I am writing to you today with legislative, Cambridge, and public health updates.
Table of Contents
- Legislative Updates
- Cambridge Updates
- Public Health Updates
- A Glimpse at the Past Week
- Recent Press
- Mental Health Services and Resources
Governor Healey announces $375 million of cuts from the FY24 budget
On Monday, Governor Healey announced $375 million worth of targeted spending cuts to the FY24 budget as a result of lower-than-anticipated tax revenues. I am disappointed that the brunt of the cuts is borne by the most economically vulnerable in the state. If you have followed my work over the past few years, you’ll know that Sen. DiDomenico and I have fought for increases to two cash assistance programs that benefit the most vulnerable in the Commonwealth — Temporary Aid for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC). We have managed to increase these grants by 30% over the past three budgets. However, prior to our advocacy and securing the first increase in 2021, TAFDC hadn’t been increased since 2000 and EAEDC hadn’t been increased since 1988. While we have been successful in managing to increase these grants, the support offered by these cash assistance programs is still nowhere near the rate they would be if they had been consistently raised with inflation. Too many families are still living in deep poverty as a result of insufficient cash assistance, and these cuts represent a big step in the wrong direction.
In addition to cuts affecting statewide programs and agencies, many local nonprofits that serve marginalized communities throughout the state saw their appropriations cut in half. Several Cambridge nonprofits that I have worked with my colleagues to secure earmarks for saw their funding cut in half, including the Food for Free Backpack program and East End House. You can read more about the cuts here.
While these cuts are based on lower revenue than was projected, it seems like there was room for conversations about this months ago that might have allowed us to reprioritize where cuts might happen. I will continue to have conversations with the Administration where I’ll appeal to them to restore the cuts and support what will be a bigger ask for the direct cash assistance programs in the upcoming budget. What we choose to invest in and the cuts we choose to make are reflections of our priorities and policies. None of this is easy, but hopefully there will be more collaborative conversations about these shared values and how we can move forward to support the most vulnerable families in our Commonwealth.
House passes a bill to address revenge porn and coercive control
I was proud to vote alongside my colleagues on Wednesday to unanimously advance An Act to Prevent Abuse and Exploitation (H.4241). This bill will help to prevent abuse and exploitation and will enhance protections for survivors. It addresses teen sexting, image-based sexual assault (commonly referred to as “revenge porn”), expands the definition of abuse to include coercive control to obtain a restraining order, and extends the statute of limitations for certain domestic violence offenses from six years to 15 years. I am grateful to Speaker Ron Mariano, House Ways & Means Committee Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Michael Day for their leadership in bringing this bill the the floor for a vote, as well as for the lead sponsors of various bills dealing with the issues encompassed in H.4241: Representatives Richard Haggerty, Natalie Higgins, Tram Nguyen, Jeff Roy, and Meghan Kilcoyne.
I am also grateful for the many survivors who have shared their stories related to sexting, revenge porn, and coercion over the past few sessions. I know it has taken us far too long to get this bill over the finish line, but I am so deeply appreciative of your strength to share your experiences and advocate for a safer future for the next generation of Bay Staters.
MLK Day of Service and Learning
Many Helping Hands 365 is kicking off its 14th annual Day of Service and Learning with an address at Central Square Church at 2:00 pm, followed by services projects at the Senior Center, YWCA, and City Hall. You can learn more and register here.
Cambridge Public Health Helpline Supports Residents with COVID-19
To speak with someone, call the confidential COVID-19 Hotline at 617-933-0797. Learn more here.
City Offering Free At-Home COVID Tests in Partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance
The tests 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. The at-home COVID test expiration date can be checked here.
Public Health Updates
Red Cross Declares Emergency Blood Shortage
The nation's largest supplier of blood and blood services, the American Red Cross, announced it is facing an emergency blood shortage as the organization experiences the lowest number of people donating blood over the past two decades. According to the Red Cross, the number of people giving blood through the Red Cross has fallen by approximately 40% over the last 20 years. The Red Cross urges people to donate blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org.
FDA Issues Advisory of Scallops Recently Sold in MA and Other States
On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory, warning consumers not to eat, and restaurants and food retailers not to sell, and to dispose of certain whole, live scallops. Certain scallops distributed by a seafood wholesaler based in Gloucester, Intershell Corp., were likely to have been harvested from prohibited waters in Massachusetts and incorrectly labeled, which may be contaminated with human pathogens, toxic elements, or poisonous or deleterious substances and can cause illness if consumed. The scallops were directly distributed to distributors and retailers in IL, MA, NJ, NY, and PA, and the corporation initiated a recall of whole, live scallops that were harvested on Dec. 26, Dec. 27, and Jan. 1. For additional information and assistance, visit CFSAN’s Food & Cosmetic Information Center (FCIC).
A Glimpse at the Past Week
On Monday, I joined AFL-CIO President Chrissy Lynch, Greater Boston Building Trades Council Business Manager Chaton Green, and former New England Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary-Treasurer (and author of The Way We Build: Restoring Dignity to Construction Work) Mark Erlich to welcome the 2024 Harvard Trade Union Program class to Cambridge. The HTUP equips union leaders and activists with leadership, management, and problem-solving skills while exploring the importance of unions in today’s world.
On Tuesday, I joined legislative colleagues and friends from both the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and the Local 328 that covers Cambridge for a Legislative Breakfast to hear updates on their apprenticeship and training programs, their legislative agenda, and the construction market outlook. It was great to see so many NASRCC leaders, including President Raheem Shepard, Political Director Joe O’Brien, and Business Representative Greg Poole. Organized labor fights for jobs that pay workers their value, and when workers are paid their value, our communities are stronger.
On Wednesday, students from Farr Academy visited the State House as part of their civics class. After they toured the building, they stopped by my office to ask questions about the legislative process and gun violence, two big components of their curriculum. We were joined by a special guest, former Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui!
Craig LeMoult, GBH News
The “bottle bill,” the informal name for the law behind Massachusetts’ deposit system, was enacted in 1983 and applies only to containers of carbonated drinks. Consumers pay a 5-cent deposit for each bottle or can, and — if they return the used container — they get that money back at their local store or redemption center.
Waste companies have successfully lobbied against changes in the past, including defeating a 2014 ballot measure that would have dramatically expanded what kinds of bottles are covered. However, the sponsors of the current legislation believe this time will be different.
“I’ve had lots of really good conversations with leadership on my side,” said state Rep. Marjorie Decker, the bill’s House sponsor. “And I think that the obstacles that existed during that referendum ... a decade ago, they’re not there any longer. People understand the science, the data. And the people certainly want to see this happening.”
Mental Health Services and Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling, please know you are not alone. There are some great resources here: https://www.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 partner. You can find more information at 10to10helpline.org or by calling 877-898-3411.
Overdose Prevention Helpline
The Massachusetts Overdose Prevention Helpline is a virtual spotting/overdose detection service for people who use drugs. Learn more at: https://www.massoverdosehelpline.org, or access it by calling 800-972-0590.
As always, please contact me with questions or concerns at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov.