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:
- Accessible information about the COVID-19 outbreak for all Massachusetts residents. Communications must be available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Haitian, French, Khmer, and Vietnamese.
- Collection and reporting of data on race during the outbreak.
- Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and a rent freeze for tenants who have lost income as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
- Safe elections through enacting vote-by-mail and Election Day Registration and lengthening the time period for early voting.
- Full funding for the Student Opportunity Act and cancellation of the MCAS.
- Adequate and equitable public health funding so all have access to prevention and public health protections.
- Expanded SNAP, WIC and school lunch programs and suspending regulations that weaken food assistance.
- Free testing and health care access for all.
- Expanded unemployment benefits and emergency paid sick time.
- Restoration of all utilities, and a moratorium on utility shutoffs.
- Broadband in every possible geography.
- Funding for legal services for low-income people and people facing economic hardship.
- 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.
- Full enforcement of clean water and air pollution standards to avoid additional health burdens, particularly in low-income and communities of color.
- The equitable distribution of federal stimulus funds and other federal supports.
- 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.
- 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.