COVID-19 Update & Resource Guide

COVID-19 Update & Resource Guide

Our team has put together this newsletter, including a compilation of resources and legislative updates around the COVID-19 pandemic. We will send additional information and updates moving forward, so please stay connected. If you need assistance or have any questions, please contact us at diana@dianadizoglio.com or 978-984-7747.

We will also often post updates related to COVID-19 on social media, so please stay connected here:

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DiZoglio Small Business Bills Advance Out of Committee

Two bills filed by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), both aimed at helping small businesses during the COVID-19 emergency, have been voted favorably out of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses and advanced to the Senate for further consideration.

One bill, S. 2643, An Act establishing a Massachusetts Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for businesses ineligible for the comparable federal PPP, is designed to assist small businesses ineligible for the federal PPP.

Not all small businesses who are unable to conduct business through the COVID-19 emergency are eligible for federal loan and grant opportunities like the PPP, established in the recent CARES Act. The federal PPP creates a type of emergency loan that effectively turns into a grant when used to maintain payroll through June and expands the network beyond SBA so that banks, credit unions and local lenders can issue the loans. The creation of a comparable Massachusetts PPP loan to grant program is designed to address this inequity by incentivizing federally ineligible MA small businesses to not lay off workers and to rehire laid-off workers that lost jobs due to COVID-19 disruptions.

“I urge the Governor’s Administration to put a plan in place to allow these small businesses to operate again with strict safety measures,” said DiZoglio. “I ultimately filed this bill as a last resort for the many businesses who remain closed and entirely ineligible for any type of loan or grant assistance from the federal government. These are local families who pay taxes and employ our neighbors. They’re going under and we need to do all we can to keep them afloat.”

The second bill, S. 2564, An Act to support MassMakers, is comprehensive legislation DiZoglio wrote following over a year’s worth of dialogue with entrepreneurs, business owners, and business and community leaders. It touches upon a variety of issues, including the establishment of a Massachusetts Main Streets Office, a MassMakers web portal to assist aspiring start-ups and scale-ups, microbusinesses, and the empowerment of the state’s Supplier Diversity Office. It has been endorsed by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, as well as several local Chambers of Commerce.

“The importance of a healthy small business economy to job creation and growth in Massachusetts cannot be overstated,” said DiZoglio. “Our small business community has told us what they need – increased connectivity, streamlined regulation and service delivery, access to knowledge and opportunity, and empowerment to succeed. This bill is a significant step in the right direction regarding these issues.”

Of particular note during the COVID-19 emergency are provisions in the bill that establish an online, one-stop shop MassMakers web portal for Massachusetts small businesses.

This web portal would:

1. Provide access to information and toolkits to support and assist small businesses, during not only the pandemic but also our economic recovery and in the years to come.

2. Identify Massachusetts small businesses with a “MassMakers” logo and their local products and services as “MassMade.”

3. Help connect local, small MassMaker businesses with local consumers by providing a “Supply Mass, Buy Mass” interactive searchable database for shoppers to find what they need – locally – instead of having to rely on giants like Walmart and Amazon.

“Due to the shutdown and need for social distancing, people are flocking online for the bulk of their purchases and the online giants like Amazon are thriving,” said DiZoglio. “Many of these online sales, however, are sending our Massachusetts purchasing dollars to out-of-state companies who happen to be established or connected enough to have access to advertising and the ability for online sales. During a time when much of our small business community is literally prohibited from making in-person sales, retail giants like Walmart continue to be able to make both in-person and online sales.”

DiZoglio Files COVID-19 Emergency Veteran Relief Bill

On Tuesday, April 28, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) filed new legislation, An Act providing COVID-19 emergency financial relief for veterans, to provide one-time emergency financial relief grants to Massachusetts veterans suffering demonstrable financial loss due to COVID-19.

Under chapter 115 of the Massachusetts General Laws, which covers veterans’ benefits in the Commonwealth, the Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS), in partnership with local Veterans’ Service Officers (VSOs), administers a program of financial assistance for food, housing, fuel, clothing and medical care for veterans and their dependents with limited income and assets. This legislation supplements that aid as COVID-19 has created financial distress for Massachusetts veterans well beyond the scope of chapter 115.

In addition, social distancing has created obstacles to readily accessing chapter 115 benefits. Part of the process of applying and qualifying for chapter 115 benefits includes being interviewed by VSOs. With municipal buildings closed and access to VSOs more limited, the bill is designed to provide quick-turnaround financial breathing room for veterans as they navigate other resources provided by the state and the federal government.

