Volume 3, Issue 16 | July 30, 2021
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope this finds you all healthy and well. Below I have shared some legislative updates from Beacon Hill and selected news from the district. In August, I will also host two in-person office hours and one virtual office hour.

Given the impacts of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus in our communities, I have included in this newsletter a Public Health section that shares the updated guidance released by the CDC and the state's Department of Health, including recommendations for school districts this fall. Please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions.

Very truly yours, Joan Meschino
CDC and Massachusetts DPH Release Updated Guidance
Based on new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its mask guidance this week now to recommend that everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission -- vaccinated or not -- wear a mask in public, indoor settings.

You can find the CDC's guidance for fully vaccinated people here.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) also released updated guidance on July 30th regarding the use of face coverings and cloth masks by individuals who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The guidance recommends that a fully vaccinated person wear a mask or face covering when indoors (and not in your own home) if you have a weakened immune system, or if you are at increased risk for severe disease because of your age or an underlying medical condition, or if someone in your household has a weakened immune system, is at increased risk for severe disease, or is unvaccinated. 

DPH's updated advisory regarding face coverings can be found here, along with the press release announcing the news.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Releases Updated Guidance for School Reopening this Fall
Developed jointly with DPH, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released recommendations for districts on July 30th related to masking and COVID-19 testing and quarantining protocols. Individual districts are encouraged to make decisions based on the particular set of circumstances they face. All districts and schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week this fall.

To view the full guidance, please visit https://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/on-desktop.html.

Mask Guidance

  • This fall, DESE and DPH strongly recommend that all students in kindergarten through grade 6 wear masks when indoors, except students who cannot do so due to medical conditions or behavioral needs. Masks are not necessary outdoors and may be removed while eating indoors.
  • DESE and DPH also strongly recommend that unvaccinated staff in all grades, unvaccinated students in grades 7 and above, and unvaccinated visitors wear masks indoors, in alignment with the statewide advisory on masking.
  • DESE and DPH recommend that schools allow vaccinated students to remain unmasked.
  • Any individual at higher risk for severe disease from COVID or with a household member who is at high risk is encouraged to mask regardless of vaccination status consistent with the updated DPH Advisory on Face Coverings and Masks. Any child or family who prefers to mask at school should be supported in this choice.
  • By federal public health order, all students and staff are required to wear masks on school buses at this time.
  • All staff and students must wear masks while in school health offices.

Additional guidance for school health professionals is forthcoming from DPH.

Back to school vaccination clinics

A number of schools have hosted vaccination clinics on campus since May, which have served as an important tool in our collective efforts to vaccinate all eligible Massachusetts residents. Vaccination clinics at schools make vaccinations easier to access and more convenient for students and their families. The DESE and DPH urge all schools to host an on-site vaccination clinic during summer orientation events or when classes begin. A DPH-approved mobile vaccination provider, including clinic staff and vaccination administrators, will be provided free of charge. Interested schools can submit their request via DPH’s online form.
Information on the Delta Variant
The delta variant is spreading rapidly across the globe, and it is fueling new outbreaks in the U.S., mainly among the unvaccinated.

For more information on the delta variant and other variants of COVID-19, visit the CDC's website here.
DCR Offers Free Water Safety Programs at Various Locations
To improve water safety, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced a series of free Water Safety Days at select agency-managed pools throughout the state. The programs offer safe, fun activities to help teach young people 4 to 14 years old about aquatic safety and water skills while promoting the importance of water competency. Each program will take approximately three hours to complete.

Participants will be asked to register in advance; however, walk-ins may be accommodated if maximum capacity is not reached. The Water Safety Days will be held at various regional locations.

DCR is also offering free Learn to Swim programs at 12 locations statewide. Lessons began on Monday, July 5, 2021 in three two-week sessions for people of all ages. For information about lessons, please visit the agency’s website and call your local facility. 

