State Government Updates

For up-to-the-minute information on COVID-19 in Massachusetts, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) website: 

Information on the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

The House and Senate are streaming informal sessions online:

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THE LEGISLATURE

JULY 2, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Safeguard Fall 2020 Elections
The Massachusetts Legislature passed 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 shortly after. The legislation, for the first time in state history, establishes a vote-by-mail option and early voting period for the upcoming fall elections. It also addresses polling place safety for those who choose to cast their ballots in person. Learn more

JUNE 4, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Preserve Municipal Governance During COVID-19
The Legislature 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. Building off other legislation that gave municipalities operating flexibility during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the bill further protects public health and preserves the town meeting structure despite continued disruptions caused by the state of emergency. Learn more.

MAY 29, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish a COVID-19 Diversity Task Force
The Senate and House passed a bill to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would increase the amount of statewide, publicly available data as it relates to the coronavirus, and establish a task force to study and make policy recommendations to address health disparities for underserved and underrepresented communities during the pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor. Learn more

MAY 21, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief and Improve Access to Unemployment Benefits
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 bill, An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System, builds on UI legislation already signed into law that waived the one-week waiting period for residents to start receiving unemployment benefits. It also follows the recent passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which significantly increased UI benefits and expands eligibility during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor on May 27, 2020. Learn more

MAY 15, 2020 – Legislature Passes Short-Term Borrowing Bill
The Legislature passed a bill to allow short-term borrowing to meet the Commonwealth’s financial obligations. The legislation, An Act to Facilitate the Delay of the Income Tax Filing Deadline, complements legislative action taken in early April to extend the income tax filing deadline to July 15, 2020, which provided flexibility to residents and families across the state amid the COVID-19 State of Emergency. The extension mirrors actions taken on the federal level. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor on May 15, 2020. Learn more.

APRIL 24, 2020 – Legislature Passes Remote Notarization Bill
The Senate and House passed a remote notarization bill. The legislation applies requirements for authorized notary publics to use electronic video conferencing for documents requiring notarization including those related to a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate, will, nomination of guardian or conservator, caregiver authorization affidavit, trust, durable power of attorney, or health care proxy. The legislation includes the following provisions, which will be in place until three business days after termination of the March 10, 2020 declaration of a State of Emergency: 

  • Authorizes a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act using video conferencing in real time; 
  • Makes valid notarial acts using video conferencing when the notary public and each principal are physically located within the Commonwealth as well as other provisions; 
  • Requires notaries to record the video conference and retain a copy of the conference; and related documentation for 10 years.

APRIL 21, 2020 – Legislature Passes Moratorium on Non-Essential Evictions and Foreclosures Amid COVID-19
The Senate and House passed legislation that will provide a critical safety net for renters, homeowners, and small businesses grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus public health emergency. The bill, An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency, prohibits all non-essential evictions and foreclosures and provides mortgage borrowers with forbearance options and protects tenants from late fees as well as other protections. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on April 20, 2020. Learn more.

APRIL 17, 2020 – Legislature Passes Legal Protections for Health Care Workers, Facilities, And Organizations Responding to COVID-19
The Senate and House passed legislation to protect those providing critical health care services from legal liability for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency and it was signed into law shortly after. Under the legislation, health care professionals, facilities and volunteer organizations assisting in the state’s efforts to respond and treat COVID-19 would be protected from suit and civil liability for alleged damages related to the virus. Health care facilities and professionals would still be subject to consumer complaints brought by the Attorney General and protections would not extend to acts of negligence, recklessness, or intent to harm or acts of discrimination. These protections would apply retroactively to March 10, 2020, and remain in effect for the duration of the State of Emergency. Learn more

APRIL 10, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Waive MCAS Requirements, Support Vulnerable Residents
The Senate and House passed legislation that provides testing and budgetary flexibility to school districts, waives MCAS requirements for the 2019-2020 academic year, and supports those experiencing homelessness in the Commonwealth. The bill was later signed into law by the Governor. Learn more.

APRIL 2, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Provide Relief to Municipalities, Others During COVID-19 Crisis
The Legislature passed a bill to provide immediate relief to municipalities and others during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which was later signed into law by the Governor. This legislation, H.4598, An Act address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19, extends the state income tax filing deadline for residents, addresses disruptions in municipal tax collections and permitting, and allows licensed restaurants to sell certain alcoholic beverages with food take-out and delivery orders, among other provisions. Learn more.