DiZoglio also filed the bill to acknowledge constraints municipalities are facing with respect to their local budgets due to COVID-19 as they try to plan for the 2021 fiscal year. Chapter 115 benefits are funded 25% by cities and towns. The bill authorizes the Secretary of DVS to create regulations for the timely and effective implementation of the bill. By streamlining the process for these emergency grants through DVS, the goal is to have these funds distributed more rapidly than the process under chapter 115 can currently provide, while avoiding placing additional financial burdens on the municipalities.

“This is a bill that will not only provide our veterans with much needed emergency aid but also start a long overdue conversation about how our veterans are currently accessing benefits and how we can make this system more efficient and effective in its service to those who served us,” said DiZoglio. “All of us should make it our duty to show gratitude to all service members, to those now in uniform and to those who served this nation in the past. Let’s support the brave men and women who have served to keep us free by passing this important legislation.”

“Veterans have proven particularly vulnerable in this crisis,” said Haverhill resident and Vietnam veteran Ralph Basiliere, who originally contacted DiZoglio about the issue and pointed to a similar proposal that already passed in Minnesota. “Efforts to aid them are desperately needed.”

“I am truly grateful to Senator DiZoglio for advocating for our veterans,” said Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove. “The Amesbury Veteran Services Office has remained open throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, working closely with our veterans to ensure that they continue to receive these important benefits and have access to information and resources. In past times of economic hardship we have seen an increase in applications for Chapter 115 benefits, and as we continue to make sure that we are taking care of everyone in our community, this bill is a great step forward to help more veterans. This bill not only expands on Chapter 115 for veterans, but it also ensures that our community receives reimbursements faster, which is important for everyone in these uncertain financial times.”

DiZoglio Unveils Comprehensive Small Business “MassMakers” Bill

: From left to right, Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts; State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester); Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen); and Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association.

: From left to right, Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts; State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester); Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce; State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen); and Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has unveiled comprehensive new small business legislation, Senate Docket 2812, An Act to support MassMakers.

DiZoglio, who serves as chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, was recently joined at the State House by business leaders as she discussed the details of the MassMakers Act, which has been designed to assist small businesses by recognizing their unique challenges and providing tools to help them succeed.

Among the topics addressed were the establishment of a Massachusetts Main Streets Office, a MassMakers web portal to assist aspiring start-ups and scale-ups, microbusinesses, and the empowerment of the state’s Supplier Diversity Office.

The introduction of the MassMakers Act comes on the heels of listening tours that DiZoglio has hosted over course of this session to hear the concerns of the small business community in Massachusetts.

“The importance of a healthy small business economy to job creation and growth in Massachusetts cannot be overstated,” said DiZoglio. “This bill is the culmination of a year’s worth of dialogue with entrepreneurs, business owners, and business and community leaders. They have told us what they need – increased connectivity, streamlined regulation and service delivery, access to knowledge and opportunity, and empowerment to succeed. This bill is a big step in the right direction regarding these topics.”

Created through the MassMakers Act is a Supply Mass/Buy Mass interactive network that connects Massachusetts businesses shopping for supplies and services with other MA businesses who provide those goods and services – making it easier to shop local.

The bill creates a MassMade designation to bolster recognition of those businesses that produce or manufacture within the Commonwealth. Recognition is the first step in promoting awareness of the beneficial ripple effect that shopping local has throughout Massachusetts cities and towns.

Under this bill, Small Business Saturday will become Friday, Saturday & Sunday to expand awareness & opportunities to shop local over the holidays. Alongside this effort, the Office of Business Development is directed to develop, evaluate and recommend other policies that will encourage keeping consumer dollars close to home.

Another provision in the bill establishes an office of Mass Main Streets to oversee coordination, promotion and revitalization of downtowns and commercial districts by connecting resources across municipal lines. Every state in the U.S. has an office of main streets. It’s time Massachusetts fills this gap in serving our small business community.

“It should be a priority of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to protect, promote and preserve Main Streets in 351 cities and towns across the state,” said Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “Main Streets were born in New England, as was the concept of Main Streets state offices to work with local non-profits and the national office of the National Trust for Historical Preservation. Yet Massachusetts hasn’t had an office or focus since the 1980s to properly work with national and local campaigns. It’s hard work to keep our Main Streets viable in the age of the smartphone and it’s time to make it a priority for our future generations.”

