Senator Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Refiled Landmark Climate Change Bill

BOSTON (01/28/2021) – Today, the Massachusetts Legislature passed legislation that overhauls our state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) proudly joined her colleagues in reaffirming the Legislature’s commitment to addressing the climate crisis facing our Commonwealth.

The passage of An Act Creating a Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (S.9), comes after a joint commitment from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and House Speaker Ronald Mariano, as well as last session’s House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Thomas Golden, to refile the legislation following a gubernatorial veto last session.

“Exactly two weeks after the Governor vetoed this bill, the Massachusetts Legislature fulfilled its commitment to bringing this back to the floor and protecting our environment for generations to come,” said Senator Friedman. “I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for advancing this legislation and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Senator Friedman Co-Sponsors Emergency Legislation to Create a One-Stop Online Vaccine Appointment Portal and Phone Hotline

BOSTON (1/28/2021) – Late this morning, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) co-sponsored ​An Act streamlining COVID-19 vaccination sign-up in Massachusetts (SD.300)​, filed by Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow). The current vaccination appointment system has created mass confusion and anxiety, as individuals eligible for Phase 2 vaccinations are asked to navigate a complex web of internet links and appointment slots. This new portal will simplify and standardize the process statewide for booking appointments and allow a phone-based system for seniors who lack access or familiarity with technology.

“This bill is in direct response to the concern, anxiety, and upset that we have heard across the Commonwealth,” ​stated Senator Friedman, who served last term as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.​ “We believe that in a time when there is such a limited supply of vaccine that the state does not have control over, it is imperative that communication be clear, easy, and accessible for everyone.”

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Sweeping Economic Development Bill Authorizing $627 Million for COVID-19 Recovery Signed into Law

BOSTON (1/15/2021) – On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill which will provide much-needed support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth ensures the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will provide support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, establishing protections for student loan borrowers, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development in our communities.

“The economic downturn caused by the pandemic is presenting serious challenges for working families and small businesses, exacerbating our housing crisis, and impacting sectors of our economy that our communities depend on,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “This law provides immediate relief to the hardest hit sectors of our economy, putting our Commonwealth on a pathway toward a more equitable and sustainable economic future. I’d like to thank the Senate President as well as Conference Committee members Senators Lesser and Rodrigues for their steadfast leadership in moving this bill through the legislative process with a sense of urgency as our state continues to reopen and recover.”

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Friedman Joins Legislature in Passing Landmark Climate Change Bill

BOSTON (01/04/2021) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to pass breakthrough climate legislation that overhauls the state’s climate laws, drives down greenhouse gas emissions, creates clean energy jobs, and protects environmental justice communities.

“I am pleased that the Massachusetts Legislature took this major step forward and solidified its commitment to protecting our environment,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I am particularly proud that this legislation includes language I fought for during the Senate amendment process that would achieve emissions reductions equitably and in a manner that protects low- and moderate-income persons and environmental justice populations when the state is developing regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and my Lexington counterpart Senator Barrett for taking the lead on this issue and putting Massachusetts on a path toward a clean, green and sustainable future.”

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Early vaccination in prisons, a public health priority, proves politically charged

In Massachusetts, the priority given to incarcerated people stems from the broader focus on congregate settings, said Paul Biddinger, medical director for emergency preparedness at Mass General Brigham and chairman of the state’s vaccine advisory group.

“Congregate settings are congregate settings, and they are high density and at risk whether they’re long-term nursing facilities or prisons,” said another committee member, Massachusetts state Sen. Cindy Friedman (D). That inmates are in such dire need of inoculation, she said, shows the failures of criminal justice in America, revealing the “extent of the breakdown and the gaps and the poor access to behavioral health care.”

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Telemedicine Here To Stay In Massachusetts, Proponents Say

In a year with few victories to celebrate, advocates for expanded health care in Massachusetts are pointing to at least one win: More access to remote health care, or “telehealth.”

Since early in the pandemic, health insurers have been required to cover telehealth visits as they would in-person care under emergency orders from Gov. Charlie Baker. On Wednesday, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a health care bill that makes that change permanent.

Massachusetts Sen. Cindy Friedman, a sponsor of the new measures, says the natural, if accidental, experiment created by the pandemic has proven the utility of telehealth for certain services, especially behavioral and mental health.

“Behavioral health just alone, no-shows, which used to be over 60%, for a whole host of reasons, all of a sudden that no-show rate (dropped) to something like 5%. Because people all of a sudden had access in a way that they could control,” the Middlesex Democrat said.

Friedman, who was pushing for the changes before the coronavirus pandemic hit, said the need for expanded telehealth is now irrefutable.

“There’s a time and a place,” Friedman said. “You can work on something for a very long time and not get traction, and then there’s an outside force that comes long that really crystalizes the need and the urgency of doing something.”

“We hit this pandemic, and it was clear where we had gaps in our health care system that we needed to address, immediately and for the long term,” she added.

