Dearest friends and neighbors,
The intensity of this moment makes me wish I had more than the written word to pack into this email. We are in the midst of a storm we cannot see, but it’s raging nonetheless.
Simple prose falls short of capturing our wrenching reality. Or the breathtaking generosity of people’s responses. Or the gratitude I feel for those on the front lines.
For weeks, our team has hurdled forward to meet the demands of this moment through:
Constituent services for individuals and municipalities: We’re here for you. We’re helping neighbors to access health care and food, navigate the Commonwealth’s unemployment insurance system, apply for new lines of state and federal funding, grapple with ever-changing state laws and regulations, and so much more.
We’ve created two resources: 1. A (hopefully tremendously useful) constituent guide full of important information available right here. 2. A regularly updated list of all state and federal legislative, regulatory, and executive actions available right here.
Legislation: Yesterday, the Senate passed a strong bill to significantly expand unemployment insurance benefits for individuals and ease the financial burden on employers. That’s just one of many pieces of legislation you’ll see us push through to bring needed relief to the Commonwealth.
Advocacy: It turns out, you can’t take the organizer out of the Senator or her team. Starting with advocacy to ban all co-pays, deductibles, and treatment costs related to COVID-19 , I’ve joined with colleagues to call for aggressive state support for sheltering those without shelter , for a transparent and accountable process for distributing personal protective equipment with regional equity , for a rural public health expert to be added to the Command Center advisory board , for a western Massachusetts COVID-19 test site, and so much more.
Communication: On a good day, I believe in an accountable and transparent government and in times of crisis, transparency and government accountability are imperative. That’s why we’ve set up weekly community calls, open to all and accessible here. That’s why I’ve dedicated the most recent Dear Jo columns in the The Daily Hampshire Gazette (including today’s) to COVID-19. And that’s why I’m writing to you regularly through our newsletter and why we’ve answered conservatively 3,150 unique constituent email inquiries and phone calls in the last 27 days alone.
Budgets: I am working with Senate leadership to scaffold out the process to build another supplemental budget to meet the demands of COVID-19. (A so-called ‘supp’ budget is a smaller appropriations bill between the larger fiscal year budgets.) The Senate has also begun work on the fiscal year 2021 budget, honestly a sobering endeavor amid spending spikes and revenue shortfalls. Bottom line: you can count on me to stay in the budget weeds because our spending and revenue dollars must match our values—especially at such a time as this.
Please help #FlattenTheCurve
I’ll leave you with the following graph illustrating the potential positive impact of social distancing. Please, please, please take this to heart. We all have a responsibility to stay well and help the ones we love to stay well.
As always, sending our love to you. We’re with you. Now and in the days ahead.
Jo, Sam, Elena, Brian, Jared