I write to you today with public health and legislative updates. Again, we appreciate your patience over the next few weeks while we explore a new format for updates. If you have suggestions, feel free to email them to us.
Table of Contents
- Public Health Updates
- State Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Public Health Updates
Massachusetts Protecting Access to Medication Abortion
Following a federal court ruling in Texas that blocked the FDA's approval of the abortion medication mifepristone, Governor Healey announced Monday that, at her request, UMass Amherst ordered a year’s supply of mifepristone. The doses will be distributed to providers across the Commonwealth. The Administration is also dedicating $1 million from the Department of Public Health’s budget to help other local health care providers buy more mifepristone. In addition, the Governor signed an executive order clarifying that the 2022 law protecting abortion providers from out-of-state legal action also applies to medication abortions and mifepristone. I am grateful that the Legislature acted so quickly last session to put those protections in place and I appreciate Governor Healey’s prompt actions to protect access to safe, effective medication abortion. Learn more at wbur.fm/3mA2Xf5.
MassHealth Redetermination Underway
The MassHealth eligibility redetermination process began on April 1. Over the next 12 months, MassHealth will renew the membership of all 2.3 million members. Visit mass.gov/masshealthrenew or call (800)-841-2900 to learn more about this process.
Insurance Coverage Ending for Free COVID Tests at Pharmacies
When the public health emergency ends on May 11, insurance companies will no longer be required to provide free at-home COVID tests. As a reminder, insurers are currently required to cover up to eight free tests each month per insured person. You can get a set of free tests in April and then again during the first week of May.
Report Your At-Home COVID Test Results with Make My Test Count
Individuals who take a COVID-19 at-home test can report their test result anonymously at MakeMyTestCount.org, a new website from the National Institutes of Health. The site does not ask for personal information such as name, date of birth, or street address, only general information such as age and ZIP code. Data collected through MakeMyTestCount is de-identified and sent to the same public health systems that currently receive COVID-19 test results from laboratories and doctors’ offices. Learn more at bit.ly/3DjS46f.
House Approves Tax Relief Bill
The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a tax relief bill this week that includes the following tax changes, some with a phased-in implementation method:
- Child and Dependent Tax Credit: the bill combines the Child Care Expenses Credit with the Dependent Member of Household Credit to create one refundable $600 credit per dependent, while eliminating the current cap.*
- Estate Tax: the bill increases the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million, and eliminates the “cliff” effect, taxing the value of the estate that exceeds $2 million, and not the entire estate as the law currently requires.
- Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit: the bill doubles the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit from $1,200 to $2,400.
- Rental Deduction Cap: the bill increases the rental deduction cap from $3,000 to $4,000.
- Short-term Capital Gains Tax: the bill lowers the short-term capital gains tax rate to 5 percent, and phases in that change over two years.
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): the bill increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 30 percent to 40 percent of the federal credit.*
In addition to tax relief, the bill changes Chapter 62F of the Massachusetts General Laws, which triggered nearly $3 billion in taxpayer refunds in 2022. This law requires that excess revenue be returned to taxpayers when tax revenue collections in a given fiscal year exceed an annual tax revenue cap. Currently, the credit is applied to the personal income tax liability of all taxpayers on a proportional basis, resulting in higher credits for those who paid more in taxes. The bill passed this week adjusts the credit to an equal amount per taxpayer, rather than a rebate based on a percentage of what taxpayers paid the Commonwealth.
I want to thank House Leadership for always leading the way in supporting working families and ensuring that we are lifting Massachusetts residents out of poverty.
*Next week, I will share with you more of the history of my work on these issues.
House Budget Season Underway
The House Committee on Ways and Means released its Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) state budget proposal on Wednesday and House members filed over 1500 amendments before today’s 5:00 p.m. deadline. I filed 22 amendments focused on public health, behavioral health, poverty, and other needs, and I will share more about them in the coming weeks. The House budget debate will take place the week of April 24th.
For anyone who's been trying to reach out to us, please know that for the past 10 days we've been working on the tax bill and preparing for the budget debate. If there is an urgent matter and you don't hear back right away, please call the office. We're trying to respond to your needs along with the hundreds of budget-related requests coming in.
Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics Every Wednesday
The Cambridge Public Health Department is offering free COVID-19 and flu vaccines to adults and children (age 5+) every Wednesday from 12-4 p.m. at 119 Windsor Street, second floor.
- Vaccine Clinic Dates: Every Wednesday from Feb. 8–June 14.
- Appointments are required. You can register online at bit.ly/40bMk8C. If you have questions or want help making an appointment, call 617-933-0797.
- People age 5 and older can receive their first dose, second dose, or bivalent booster of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
- Flu vaccines will be available for adults and children (age 6 months and older), while supplies last. High-dose flu vaccines will also be available.
- No ID, Social Security Number, or health insurance is needed for the free vaccines.
Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline for the public health departments of Cambridge, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop at 617-933-0797. The hotline is managed by the Cambridge Public Health Department. Learn more at bit.ly/3J7FYAO
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests
The Cambridge Public Health Department, in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance, is providing free COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test kits. They can be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM in the CHA lobby at 119 Windsor Street. Cambridge businesses or organizations that would like free rapid tests to provide to customers can call the COVID-19 hotline at 617-933-0797 to request them.
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know that you are not alone. There are some great resources here: decker4rep.com/2021/mental-health-services-and-resources/.
Intimate Partner Abuse Prevention Helpline
This initiative is designed to prevent intimate partner violence by fostering accountability and change in people who harm or may harm their intimate partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
As always, do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.