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Fact Sheet: S.2984 – An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first

The House and Senate have collaborated to produce a comprehensive healthcare bill that will benefit patients and our health care system as the Commonwealth continues to face the most serious public health crisis in modern history. This Act removes financial and insurance barriers to telehealth services, expands our healthcare workforce by eliminating certain practice restrictions for qualified nurses and other health professionals, provides financial assistance to community hospitals, improves coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment, enhances patient notification requirements to help avoid surprise medical bills, and makes several other notable reforms.

Click here to read the full fact sheet.

Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Comprehensive Health Care Legislation Amid Pandemic

BOSTON (12/23/2020) – On Wednesday, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Legislature in voting to pass An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first. This landmark legislation, which includes a number of notable health care reforms, expands patient access to care by lifting barriers to receiving telehealth services, broadens the scope of practice for certain health care professionals, requires advance notice of a provider’s network status in order to avoid surprise medical bills and improves coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment amid the most serious public health crisis in modern history.

“This conference committee report embraces the best of both the Senate and House bills to create comprehensive and necessary healthcare reforms,” said Senator Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “While there is still more to do to improve patient outcomes and access to care, this bill takes a meaningful step forward by ensuring that the Commonwealth’s healthcare system can continue to meet the needs of patients during this unprecedented time, and long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended. I am grateful to the House for their collaboration and to Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for their leadership and for giving me the opportunity and responsibility to help the Senate negotiate a resolution to this significant bill.”

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Massachusetts lawmakers reach deal on health care bill ensuring coverage for telehealth visits, COVID-19 treatment

After nearly five months of closed-door negotiations, Massachusetts legislators have reached a deal on a health care package that requires insurance providers to cover telehealth appointments and a wider range of COVID-19 tests and treatment.

The lead negotiators, Sen. Cindy Friedman and Rep. Ron Mariano, confirmed in a statement Tuesday night they had made progress on the health care bill, two weeks before the end of the legislative session. The bill tackles a series of long-standing issues about telehealth coverage and scope of practice for nurse practitioners and optometrists, while expanding access to affordable COVID-19 treatment and testing, lawmakers say.

“I think we’ve shown that we’ve taken lessons learned and turned them into making our health care system better for everybody,” Friedman, an Arlington Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday night.

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Friedman Joins Colleagues to Pass Balanced Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

BOSTON (12/04/2020) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), along with her colleagues in the Senate and House, passed the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $46.2 billion, the budget aims to address the sweeping effects of the global pandemic by making targeted investments in housing, food security, and substance use addiction services, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault treatment and prevention programs. The budget also invests in programs that provide COVID-related supports for students and increases funding for developmental services, early education and childcare, and public health.

“The current surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts emphasizes that we must continue to do all we can to support our most vulnerable residents during these challenging times—and this budget helps to accomplish that by investing in much-needed behavioral health services, housing protections, reproductive health access, education and food assistance” said Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and member of the FY21 Budget Conference Committee. “I am extremely proud that we were able to keep crucial investments in place—the $46 billion will go a long way towards ensuring an equitable economic recovery for the Commonwealth. I am incredibly thankful to Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and the rest of my colleagues in the legislature for their tireless work on behalf of the Commonwealth.”

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Friedman Joins Colleagues in Passing Comprehensive Police Reform Legislation

BOSTON (12/1/2020) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), along with her colleagues in the Senate and House, voted to pass An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth. The legislation represents the most comprehensive and intentional legislative response to incidents involving police practices in Massachusetts communities. It creates an independent, civilian-led commission to standardize the certification, training, and decertification of police officers, bans the use of chokeholds, limits the use of deadly force, creates a duty to intervene for police officers when witnessing another officer using force beyond what is necessary or reasonable under the circumstances, and takes steps to break the school-to-prison pipeline. It also creates a first-in-the-nation statewide moratorium on biometric surveillance systems, which include facial recognition technology.

“This legislation is a thoughtful and meaningful step in the right direction,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “We have a lot of work to do in Massachusetts and across the country to address systemic racism within our institutions and reforming how we police is part of that necessary work—but by no means should it represent the end of this important conversation. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to strengthen racial justice and equity across the Commonwealth.”

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‘Time is of the essence here’: High-risk groups await state vaccine plan

With the first COVID-19 vaccines on track to arrive in Massachusetts in less than two weeks, thegroups most vulnerable to the deadly virus — from front-line health workers to residents of hard-hit communities — are awaiting thestate’s plan for allocating the initial doses in what’s shaping up as the largest vaccination program in history.

The distribution plan, which eventually could involve the vast majority of the nearly 7 million state residents, came into sharper focus after a meeting Tuesday of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel that’s preparing a national vaccine distribution framework. That was to be followed by a Tuesday evening meeting of Baker’s vaccine advisory group, which will recommend who in the state will get the vaccines first. The governor’s plan is expected to follow that recommendation.

