In Updates from Jo, Newsletters, The People's Blog

Greetings to you!

It’s hard to believe that my team and I have served our district for just about three years. Our work together on behalf of our region has been the honor of my life. So I begin with gratitude to you and our region for allowing me to serve.

There’s so much to share that we’ll move quickly through an important list.

Dr. Marty Nathan

These are poignant times as we grapple with the profound loss of Dr. Marty Nathan. On December 20, my Senate colleagues (Senators Gobi, Gomez, Hinds, Lesser, and Velis) and I will adjourn the Massachusetts Senate in Marty’s memory, offering these words which fall short of conveying our shared love and deep respect for Marty and her transformative legacy.

Sam Hopper

Our team celebrates the incredible Sam Hopper as she transitions to a new work adventure. Sam was a key staff member in our office since the beginning and has labored tirelessly on everything from district events to constituent services to our office’s complex tech infrastructure. Sam’s a treasure and our entire team sends Sam all our love as she leaps forward. While no one can replace Sam, our team has done a bit of a reorganization and is hiring for a Director of Constituent Services. More about the job here. (Interested folks should send a resume and cover letter to Please spread the word.

The Mental Health ABC Act

Recently, the Senate passed a sweeping mental health bill which, coupled with $400 million in federal COVID relief funds (ARPA) spending, promises to transform our system of mental health care. I wrote a detailed blog post on this legislation. You can read it here.


Many of you have contacted our office about the emerging Omicron variant of the coronavirus. While there is a great deal still to understand (and I’m pressing the Administration for a solid, equitable response plan via an oversight hearing next week), we do already know a great deal about how to prevent catching and getting very sick from COVID. I wrote an Omicron 101 blog post here. While we ache to return to a world without COVID, we’re still very much in its grips and must remain vigilant. Please take good care this holiday season.

Want to travel by rail from Greenfield to Boston?!

I’m delighted to tell you that the study focused on what it will take to restart passenger rail along the Northern Tier (or Route 2 Corridor) is beginning. The first meeting, open to the public, is December 16. You can register here.

You may remember that this study is required by a bill I filed that passed into law in July 2019.

I believe in a holistic, regional vision of rail for western Mass—a vision that includes the Valley Flyer (north/south), the Berkshire Flyer (connecting to New York), east/west via Springfield, and east/west via Greenfield. There’s no reason we can’t have it all.

Monte’s March thank you

Once again this year, I raised funds for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts with the incredible Team Cultivate Generosity. Thank you to all those who helped me raise $1,985 to help meet the food and nutrition needs of our neighbors and big love to Congressman Jim McGovern and Monte Belmonte for this audacious and inspirational community event which this year raised more than $500,000!

What the heck is in ARPA?

We’re awaiting Governor Baker’s signature on the final $3.9 billion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) spending bill. When it passed the Senate just before Thanksgiving, I sent a “special edition” newsletter to share our team’s work on the bill. You can read it here. You can see the conference committee’s final compromise bill here. It’s important to note that we’ll consider several more spending bills between now and July 2022 and I’ll keep fighting for our region’s fair share.

Office hours

District Director Elena Cohen and I are continuing to hold virtual office hours. If you’d like to meet with us, the next date is Friday, December 17. Please sign up here.

Dear Jo suspended

I’ve been grateful to be able to write a monthly column for The Daily Hampshire Gazette. (You can read three-years-worth of ‘Dear Jo’ columns here.) Yet I have made the decision, along with 11 other monthly columnists, to stop my column in solidarity with the NewsGuild, the union for the Gazette workers. The workers are seeking a contract and are engaging in a byline strike. Negotiations are underway and I’ve joined in solidarity with the workers at this final-push moment.

And finally … 2021 in review

Sam, Jared, Elena, Cameron, Brian and I put our heads together to think about some highlights of the past year. We remembered touring the Quabbin Reservoir, bringing over 25 House and Senate colleagues to tour western Mass farms, and a day-long tour to introduce Mass Cultural Council executive director Michael Bobbitt to our region’s arts leaders.

We reflected on 11 (soon to be 12) COVID oversight hearings—the first one in early March 2020, a statewide walk to end new prison construction, passing sweeping voting rights expansion legislation, bringing home millions of dollars in targeted spending to our region, passing an omnibus climate bill into law, and engaging with the incredible people of this district.

Since taking office, our team has engaged with over 13,000 constituents like you who had questions and wanted to know how to raise their voices on critical issues affecting our communities. We’ve helped 1,500 constituents who needed state government to work better on their behalf, resolving over 450 unemployment claims in the last year. If you need assistance with state government, check out our newly updated Constituent Services Guide.

Constituent services work has been the beating heart of our team. The pandemic has intensified hardship and created struggle for people and families up and down our valley and our team has met them with love and an unparalleled problem solving tenacity. Remember: We work for you.

2021 has meant work on countless issues all the time. We’ve done our best to keep you informed along the way—the wins, losses, frustrations, and joys, but if you missed anything, it’s all on

We also post regular updates on: 




Leaping into 2022

Next year is the second of a two-year legislative session. Early in 2022, we should see a rush of bills coming out of committees and we’ll be focused on getting priority bills to the floor for a vote. We’ll hopefully grapple with another ARPA bill, the fiscal year 2023 budget, and more. I’ll need your help to help prioritize our team’s work and hold us accountable. Remember, I’m just an email away:

Out and about

Moments ago, I accepted a 2021 MassPACE Legislative Champion Award alongside Senator Harriette Chandler and Representatives Higgins and Madaro.

It’s a recognition of the necessity of my bill, S. 748, An Act Supporting Equal Access to Community Care for Elders and the Disabled and the work of our team to advance it.

Current law makes seniors and people with disabilities ineligible for home care if their income goes just a penny above the income limit, a policy often called the “cliff effect.” My bill will allow eligible people to receive MassHealth home and community-based care even if their income is over the program income limit, if they pay a premium equal to their income above the limit.

I share the bill with Rep. Higgins and testified recently on its behalf

On Sunday, Northampton was alive with hope and joy as thousands of walkers and runners took to the streets to support Safe Passage and a world free of domestic violence. I was honored to kick off the Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage, which raised $805k(!!!), with Mayor David Narkewicz and executive director Marianne Winters.

My wife Ann and I THANK everyone who donated to our team. We raised over $1,300 thanks to a generous community. 

It was an honor to join UMass Amherst’s celebration of the Class of 2020. Congratulations to the 21st Century Leaders (former Senate team fellow Tim Scalona among them), Jack Welch Scholars, faculty, staff, and especially the incredible students. Thousands returned to appropriately mark this milestone achievement and lift all our spirits with their buoyancy, joy, and persistence. Wonderful addresses by Dr. Wilmore Webley, Justice David Lowy, Grace Jung, and of course Chancellor Subbaswamy, reminding us all about the power and promise of public higher education. Go UMass!

It’s a good day when Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy comes to town! District Director Elena Cohen (fourth from right) represented our office in celebrating Montague, Orange, Erving, and Whately’s Rural & Small Town Development awards which will provide funds for critical planning and infrastructure needs to support industry and attract new affordable housing and commercial development. The Secretary and team also joined a robust roundtable discussion in South Hadley about their Rapid Recovery Plan. Thank you also to Undersecretary of Community Development Ashley Stolba and the entire team at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) for their tireless efforts on behalf of western Massachusetts communities.

I had the chance to meet up with Clean Water Action‘s #PollutedPolly in my backyard. Polly and I agree: It’s time to #banPFAS in MA. Take action here.

Sending our love to you as we head toward a new year. 

Jo, Elena, Jared, Brian, and Cameron

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