Dear Members and Partners,

This is a special edition of MWA's Workforce Connections as our state, our country, and the world reacts to the COVID-19 outbreak.

We want to begin with thanking everyone in the workforce system who is working around the clock to serve customers and keep their staff safe. We are in u nprecedented times and together we will get through this.

MWA staff are working remotely and we have canceled or made virtual all MWA meetings and events through April. While we are working remotely, we are here to be a resource for our members and the greater Massachusetts workforce community. Don't hesitate to reach out if we can be of assistance.

Stay safe,

Tonja Mettlach
Raija Vaisanen
COVID-19 Updates
State COVID-19 Policy Updates:
Executive Orders:
  • Since declaring a state of emergency, the Governor has filed numerous executive orders. You can view the orders here. The orders relate to registration of health care professionals, expanded access to physician services, closing restaurants and bars for on-premise consumption, statewide K-12 school closures, hospital and assisted living visitor restrictions, among others. 
  • The Governor has also issued Temporary Open Meeting Law Changes due to COVID-19. This emergency order modifies the state’s open meeting law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue essential functions during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This order allows for remote participation by all members in any meeting of a public body and suspends the requirement that a quorum of the body and the chair be physically present at a specified meeting location. Click here to read the order in its entirety.
  • For regular updates on workforce measures being undertaken by the administration, visit the following websites:
  • COVID-19 update page
  • Learn about Massachusetts COVID-19 Workforce Measures
  • Dept. of Unemployment Assistance

Legislation :
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Governor has filed three pieces of legislation:
  • S.2598 which would waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits to be paid to workers impacted by COVID-19. 
  • H.4572 which would would allow town moderators, in consultation with local board of selectmen, to postpone Town Meetings for up to 30 days because of a public health emergency. It would also allow a select board could push the meeting beyond June 30, which is currently the deadline in state law.
  • H.4571 which would make September 14th a holiday for the Boston Marathon.

While the State House is currently closed to the public, the House and Senate have set up COVID-19 Working Groups.
  • The Senate COVID-19 working group is being chaired by Senator Comerford and includes Senators: Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, Cindy Friedman of Arlington, Cynthia Creem of Newton, Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, Will Brownsberger of Belmont, Jason Lewis of Winchester and Julian Cyr of Truro.
  • The House working group includes: Rep. Jon Santiago of Boston, Rep. William Driscoll of Milton, Rep. Denise Garlick of Needham, Rep. John Mahoney of Worcester, and Rep. Kate Hogan of Stow.

Resources for Businesses:
  • A $10M Massachusetts Small Business Recovery Loan Fund has been established. You can find out more information here.
  • Governor Baker today formally requested that the federal Small Business Administration issue a declaration of economic injury for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which would make it possible for impacted business owners to obtain low-interest loans.
  • The Department of Unemployment Assistance continues to release new information on its website. See here for the latest.
  • More on Unemployment Insurance guidance to businesses and workers can be found here
  • State House News has made its COVID-19 coverage free - you can view coverage here throughout the day.
Federal COVID-19 Policy Updates:
  • U.S. Dept. of Labor has announced new guidance on UI flexibilities due to COVID-19 - Under this guidance, federal law permits significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide UI benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where: (1) An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work; (2) An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and (3) An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19. Click here to read more.

  • The House passed HR 6102, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It allows for paid family and sick time for eligible employers, funding for emergency unemployment benefits, SNAP work and training requirement waivers, and coverage of COVID19 testing. It is the first of many bills that will be put forward to address this national emergency. The bill still has to be passed by the Senate and changes are expected. See a summary of the legislation here. You can also view a recent CRS report on the refundable tax credit provisions in the House passed package here.

  • White House Package - The final numbers are still under talks but at a minimum, the proposal would provide $850 billion in stimulus spending, split between a payroll tax cut, support for the airline industry, and $250 billion in loans for small business. The core of a bill will likely be targeted federal support to impacted businesses and industries through a combination of new lending mechanisms, loan guarantees, tax exemptions or credit and direct payments. 