While the precise “phasing” has yet to be determined, “we’re going to work hard to stay in sync with the CDC,” said state Senator Cindy Friedman of Arlington, a member of the state advisory group.

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Senator Friedman Joins Senate Colleagues to Pass FY 2021 Budget

(BOSTON – 11/20/2020) This week, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her Senate colleagues in unanimously passing a $46 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), after adding $36.1 million in targeted investments over the course of two days of deliberations. Passed with bipartisan support, the budget aims to move the Commonwealth towards an equitable recovery by making critical investments in sectors impacted by COVID-19 including early education and childcare, food security, housing supports, and public health.

“I am proud to have voted in favor of this budget—the $46 billion in funding will help our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable, as the Commonwealth continues to face new and unprecedented challenges that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Senate’s investments in behavioral health services, housing protections, reproductive health access, education, and food insecurity in particular are crucial steps toward ensuring a more equitable economic recovery and a more equitable Commonwealth for all.”

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I Support Amendment #180 (the “ROE Act”) in the FY21 Senate Budget—Here’s why.

I firmly believe that everyone should be in control of their own bodies – and this includes women and their healthcare decisions. I have been a strong supporter of S.1209, the “ROE Act,” and have voiced my support in the past. I am proud to have voted YES in support of Amendment #180 in the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY) Senate Budget, which, similarly to the ROE Act, improves access to abortions in Massachusetts.

Please take a moment to read my statement on why I support Amendment #180 and if you have not done so already, read the full text of the Amendment on the Massachusetts Legislature website. In addition, feel free to share my statement with your friends and neighbors in our community.

Study Details Lives And Money Saved By Supervised Drug Consumption

Adding supervised consumption of drugs to a needle exchange program in Boston would save three to four lives a year within the area around the site and a little more than $4 million. The findings were from Institute Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), a national group that compares the benefits and cost-effectiveness of medical treatments.

2019 report from a state commission recommended that Massachusetts test the idea with a supervision consumption pilot. But bills that would make that happen have died in the Legislature. State Sen. Cindy Friedman, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, said the ICER report findings will renew the debate.

“It just will double our efforts next year, and this is enormously helpful in making safe injection facilities a possibility in the commonwealth,” Friedman said.

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Senate Ways and Means Releases FY 2021 Budget

BOSTON (11/12/2020) – Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a $45.98 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). The Committee’s budget is a responsible and balanced plan that ensures fiscal stability and recommends targeted investments to protect access to core essential services, address urgent needs, and support efforts to build an equitable recovery for the Commonwealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud of this budget – it is a significant step toward addressing the real and immediate needs of the Commonwealth as our state continues to combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The spending priorities reflect our strong commitment to protecting the fundamental needs of our residents, such as childcare, housing, food security and healthcare.” 

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Legislature Passes Bill to Extend Unemployment Benefits to 17,000 Low-Income Recipients

BOSTON (11/2/2020) – The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed legislation to enhance unemployment benefits for 17,000 people in Massachusetts by as much as $1800 each. The legislation was signed into law by the Governor shortly after. 

“The Senate is committed to helping the most vulnerable residents in our Commonwealth as we continue to confront the ongoing pandemic, and this bill reflects that commitment,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “During this difficult financial time, we need to do everything we can to support those in need so they can support themselves and their families.”

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Senate Passes Bill to Require Insurance Coverage for Children with PANS/PANDAS

BOSTON (10/30/2020) – On October 29, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that would mandate insurance coverage for children with pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndromes (PANS) and pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS). The bill, An Act relative to insurance coverage for PANDAS/PANS, would ensure that children with PANS or PANDAS receive optimal care by helping patients and their families access specialized diagnostic tests and effective treatments.

“This legislation is a common sense step in the right direction toward ensuring that families that have children with this challenging condition receive equitable access to the treatment they need and deserve,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill also builds on the Senate’s ongoing commitment to putting patients first by continuing to place treatment decisions in the hands of medical professionals, not insurance companies. I commend Senate President Spilka for continuing to lead the way on expanding access to health care for all as well as my fellow Senate colleagues who played an integral role in passing this bill.” 

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Senate Passes Legislation Ensuring Safe Patient Access to Emergency Care

(BOSTON – 10/23/2020) On October 22, the Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act to ensure safe patient access to emergency care, also known as “Laura’s Law,” in memory of Somerville resident Laura Beth Levis, who died in 2016 from an asthma attack just steps from an emergency-room door.

“No one should ever lose their life outside an emergency room due to poor signage and dim lighting,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “What happened to Laura Levis was tragic, heart-breaking and, frankly, could have been prevented. With the passage of “Laura’s Law” in the Senate, we hope to protect patients and ensure that a similar tragedy never happens again.” 

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Massachusetts Voting Information 2020

This election cycle, Massachusetts registered voters will be able to vote by mail, vote early beginning on October 17 at an early voting location, or vote on Election Day on November 3 at your polling place. My team and I have created a helpful voter guide to ensure that you have the information you need to make your voice heard in this election cycle.

