By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell
In response to the persistent pandemic challenges, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed legislation directing $55 million toward our most immediate needs. Thankfully, we have passed the peak in terms of our case rate – but case counts remain high in the Merrimack Valley and effective use of resources will help to prevent a resurgence and avoid further strain on our health care system.
At this juncture, we must pay close attention to the needs of our students and teachers – this legislation makes resources available to help keep our students and teachers, and their families, safe. We are also continuing to pursue legislation and resources to address student mental health, another area of critical importance.
The legislation includes:
• $25 million to establish and expand COVID-19 testing sites and to purchase rapid tests, especially for use in schools
• $25 million to purchase and distribute high-quality masks for students, teachers, and staff in our schools
• $5 million to increase vaccination rates in children ages 5-11, with a focus on communities that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic
Collectively, this funding invests in the solutions we know to work: vaccinations, masks, and testing. Our schools need this support. Once this funding is finalized between the House and Senate, the state will be seeking federal FEMA reimbursements.
The legislation also extends critical policies enacted earlier in the pandemic to ensure safe day-to-day operations, such as authorizing remote town meetings, remote notary services, and remove reverse-mortgage counseling. It also extends liability protections for health care workers who provide care in good faith in line with current rules and guidance.
To our health care workers – words cannot express our gratitude for the service you have provided to our communities, our Commonwealth, and our nation. We salute you.
To find a vaccination site, visit www.vaxfinder.mass.gov. To find a COVID-19 test location, visit www.mass.gov/info-details/find-a-covid-19-test.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced IT, the Internet and Cybersecurity. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380. ◊