On June 16th, 2021, Governor Baker signed into law a bill extending pandemic-inspired authorizations for remote public meetings through April 1, 2022. It also temporarily reinstates remote permissions for representative town meetings, nonprofit member meetings, notary services and reverse-mortgage loan counseling, along with eviction protections, flexibilities for assisted living residences, and the ability for medical assistants, podiatrists, phlebotomists and certain military personnel to administer COVID-19 vaccines. The bill also permits to-go beer, wine and cocktail sales by restaurants through May 1, 2022. It requires that takeout and delivery drinks be sold at the same prices as those consumed on-site. Governor Baker issued an emergency order on March 12, 2020, allowing public bodies greater flexibility in utilizing technology in the conduct of meetings under the MA Open Meeting Law. On May 17, 2021, Governor Baker ended the State of Emergency June 15, 2021, terminating most of the pandemic-related executive orders. For vaccine information including a link to walk in clinic locations, times and to make appointments: https://www.getvaccinatedberkshires.org/I. Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 6074) Included: Funds to develop, manufacture, and procure vaccines and other medical supplies; Offer grants for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations; Provide loans to affected small businesses; Launch evacuations and emergency preparedness activities across the globe; and Provide humanitarian assistance and support for health systems affected countries II. Family First Coronavirus Response (H.R. 2601) Included: Insurance/Medicaid/CHIP resources and mandates; Mandates for paid and family sick leave, including by public agencies; Funding relief provided by legislation for private sector for mandated sick/family (leave is not provided for public sector agencies); Unemployment insurance resources; Resources for SNAP/WIC, SNAP flexibilities, Emergency SNAP, School Lunch assistance, Emergency Food Assistance, Senior Nutrition III. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748) Included: Direct payments to eligible taxpayers; Expanded unemployment insurance; Funding for state and local governments; Expanded liquidity lending for businesses and local governments; New loans and grants for small businesses; Funding for hospitals for ventilators and other equipment Source: Webinar on Resources for Local Governments in Federal Coronavirus Response and Programs by the International City – County Management The Commonwealth has made funds available to municipalities in Massachusetts through the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund – Municipal Program. Please view the latest memorandum which recommends a set of “next steps” to recipients of this support, including municipalities, school districts, and other entities, that have received funds from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund and includes information about reporting requirements and seeking FEMA reimbursement for eligible costs. In addition, please review the most recently updated set of Frequently Ask Questions for additional information. IV. American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319). Excerpts from National Conference of State Legislator’s Summary Regarding State and Local Aid.
Federal laws in response to COVID-19:
- $350 billion to help states, counties, cities and tribal governments cover increased expenditures, replenish lost revenue and mitigate economic harm from the COVID-19 pandemic.
- State and local government recipients could use the funds to cover costs incurred by Dec. 31, 2024. The funds would be distributed in two tranches, with 50% delivered no later than 60 days after the date on which the certification required, and the remainder delivered no earlier than one year later. States would have to distribute funds to smaller towns within 30 days of receiving a payment from the department. States that miss the deadline would have to pay back any undistributed funds. A town cannot receive more than 75% of its budget as of Jan. 27, 2020. The Treasury Department could also withhold up to half of a state or territory’s allocation for as long as 12 months based on its unemployment rate and require an updated certification of its funding needs.
- $10 billion for a Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund to carry out projects to support work, education and health monitoring during COVID-19.
- Use of funds:
- respond to and address economic effects, including through aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits, and industries such as tourism and hospitality
- premium pay to essential employees or grants to their employers, not to exceed $13 per hour or $25,000 per worker
- government services affected by a revenue reduction resulting from COVID-19
- investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure
- State and local governments cannot use the funds towards pensions or to offset revenue resulting from a tax cut enacted since March 3, 2021.
- State and local governments could transfer funds to private nonprofit groups, public benefit corporations involved in passenger or cargo transportation, and special-purpose units of state or local governments.