State Groups Call for Coordinated Coronavirus Response to Housing, Child Care & Education Reform 

Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance notes that people-centered policies need to connect across multiple issues to be effective  

 BOSTON — Efforts to combat the impact of coronavirus must be based on intersectional initiatives addressing housing, child care, and education issues if Massachusetts is to successfully combat the pandemic, members of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance (MCRA) said during a press conference held today.

“COVID-19 has brought socio-economic inequalities into sharp focus. Much of the damage suffered by our communities is being compounded by long-standing structural issues,” said Al Vega, Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health and member of MCRA. “This crisis has revealed just how interconnected these disparities are.” 

The press conference was led by the Homes For All Coalition. Alliance speakers outlined a series of events to be held over the next two weeks in locations ranging from Boston to Lynn, to Northampton. The policies outlined included rental and mortgage relief for families impacted by COVID-19; worker health and safety protocols; enacting school reopening models that provide better leadership, guidance, and planning from the state; and helping parents access affordable childcare.

Members agree the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable people in the Commonwealth has exposed deep, systemic inequities in Massachusetts, which already faces the sixth-worst income inequality in the country. 

“While all these things are happening, billionaires are continuing to make billions, and the choice is clear. We COULD have homes for all, good schools for all, and quality healthcare for all, but that is a path we must choose and to make that choice we need legislators to back people over profit,” said Rose Webster-Smith, Program Coordinator, Springfield No One Leaves.

Most of the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout are and will be hourly workers who are losing pay, people in the service, care, and hospitality industries, temp workers, small business owners, gig economy workers, new immigrants, and other fields dominated by women and people of color.

 

Christopher June Zizzamia, Community Labor United Senior Researcher and MCRA member testifying next to MCRA’s Just Recovery House

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About the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance: 

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance is a coalition of organizations from across the state coming together to provide a Platform for Immediate Relief and a Vision for a Just and Healthy Recovery in Massachusetts.

 

Parents and educators believe we aren’t ready to send students to school

22news

BOSTON (WWLP) – A panel of educators and parents met Thursday to discuss their options for returning to school in the fall.

School districts are still trying to figure out their plans for the fall but a common theme heard from panelists Thursday was that they are apprehensive about in-person learning.

School districts have three options, they can have students come to school for full in-person learning, they can go with an online teaching model or they can use a hybrid of both.

Read the full article on WWLP-22 News

Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance calls for more guidance from state on school reopening

bostonherald.com

Members of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance grappling with school reopening models are calling for better leadership, guidance and planning from the state as teachers are being treated as “expendable commodities.”

“Not only are we still in the dark about what will happen, the things that have come out have really made me feel like my child will not be safe in Massachusetts’ hands,” said Jordan Berg-Powers, executive director at Mass Alliance.

Berg-Powers said in a Thursday virtual panel with teachers and parents that lack of leadership on reopening has led to a “fend for yourself” phenomenon at some schools.

Read the full article on bostonherald.com

Watch live: COVID-19 response group calls on state to open schools safely

Boston.com

A local COVID-19 response group is hosting a panel discussion demanding the safe reopening of schools in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance, an umbrella group that includes several activist organizations fighting for the state to adopt “people-centered” policy in the time of coronavirus, will broadcast the discussion on Facebook at 10 a.m. The group cites proposals written by local teachers’ unions as an equitable course of action, and the panel will include several parents that are members of the alliance.

Read the full article on boston.com

LETTER TO GOVERNOR CHARLIE BAKER, SENATE PRESIDENT KAREN SPILKA & HOUSE SPEAKER ROBERT DELEO

Baker

The following letter was sent by the MA COVID-19 Response Alliance to Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka & House Speaker DeLeo.

May 1, 2020

Dear Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka & House Speaker Robert DeLeo,

As you well know, Massachusetts has become a COVID-19 “hotspot,” with profound impacts of this crisis including a toll on our health, jobs, and safety statewide. We write to you today as Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance (MCRA), a new coalition of community and labor groups representing some of the communities and families hardest-hit by this crisis. We have come together to advocate for a people-centered response to pandemic relief and recovery.

