Massachusetts Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity

The Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity will call for urgent action from Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, and the Legislature on four state policy priorities to address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus outbreak on communities already experiencing marginalization, including low-wage workers, immigrants, and people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

The Task Force, convened by the Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) on March 17th, is calling on Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey & the Legislature to: Ensure Immigrants Have Safe Access to Testing & Treatment Ensure Everyone Has Access to Safe Quarantine Pass Emergency Paid Sick Time Enact a Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures & Termination of Public Benefits.

Children’s HealthWatch and 85 other organizations have endorsed the call to action, including leading civil rights, grassroots, public health, medical, labor, and social service organizations.


Emergency Task Force on Coronavirus & Equity
Top Priority Policy Recommendations

These recommendations will help people meet their basic needs while also slowing the spread of the virus. They will also create a platform over time to address structural inequities that create disparate impact of COVID-19. We recognize that racism, poverty, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination are at the root of inequitable vulnerabilities to this and future outbreaks.

Expand Earned Sick Time
The legislature should expand the provisions of the Earned Sick Time Law to create greater eligibility and coverage by expanding the duration of coverage, the types of workers who are covered (e.g., part time, contractors, municipal workers, adjuncts, undocumented immigrants), and the reasons for eligibility (e.g., physical distancing, quarantine, caring for a loved one).

Ensure Immigrants Have Safe Access to Testing and Treatment
The Governor, Attorney General, and other state leaders must aggressively communicate to immigrant communities that all state residents will have access to testing and treatment for COVID-19 regardless of immigration status, and that testing, medical, and social service providers may not share patients’ personal information with federal immigration enforcement authorities. They must also reassure immigrant communities that use of state-funded services will not count against them under new federal “Public Charge” rules. State funding should be allocated to trusted community organizations and community media to lead messaging and outreach campaigns.

Pass a Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Termination of Public Benefits
The Legislature and Governor Baker should enact a moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures during and in the aftermath of the outbreak, as well as a moratorium on termination of public benefits such as SNAP, MassHealth, and disability benefits.

Make Sure Everyone Has Access to Safe Quarantine
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and other state agencies must identify alternative sites for safe, dignified quarantine for people experiencing homelessness and others living in congregate facilities without safe access, given the significant potential for rapid transmission of COVID19 in homeless shelters and other facilities that are already at capacity and unable to implement recommended spatial distancing protocols. Adequate state and federal resources must be allocated to support this response.

Note: Contextual information in the release will note the importance of language access, highlight additional areas that need attention (e.g., people who are incarcerated), and stress the need for ongoing and additional work in these and other areas.