House Passes Legislation to Support Workers Affected by the Public Health Emergency

Last week House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Rep. Joseph McGonagle, along with their colleagues in the House of Representatives, passed legislation to waive the one-week waiting period for workers seeking unemployment insurance benefits related to, or resulting from, the COVID-19 pandemic or the effects of the State of Emergency declared by Governor Baker on March 10.

“Massachusetts workers drive our economy, and the action we took today will help thousands of individuals and families as we confront the economic effects of this public health crisis,” said Speaker DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am grateful to my colleagues in the House for their work to addressing the urgent needs relating to the outbreak. I am proud of the work Chair Michlewitz did to move this legislation so quickly.”

“I am very proud to be a part of the Legislature for prioritizing such a profound piece of legislation,” said McGonagle. “In these uncertain times, we need all of our residents to be certain that we are doing our best to protect them, and waiving the unemployment waiting period is a huge step for that. Thank you to Speaker DeLeo and Chair Michlewitz for their leadership in passing this.”

“Ensuring that workers have immediate access to unemployment benefits is critical,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “I want to thank my colleagues in the House and our partners in the Senate and the Baker administration for moving this legislation along so quickly so that people can receive expedited benefits.”

On March 18, the bill passed in the Senate, and the Governor signed it into law.

The following list is a summary of House action taken in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis since the State of Emergency declaration on March 10.

•On March 12, the House and Senate approved a $15 million fund in response to the coronavirus outbreak. One March 13, the Governor signed it into law.

House Unanimously Passes Legislation to Improve Municipal Public Health Services

On Wednesday, Feb. 27,  Rep. Joseph McGonagle, along with his colleagues in the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to strengthen local and regional public health services across Massachusetts.

The legislation, An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System, supports collaboration between local boards of health and neighboring municipal public health departments to deliver high-quality and efficient public health services such as disease control, emergency preparedness, restaurant inspection, sanitary code enforcement, and suicide prevention and substance use disorder outreach.

“With the global virus outbreak on our doorstep, I’m proud that the House took action to help communities across the Commonwealth protect the health and safety of their residents,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “Thank you to Vice Chair Garlick and Representative Kane for their diligence and focus on this issue.”

“This legislation is truly beneficial to all individuals and families across the Commonwealth,” said McGonagle. “Our public health officials and agencies already do a fantastic job and I am excited to see them continue that work with the help of this bill. I’m grateful to the Speaker, Vice-Chair Garlick and Rep. Kane for their bipartisan work in getting this bill passed.”

Specifically, the legislation seeks to strengthen local public health in three ways:

•Establishes the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) program: A competitive grant program that provides funding to public health departments to increase sharing of services across municipalities, strengthen service delivery capabilities, and improve system accountability and data reporting.

•Ensures the local public health workforce has access to training: Provides boards of health officials and staff with free educational and training opportunities four times annually in regions across the state.

•Sets new statewide public health standards: Department of Public Health will develop a set of minimum standards for foundational public health services to improve the quality of and create uniformity within the public health services of the Commonwealth.

The bill is now in the Senate.

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