  • Additional Proposals from House Democrats - Speaker Pelosi has indicated she would like to expand emergency paid leave under a third package which could include: (1) Ensuring that workers who are sick can access longer term leave if short- and medium-term leave is exhausted; (2) Increasing the scope of allowable uses of family and medical leave; (3) Expanding refundable tax credits to provide support for self-employed workers, workers in the gig economy or other workers with non-traditional employment; and (4) Ensuring any action taken by the administration balances the workforce needs on the frontlines of the crisis while ensuring that first responders and health care workers have access to the paid leave that they need.

  • Senate Democrats’ Proposals - Sen. Schumer has released his $750 billion proposal, which is largely focused on non-tax measures and includes $400 billion in new emergency spending. Specifically, his proposal would: (1) Address hospital and treatment capacity issues; (2) Expand Unemployment Insurance and Increase Medicaid Funding; (3) Ensure affordability of all COVID-19 treatment; (4) Provide Immediate Loan Payment Forbearance for all Federal Loans & Moratoriums on Evictions/Foreclosures; (5) Deliver Immediate help to small businesses; (6) Fund emergency child care, especially for health care workers and first responders; (7) Help schools with remote learning; (8) Ensure senior citizen medicine and food delivery; (9) Provide assistance to keep public transportation running; (10) Utilize the Defense Dept to provide personnel, equipment, supplies, and critical response capabilities to support on the nationwide response. You can view the proposal here.
MWA is in constant communications with workforce associations from around the country. We are working in coordination with other national associations on ideas for a national response to unemployment related to COVID-19

Look for updates and a request for feedback over the next week.

MWA has been paying close attention to legislation and funding proposals at the State and Federal level over the past several weeks, particularly those that impact our members. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, we will skip our regular state and federal policy updates and provide more information at a later date. e them in a future newsletter.
  • Join the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) for a COVID-19 Town Hall. This will be a robust dialogue on how organizations are preparing, responding and tackling this pandemic. Click here to join the zoom meeting.

  • Associated Industries of Massachusetts will be holding a webinar on March 19th from 12PM - 1:30PM on COVID-19: General FAQs for Employers. It is free for employers and $50 for non-employers. Click here to learn more and register.

  • Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition has started a website with multilingual resources during COVID-19.

  • MA Restaurant Association has shared resources relevant to the restaurant industry.

  • MassBenchmarks: COVID-19 pandemic pushing the MA economy towards recession, declares MassBenchmarks Editorial Board. Read the article here.

  • Learn to Earn Grantees: Please check out CommCorp's website for updates to changes in grant deliverable timelines due to COVID-19.

  • Job Opportunities - Commonwealth Corporation is hiring a Sr. Program Manager for Youth Development, Salesforce Nonprofit Consultant, Employer and Community Engagement Manager and more. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Springfield Career Center is hiring a Customer Service Specialist. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunities - MassHire Metro North Workforce Board is seeking a Manager of Workforce Systems and a Youth Program Specialist. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - MassHire Greater Brockton Career Center is hiring a Career Navigator to support Neighborhood Works Housing Solutions Section 8 voucher recipients develop long-term career paths. Click here to learn more and apply.

  • Job Opportunity - SkillWorks at The Boston Foundation is hiring an Executive Director. Click here to learn more and apply. The Boston Foundation has other openings, as well.

  • Op-Ed on Manufacturing - Andrew Baker of MassHire Franklin Hampshire Workforce Board co-authored an op-ed with Rep. Paul Clark in the Greenfield Recorder on the strength of manufacturing hiring in the region. Click here to read.

  • Op-Ed on Apprenticeship: Tonja Mettlach and EOLWD Director of Apprenticeship Expansion and Work-based Learning, Patrick Mitchell, wrote an op-ed that was featured in MassLive about the power of registered apprenticeship programs in meeting local-employer talent needs and providing job seekers with strong career paths.

  • Training Opportunity - The Bureau of Labor Statistics is holding a webinar on the latest release of Occupational Employment Statistics wage and employment data, April 24th from 11Am - 12:30PM. Click here for the issuance and how to sign up on WorkforceGPS.

  • National Fund for Workforce Solutions received a grant from the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to develop a strategy for integrating trauma-informed practices into workforce development. Click here to read more.
MWA is on social media! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest workforce news and updates.