“When I was growing up, my father owned and operated a small wholesale and retail chocolate business, and I saw firsthand the challenges that small business owners face in starting and running their businesses,” said State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “Small businesses need our support because they lead the way in revitalizing our downtowns and invigorating our local economies. I’m excited to support the MassMakers Act, and pleased that the bill includes legislation that I filed to create the Massachusetts Office of Main Streets, which will coordinate local, state and federal efforts to support and promote our local downtowns.”

The MassMakers Act creates a MassMakers Portal, a one-stop shop interactive web portal for aspiring and established businesses in the Commonwealth. Conceptually modeled after the successful Haverhill Business Portal, the goal of the MassMakers Portal is to provide a single entry pathway from aspiration to realization, whether the dream is to start a new business or to take the next step and scale up an existing business.

“What I love about this legislation is how it aligns with what is happening in conversations at the local level, both publicly and privately,” said Dougan Sherwood, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. “There are states all over the country coming into our markets to try and take our business. This legislation goes right to the heart of problems impacting us and supporting local businesses when they need it the most.”

“Small businesses provide vibrancy and financial stability for our communities,” said Andrew Firmin, vice president of the North Andover Merchants Association. “Having a one-stop portal will provide them an opportunity to locate all of the info they need in an easy and understandable manner.”

Currently, a review of the impact of rules and regulations on small businesses is only required of state agencies once every 12 years. Less than 40% of small businesses survive past 10 years, however. It’s imperative that these reviews are conducted in a timely fashion to see what’s working and what’s not to assist small businesses. The MassMakers Act synchronizes the impact review with the development of the economic development policy required during the first year of each new administration so that the review can inform the governor’s economic plan.

Also created under the legislation is the H⇧RE MASS program to give students and adult professionals with valuable trade skills the knowledge they need to start their own businesses. H⇧RE MASS would provide mentorship and create real, tangible pathways to success. A complement to the existing MassHire program which connects businesses with potential employees, H⇧RE MASS takes employees and connects them with the opportunity to become employers.

The MassMakers Act also defines the term “microbusiness” – the smallest of our small businesses – and charges the Office of Business Development and others to examine micro-lending for microbusinesses to promote increased opportunities for access to seed money and ongoing capital. Small businesses can employ hundreds and still be considered small businesses in MA. Microbusinesses operate more like mom and pop shops and they need special considerations and their own designation if we are to create opportunities specific to their success.

The MassMakers Act also seeks to empower the state’s Supplier Diversity Office – which is tasked with promoting minority, women and veteran-owned businesses but has struggled in recent years due to inadequate funding and staffing – to fulfill its mission by reinstating it as its own agency under Housing and Economic Development. The MassMakers Act further reaffirms the state’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by incorporating diversity and inclusion plan requirements in government contracts for goods and services similar to the current Massport Model.

Haverhill’s Hartell Johnson Honored at State House

Hartell Johnson 2

In honor of Black History Month and the Commonwealth’s commemoration of the work of prominent African Americans in Massachusetts, state legislators recently nominated local advocates, community leaders and business members for recognition during Black Excellence on the Hill Day.

Hartell Johnson of Haverhill was nominated by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) for the occasion, in honor of her work in the Merrimack Valley.

A former vice president and current member of the Greater Haverhill League of Women Voters, Johnson has served on the City of Haverhill Cultural Council and Community Affairs Advisory Boards and, for more than a decade, has worked as a business analyst at Fresenius Medical Care. She was a candidate for Haverhill City Council in 2017 and is on the board of directors at Haverhill’s Zinnia Montessori School.

“Hartell embodies so much of what makes the Merrimack Valley and its communities great,” said DiZoglio. “An unwavering advocate for stronger educational opportunities for students, improved economic development and enhancing cultural affairs, she is a true force for positive change in the City of Haverhill.”

Massachusetts Senate Passes Next Generation Climate Policy

The Massachusetts State Senate has passed comprehensive legislation strengthening the state’s approach to protecting the environment.

The legislative package, passed by the Senate on January 30, sets a statewide greenhouse gas limit for the year 2050 of “net zero” emissions. To achieve this, it requires the state to hit near-term limits in 2025, 2030, and every five years thereafter; set sub-limits for transportation, buildings, solid waste, natural gas distribution, and other major sectors; and make clear implementation plans.

