Rep. Stanley, Rep. Lawn and Legislature Pass Various Bills to Assist MA Residents During COVID-19 Crisis

(April 3, 2020) – On Thursday, April 2, Rep. Stanley, Rep. Lawn and their colleagues in the MA House of Representatives considered bills to assist MA residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Senate and House agreed on bills which included postponing the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 and another to allow restaurants to sell take-out beer and wine. Both bills head to the Governor’s desk for consideration and approval.

“We’re making important progress on MCAS, unemployment and housing bills,” said Rep. Stanley. “Residents across the Commonwealth need immediate assistance and we’re doing all that we can to respond to and make sense of the coronavirus pandemic that has taken a stranglehold on our communities.”

The House also passed legislation placing a moratorium on most residential and commercial evictions and foreclosures until 30 days after Gov. Baker lifts the state of emergency.   This bill would prohibit landlords from charging late fees or sending reports to credit rating agencies as long as a tenant provides notice within 30 days of a late payment that their failure to pay was tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also allows for video conferencing instead of in-person consultation on reverse mortgage loans, and prohibits landlords from sending “notice to quit” letters during the emergency.

The House passed legislation to give Education Commissioner Jeff Riley the authority to modify or waive MCAS testing requirements for graduating high school seniors, but who are unsure if they’ll ever return to school. The bill allows Commissioner Riley to suspend testing requirements for 10th and 12th graders, but ensures that if a senior is required to pass the MCAS to graduate that they be given a time other than this spring to take the exam.  The legislation also requires that testing requirements for third graders and eighth graders be modified or waived, and gives school districts until May 15 or later to file their first three-year education plan required under the new funding law passed last fall.

Additionally, the bill also allows school districts to budget month to month, prohibits towns from turning off essential services like trash collection or water due to non-payment of taxes or bills, and gives homeless shelters permission to use $3.3 million in funding for rapid rehousing programs in response to COVID-19.

“We’re working on important legislation to help strengthen the safety net for our residents struggling during the national pandemic,” said Rep. Lawn. “Working in collaboration with our colleagues in the House, we’re doing all we can to provide relief, support and assistance.”