Also, YMCAs may offer swimming lessons for children, teens and adults. Visit the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs' “Find Your Y” website to locate your nearest YMCA.

The American Red Cross offers swimming lessons for children, teens and adults at several of its locations in Massachusetts. Visit the Red Cross for the “Learn to Swim” provider list and select Massachusetts for more information. 
Update to Paid Family and Medical Leave Goes Into Effect
As of July 1st, workers in Massachusetts can now take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a seriously ill or injured family member. This development is the last portion of Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), a 2018 law that has been phased in incrementally since January of this year, designed to ensure eligible employees are provided with temporary income replacement if they:

  • are welcoming a new child into their family,
  • are struck by a serious illness or injury,
  • need to take care of an ill or ailing relative, or
  • have certain military considerations.

Eligible employees are also entitled to certain job protections. When an employee returns from leave, the employer is required to restore the employee to the same job as before taking leave, or to a job that has the same pay status, employment benefits, length-of-service credit, and seniority.

Navigating Unemployment Overpayment Appeals and Waivers
The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) are continuing to evaluate and determine claimants' eligibility for benefits.

If you are told that you have been overpaid benefits, you must repay the benefits only after you get a final agency decision and are denied a waiver of overpayment.

To appeal an overpayment:
  • For DUA: Visit the "More Info" section of the "Repay unemployment benefit debt" page
  • For PUA: Go to your PUA account home page > “More…” > “Appeals” > copy and paste corresponding letter ID.

To get a waiver of the overpayment:
  • For DUA: go to the "Manage Debt" page > “request a waiver.”
  • For PUA: go to your PUA account home page > “Overpayment Options” > “Request an Overpayment Waiver.”
  • Ask for a waiver of benefits if the overpayment was not your fault; and
  • You used the $$ for things that were not ordinary expenses; or
  • You gave up other $$ (such as welfare payments) because you got unemployment benefits; or
  • Your income is less than your expenses.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you are in need of assistance with any part of these processes - call 617-722-2320 or email!
Grant Opportunities Announced
National Endowment for the Humanities Grants

Mass Humanities is now accepting applications from Massachusetts museums, libraries, and other humanities institutions as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. These grants are made possible by funding provided to the National Endowment for the Humanities in the American Rescue Plan. Applications opened Tuesday, July 6, and close Wednesday, August 4. Mass Humanities expects to announce awards in mid-September. Grants for up to $20K are available to eligible organizations. The link to the guidelines, application, and FAQs for SHARP (Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan) grants is available at this website.

Mass DEP Air Sensor Grants

The Administration recently announced that $200,000 in grants is now available to communities to place 10 air quality sensors on homes, schools or businesses to measure fine particle pollution (PM2.5) throughout local neighborhoods. These small sensors produce data that will be displayed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow Fire and Smoke Map online, along with data from PM2.5 monitoring stations operated by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). For more information on the Air Sensor grant solicitation, visit this website.

MA Clean Energy Center Grants

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is looking to "green up" transportation in Bay State cities and towns, with the goal of reducing the health impacts of existing transportation systems. Under the Accelerating Clean Transportation For All (ACT4All) program, nonprofits, community development corporations and other public health or energy-related organizations that work with underserved populations can apply for up to $500,000 for clean transportation initiatives such as e-bikes and car sharing programs. The center is looking for pilot projects that reduce emissions with equity and inclusion in mind. Potential initiatives could include projects to raise consumer awareness of electric vehicles, launch a green car-for-hire program, or improve local short-haul freight and trucking systems. For support in preparing applications, project teams can apply for $7,500 planning grants, as well as request access to the ACT4All Slack channel. Officials will also be available to answer questions during virtual office hours on July 20, July 29, Aug. 11 and Aug. 23. Proposals must be submitted to CleanTransportation@masscec.com by Sept. 7. Additional information is available on the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center website.
Representative Meschino Joins Colleagues to Pass Budget, Supplementary Budget
This month, I joined my colleagues in votes to approve a final budget for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) and a supplementary budget for the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21).

