On Tuesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives engrossed House 3702, legislation financing a program for improvements to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and providing relief to employers and workers in the Commonwealth. The proposal, as drafted, shifts all COVID-related unemployment claims from the solvency fund to a new COVID claims fund, postpones the due date for first-quarter bills to July 31, spreads the cost over two decades, and includes an emergency paid leave program that would make participants eligible for up to one week of paid leave if they or a family member needs to deal with COVID-19 issues. The Massachusetts Senate engrossed the proposal on Thursday and it was enacted in both branches with an emergency preamble. On Monday, the Department of Unemployment Assistance acted administratively to push the payment deadline to August 2, while the bill is being reviewed by the Governor.
The City of Cambridge announced on Friday that, with the Commonwealth’s State of Emergency ending on June 15, 2021, and the significant improvements in public health metrics, it will align with the Commonwealth in lifting the City’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday, May 29, 2021, and will rescind its March 19, 2020, Declaration of Public Health Emergency in Cambridge effective June 15, 2021. Additional details can be found, here.
In federal news, the Biden Administration announced Monday that the United States will send at least 20 million more COVID-19 doses abroad by the end of June. Doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be sent, in addition to the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines that have been committed to other countries.
As of Sunday, the federal partnership at the Hynes Convention Center mass vaccination site ended. In nearly two months, the partnership with the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Defense teams was responsible for delivering more than 310,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses. The site will continue to operate into June under CIC Health, according to the state’s COVID-19 Command Center. Additionally, the state’s preregistration system for COVID-19 vaccines will stop accepting new preregistrations on Tuesday, May 25. Anyone still waiting for an appointment will be contacted in the following days with an opportunity to book a slot. The online vaccine finder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov will remain available.
On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Senate begins its annual budget deliberations. MassBio Executive Vice President Zach Stanley sent a letter to Senate Ways and Means Chairman, Senator Michael Rodrigues, regarding the Senate’s upcoming deliberation of the FY2022 Budget (S3) and in opposition to Amendment #155, Economic Development Tax Credits, Amendment #412, Penalty on Drug Manufacturers for Excessive Price Increases, and Amendment #465, Prescription Drug Coupon Task Force.
On Saturday in Massachusetts, all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted and the mask mandate will shift to a mask advisory, enabling individual businesses to decide on whether or not they will require staff and patrons to wear one on-premises.