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Eyes & Ears on Beacon Hill: Covid-19 Unity, Virtual Notary, Required Reporting

State Dems & Repubs Working Together On Covid-19 Pandemic
To the exclusion of just about everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic was front and center on Beacon Hill for the fourth week in a row. Most legislators and staff are staying away from Beacon Hill and are working from home to comply with social distancing guidelines.
The House and Senate held only informal sessions at which there can be no roll calls and it only takes one member to stop the proceedings if he or she disagrees with anything. The Democrats and Republicans worked together, as they did last week, and continued to cooperate and approved bills relating to $1,500 Per Month For Some Seniors?
     A bill proposed last week (HD 4978) would provide monthly cash assistance of $1,500 per month for persons over age 65 who are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) but stopped working as a result of a pre-existing condition placing them in a high-risk category for COVID-19’s most serious symptoms or death.
     “Elder Affairs Chair Ruth Balser and I filed [the bill] to provide relief for self-employed and gig economy elders who had the foresight to stop working, possibly weeks before the Massachusetts Stay-At-Home Advisory, because of an underlying condition such as chronic kidney disease or a compromised immune system,” said the bill’s co-sponsor Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain).
     “We filed [the bill] before the passage of the federal CARES Act, which expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to include many self-employed workers. We are watching for federal guidance to understand whether gaps in UI coverage remain within this vulnerable demographic. If so, this bill would fill in those gaps for yet uncovered elders.
Virtual Notary Public
     The House and Senate approved and sent to Gov. Charlie Baker a bill that would authorize a notary public to notarize documents via electronic video conferencing in real time as long as both the notary and each principal involved in the transaction are physically located within Massachusetts. Documents include mortgages, wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, health care proxies and caregiver authorizations.
     Supporters said that the COVID-19 virus has held up the notarization and validity of thousands of important documents across the state because all the parties are practicing social distancing, are sheltering in place and hesitate to meet in an office with other people.
Required Reporting Of Covid-19 Cases
     The House approved (H 4667) and sent to the Senate legislation that would require long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, elderly housing facilities and the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke to report daily to local departments of health, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and residents’ families and guardians the number of known COVID-19 positive cases and mortalities among residents and staff at the facility. DPH would make the data available on its website and update it daily.
“Our long-term care facilities, assisted living residences and elder housing are the epicenter of this public health crisis,” said sponsor Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton). “Those with loved ones in these residences, and the larger community, are understandably alarmed ... It is our hope that with transparent reporting, the necessary testing, personal protective equipment and staff support will be made available to these facilities.”
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