Click here to access my voter guide

Friedman Asked to Join State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group

BOSTON (10/9/2020) – On October 7, 2020, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) was invited to join the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, created to advance the Baker Administration’s efforts to prepare for the distribution of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.

“I’m honored to have been asked to join the advisory group, and am eager to collaborate with fellow members to support the planning process already underway,” said Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “As we prepare for the arrival of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, we must ensure that we can distribute and administer it safely and equitably across the Commonwealth – and I look forward to being part of that conversation.”

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COVID-19 vaccine advisory group member: ‘We need to be ready’

On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office announced the formation of a 17-member COVID-19 vaccine advisory group to help advise the state moving forward.

The group isn’t just comprised of medical professionals, infectious disease experts and community leaders. There are also two legislators on the committee who are looking into any state laws or regulations that could potentially stand in the way of an effective rollout in Massachusetts.

“I will be focused on anything that may be a barrier statutorily or through regulations that may prevent an efficient and effective rollout,” said Massachusetts State Sen. Cindy Friedman, who’s one of the 17 members. “If there’s any work we have to do that the legislature can support, we’re here to do that.”

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Friedman Honored with Spirit of Compassion Award for Mental Health Advocacy

BOSTON (9/24/2020) – The Massachusetts Association for Mental Health (MAMH) recently honored Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) with their Spirit of Compassion Award during its 107th Annual – and first ever virtual – Friend and Leader Awards Event. This annual event salutes individuals whose work contributes to progress in awareness, health promotion, prevention and effective treatment for children and adults affected by mental health challenges throughout Massachusetts. 

“As a parent of someone with a severe mental illness, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate the mental health care system in Massachusetts,” said Friedman. “I’m honored to be recognized for my commitment to this issue, and I am grateful to MAMH’s continued collaboration and tireless advocacy on behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in our state.”

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Telehealth, COVID-19 Response Command Center key factors in combatting outbreak in Massachusetts, officials say

As the coronavirus pandemic ramped up across the United States early in 2020, Massachusetts officials began to implement a variety of measures aimed at staving off transmission of the viral respiratory infection and protecting the public.

Having the command center was just critical, just to have not only a central place, but a single person,” Friedman said. “I don’t wish that job on anyone, but that was so critical, because there was a place where we could at least centralize information and feel like we were getting information back forth.”

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Senate Passes Bill to Increase Higher Education Opportunities for People with Disabilities

BOSTON (08/17/20) – The Massachusetts Senate recently passed legislation that removes existing barriers for students with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities so they can attend public institutions of higher education. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, honors the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law 30 years ago this week by President George H.W. Bush. 

“The passage of this bill in honor of the 30thanniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is an important step in opening more doors for people with disabilities in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “I applaud my Senate colleagues and the many schools districts and higher education institutions who partnered on this important bill, which seeks to create a more inclusive Commonwealth for all and ensures that all students – regardless of ability – have equal access to quality higher education.”

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Senate Advances Maternal Health Package

BOSTON (08/17/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed three bipartisan bills to increase birth options and safety for all pregnant and perinatal people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One bill establishes a commission to study barriers to substance use treatment for women in the perinatal period, another establishes a commission to address racial inequities in maternal healthcare in Massachusetts, and a third increases options for safe, professional birthing care in the Commonwealth by licensing midwifery. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted glaring inequities in our health care system, particularly in maternal health,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This package of bills seeks to address these inequities among vulnerable and marginalized populations to ensure that women have access to the care they need to live healthy lives. This legislation builds on the Senate’s ongoing commitment to breakinng down barriers to care and creating a health care system that works better for everyone.”

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Senate Passes Genocide Education Bill

BOSTON (8/10/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate recently passed the Genocide Education Act to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and to promote the teaching of human rights issues.

“Hate incidents and hate crimes have increased dramatically in recent years, which is why it’s imperative that we use every tool at our disposal to dismantle hate in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “Education and learning about the history of genocide – and the painful consequences of ignorance, bigotry and intolerance – is one of those tools. I believe the passage of this bill is an important step toward equipping the next generation with the knowledge and the resources they need to recognize hate and to dispel hate in our communities.”

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Breakfast After the Bell Legislation Becomes Law

BOSTON (8/10/2020) – The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed legislation to fight childhood hunger and boost participation rates in school breakfast programs in schools with high percentages of students from low-income families in the Commonwealth. The bill, An Act regarding breakfast after the bell, would require all public K‑12 schools with 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the federal National School Lunch Program to offer breakfast after the instructional day begins. The bill was signed into law shortly after. 

“Students cannot focus and excel in the classroom if they are hungry,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “When children have access to nutritious meals, they are happier, healthier, and perform better at school. This bill continues the fight against food insecurity by ensuring that more students don’t have to struggle with hunger while at school. Thank you to my legislative colleagues for continually putting the health and well-being of our kids above all else.”  

