What Day is It?
If you’re like me, you might find yourself wondering what day it is lately. I can’t believe it is already mid-April and that this is our seventh weekly update since the pandemic began.
It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re spending a lot of it at home, but this week I want to use my letter to say thank you to every one of you who is showing up to work because you are doing an essential job.
Whether you’re a front line health care worker fighting this virus and saving lives, or you’re keeping the trains on time, or you’re manning the check out line, or the flightline, or the bus line, you’re a hero who is literally putting your life on the line to serve the country and your neighbors. On behalf of them, as their representative and yours, I just want to say thank you.
I also want you to know that I have your back. Over the last week, we got the sad news that Vitalina Williams, who worked at the Market Basket in Salem and Walmart in Lynn, died after contracting COVID-19. I didn’t know Vitalina or her husband, David, but was moved by the emotional message David shared with the public about her passing.
He was asked if she should have had a mask to protect herself. And he answered: “Nobody’s to blame, and everybody’s to blame. How can you give something you can’t get?”
In the richest country in the world, everyone serving our community ought to be able to get the basic protective equipment to stay safe on the job. And we need to provide testing to everyone.
When I learned the news, I wrote Governor Baker a letter urging him to designate grocery store workers as emergency personnel so that they are eligible for protective equipment when it arrives, and priority testing, when there’s enough.
He listened, and the day after receiving the letter, he expanded priority testing to grocery store workers and others on the front line like tow truck drivers.
The truth is this: there aren’t enough tests. And there isn’t enough personal protective equipment. And there is someone to blame. It’s the federal government, specifically the president, who we learned in the last week was warned about the potential for a pandemic in November when the intelligence community started putting it in the President’s Daily Brief. Instead of stockpiling protective equipment, building more ventilators, and developing a test kit that works, the president downplayed the virus. He and his son called it Trump Derangement Syndrome and said it would miraculously disappear. Even today, he’s failed to fully and effectively use the Defense Production Act, a bill that would let him order the private sector to make protective equipment en masse.
I don’t say this to get political; I’m saying it because there’s a lot more Congress and the president must do to fight the virus, and I committed at the start of this to communicate honestly. We need more honest leadership.
We need to protect people working on the front lines; we need to step up for people who are out of work; we need to help businesses and nonprofits recover; and eventually, once the virus is under control and we’re not at risk of a resurgence because we have enough test kits to go around to trace the virus, we can get on with life.
That’s what I’m focused on right now. If you need help from my team or me, give us a call or send us an email. Our contact information is at the bottom of this message. We’re here for you, and we’re ready to rock.
Hang in there,
Member of Congress
P.S. - To stay in touch, click here!
If there’s any silver lining during this pandemic, it has to be the willingness of people and businesses in our community to jump in and help. While the government has failed to deliver protective equipment, companies large and small have stepped up. You may have seen articles in the news this week about some of them, including former Lynn resident and current Bostonian Amanda Curtis whose fashion manufacturing company is producing cloth face masks, and workers at Gillette in Andover and South Boston who are making face shields and hand sanitizer.
Some of you might be reading this: Thank you.
When I was in Iraq, I had a lot of help from people who were in support roles. And today, the efforts by people are in the same vein—patriots who have stepped up to serve however they can whether it’s by wearing a homemade mask in public to prevent the spread of the virus or building a contact tracing program from scratch. That’s an antidote to the dysfunction that’s gripped our political system, and which is capped off by the president’s bungled response to this crisis. Thanks to each and every one of you.
In the days ahead, each of us will need to keep doing our part. The million-dollar question right now is when will life get back to normal? When will businesses and restaurants and schools open again? That’s going to depend on a few things, including how well we can test at scale, and whether we can trace new cases of the virus’s spread to prevent a resurgence through what’s called contact tracing. Contact tracing is a tool that allows health care workers to figure out who a sick person has come into contact with while they were without symptoms, and warn those people that they might be at increased risk of contracting the virus. Once people are alerted, they can self-quarantine and get tested.
He and his team are experts in this; they’ve worked on many of the major pandemics in recent history, and it’s an asset to us that we have them here. It’s going to take a lot of work. They need volunteers. And most of all they’ll need our help buying into this—there’s a privacy trade off that’s important to discuss and know up front—but in the end, contact tracing will save the lives of friends and family members, and strangers that we’ve never met but passed by on the street. I’d encourage you to read this report from The New York Times.
Dr. Farmer is a member of my Coronavirus Advisory Team, a small group of experts who are working with me on policy ideas and providing real-time updates about what’s happening on the ground.
The most common question our office has received over the last few weeks is about unemployment assistance. We know a lot of people are hurting financially right now and the least we can do is make sure you all have access to information. The best place to go is the State’s website.
The State's Department of Unemployment Assistance has revamped its website, the online portal, and their call center. As a result of funding from Congress, the state agency has more than quadrupled their staff to process your claims and answer your questions. So if you struck out before, stick with it and try again.
If you are self-employed:
The portal to submit a self employment claim is not yet available. If you were able to get through and have already submitted a claim as a self-employed worker before the portal is set up to allow you to file, your claim will likely be denied. Unfortunately, you will have to reapply. If you have any further questions about this, please reach out to the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance by completing the contact request form here.
Si necesitas información en español:
El estado ha publicado una nueva versión de la solicitud de desempleo en español.
If you need help, you're not alone. More people lost their jobs in the last four weeks than in the first 52 weeks of the Great Recession. WBUR helpfully did a deep-dive into the jobs numbers.
Check your bank account. If you receive a tax return electronically, you might have seen a deposit this week for your stimulus check. Every American who reported making $75,000 or less as an individual, or $150,000 or less for married couples filing joint returns will receive $1,200. If you made more than that, the payment amount goes down by $5 for each $100 above the thresholds.
Unfortunately, we learned this week that if you get a paper check for your tax return, you’re going to face a delay of potentially three weeks because President Trump insisted on changing who signs the check, from the Secretary of the Treasury (who has signed paper currency in the country pretty much since its founding) to himself. You’ll be going without that money for a few weeks to support the president’s ego. Awesome. We’ll keep you posted on this.
Many of you have posed some great questions about how this program works. Here are some common questions and answers:
Q. Will I get a check if I haven’t filed a tax return in the past two years?
Yes, but, some of you may need to take an extra step to ensure it comes timely!
If you’re receiving SSA payments (Retirement, Disability, Survivors’, SSI), you’re all set!
If not, head here to register your information.
Q. How will I get the money?
Direct Deposit or by mail. Update your address in the portal.
Eligible filers will be able to check the status of their refund and update their direct deposit information if they normally receive tax refunds by mail.
That’s it for now. If there’s anything we can do, please let us know by emailing or calling us.
All of that and more is available online at Moulton.house.gov and at the bottom of this email.