9 a.m. | Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity supporters advocate for a $2.8 million increase in state funding for the METCO s. | Great Hall of Flags
9 a.m. | Rep. Fluker Oakley gives keynote at National Association of Social Work's Mass. Chapter legislative advocacy day, which is held virtually. Four bills are on the state chapter's radar this year: dealing with licensure and training (S 160 / H 1253), sex education (S 268 / H 544), pretrial release or probation to receive substance use treatment (S 982 / H 1391), and school meals (S 261 / H 603)
10 a.m. | Higher Education Commissioner Noe Ortega makes the first of three visits this week to visit public colleges and universities. Ortega will tour Bridgewater State University, meet with faculty and staff, and talk with students about their experiences at the college. | Bridgewater State University
10:40 a.m. | U.S. Sen. Ed Markey joins U.S. Rep. Grace Meng of New York, National Partnership for New Americans Executive Director Nicole Melaku and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition Executive Director Liz Sweet for a virtual press conference to reintroduce the New Deal for New Americans Act, which Markey's office said would "remove challenges to naturalization and support the social, economic, and civic integration of immigrants and refugees."
11 a.m. | The Joint Ways and Means Committee holds its third hearing on the fiscal 2024 budget where members will vet the state's embattled soldiers' home system, issues affecting the large numbers of refugees and migrants seeking shelter here, and services for the disability community. | Fitchburg Legislative Building, 700 Main St., Fitchburg
If you’re one of the 2.3 million Bay Staters currently receiving MassHealth benefits, be on the lookout for a blue envelope in your mailbox.
It’s time for the “eligibility churn.”
For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state-run Medicaid program will redetermine the eligibility of every member.
Federal law suspended checking eligibility of enrollees in March 2020 in an effort to maintain people’s coverage amid the public health crisis. It meant that every member who was enrolled at that time has maintained coverage since — even if income or other factors would have made them ineligible typically.
Since then, membership has grown from 1.8 million to 2.3 million this year — nearly one-third of Massachusetts residents.
Gov. Maura Healey has estimated about 400,000 people will lose benefits as the agency rechecks eligibility for the first time in two years.
“Our administration is committed to ensuring that Massachusetts residents continue to have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance through MassHealth, the Health Connector, or another option,” Healey said in a statement to MASSterList.
But it’s a move that “won’t be without disruption,” said Greg Wilmot, president and CEO of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, the largest of the state’s 50 community clinics serving 100,000 residents annually. About half the clinic’s patients are Medicaid-eligible.
Wilmot is concerned the same people who bore the brunt of COVID-19 casualties — minorities and low-income residents — will disproportionately suffer from a shutoff in health benefits.
The coverage stop also comes at a time when housing and food costs are at an all-time high. And as pandemic-era programs helping bridge the gaps dry up, further strapping families.
“Our communities were challenged before the pandemic started and since the pandemic, we have even more challenges. It’s critical in this moment that we reflect on this and go forward and try to address equity.”
Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker of the House Ron Mariano have both spoken out against increasing health care costs and signaled health equity as priority coming out of the pandemic.
Wilmot said the Healey administration has been proactive so far in educating members and partnering with community clinics.
MassHealth has launched a $5M grassroots outreach campaign that includes door-to-door canvassing, advertising and $2 million in grants to expand services at community clinics.
Wilmot said it’s important the state collects and uses data to “know exactly who is impacted… and bridge those gaps.”
The blue envelopes start hitting mailboxes on April 1.
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MBTA watch 🚇
Days since the last derailment, fire, falling debris, or critical incident: 5
Days with localized speed restrictions:11
Days without “normal” weekday subway service: 273
On Jan. 5, Gov. Healey pledged to hire a new MBTA Transportation Safety Chief within 60 days. It has now been 74 days without the position being filled.
Pandemic-era eviction protection set to expire
A state law protecting tenants from eviction when they have an application pending for rental aid, such as through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) is set to expire March 31. More than 100 housing rights advocates called on lawmakers on Monday to extend a the pandemic-era eviction prevention policy.