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Senate Passes Bill to Increase Reporting Requirements for Department of Children and Families

BOSTON (8/7/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate recently passed a bill to introduce new oversight and reporting requirements for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). The bill, An Act relative to accountability for vulnerable children and families,also moves the child fatality review board to the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), establishes a ‘Foster Parent Bill of Rights,’ and increases access to mental health care for children in the Commonwealth.

“This bill is an important step in maintaining the health and well-being of vulnerable children in our Commonwealth, particularly during this time of increased anxiety and need,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I’m pleased that this bill reduces barriers to mental health care for children and increases access to treatment, making it easier for parents to get their child the critical care they need and deserve. I’m grateful for Senate President Spilka and all of my Senate colleagues for recognizing the importance of improving mental health care in our state and making it a priority this session.”

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Senate Passes Bill to Limit the Use of Step Therapy

BOSTON (7/30/20) – Today, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to limit the use of step therapy, or ‘fail-first’ protocols that too often direct patients to cheaper medications rather than those more suitable to treat their condition. The bill, An Act relative to step therapy and patient safety, gives health care providers more leverage in determining the most effective treatment options for patients, saving patients expensive and painful regimens on medications they know to be ineffective or harmful.

“This bill takes an important step toward placing treatment decisions back in the hands of the health care provider and patient by limiting opportunities for insurance companies to force a patient to fail on certain medications before they can access the one most suitable for their needs,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “While we must continue to address the high cost of drugs, we cannot do it at the expense of patients, and cost can never be the primary determinant of whether a patient has to suffer needlessly before they can access the medication that is most effective for treating their condition.”

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Senate Passes ENDURE Act to Provide Relief to Small Businesses, Support for Workers, and Investments in Infrastructure

(BOSTON‑07/30/2020) – The Massachusetts State Senate passed a sweeping economic recovery and development bill on Wednesday that provides much-needed support to businesses, invests in infrastructure, and creates new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a devastating toll on our economy, presenting serious challenges for restaurants and small businesses, exacerbating housing issues, and impacting sectors of our economy that our communities depend on to thrive,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “The ENDURE Act will help us overcome the significant economic downturn caused by the pandemic, putting our Commonwealth on a pathway toward a more equitable and sustainable economic future. I’d like to thank the Senate President as well as Senators Rodrigues and Lesser for their steadfast leadership in moving this bill through the legislative process with a sense of urgency as our state reopens and recovers.”  

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Senate Passes Bill to Support Brewers, Contribute to Local Economy

BOSTON (7/24/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation that resolves a decade-long distribution dispute between brewers and wholesalers in the Commonwealth.

“The craft brewing industry has become a welcome addition to our state’s economy over the last several years,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “Solving this dispute is a big win for breweries in our local communities and will allow them to continue to thrive and contribute to the economic stability of our cities and towns.”

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Friedman Secures $2.5 Million For Burlington Transportation

Senator Cindy F. Friedman(D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in voting on legislation to jumpstart investment in transportation infrastructure and make the Commonwealth’s transportation system more reliable and accessible to residents. The bill includes $2.5 million Friedman fought for to support roadway and sidewalk reconstruction and traffic safety improvements in the Town of Burlington.

“This bond bill allows our cities and towns to invest in local transportation projects that will enhance our infrastructure while creating much-needed jobs during this time of financial hardship,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m pleased that I was able to secure vital investments for our community, paving the way for a more modernized transportation infrastructure that works for everyone.”

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Friedman Votes for Reform, Shift + Build Act, Advocates for Children and Individuals with Behavioral Health Needs

BOSTON (7/15/2020) —The Massachusetts State Senate passed An Act to Reform Police Standards and Shift Resources to Build a More Equitable, Fair and Just Commonwealth that Values Black Lives and Communities of Color(S.2800). Known as the Reform, Shift + Build Act, the comprehensive bill is designed to increase police accountability, shift the role of law enforcement away from surveillance and punishment, and begin to dismantle systemic racism. 

“The Reform, Shift + Build Act is a step in the right direction toward equity, justice and fairness for all,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington). “The police, to a large degree, represent society’s values. If we want lasting change and an end to systemic racism, part of our work must be to look at how we police and what our expectations of the police are. We need to reform practices that disproportionately affect communities of color and reinforce stereotypes that we as a society have allowed to stand for centuries. The Reform, Shift + Build Act is a part of that work. ”

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Friedman Secures Critical Investments in Senate Bond Bill to Modernize CORI System

BOSTON (7/9/2020) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in passing a $1.7 billion General Government Bond Bill focused on capital improvements to improve government infrastructure, empower communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, support early education and care providers with safe reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and expand equitable access to remote learning opportunities for vulnerable populations across the Commonwealth.