MARCH 24, 2020 – Legislature Passes Bill to Empower Cities and Towns to Postpone and Reschedule Municipal Elections
The Senate and House passed legislation to help protect public health by providing cities and towns the authority to postpone and reschedule certain municipal elections and related activities.  The bill was later signed by the Governor. The House also issued orders to reschedule two special state elections until June 2, 2020.  The Senate issued an order to reschedule two state special elections until May 19, 2020. The legislation includes guidelines for public notification of rescheduled election dates, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots processing, and the display of sample ballots. The legislation allows municipal governments to postpone caucus or certain elections scheduled before May 30, 2020 and reschedule the caucus or elections to a date prior to June 30, 2020. It also allows any eligible voter to vote early by mail for elections occurring before June 30, 2020. Learn more.

MARCH 18, 2020 Legislature Passes Bill Waiving Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits
The Senate and House passed a bill that waives the one-week waiting period for any person making a claim for unemployment benefits, if the unemployment is a result of any circumstances relating to or resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak or the effects of the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10, 2020. The bill was signed into law by the Governor. 

MARCH 17, 2020 In an effort to expand response capacity amid the COVID-19 crisis, $5 million of the $15 million approved by the Senate and House on March 12 will be distributed to local Boards of Health.

MARCH 16, 2020 State Announces $10 Million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund
The Senate, House and Baker-Polito Administration announced the creation of a $10 million Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months.

MARCH 16, 2020 The Commonwealth announced that the State House will be closed to the public effective at the close of business on March 16 through the duration of the State of Emergency. Access will be limited to legislators, the Governor, statewide Constitutional officers, designated employees and personnel, official guests, and members of the press. 

MARCH 12, 2020 – The Senate and House passed a supplemental budget to create a $15 million fund in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 cases and so that our healthcare providers and communities have the resources they need to care for patients and protect residents. The Legislature expeditiously passed this spending package, and it was signed by the Governor shortly after. Specifically, these funds will support the Commonwealth’s monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention efforts against the coronavirus by the Department of Public Health (DPH), regional and local boards of health, and other public entities. Learn more.

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THE SENATE

JULY 30, 2020 – Senate Passes ENDURE Act to Provide Relief to Small Businesses, Support for Workers, and Investments in Infrastructure The 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. Learn more.

JULY 3, 2020 – Senate Passes FY 2020 COVID-19 $1.1B Supplemental Budget
The Senate passed 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 bill is includes funding support for personal protective equipment, emergency child care for essential workers, health care supports for behavioral health services, small business assistance grants, housing and homelessness supports, food security, and direct support for workers impacted by the ongoing public health crisis. In addition to recognizing the health and safety needs of residents, the legislation also establishes Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Learn more

JUNE 25, 2020 – Senate Passes Patients First Act
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. Learn more

JUNE 17, 2020 –Senate Unanimously Passes Comprehensive Elections Bill to Address Voting Safety Concerns during COVID-19
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. The bill, An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19, would – for the first time in state history – give all eligible residents the opportunity to vote earlyfor the state primary and general election, allow residents to vote-by-mail, and expand absentee ballot access. Learn more.

MAY 14, 2020 – Senate Passes Legislation Authorizing Short-Term Borrowing During Historic Remote Session
The Massachusetts 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. Learn more

MAY 11, 2020 – Senate Passes Bill to Collect Vital Public Health Data, Establish a COVID-19 Diversity Task Force
The Senate passed legislation to promote equity and transparency as the Commonwealth continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the bill, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will be required to compile, collect and issue daily online reports on the number of people tested for COVID-19, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths along with the gender, race, ethnicity, primary residence, occupation, disability, age and primary language of each case. Learn more

APRIL 22, 2020 – Senate Passes Bill to Enhance Access to Safety Net Resources for Most Vulnerable Residents
The Senate passed S.2647, An Act providing assistance to vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 emergency, which makes it easier for residents who have lost incomes due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to access critical safety net programs. The bipartisan legislation temporarily prohibits the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) from denying applications for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program or the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program on the bases of those programs’ asset limits. Learn more.

APRIL 21, 2020 – Virtual Notarization Bill Engrossed by Senate
The Senate engrossedS.2642, An Act providing for virtual notarization to address challenges related to COVID-19. The legislation authorizes a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act utilizing electronic video conferencing in real time.  

APRIL 16, 2020 – Evictions and Foreclosures conference report accepted
The Senate accepted the conference committee report on disagreements of the two branches on H.4615 providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency.