Insurance stymies many from accessing state solution for mental health, addiction care
Insurance issues are blocking nearly three-quarters of patients from accessing services through a new statewide experiment in addressing mental health and addiction issues by funding a comprehensive range of services for patients at 25 community behavioral health centers across Massachusetts, writes Craig LeMoult for GBH.
Unhappy ending: Bay State College loses accreditation
A 77-year-old Back Bay college is losing its accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education, after the commission denied an appeal by Bay State College on Monday. The move, coupled with financial problems including unpaid rent, effectively paves the way for closure of the for-profit school, writes WBUR.
Tick tock: Another tick-borne illness now endemic in northern New England could spread to Mass.
The tick-borne disease babesiosis is becoming much more common in some New England states, putting Massachusetts officials on high alert, writes Ross Cristantiello for Boston.com. CDC Research conducted from 2011 through 2019 shows that cases of babesiosis “significantly increased” in northeastern states and is now endemic in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Reparations in Boston and beyond
Communities across the nation are considering reparations for injustices done to Black people throughout their histories. Many local and state governments are developing initiatives for reparations to balance the scales. In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu marked the start of Black History Month by announcing the members of a new task force to study reparations.
Home sales down, but realtors ‘optimistic’ on housing production goals
Completed single-family home sales were down 20 percent in Massachusetts last month, but the Massachusetts Association of Realtors pointed to the fact that the percentage decrease was not as severe as previous months as an optimistic signal.
A bit too nippy: Boston city councilor seeks to ban alcohol nips
City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo wants to outlaw the sale of tiny booze bottles in Boston, both because they make it too easy for alcoholics to get a quick fix and because they trash up city streets. He’ll ask the council to let him begin drafting an ordinance to ban sales in Boston at its Wednesday meeting.
Students on the streets: Lack of affordable housing blamed for rise in homelessness
As Massachusetts rides out a housing crisis, Worcester County has seen a 45% increase in homelessness between 2021 and 2022 that advocates say is tied to a lack of affordable housing. Over the course of this school year, 2,126 Worcester Public School students have been homeless, writes Kiernan Dunlop for MassLive.
Buy nothing: Getting goods from your neighbors for free
One neighbor’s trash is another’s treasure. Groups on Facebook and other social media sites where people give away items — from furniture to food — that they no longer need proliferated during the pandemic but might be here to stay, writes Diti Kohli for The Boston Globe.
Cogliano under fire again after social media posts
Saugus Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano is likely to face calls to resign when the board meets Tuesday for the first time since Cogliano responded to what he says is online harassment with some social media posts of his own that some say take aim at the sexuality of one of his targets. As the Item’s Charlie McKenna reports, it’s the second time Cogliano has stirred up controversy since the start of the year, when he became entangled in a lawsuit over a local trash incinerator.
Freetown mom who tested school security to seek school board seat
Freetown resident Kayla Churchill, who made headlines last year when she entered a local school without permission in what she said was a test of security protocols, is now running for a seat on the regional school board. Matthew Ferreira of the Standard-Times has the details on Churchill’s bid and where things stand with charges brought against her after the security stunt.
Holy rollers? Monterey camp claims religious exemption from zoning laws
The Supreme Judicial Court could rule anytime on a dispute between the town of Monterey and Hume New England, which claims its proposal to build an RV park is exempt from local zoning laws because it operates a Christian camp on the same property. Amanda Burke of the Berkshire Eagle details the arguments made before the SJC over whether the camp qualifies for Dover Amendment protection.
Former AG hopeful Quentin Palfrey joins Gov. Maura Healey’s admin
He finally made it. Gov. Healey said Monday that Quentin Palfrey had joined her administration and will oversee a task force aimed at bringing more federal funds to the Bay State. Palfrey, who was the 2018 Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and then sought statewide office again in 2022 as a candidate for attorney general, will earn $160,000 a year in the newly created post.