First, we would like to thank you for the actions you have taken to date to protect people, extend aid to the unemployed, and pass protections to help keep people in their homes at this difficult time. We know you have been working tirelessly in response to this virus and the impact it is having on the Commonwealth. We are especially encouraged by the recent passage of an eviction moratorium and the creation of unemployment insurance extensions, both adopted with support and input from tenant rights groups and labor unions. 

Despite these achievements, we know you will agree that there is far more to be done in Massachusetts to ensure effective and equitable relief, as well as a recovery plan that will help everyone in our state. We are witnessing the devastating and still-unfolding impact of COVID-19, especially on communities of color, immigrant communities and workers in the hospitality, healthcare, transit and other industries. Some of the most troubling 

  • We are still in the middle of a weeks-long virus surge, with more than 62,000 confirmed cases and more than 3560 deaths.1
    • Recent reporting indicates that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the Commonwealth may in fact be far higher.2
  • There are dramatic disparities in COVID-19 rates across communities
    • Per capita, rates among Latinx residents are more than three times that of White residents, while per capita cases for Black residents are more than two-and-a-half times that of White residents.3
    • Environmental Justice communities – those with high percentages of people of color and low income people, and with high rates of pollution-linked respiratory diseases, like asthma – are being hit hardest by the virus.4
    • Particular jobs and industries also pose disproportionate risk, and we have seen a severe impact on healthcare workers, grocery workers, transit workers, and those in other essential jobs.
  • To date, a staggering 893,600 people, about 24% of Massachusetts workers have filed unemployment claims.5
    • Some economists estimate that up to 30% of workers could be left jobless by this pandemic, a level of unemployment not seen even during the Great Depression.6
    • The economic impact is unevenly distributed, with leisure and hospitality and healthcare industries hard hit.7

We are writing to you today because the toll of the virus has exposed deep, systemic needs and inequities in Massachusetts as elsewhere. To stem the suffering in our communities, we are committed to working for immediate and long-term responses to the crisis that 

  • Prioritize working families
  • Advance racial justice
  • Deepen democracy
  • Invest in the public good
  • Put people and communities before big corporations 

 


 

1 State House News Service Coronavirus Tracker, data as of April 30, 4pm. https://www.statehousenews.com/public/tracker/1/shns-coronavirus-tracker
2 Massachusetts looking into whether state’s coronavirus death toll is undercounted, Gov. Charlie Baker says, MassLive.com, April 29,2020, https://www.masslive.com/coronavirus/2020/04/massachusetts-looking-into-whether-states-coronavirus-death-toll-is-undercounted-gov-charlie-baker-says.html
3 COVID-19 Rate for Latinx and Black Residents Three Times That of White Residents, According to New Analysis, Massachusetts Public Health Association, April 22, 2020, https://mapublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Press-Release-Data-Disparities-4.22.20-Final.pdf
4  Zoe Greenberg, Massachusetts communities with dirty air are coronavirus hotspots, Boston Globe, April 29, 2020 https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/29/metro/pollution-might-affect-states-covid-19-hotspots-harvard-study-shows/
5 Larry Edelman, Jobless claims in Mass. top 893,000, or 24% of the labor force, amid coronavirus crisis, Boston Globe, April 30,2020 https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/30/business/more-americans-file-unemployment/
6 Andrew Soergel,  “Fed Official Warns of 30% Unemployment: An unemployment rate that high would be far worse than what the country weathered during the Great Recession,” US News & World Report, March 23, 2020 https://www.usnews.com/news/economy/articles/2020-03-23/fed-official-unemployment-could-hit-30-as-coronavirus-slams-economy
7 Massachusetts Unemployment and Job Estimates for March, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, April 17,2020 https://www.mass.gov/news/massachusetts-unemployment-and-job-estimates-for-march-0

Essential workers from multiple industries spoke out for a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 4, 2020

Contact on behalf of Community Labor United and Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance:

Vishakha Mathur, vishakha@617mediagroup.com or 617-485-7709 

Essential workers from multiple industries spoke out for  a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic 

 

BOSTON — On International Workers’ Day also known as May Day, Boston-area essential workers, advocacy leaders, and educators held a livestream event to discuss life on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis and the State’s obligations to ensure safety and equity.