The FY22 budget, funded at nearly $48.1 billion, invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. In addition to transferring $1.1 billion into the state's Stabilization fund that safeguards the future of vital programs and services, the budget makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, the environment, and other areas as the state pursues an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. For more specific information on the budget, please view our press release here.

Among other investments, the FY21 supplementary budget includes funding to help stabilize the early education and care sector, to support the Secretary of Health and Human Services' Office, and to make relief payments to recipients of the Transitional Families with Dependent Children program.

The supplementary budget also includes language from a bill I filed (H.3542/S.2266) related to transportation governance. The legislation establishes a new board of directors to oversee MBTA operations, codifying in statute many of the benefits and positive work of the Fiscal Management Control Board (FMCB) The bill also expands the governance board’s expertise and experience and is designed to build on the FMCB’s work to change cultural expectations at the MBTA. For more information on the supplementary budget and the language pertaining to new MBTA governance, please view our press release here.
Coastal Caucus Hosts Briefing on White Shark Behavior in Massachusetts
On July 23rd, Dr. Greg Skomal from the Division of Marine Fisheries' Shark Research Program and Megan Winton from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy briefed members of the Coastal Caucus on white sharks in Massachusetts. The presentation offered insight into the animals' behavior as well as tools the public can use to stay informed about sharks this summer. These include:
  • Sharktivity, an app that provides real-time information on white shark activity and research
  • The White Shark Logbook, a resource that shares detection data for tagged white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts
Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Holds Hearing on Zero Emission Vehicle Legislation
As a Committee Member, I participated in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy's (TUE) Hearing on June 28th to hear testimony on bills dealing with competitive suppliers, grid modernization, and electric vehicles. Filed with Representative Christine Barber (D-Somerville) and Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop), An Act to promote electric vehicle fleets by 2035 (H.3255/S.2139) requires that all publicly owned and leased vehicle fleets be electric by 2035. Co-presented with Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) and co-sponsored by Representative Steven Owens (D-Watertown), An Act promoting zero-emission vehicles (H.3347/S.2151) facilitates the transition of the private passenger fleet. Both bills received broad support at the hearing. For more information on the legislation before the committee concerning the electrification of the transportation sector, visit this link.
Representative Meschino Visits Cohasset and Hull Seniors
This month, I attended community events for seniors hosted by the Hull Council on Aging and Cohasset Elder Affairs. After so long spent in virtual settings, the in-person gatherings were a welcome change.
Representative Meschino does Monday Night Talk on 95.9FM WATD
On July 19th, I joined Representative Kathleen LaNatra and Representative Alyson Sullivan on 95.9 WATD FM’s Monday Night Talk to discuss the pandemic, the FY22 budget, and our priority pieces of legislation.

You can listen to the segment at Mondaynighttalk.PodBean.com.
Disability PRIDE Month
July was Disability Pride Month, observed annually to promote visibility and mainstream awareness of the positive pride felt by people with disabilities.

July 26th also marked the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.
Announcing Office Hours

Constituent services are our top priority. My Legislative Aides and I continue to work remotely for the time-being. However, I have returned to hosting in-person office hours in the district.

We also continue to hold office hours via Zoom. Please call the office at 617-722-2320 or email to reserve a time slot for virtual office hours:

  • Monday, August 2nd, 4:00 - 5:00 pm (Virtual)
  • Monday, August 16th, 10:00 - 11:00 am, Hull Council on Aging (197A Samoset Ave, Hull)
  • Monday, August 30th, 4:00 - 5:00 pm, Scituate Library (85 Branch Street, Scituate)

To learn more about our constituent services, please visit our website.

  • Schedule a COVID-19 Vaccination appointment using the Vaccine Finder

Basic Needs
  • Tool to find healthy foods

  • SafeLink 24/7 Crisis Hotline for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: 877-785-2020
Constituent Questions | 617-722-2320 | Office Contact Information
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