Merrimack Valley Life

State lawmakers continue to produce important legislation addressing COVID-19 crisis

FROM THE HILL TO HAVERHILL

 

 

In addition to delaying individual tax payments and city and town assessments, provid­ing grants for small businesses, and allocating emergency funding to cities and towns, the State Legislature continues to pass and send to the governor important changes to our laws to lead us through this pandemic and its aftermath.

The governor has signed several bills sent to him by the Legislature that provide cities and towns with substantial leeway in setting rules for allowing municipal government to function and fund critical public safety and education needs. Most recently, the Leg­islature acted on the following legislation dealing with health-care worker protections, evictions and foreclosures, and COVID-19 data transparency at our long-term-care fa­cilities.

Liability protections for health-care workers: The state’s COVID-19 response has brought on board many new health-care workers, volunteers and field hospitals that are not covered by existing liability protections. To make sure all of our good faith health- care workers are held harmless for the damages of COVID-19, the State Legislature passed a new law extending liability protections to all health-care workers, health-care facilities, and volunteer organizations involved with the COVID-19 response effort. The law balances these protections with patients’ rights, clarifying that protections do not apply in cases of negligence, recklessness, discrimination, intent to harm, or consumer complaints brought by the attorney general.

Eviction and foreclosure moratorium: Given the financial hardships that so many are experiencing, we must provide residents with the certainty that they will not lose their homes or business properties during this crisis. The State Legislature passed a new law that halts all non-emergency evictions and foreclosures at this time. Tenants are still obligated to pay rent, but the law protects them from late fees and negative credit reporting if they miss a rent payment due to COVID-19 (as long as they notify their landlord), and it allows landlords to use a tenant’s last month’s rent to cover expenses. Further, the law requires mortgage lenders to grant forbearance up to 180 days without interest or penalty if requested by a homeowner impacted by COVID-19.

Data transparency at long-term-care facilities: There is an urgent need for more consistent and transparent data reporting from our long-term-care facilities in order to help families make decisions about their loved ones’ care and to make sure we get the right health resources to the right places. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring nursing homes, rest homes, assisted-living facilities, elder housing, and the soldiers’ homes to report daily the total number of positive cases and fatalities among their residents and staff. This data must be put online and sent to local and state health officials and their residents’ families. Tragically, our nursing homes have been hit hard by this virus, but better data will help us to fight back even harder. As of April 23, this bill was awaiting a vote in the Massachusetts Senate.

Please continue to reach out to my office if we can provide assistance or support during these unprecedented times.

State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haver­hill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or 617-722- 2380.

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