“Our antiquated CORI system is just one example of how our system continues to disproportionally impact people of color,” said Senator Friedman. “Now more than ever, we should be investing in the things that strengthen our communities, support our most vulnerable residents and help people restart their lives rather than penalize them for life. I’m pleased that these funds were authorized in this bill, and am grateful for my Senate colleagues for moving this important piece of legislation forward.”

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Friedman Votes to Safeguard Fall 2020 Elections

BOSTON (7/7/2020) – Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) recently joined her legislative colleagues in passing a bill that expands voter access and ensures safe voting options for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and the November 3, 2020 general election. The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, was signed into law by the Governor on July 6, 2020.

“As we continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that Massachusetts voters can safely cast their ballot in our upcoming elections without risking exposure to the virus,” said Senator Friedman. “This historic bill expands voting options to do just that, strengthening our democracy and promoting voter participation this fall. I’d like to thank my colleagues in the Senate and House for their hard work on this important bill.”

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Friedman Secures Funds to Fight Food Insecurity and Expand Mental Health Services in FY 2020 Supplemental Budget

BOSTON (7/7/20) – On July 2, 2020, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her Senate colleagues in passing a $1.1B supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2020 to support extraordinary costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic that require immediate attention. The spending authorized in this supplemental budget will maximize federal financial support while providing critical resources for our most vulnerable populations.

“This supplemental budget is a reflection of the Senate’s ongoing commitment to supporting residents throughout the Commonwealth as we continue to address the COVID-19 public health crisis,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m especially pleased that this budget includes investments I fought for to address food insecurity and mental health needs in my district, which have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.”

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Sen. Cindy Friedman responds to Woburn Pride flag incident

Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, who represents the city of Woburn, released the following statement on June 30 after someone tore down the Pride flag in Woburn Common:

“I’m deeply disappointed and saddened to hear that someone tore down the Pride flag in Woburn — this is a hateful act that is simply not representative of who we are as a community. Despite this, members of our community stepped up and raised a new Pride flag today, and I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts.

The Pride flag is for everyone — it symbolizes safety, unity, inclusiveness and love for all, and sends the message that “all are welcome here” no matter your sexual identity, gender, race, ethnicity, religion or background. All who live in and visit our district should always feel safe and welcome to be who they are and love who they want to love.”

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Bill to allow Woburn fire headquarters construction

Rep. Richard Haggerty, D-Woburn, Rep. Michelle Ciccolo, D-Lexington, and Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, announced the passage of legislation allowing for the swapping of land parcels in Woburn to allow the city to begin construction of its new Fire Department Headquarters at Forest Park.

“This bill was the first step to ensure Woburn has access to the land it needs to build a new fire station,” said Friedman. “I’m excited that the Woburn Fire Department can now move forward with this project, which will benefit our firefighters, our residents and the larger Woburn community. I’m glad to have worked with my colleagues in the House to get this done.”

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Senate Passes Patients First Act

BOSTON (6/25/2020) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Patients First Act, the third piece of signature healthcare legislation advanced by the body to increase access to health care, protect patients, and enhance quality care. The legislation builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 public health crisis, as unprecedented demands on the healthcare system have prompted innovation and the expedited adoption of policy changes.  

“The Patients First Act ensures that our healthcare system can continue to deliver quality, affordable and accessible care long after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “By increasing access to telehealth services, eliminating the unfair practice of surprise billing, and expanding our healthcare workforce, we are taking important steps to protect patients and increase access to quality care for all. Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, and all of my Senate colleagues for their shared commitment to improving our healthcare system in Massachusetts so that it truly puts patients first.” 

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Opinion: Telehealth is working, let’s keep it that way

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives, our healthcare system, and our economy, but one silver lining has been the immediate and dramatic expansion of telehealth services. We’d be foolish not to seize this opportunity to ensure that telehealth access remains a part of routine medical care in the Commonwealth long after the pandemic is over.

Teleheatlh refers to health care services that are provided remotely, typically through videoconference or phone call. It offers a convenient way for patients to access care and consult with a doctor through technology, such as a laptop or phone, that a patient may already own. Telehealth allows patients to essentially take part in a virtual doctor’s appointment—whether it’s using a tablet to snap a photo of your skin to send to your dermatologist for a quick evaluation or having a 30-minute counseling session with your therapist over the phone.

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Senate Unveils Patients First Act

BOSTON (6/18/2020) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled the Patients First Act, comprehensive healthcare legislation that aims to increase access to health care, protect patients, and enhance quality care. The legislation builds on vital lessons learned during the COVID-19 public health crisis, as unprecedented demands on the healthcare system have prompted innovation and the expedited adoption of policy changes.

“The Senate’s longstanding commitment to making healthcare more affordable and accessible to patients across the Commonwealth is reflected in this legislation,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “The components of this bill are basic principles that will allow our healthcare system to continue meeting the needs of patients during this unprecedented time and long after the COVID-19 pandemic has ended, improving patient outcomes and ensuring equitable access to care. I’m grateful to the Senate President and Chair Rodrigues for their collaboration on this effort and continued dedication to improving our healthcare system so that it works for everyone.”

