread the word. Clients can call Project Citizenship at 617-694-5949.

Effective March 17, 2020, Social Security Offices Will Only Offer Phone Service ** Online Services Remain Available ** – Press Release, Social Security Administration

Medicare & Medicaid Updates: Medicare Part B will cover coronavirus testing if the individual’s doctor or other health care provider orders it and the test was performed on or after February 4, 2020. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS) has also released several documents related to the COVID-19 emergency, which may be of interest to Medicare beneficiaries:

Coronavirus response: state offering unemployment benefits to workers quarantined, sidelined by COVID-19 – MassLive

Stop & Shop sets up early shopping time for people over 60 – Universal Hub

Boston Public Library Online Resources

  • Hoopla – Access movies, TV shows, music, eBooks, and comics via online streaming or download to mobile devices with Hoopla. There are no waiting lists and you can borrow up to 10 items per calendar month. Get started here.
  • Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries where you can watch classic cinema, indie films, documentaries and so much more – like Netflix but for libraries. Get started here.
  • Explore other digital resources with your library card. Log in with your BPL library card and enjoy. If you don’t have a library card or your account has expired click here to get started.

News

Utilities suspend bill collections amid outbreak – Gloucester Daily Times

Boston mayor halts construction in the city as of March 17 – Boston Business Journal

Coronavirus response: Bills to help Massachusetts workers, municipalities now in the Legislature’s hands – MassLive

State may ban evictions as coronavirus hits economy – Eagle Tribune

Public Health Resources & Other Information

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Resources for Clients

News

Public Health Resources & Information