Under the legislation, cities and towns will be able to adopt a net zero stretch energy code. The bill allows the state to support communities that choose on their own to move away from fossil fuels as the source of heating for new buildings. The state will promulgate a net zero energy code, so that municipalities have the option available if they want to use it.

The bill directs the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to set emissions reduction goals for each three-year plan utilities formulate for the MassSave program. It requires the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), at the conclusion of each three-year plan, to certify how much the plan actually contributed to meeting the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emission limits.

The legislation also directs the MBTA to limit bus purchases and leases to zero-emissions vehicles beginning in 2030, and to aim for an all-zero-emissions fleet by 2040, to reduce transportation-related emissions in city neighborhoods.

Under the bill, Massachusetts appliance standards are updated to improve energy and water efficiency standards for common household and commercial appliances, helping to conserve energy and save consumers and businesses money.

“With the passage of this legislation, we have taken long overdue action to reduce emissions and develop a plan for a healthier, more sustainable future in the Merrimack Valley and across Massachusetts,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “Thank you to Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and Senate Chair of the Utilities & Energy Committee Michael Barrett (D-Lexington) for their leadership in bolstering the Commonwealth’s position as an ideal state wherein to build a strong clean energy economy.”

Newburyport’s Mike Sullivan Honored at State House

Mike Sullivan

Newburyport resident Mike Sullivan was recently honored at the Massachusetts State House for his 25-year tenure as director of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF).

Sullivan, who in December retired from OCPF, served as director under six governors, seven Senate presidents and four House speakers and is the only director in OCPF history to be reappointed to the position. He led the office’s transformation from a paper to nearly all-electronic agency and twice served as president of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws.

Prior to his service at OCPF, Sullivan served as city clerk in Newburyport.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) presented a Senate resolution in honor of Sullivan’s accomplishments, co-sponsored by legislators from across the Commonwealth.

“Over his 25 years at OCPF, Mike was always committed to the utmost accountability in Massachusetts’ public elections,” said DiZoglio. “His commitment to transparency resulted in greater accuracy and efficiency in government operations – goals we at the state level should be striving for daily. Mike will be missed on Beacon Hill but I wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky of Lift Our Voices Join Senator DiZoglio at State House in Call for Action on Bill Banning NDAs

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will be joined by journalist, author and empowerment advocate Gretchen Carlson and political strategist Julie Roginsky, both of the advocacy group Lift Our Voices, for a State House press conference on Monday, January 27, regarding the continued use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of harassment, discrimination and assault in state government and across Massachusetts.

Lift Our Voices was founded by Carlson, Julie Roginsky and Diana Falzone in an effort to end the practice of mandatory NDAs, confidentiality provisions and forced arbitration clauses that seek to silence workers who want to speak publicly about toxic workplace conditions. Carlson and Roginsky both sued former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, while Falzone sued Fox News for gender discrimination.

“It is beyond past time that the abuse of non-disclosure agreements come to an end in the Commonwealth,” said DiZoglio. “I am beyond grateful to be joined by Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky, who have tirelessly worked to raise awareness around these issues.”

Also speaking at the press conference will be attorney Mitchell Garabedian and State Representative Alyson Sullivan (R-Abington).

The event is open to the public.

WHO: State Senator Diana DiZoglio, Gretchen Carlson and Julie Roginsky of Lift Our Voices, attorney Mitchell Garabedian and State Representative Alyson Sullivan

WHAT: News conference and individual interview opportunities

WHEN: 1pm; January 27, 2020

WHERE: Massachusetts State House, Nurses Hall

DiZoglio, MVPC Announce Scope of Work for Merrimack River District Commission

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission have announced the finalization of a scope of work for the Merrimack River District Commission (MRDC).

The MRDC, which will be funded through monies secured by DiZoglio through the Fiscal Year 2020 State Budget, is an inclusive commission of local stakeholders — from sewage management professionals to environmentalists to elected officials — as well as representatives from state agencies, charged with assessing the current health of the Merrimack River and mapping out strategies to ensure the health and safety of the Merrimack moving forward.

The Commission’s scope of work, prepared by the Andover-based environmental engineering and consulting firm Brown and Caldwell, outlines the development of a framework for decision-making and funding priorities associated with the MRDC, including a unified vision and statement of regional goals. The framework will consolidate the pertinent information, encourage communication and support regional objectives for stakeholders along the Merrimack.

While there have been studies of the Merrimack River in recent decades, including reports from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, there is sentiment among stakeholders that such data is difficult to access, focused on very specific issues and not helpful toward making informed decisions regarding future improvements to the river.

