Baker signs $101 million extra budget, with emergency paid sick leave, more COVID-19 resources


The legislation was a supplement to the state budget for fiscal year 2022, which Baker approved in July.

Baker, however, pushed back on some provisions that would have required the distribution of masks and millions of dollars for testing and vaccines to health care providers and municipalities by the end of the month. Baker said in the letter that he did not approve of these moves because the deadline did not allow enough time to complete the distribution.

“We will quickly make funds available to local partners so they can in turn acquire and distribute masks, but expecting this entire streak to be completed in 16 days is simply unrealistic,” Baker said. .

On money for vaccines and testing, Baker said he agreed with lawmakers that “time is running out,” but the demands were unworkable.

In his letter, Baker explained an alternative strategy for distributing these funds.

“Instead, we are committed to launching solicitations or entering into contracts for the allocation or disbursement of these funds by February 25, and to distribute the funds within 5 days of receipt of complete applications. or signed agreements,” he said in the letter.

Baker said he vetoed a requirement that would have required Department of Public Health officials to issue and release guidance on issues including mask use, COVID-19 testing and putting on in quarantine, because they already do.

“DPH has consistently issued guidance on these topics throughout the pandemic to keep Massachusetts residents up-to-date, informed, and safe, and it reviews and updates its guidance regularly,” Baker said.

Baker also proposed changes to the requirements that would have called for the state secretary of health and human services to implement a comprehensive COVID-19 vaccine equity plan. The governor said the measure – which would have included intermediate targets, benchmarks and deadlines with the aim of eliminating disparities in vaccination rates within 120 days – was unrealistic.

Baker said his administration will file a vaccine equity plan with the Legislature within 30 days and file progress reports every two months.

In his letter, the governor said the administration and local leaders across the state have worked together to increase access to vaccines in diverse communities. He said advocacy efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and access to the 20 communities hardest hit by the pandemic have never stopped and vaccination rates continue to rise in these communities.

He pointed to a Kaiser Family Foundation report that ranked the state second in the nation for the percentage of black residents vaccinated. That same report found the state was fifth in the nation for vaccinations among Hispanic residents and seventh for vaccinations among Asian residents.

“While Massachusetts is a national leader in immunization rates across all demographics, we appreciate that there is still work to be done. However, ‘eliminating’ disparities in 120 days is not realistic,” Baker told lawmakers.

The measure Baker signed on Saturday also extends certain pandemic-related liability protections for health care providers, including nursing homes, and the workers who protect them from lawsuits stemming from goodwill mistakes. faith during the health crisis.

Baker also proposed tying a measure that relaxed longstanding restrictions on the number of hours government retirees can work for a public agency each year and collect their pensions to the current declaration of a public health emergency.

The restrictions had been eased as a COVID-19 measure to help keep state and city services running during the pandemic.

“Although I supported waiving this cap for [the] State of COVID emergency, in light of the critical resources that recent retirees have represented to state and local governments during the pandemic, I have reservations about the transition to a blanket waiver for the entire calendar year said Baker.

Legislation Baker signed also set Sept. 6 as the date for the state’s fall primary elections and extended several existing pandemic measures, including remote participation in public local government meetings.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, in a separate statement Saturday, said nomination papers for the state’s primary or election would be available beginning Monday. [Feb. 14] at 10 o’clock

Galvin is facing Tanisha M. Sullivan, a corporate lawyer and president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, in her bid for re-election this year.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association said in a statement Sunday that it supports the administration’s additional funding for paid emergency sick leave.

Nurses and other frontline workers continue to work in environments that lead to contracting COVID-19, he said, “but the state must [ensure] that employers do not deny or dissuade workers from accessing the benefit.

It has welcomed funds for tests, vaccines and personal protective equipment, the statement said, but the state needs a long-term strategy to ensure a “ready supply” of protective equipment against future contagious diseases.

In January, the union, which represents about 23,000 nurses, sent Baker a letter regarding its concerns about the impact of the pandemic on nurses and other frontline workers.

The association said in its statement on Sunday that it wanted long-term solutions to address what it called “chronic and deliberate understaffing” in hospitals that has put staff and patients at risk.

These conditions have “now led to an unprecedented exodus of needed personnel due to the burnout and damage to morale caused by working in this underfunded environment,” the statement said.

John Hilliard can be contacted at [email protected]

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