The front-line workers were grateful for the public’s appreciation of their efforts during this crisis but said they continue to need adequate protection and leave policies to keep them healthy.

“The union is working hard to make sure we have enough PPE but we also need a clear commitment from CEOs to make sure that the people who are working for them have enough PPE,” said Joan Edmond, a certified nursing assistant and a member of SEIU 1199.

Heloisa Maria Galvão, executive director, Brazilian Women’s Group spoke about her and her organizations’ experience working with immigrant families and workers. 

“What we are really looking to do during this time — because it is very tragic — is to organize people. We want to let them know that they do have a voice and that they should exercise that” she said.

Brazilian Women’s Group is working to provide mutual aid and support to marginalized communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speakers highlighted the dire need for a comprehensive recovery plan that not only addresses our communities’ immediate needs but also addresses our long-term needs. 

“It is heartbreaking to see that folks are called essential workers but workers are only given less than a day’s notice that they no longer will have work. That has been very difficult for families. It has compounded the impact of this pandemic,” said Roxana Rivera, head of SEIU 32BJ

“That’s why we are not only pushing with those major institutions that they need to be able to keep people on the payroll, give people more notice. We are taking that fight to the government as the next round of bailout talks happen,” she said. 

Boston Teachers Union organizer, Natalia Cuadra Saez, highlighted the importance of continuing to fight for schools that our students deserve, even as we weather this pandemic. 

“This crisis that we are living through, it makes the campaigns that we are working on, like Inclusion Done Right, even that much more urgent, that much more relevant because we know that eventually, we will be returning to schools in one way or another,” said Cuadra Saez. “The gaps that existed before will only be wider and the needs that existed before will be greater.” 

Expounding on their recent win on a strong eviction and foreclosures moratorium, Steve Meachem of City/Life Vida Urbana said that they are seeing a change in perspective due to this crisis. 

“There have been significant changes in the entire framing of our culture on what it means to not be able to pay rent, for instance,” said Meachem. “Only a few months ago, it was presumed in our culture that it is the fault of the individual. Now, all of a sudden, there is a common understanding that it is not the individual’s fault. It is something systemic.”

Keeping in mind the struggles faced by frontline workers and the need for a long-term recovery plan, a new alliance, Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Alliance, premiered its new set of policy demands. The demands are rooted in a “people-centered approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We believe that partnership between community and labor is just so critical to the progress we have made so far, but also for the power we are going to need to continue to win big demands and the systemic change that is needed,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director, Community Labor United, during the event.  

“Our immediate and long term response needs to address working families, end racial injustice, deepens democracy, and put people and communities before the big corporations.”

The groups also launched their website https://macovidresponse.com/.

# # #

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.

Press Release: Growing Massachusetts coalition calls for a people-centered COVID-19 response from Beacon Hill

Press Release: Growing Massachusetts coalition calls for a people-centered COVID-19 response from Beacon Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Noon EDT

Contact on behalf of Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Coalition:
Vishakha Mathur, 617-485-7709, Vishakha@617MediaGroup.com

Growing Massachusetts coalition calls for a people-centered COVID-19 response from Beacon Hill

Groups demand immediate action rooted in lives of vulnerable people in Massachusetts, plus long-term structural changes

BOSTON, MA The impact of COVID-19 on 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. 

Most of the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout are and will be hourly workers who are losing pay, people in the service, care, and hospitality industries, temp workers, small business owners, gig economy workers, new immigrants, and other fields dominated by women and people of color.

With that in mind, a broad and growing coalition of advocacy groups, the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Coalition (MCRC) has emerged to call on Beacon Hill to adopt a “people-centered” approach, to grant immediate relief as well in a just long-term recovery that supports our communities and invests in their futures. 

