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Gov. Baker Files Covid-19 Legislation

by Bob Katzen, Beacon Hill Roll Call
Gov. Charlie Baker filed several pieces of legislation last week relating to COVID-19. Only one has been approved by the Legislature.
Waive Waiting Period For Unemployment Benefits (S 2599)
     The House and Senate gave final approval to and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that would waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits to be paid to workers impacted by COVID-19.
     “This means that the Department of Unemployment Assistance would be authorized to pay benefits without delay to persons who become unemployed because of lay-offs or business shutdowns taken in response to the virus, because of quarantine orders or directives or illness that prevents them from leaving their homes, or because they must care for a sick or quarantined family member or attend to children who are at home due to school closures,” said Baker in a written statement.
Make September 14 A Legal Holiday For Marathon (H 4571)
     No action has been taken on Baker’s bill that designates Monday, September 14, 2020, the rescheduled date of the Boston Marathon, as a legal statewide holiday. The 124th annual run was scheduled for April 10, 2020 which is Patriots’ Day, a legal holiday in the Bay State and Maine.
Prohibit Price Gouging  
     Attorney General Maura Healey has filed an emergency regulation to prohibit price gouging of essential products and services during the COVID-19. The regulation prohibits price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Prior to this regulation, price gouging was banned only for the sale of gas and petroleum product under the state’s consumer protection law.
     “We’ve heard from hospitals and consumers about skyrocketing prices for things like hand sanitizer, face masks and other essential gear needed to prevent the spread of this highly contagious virus and keep our front-line workers safe,” said Healey. That’s unacceptable and illegal. We issued this emergency regulation because no one should be exploiting this crisis and putting the public at risk.”
Quarantine Assistance Fund
     Reps. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox) and John Barrett (D-North Adams) filed a bill that would create the COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund to provide grants to workers who have lost money from not being able to work because of viral infection, quarantines or isolation. No action has yet been taken on the proposal.
     "In this time of public health emergency, it is vital that we do all we can to assist those in Massachusetts who are negatively impacted by COVID-19," said Pignatelli. "Rep. Barrett and I are thankful that the support of this legislation from our colleagues in both the House and Senate sparked productive conversations with the Baker-Polito administration and that they have taken steps to ensure that those who are financially vulnerable are not left behind. Through measured and appropriate responses, Massachusetts will be able to navigate and see the other side of this public health challenge."
Small Business Loans
     Makes small business loans of up to $75,000 with no payments for the first six months. The loans will be made available immediately for any employers with fewer than 50 full- and part-time employees who have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus, including non-profits.
Delay Tax Collections From Small Businesses
     Delays tax collection for small businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries which will allow businesses that paid less than $150,000 in sales plus meals taxes or sales plus room occupancy taxes in 2019 to defer their current payments until June.
Physician Assistants
Allows physician’s assistants who previously worked on elective surgeries to be used elsewhere in the hospital under a different supervising physician.
Medication For Opioid Abuse
     Allows pharmacists to administer certain medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Currently, such medication must be administered by a nurse.
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