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

Greetings from our district,

We won’t soon forget 2020 and the countless ways that people and communities rose to the daunting challenges of a historic global pandemic, massive economic crisis, as well as a long-overdue focus on racial equity and justice.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that COVID-19 is claiming one life every 33 seconds currently, with the death toll projected to rise to approximately 340,000 in the U.S. by year’s end. Upwards of 12,000 of these wrenching deaths will be here in the Commonwealth.

My heart is with the loved ones of those who have passed. With the health care workers who have battled this virus since late winter with no respite. With all those struggling under the weight of a brutal and related economic crisis. With the families worrying about their kids’ education, the educators trying valiantly to teach, and our children trying with all their might to learn. With small business owners and workers stretching budgets — and their health — to the breaking point.

But thoughts and prayers alone are not nearly enough. Not from your government.

As I write, the people’s business continues (and likely will right up until January 5) with major votes on economic relief, climate, and transportation still outstanding. I take stock of the major challenges we’re facing and how we must respond, here, in this month’s Dear Jo column.

Transparency and accountability

Amid the year end press, my team and I are squeezing in evaluation and planning. We’re also thinking about how we can do even more to engage constituents and ensure greater transparency and accountability.

That’s why we’ve compiled all of the roll call votes I took on the Senate floor this session in one place, and we’ll update this monthly on going forward.

We’ve also produced a 2019-2020 Session Report Card, detailing the status of the bills I filed, how our district fared in the budgets and supplemental budgets this session, and my focus as Chair of the Senate’s COVID-19 task force and as a member of the Racial Equity Task Force.

The People’s Town Hall

Thank you to all who were able to join our People’s Town Hall on December 8. If you were unable to join, a recording and links to the presentations shared at the Town Hall, along with the transcripts of the event in Spanish and English, are available here.

We have another Town Hall on Tuesday, February 9, 2021 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. where we’ll share how we’ve put constituent ideas into legislative action. You can register for this Zoom event here. (Apologies if you faced technical difficulties last time. We’ve worked those out and anticipate greater ease for constituents.)

Cheering for interns and fellows

Each year, incredible undergraduate and graduate student interns and fellows join our team and dramatically expand our capacity to serve you.

From August through December, hailing from UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke College, Harvard School of Public Health, and Amherst Regional High School, Clara, Caroline, Kyle, Aimee, Angelis, and Carolyn led research, bolstered communications, and added muscle to administrative work on your behalf, while public health fellows Caroline and Russell, and legal intern Sarah drafted and drafted and drafted new legislation. Some of these big-brained, big-hearted folks are below.

Working for you

We remain focused on helping constituents access necessary state support at what remains a wrenching time for so many.

Have you applied for fuel assistance and have questions about your pending application? Has your unemployment account been put on hold and you don’t know why? Do you need help filling out an application for RAFT assistance? Do you have questions about eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? We can help with these issues and many more. Please reach out to me and my team by emailing me (, completing and submitting the personal assistance request form on my website, or by calling our offices: 413-367-4656 (district) or 617-722-1532 (State House). We’re here to help.

Out and about with Heroes

I had the honor of volunteering with the incomparable Bernardston Council on Aging staff & volunteers to distribute & deliver meals to seniors as part of a LifePath initiative. A powerhouse group of staff & volunteers has provided 4,000 meals since March to elders in the region. 

This year, Monte’s March raised a whopping $614,577 for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts! That translates into roughly 1.8 million meals for western Massachusetts families. I’m grateful to have joined the tireless and inspired Monte and Congressman McGovern, as well as colleagues and friends, and incredibly grateful to all who donated and raised funds to help feed our neighbors. It’s impossible to capture the revelry, the joy I felt upon arriving in Greenfield after walking 26 miles over 12 hours from Northampton to Greenfield. 

Nora and Terrance, two intrepid dinner runners for Manna Soup Kitchen’s Thanksgiving Meal, in Northampton. Because of COVID precautions, the usual line of people was replaced this year with a line of cars waiting to deliver meals to neighbors.

I spent time at Highland Valley Elder Services’ kitchen and meal distribution hub in Northampton. It was buzzing with staff generating 600 hot meals and as many frozen meals and volunteer drivers pulling up to take the meals to 24 communities across Hampshire County and as far as communities like Westfield in Hampden County. 

As the very difficult, very painful 2020 comes to a close, we look together to 2021 as a year for justice. For bold policies that reinvest in our shared future and wellbeing.

Just as we did as the year turned in 2019, my team and I leave you with a favorite Seamus Heaney passage from his poem Cure at Troy:

History says, don’t hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

Wishing you and those you love a just and peaceful “tidal wave of justice” in 2021 where “hope and history rhyme.” Let’s make it so. Together.

Sending love to you,

Jo, Elena, Cameron, Brian, Sam, and Jared


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