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Senate bill extends telehealth, scope of practice

Senate leaders on Thursday released a health care bill, called the Patients First Act, which addresses telehealth, out-of-network billing, and scope of practice changes. While the bill is only partially related to COVID-19, Sen. Cindy Friedman, an Arlington Democrat who co-chairs the Committee on Health Care Financing, said the pandemic makes it urgent that lawmakers pass reforms to ensure the health care system is financially sustainable and people continue to have access to care.

“The impact on the health care system has been so profound we’ve got to make sure we have policies in place that allow providers to continue to do the work as things ramp up and as people come back into the system,” Friedman said.  

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Senate Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Elections Bill to Address Voting Safety Concerns during COVID-19

BOSTON (6/17/2020) – On June 16, 2020, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation to expand voter access and address safety for all remaining 2020 elections, including the September 1, 2020 state primary and November 3, 2020 general election, in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic in Massachusetts, we must do everything we can to ensure that our voters can cast their ballot without risking exposure to the virus,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, a member of the Senate COVID-19 Working Group. “The ability to vote is the bedrock of any democracy, and this historic bill ensures that our voters can make their voices heard this fall. No one should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their own health, and this bill allows our voters to do both.”  

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Legislature Passes Bill to Preserve Municipal Governance During COVID-19

BOSTON (6/10/20) — The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a bill to provide governance and fiscal flexibility for many municipalities grappling with public health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor. 

“This bill builds on the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to supporting our cities and towns as we continue to confront the COVID-19 public health crisis together,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and House for working together to pass a bill that will give municipal leaders throughout our district the tools and flexibility they need to continue serving our residents.” 

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Black Lives Matter

Rightfully so, many of you have reached out to me over the last few weeks calling for reform in the way that we police and to confront the systemic racism that is deeply embedded in our institutions – and I couldn’t agree more. This moment requires us to stand together, make our voices heard, and demand action so that we can make meaningful change together.

Read more about some of my thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement in Massachusetts and how we should move forward.

Legislature Passes Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish a COVID-19 Diversity Task Force

(BOSTON – 6/5/2020) The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor.

“As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that the public health data we collect will allow us to deliver appropriate care to underserved residents that require attention,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “This bipartisan bill enhances accountability and transparency around data collection, and gives us the tools we need to ensure that vulnerable residents have equal access to the vital healthcare they need and deserve. I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and our partners in the House for moving this important bill forward.”  

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Coronavirus Updates

I know that many of you are growing increasingly concerned about the impact the coronavirus is having on our district and the Commonwealth. I share your concerns and I am working hard to address them.

To keep you as informed as possible, I’ve created a “Coronavirus Updates” page on my website that I will keep updated with the latest information. Please feel free to bookmark it and check it often for the latest updates and guidance.

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Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief and Improve Access to Unemployment Benefits

(BOSTON – 05/26/2020) The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a bill that will provide additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation was signed into law by the Governor on May 27, 2020.

“This bi-partisan legislation builds on our continued dedication to helping our workers and employers as they face financial hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington).“This bill will provide much-needed economic relief to residents across the Commonwealth who have lost their jobs in the wake of the pandemic.”

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Reopening Massachusetts Email Update (5/18/20)

Today, the Governor announced Reopening Massachusetts, the Commonwealth’s gradual and phased approach for reopening the Massachusetts economy amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. The Administration released the Reopening Advisory Board’s report, which details a four-phased strategy to responsibly reopen businesses and activities, while continuing to fight COVID-19. Starting today – based on current public health data and trends – Massachusetts will begin Phase 1 of a cautious reopening, and workplaces that are permitted to open are required to follow new safety protocols and guidance.

Learn more in my latest email update

Senate Passes Legislation Authorizing Short-Term Borrowing During Historic Remote Session

(BOSTON – 05/18/2020) The Massachusetts State Senate convened on Thursday, May 14 for the first-ever remote session in the history of the body to pass legislation to allow short-term borrowing to meet the Commonwealth’s financial obligations. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor on May 15, 2020. 

“The passage of this bi-partisan legislation will allow us to continue to meet the fiscal challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’d like to thank Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, Senate Minority Leader Tarr, and all of my Senate colleagues for making this happen and for collaborating on today’s first-ever remote legislative session.”

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Senate Passes Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish COVID-19 Diversity Task Force

On Monday, May 11, 2020, the Massachusetts State Senate passed bipartisan legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“As we continue to address the COVID-19 crisis, we must be as transparent, accountable and thoughtful as possible when it comes to data collection,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “This bipartisan bill will give us the tools we need to ensure that we can address inequities in our delivery of healthcare so that members of vulnerable and underserved populations across the Commonwealth have equal access to that care.” 

