Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance
A People’s Response to COVID-19
A Platform for Immediate Relief and a Vision for a Just and Healthy Recovery in Massachusetts
In the context of a global pandemic, Massachusetts has become a COVID-19 “hotspot.” The profound impacts of this crisis include a toll on our health, jobs, and safety statewide. While none of us have escaped the impacts of the pandemic, the response to the virus has exacerbated deep, systemic inequalities in Massachusetts. At the same time, we have also seen mutual aid in action as community members reach out to each other across race and ethnicity, age, and creed.
What kind of Massachusetts do we want to see as we respond to the crisis and, eventually, create a “new normal”? The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance believes that our immediate and longer-term responses to the crisis must:
- Prioritize working families
- Advance racial justice
- Deepen democracy
- Invest in the public good
- Put people and communities before big corporations
We must invest in people and communities to save lives and alleviate economic hardship in this public health emergency.
We must protect and empower frontline workers who continue to go to work for the public good.
First, we must ensure everyone has the personal protective equipment and emergency sick time they need to work safely, stay healthy and care for their families. Essential workers should receive hazard pay or extra duty pay as they risk their health to keep our households and the economy running and should be free from retaliation for refusing to work because of the lack of protective equipment.
We must collect and report data on occupation and industry and presume exposure and infection is work-related in frontline workers, to ensure they get the protections and compensation they deserve. Workers must be robustly represented in any decision-making process around the return to work.
Confront Racial Injustice
We must confront the structural racism that means people of color—especially immigrants and African Americans—have much higher infection and death rates than white people (infection rates are 3.2 times higher for Latinxs, and 2.5 times higher for African Americans). While long-term transformational work is necessary to achieve racial justice, we must act right now to blunt the worst racial inequality.
We must ensure adequate and equitable public health funding so communities of color and low income communities have access to free and widespread protections, testing and universal access to treatment for COVID-19, including safe access for immigrants who may fear reprisals. We must make information available in the major languages spoken in Massachusetts, including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian, French, Khmer, and Vietnamese.
We must remain vigilant to ensure that COVID-19 Crisis Standards of Care never deem people of color and people with disabilities as less worthy of life-saving medical treatment. The people who are likely to be most impacted need to be at the decision making table to develop and revise these kinds of standards.
Structural racism has led to extreme racial disparities in incarceration, and now, people in jails, prisons and detention facilities are at high risk of COVID-19 infection. We must reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, and ensure they have access to housing and healthcare upon release.
We must collect and report data on race so we can track and improve outcomes and eliminate racial disparities.
Alleviate Economic Hardship
As hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts face unemployment, we must ensure that everyone—regardless of documentation status–has the economic support they need to weather this crisis.
Cash payments to individuals must be a part of any relief effort. Unemployment insurance and sick leave should be strengthened and extended to help people weather illness and unemployment.
Renters and homeowners impacted by COVID must have rent and mortgage relief—without the threat of future escalating debt. Utility services must be restored and maintained for all, regardless of ability to pay, and without penalties for non-payment.
People who are unhoused should have a safe place to stay and receive expanded help and services at this time.
All people should have the help they need to put food on their tables.
No one’s documentation status, or use of an ITIN instead of a SSN, should prevent them from receiving the help they need.
A Just Recovery
Even when we reopen the economy, we will not return to the pre-COVID “normal.” Structural inequalities transformed a public health emergency into compounding crises of housing instability, food insecurity, and financial distress. Our resilience in the face of the next crises – economic recessions, climate-related natural disasters, and future public health emergencies – depends on our ability to build a more equitable, secure, and democratic society.
Invest in our communities, not corporations
Austerity will not lead to a just recovery. With state and municipal revenues falling just as needs escalate, we must find equitable and creative ways to fund investment in our communities, not impose cuts that will make life worse for people. Decision-makers should prioritize progressive taxation and rolling back tax breaks for corporations and high-wealth individuals. We must fund universal childcare and free public education from kindergarten through college, forgiving existing student loan debt. And we must improve and expand public transit and other critical public needs, prioritizing equity and access. Public goods and services should be protected from corporations hoping to profit from privatization.
Protect and Empower Workers
The pandemic has made it clear how many working families in Massachusetts live from paycheck to paycheck, with inadequate safety protections or a voice on the job. We should protect workers’ right to organize, ensure the state minimum wage continues to rise, invest in workforce development programs, secure robust labor representation on public decision-making boards. We must end the misclassification of gig economy workers and stop the privatization of our public agencies. We must ensure all workers have adequate protections against wage theft, sexual harassment, discrimination and occupational hazards.
Democratic governance is essential to chart our way out of this crisis. We must enable people to vote safely by enacting vote-by-mail and Election Day voter registration, as well as boost democratic participation by instituting ranked-choice voting. We must retain maximum democratic control at the local level by safeguarding Gateway Cities from receivership and preventing state takeovers of municipal school committees. We should protect the will of the people by limiting corporate interference with public governance. We must provide free broadband internet to ensure everyone in Massachusetts has the information they need to make informed voting choices.
Protect our Homes and Neighborhoods
COVID-19 has shown the importance of neighbors and communities in providing mutual aid and emotional support. We can protect our communities against displacement and gentrification by expanding truly affordable housing throughout the state, preventing evictions, and rolling back the state ban on rent control. We must ensure everyone lives in a healthy neighborhood free from toxic pollution, with access to ample green space.
For people who live in nursing homes and other congregate settings, we must ensure adequate protections, information and staffing, including employment policies that protect residents by protecting workers.
The pandemic has highlighted the dangers of incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color, especially black and immigrant communities. There should be no new spending on prisons and sheriff departments, and Massachusetts should do everything possible to protect people without immigration documents from persecution by federal officials. We should continue to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated now, and ensure they have access to housing, healthcare, and jobs upon release. We must address the roots of high incarceration rates by dismantling the cradle-to-prison pipeline.
Build a Sustainable Future
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown we are dramatically unprepared for disaster. With that in mind, we must take bold action to mitigate and prepare for the future of climate change. We need to ensure a just transition to a green economy, with good jobs and a voice at work. We must invest in public transit and other public initiatives that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We must secure robust funding for public green infrastructure projects that build climate resilience and good jobs with a voice at work. We must enforce and strengthen environmental standards, especially to protect communities of color who have suffered disproportionately from toxic pollution.
The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance (MCRA) believes that the impact of the virus on low-wage workers, communities of color, and the most vulnerable people in our Commonwealth has exposed deep, systemic inequities in Massachusetts, which already faces the sixth-worst income inequality in the country. MCRA is calling on Beacon Hill to adopt a “people-centered” approach, to grant immediate relief, as well as a just long-term recovery that supports our communities and invests in their future. The MCRA is a rapidly growing umbrella group that includes a growing list of organizations and other coalitions such as Community Labor United, New England United for Justice, Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center, City Life Vida Urbana, Massachusetts Voter Table, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Alternatives for Community & Environment, the Green Justice Coalition, Right to the City Alliance Boston, and more.