APRIL 16, 2020 – Senate Ways and Means issues favorable report of S.2635
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means reported favorably, in part on S.2635, An Act to provide liability protections for health care workers and facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a summary of the legislation:

  • Effective March 10, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID19 emergency, provides immunity from suit and civil liability to health care professionals and facilities for alleged COVID19 related damages, if the health care services were provided in good faith and damages were not caused through gross negligence, recklessness or conduct with an intent to either harm or to discriminate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.  
  • Provides that health care facilities and professionals remain subject to consumer protection actions brought by the Attorney General and false claim actions brought by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. 
  • Effective March 10, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID19 emergency, provides volunteer organizations providing use of its facility or facilities to support the Commonwealth’s response to COVID-19, with immunity from suit and civil liability for alleged COVID-19 related damages, so long as damages were not caused through gross negligence, recklessness or conduct with an intent to harm.

APRIL 16, 2020 – The Senate passed a bill to address the public health concerns surrounding the gathering of signatures for candidates for public office amid the COVID-19 State of Emergency. The bill, An Act Relative to Nomination Signatures, reduces the number of signatures for all offices which require 1,000 or more signatures.  The bill reduces the threshold for the following public offices:

  • U.S. Senate from 10,000 to 5,000
  • U.S. House of Representative from 2,000 to 1,000
  • Governor’s Council and some county offices from 1,000 to 500

APRIL 9, 2020 Senate Passes Bill to Protect Renters, Homeowners and Small Businesses
The Senate passed a housing security bill. The bill differs from the House version of the bill, so a conference committee has been formed to reconcile the differences. 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. Learn more.

APRIL 3, 2020 – Senate Passes Bill to Improve Access and Efficacy of Unemployment Insurance
The Senate passed legislation that will provide additional Unemployment Insurance (UI) relief to low-income families, non-profit institutions and employers. The bill, An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System, builds on UI legislation recently passed by the Senate and House, and signed into law by the Governor that waived the one-week waiting period for receiving benefits. It also follows the passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which significantly increases UI benefits and expands eligibility during the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more. 

MARCH 26, 2020 Senate Passes Bill to Expand Scope of Practice During COVID-19 Emergency
The Senate passed legislation to expand the scope of practice for certain health care professionals for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This bill removes barriers to immediate care by granting certain health care professionals the authority to work at the top of their license, education and training to ensure that our healthcare system can meet the increased demand it’s currently seeing due to the coronavirus outbreak. A portion of the legislation was adopted by the Governor via Executive Order. Learn more. 

MARCH 18, 2020 – Senate Passes Bill Waiving Waiting Period for Unemployment Benefits
The Senate passed a bill that waives the one-week waiting period for any person making a claim for unemployment benefits, if the unemployment is a result of any circumstances relating to or resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak or the effects of the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10, 2020. This step was taken so that workers impacted by COVID-19 can access the benefits they need right away. Learn more. 

For more information on unemployment, refer to Senator Friedman’s COVID-19 Constituent Resource Guide

MARCH 16, 2020 – Senate Working Group Appointment
Senator Friedman was appointed to the Senate Working Group led by the Senate Chair of Public Health, Jo Comerford, to develop responses to the challenges residents face in the Commonwealth as we move through this public health crisis. The primary goal is to protect the health and well-being of Massachusetts residents, and identify areas where the Senate can take action to help residents, communities and businesses. 

In addition, as Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, Friedman is working with her Senate colleagues to expedite the release of healthcare legislation in the hopes that the Commonwealth can address some of the more immediate concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

MARCH 16, 2020 – Social Distancing at the State House
In accordance with Department of Public Health (DPH) recommendations, the Senate and House are practicing social distancing at the State House and many of Senator Friedman’s staff are working remotely. All public meetings at the State House have been cancelled, and all office meetings with constituents, advocacy groups, legislative staff, and others will now be conducted by phone or video conference until further notice. Senator Friedman’s staff will continue to respond to phone messages and emails in a timely manner. The office will also continue to do the important work of the Senate. The Legislature is in the midst of a very busy time of year and have every intention of continuing legislative work despite these challenges. 

MARCH 3, 2020 – Health Care Costs for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Senator Friedman signed on to a bipartisan letter calling on Governor Baker to require Massachusetts health insurers to waive any insurance cost-sharing (like co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance) for coronavirus testing and treatment. Just a few days later, the Massachusetts Division of Insurance (DOI) issued a bulletin instructing insurers to waive all cost-sharing for coronavirus testing and treatment, and directing insurers to take several additional steps to ensure easier patient access to care for coronavirus. Read the letter submitted to the Governor.

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Jump to other COVID-19 resource pages:
MA Department of Public Health (DPH)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
World Health Organization (WHO)

Federal & State Government Updates:
Federal Government Updates and Guidance
The Legislature
The Baker-Polito Administration
Attorney General

4th Middlesex District Resources & Information:
COVID-19 Constituent Resource Guide