“This scope of work is essential to moving the commission forward, as we bring together experts from all along the Merrimack to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs),” said DiZoglio. “The group has already met a couple of times to hear from experts and discuss strategy. Due to a lag time in receiving funds that were appropriated to them during the budget process, however, it has lacked the structure needed to ensure results are produced from those discussions. Now that the funds have been allocated, they can get into the meat and potatoes of strategic planning. This is a hugely important step needed to set both short and long-term goals for keeping our river clean, healthy, safe and beautiful.”

Included in the scope of work are six specific tasks toward establishing the MRDC framework, with an estimated completion of four to six months in total:

• A needs assessment, compiling all relevant studies on the Merrimack River from the past two decades and identifying any data gaps, data quality inconsistences and objectives not addressed, among other issues. At this stage, all regulatory requirements for communities and utilities along the river will also be compiled.

• The establishment of guidelines for a consolidated data clearinghouse for the Merrimack River, with data types including river uses, water quality data and pollution source data, among others. Guidelines will also be established for a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), a document designed to govern the field, laboratory and procedures for ongoing and future data collection.

• The formation of a steering committee and technical advisory group to help ensure the right data is being developed and applied to support regional decisions and to help prioritize and advocate for funding based on identified needs. Pertinent stakeholders, including environmental groups, elected officials, public health officials and other experts will have roles in these groups.

• The facilitating of workshops to help craft the framework, articulating consensus goals for the Merrimack River and determining the roles and responsibilities of participating stakeholders moving forward.

• Developing the framework with four principal goals in mind: consistent integration of regional priorities, unified advocacy for funding and research, data-driven decisions, and a focus on uses of the Merrimack River.

• The presentation of the framework.

“A clean, healthy Merrimack River is vital to me both professionally and personally,” said Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex Community College. “Nearly 700,000 people live in the cities and towns along its banks in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, including more than 25,000 NECC alumni, all contributing to the region’s workforce and economy – and I’m a recreational kayaker who enjoys paddling along the beautiful river shoreline. I appreciate Senator DiZoglio’s championing of this effort, and am excited about the work of this commission, bringing together partners in both states to look at the best scientific research available and create strategies to clean up and preserve this incredible natural resource for future generations.”

“The Merrimack River is integral to the regional economy and overall welfare of many of our Merrimack Valley communities, including providing drinking water for the cities of Methuen and Lawrence,” said Jennifer Hughes, environmental program manager at the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. “MVPC looks forward to assisting Senator DiZoglio and the District Commission in their efforts to make informed decisions on the best investments to sustain the Merrimack’s economic and environmental health.”

“The Merrimack River has long been a reliable resource in New England, providing power, drinking water, wastewater assimilation, recreational opportunities, warm and cold water aquatic habitat, shell-fishing, and aesthetic beauty to our region,” said Kirk Westphal, water resources leader at Brown and Caldwell. “In recent decades, it has been the stage for economic revitalization of the communities that line its shores. Many studies have been undertaken to better understand specific aspects of the river, but until now the information has been decentralized, and priorities for the basin have not always been regionally coordinated. The work that Senator DiZoglio and the Commission have enabled will aim to provide a unifying framework for knowing and caring for the river and the communities it serves.”

As the MRDC moves forward, it will be alongside another project of DiZoglio’s and the MVPC’s regarding a pilot program, funded through $100,000 secured by the senator in the FY20 Budget, to notify swimmers and boaters of CSOs in the Merrimack. The program will utilize physical and virtual means to notify residents of potential CSO concerns, in the form of flagging and through a mobile app and website alerts.

DiZoglio Welcomes Salisbury Girl Scouts to the State House

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently hosted Salisbury’s Brownie Troop 72433 for a visit to the Massachusetts State House.

The troop had the opportunity to tour the State House and meet with the Senator, as well as State Representative Jim Kelcourse (R-Amesbury). DiZoglio brought the scouts into the Senate Chamber, where they sat in the seats of legislators, as the Senator explained how ideas become laws. The troop then engaged in a debate, moderated by DiZoglio, over a piece of legislation.

“This is our next generation of leaders, so it is important that we encourage them to be actively involved in the democratic process early on,” said DiZoglio. “The girls were given the chance to experience what a day in the life of a legislator looks like and engaged in a discussion on a real-life bill that impacts citizens of the Merrimack Valley. We had a blast!”