Extend Paid Sick Time. Extend the Eviction Moratorium. Extend the Session.
July 6 marks Phase 3 of Republican Governor Charlie Baker's reopening plan. That means that movie theaters (??), casinos (??), and gyms (??!?) are allowed to reopen today -- even as states around the country are seeing resurgences of the COVID-19 outbreak.
And to make matters worse, this reopening is happening without any new, enforceable protections for workers.
If we want to have a successful, equitable recovery, then workers who are sick or are taking care of loved ones need to be able to stay home without fear of losing their job. Massachusetts’s 2014 earned sick time law does not provide enough hours to meet the scale of the crisis, and the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act has big coverage gaps that leave millions of front-line workers without paid sick time.
Massachusetts needs to pass Emergency Paid Sick Time legislation to ensure that all workers can take paid sick time during this crisis.
And for people to be able to stay home, they need a home to go back to. The eviction and foreclosure moratorium signed in April is set to expire next month, August 18. That means that, if the Legislature does not take action, working-class families across the state could face a wave of evictions during a possible COVID resurgence.
Evictions and foreclosures are bad for public health in the best of times. They are even more dangerous now, and the instability and insecurity is likely to hit Black and Brown families the hardest.
But, again the Legislature can take action here by extending the eviction/foreclosure moratorium, expanding mortgage deferment protections, and stabilizing both renters and small property owners.
And time is short. The Legislative session is set to end at the end of the month. If the Legislature does not finish the vital business of protecting workers and addressing the backlog of important pre-COVID legislative priorities, then legislators should stay in session until they finish.
The bill would provide ten additional work-days (80 hours) of job-protected paid sick time for immediate use during the COVID-19 outbreak for all workers not covered by recently passed federal legislation
Workers taking Emergency Paid Sick Time would be paid by their employers at their regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $850/week. Employers would then be fully reimbursed by the state.
Emergency Paid Sick Time would be available, with no waiting period, for a worker to care for themselves or a family member/domestic partner/household member if they or said love one is diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and awaiting a diagnosis, quarantined or self-quarantined, or reasonably believes their health is at risk.
Protecting Renters and Preventing Evictions
- Cancels/bans evictions for rent due from the start of the COVID-19 State of Emergency through 12 months following the end of the State of Emergency, if tenant was unable to pay because of a direct or indirect impact of COVID-19.
- Provides “Just Cause” protections to ensure tenants and foreclosed homeowners cannot be evicted for no-fault or non-renewal of leases for 12 months following the end of the emergency declaration.
- Freezes rents at pre-COVID-19 levels; rents as of March 10, 2020 remain in effect through 12 months following the end of the State of Emergency.
- Provides a local option for municipalities to extend Just Cause protections upon expiration.
- Provides strong protections against unfair debt-collection activities for tenants impacted by COVID-19.
Protecting Homeowners, Stabilizing Landlords, and Halting Foreclosures
- Cancels/bans foreclosures for homeowners and most owner-occupant landlords based upon missed mortgage payments due and payable through 12 months following the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
- Expands current mortgage deferment protections to landlords who own up to 15 rental units to ensure interest does not accrue during the forbearance, and missed payments are put at the end of the loan.
- Extends current mortgage deferment protections for one year after the conclusion of the State of Emergency.
- Ensures borrowers cannot be charged penalties for non-payment of mortgage.
- Establishes a COVID-19 Housing Stability and Recovery Fund to assist property owners who lost rental income or missed mortgage payments due to COVID-19. Priority will be given to working-class homeowners, owner-occupant landlords, non-profit landlords, and landlords who own 15 or fewer units. Property owners that draw upon the fund will be obligated to extend protections to tenants.
- Establishes an Oversight and Advisory Board to make recommendations on the administration of the Housing Stability and Recovery Fund. This board will include members of the Legislature’s Coronavirus Working Group as well as strong representation of people from communities hardest hit by the pandemic and housing crisis.