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OPINION: Friedman writes, actions taken by the state providing positive results

The COVID-19 public health crisis has placed an unprecedented strain on Massachusetts residents, businesses, our healthcare system and our economy. We’ve made extraordinary sacrifices as the state took swift science-driven measures to slow the spread of the virus and save lives. 

Massachusetts acted fast and early, implementing a stay-at-home advisory, social distancing guidelines and closure of non-essential businesses. Simultaneously, the state dramatically expanded testing and hospital capacity, allowing us to test 10,000 plus residents per day and increasing intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity by 80%.

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COVID-19 Email Update (5/7/20)

It finally feels like spring has sprung! I hope you have been able to get outside and enjoy the weather – at a 6-foot distance from others, of course. As we continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to provide you with an update. Click on the link below to view my latest email update, which includes information on the new face covering Executive Order, the new COVID-19 Constituent Resource Guide, recent legislative action to address the virus, Mental Health Awareness Month, and more!

Click here to read my latest email update

Senate Passes Bill to Enhance Access to Safety Net Resources for Most Vulnerable Residents

(BOSTON – 04/29/2020) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported legislation recently passed by the Senate that makes it easier for residents who have lost incomes due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to access critical safety net programs. 

“During this challenging time, we need to do everything we can to support the most vulnerable residents in our district and throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, a member of the COVID-19 Senate Working Group. “I’m grateful for the Senate President and fellow members of the Senate Working Group for advancing this legislation, which will ensure that at-risk populations are not denied the resources they need and deserve.” 

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Legislature Passes Moratorium on Non-Essential Evictions and Foreclosures Amid COVID-19

(BOSTON – 04/21/2020) Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) supported a bill passed by the Senate and House that will provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners, and small businesses grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus public health emergency. 

“During this unprecedented time, it is incredibly important to ensure that our residents are able to remain safely in their homes,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Senate and House for taking this important step to ensure that our renters, homeowners and small businesses receive the critical protections and relief they need during this public health crisis.”

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Legislature Passes Legal Protections for Health Care Workers, Facilities, And Organizations Responding to COVID-19

BOSTON (4/17/2020) – The Massachusetts Senate and House on Friday passed legislation to shield those providing critical health care services from legal liability for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. 

“This is a major step in ensuring that we have the workforce necessary to address the healthcare needs of our residents during the current pandemic,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This bill maximizes protections for a wide variety of healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, who are sometimes being asked to work in very unique settings like field hospitals and other locations. I want to thank the Senate President and Chair Rodrigues for recognizing the urgency of this issue and for moving this bill forward quickly.”

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Legislature Passes Bill to Waive MCAS Requirements, Support Vulnerable Residents

BOSTON 4/10/2020 – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported legislation passed by the Senate and House that provides testing and budgetary flexibility to school districts and supports those experiencing homelessness in the Commonwealth. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor on Friday, April 10.

“The Legislature has taken additional steps forward to support students and protect vulnerable populations in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m particularly pleased that this bill waives MCAS requirements for the remainder of the academic year. Our students’ routines have been disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we simply cannot expect them to participate in these exams during this time of constant change. Thank you to the Senate President and my legislative colleagues for their hard work and collaboration on this legislation.” 

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Senate Passes Bill to Protect Renters, Homeowners and Small Businesses

(BOSTON – 04/09/2020) On April 9, Senator Cindy F. Friedman supported legislation passed by the Senate that would provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners and small businesses grappling with the immediate economic fallout of the current public health pandemic.

“As we continue to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that our residents are able to stay safely in their homes,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill is another demonstration of the Senate’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our state during this unprecedented public health crisis. I’m grateful to the Senate President and all of my Senate colleagues for taking this common sense step to ensure that our renters, homeowners and small businesses receive the critical protections and relief they desperately need and deserve.” 

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Friedman Supports Bill to Improve Access and Efficacy of Unemployment Insurance

(BOSTON – 4/2/20) Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) supported a bill passed by the Senate that will provide additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers. 

“Workers and small business owners throughout my district and the Commonwealth have faced an unprecedented financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and they need assistance now,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill is the Senate’s latest effort to protect Massachusetts families and provide the economic relief necessary to ensure that both workers and employers can stay afloat during this difficult time.”    

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Friedman Supports Bill to Provide Relief to Municipalities, Others During COVID-19 Crisis

BOSTON – 4/2/20) On April 2, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) supported a bill that was passed by the Senate and House to provide necessary relief to municipalities, taxpayers, restaurants, and state authorities impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and State of Emergency declaration.  

“This bill addresses a variety of issues that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to support our communities, restaurants and taxpayers,” said Senator Friedman. “We must continue to do everything we can to meet the urgent needs of our communities, and this action is another step the Legislature is taking to ensure that. I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate and House for their bipartisan efforts to protect our cities and towns during this difficult time.”

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