The coalition said it is encouraged by several moves made by the legislature thus far, such as the movement seen recently on eviction moratoriums, and the creation of unemployment insurance extensions with support and input from tenant rights groups and labor unions. However, the new group points to more than a dozen other steps that they feel must be taken urgently, and have outlined those measures in a comprehensive response platform (included below). 

“These are the bare minimum to ensure we are doing everything necessary to shore up the ability of workers and the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth to weather this crisis,” said Lee Matsueda, Executive Director of Community Labor United, a member of the new Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Coalition, an emerging group that has put forth a list of holistic measures designed to protect the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents.

The coalition is appealing to Beacon Hill to adopt their platform swiftly in the face of record-breaking unemployment and public health strife — including taking steps to ensure relief reaches people, not just businesses.

“Rooted in the everyday impacts on the lives of vulnerable people in Massachusetts, we demand immediate action on a broad COVID-19 response from every level of government, including Beacon Hill, to ensure that no one is left behind. This is the punch list that a comprehensive response needs to fulfill. We demand long-term structural change, so that people do not suffer even more after the pandemic is over,” said Beth Huang, Director of the Massachusetts Voter Table, who also has joined the coalition.

Labor unions have won key gains through direct negotiations with select employers, such as Stop & Shop workers gaining a 10 percent increase, and other unions securing health coverage during layoffs for workers, but the new coalition says these important advances must be buffered by bold statewide legislative action.

“This pandemic is bringing into sharp focus how interconnected we all are. It’s also revealing the cracks in our systems. We must use policy as a lever to ensure every person – no exceptions – can thrive,” said Marie-Frances Rivera, President of Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, who are among the earliest backers of the Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Coalition. “We must address short-term issues facing our families, but also recognize that a just recovery is a chance to change the system that has left so many of us behind. This is a moment to invest in people and to center racial and economic equity.” 

The platform includes the following policy proposals:

  1. Accessible information about the COVID-19 outbreak for all Massachusetts residents. Communications must be available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian, French, Khmer, and Vietnamese.
  2. Collection and reporting of data on race during the outbreak.
  3. Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and a rent freeze for tenants who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
  4. Safe elections through enacting vote-by-mail and Election Day Registration and lengthening the time period for early voting.
  5. Full funding for the Student Opportunity Act and cancellation of the MCAS.
  6. Adequate and equitable public health funding so all have access to prevention and public health protections.
  7. Expanded SNAP, WIC and school lunch programs and suspending regulations that weaken food assistance.
  8. Free testing and health care access for all.
  9. Expanded unemployment benefits and emergency paid sick time. 
  10. Restoration of all utilities, and a moratorium on utility shutoffs. 
  11. Broadband in every possible geography. 
  12. Funding for legal services for low-income people and people facing economic hardship.
  13. Decrease in the number of people in jails and prisons by continuing to reduce arrests and releasing people in pre-trial detention, people who are eligible for parole, people over the age of 50, and people with health conditions plus coordinated access to housing and healthcare for people when they are released. 
  14. Full enforcement of clean water and air pollution standards to avoid additional health burdens, particularly in low-income and communities of color. 
  15. The equitable distribution of federal stimulus funds and other federal supports. 
  16. A strong state-level response addressing the UI and stimulus support gaps faced by people without documents and those filing with individual taxpayer identification numbers.
  17. Accessible economic relief that prioritizes workers, not solely business owners.

The groups will begin distributing the platform electronically to legislators and plan to conduct remote email and phone-bank lobbying to seek support.

“COVID-19 has upended our economy, lives and sense of well-being. Most of the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and the economic fallout coming will be hourly workers who are losing pay, people in the service, care, and hospitality industries, temp workers, small business owners, gig economy workers, new immigrants, and other fields dominated by women and people of color,” said Mimi Ramos from New England United for Justice. “Our existing systems have never worked for all of our communities, and now is our chance to address that and ensure a just recovery.”

# # #

 The Massachusetts COVID-19 Response Coalition (MCRC) 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. MCRC 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 MCRC 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.