Letters to the Editor

We Must Tackle This Together

Dear Editor,

It is more important than ever that landlords and tenants work together to deal with the crisis caused by covid-19. The landlord/tenant relationship is a symbiotic one – the success of one supports the success of the other. Good tenants are not easily replaced and retail tenants are essential to the function and vitality of neighborhoods.

More than ever, every payment we fail to make has a ripple effect through the economy that reduces the number of jobs and hampers our ability to provide needed services. So we have to ration our resources for the common good and to provide for those most in need.

For Landlords, this means making concessions for tenants who, due to job loss or business closings, cannot pay their obligations. These concessions will take different forms based on the income and obligations of the landlord and the tenant, and the scope and duration of the crisis.

For some landlords not receiving rent means that they will be unable to pay for utilities, emergency repairs, mortgages, taxes, and other obligations that keep the property and the economy going. Other landlords may be financially able to defer/lower/forgive rent payments based on their own and their tenants’ ability to pay.

Arrangements will need to be reviewed regularly to take into account the financial resources of both parties and the concessions, payment deferments, and subsidies, such as unemployment and SBA loans, that may become available to each.

For all tenants who can afford to pay their rent, continue to do so. This will give landlords the financial means to meet their obligations, keep the property up, and grant concessions to tenants who are not so fortunate.

We don’t know how long this crisis will last and how it will ease so landlords and tenants, keep communications open and work together to forge solutions that fit each others’ unique circumstances.

Sheila Grove

A founder and member of South End Business Alliance

Small Property Owner

Residential and Commercial

45 year resident and activist in the South End, Boston

An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State Legislature

Dear Editor,

In this time of crisis, instability, and fear we look to you for leadership—and the lives of Bay Staters will literally depend on it. We are grateful for the role the legislature has played over the past two weeks, from moving legislative offices to remote function, to encouraging Governor Baker to close schools and daycares statewide, to waiving the 1-week waiting period for unemployment assistance. However, this moment requires more from the legislative branch, and on a rapid timeline.

Even as workplaces across the Commonwealth shutter and paychecks disappear, individuals’ expenses are increasing due to the demands of this emergency. And as we saw vividly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when disasters strike, it is people of limited means who bear the most unforgiving brunt of these crises. Low-income residents must now heat their homes during the hours when they used to be at school or work. Families must make daily pilgrimages to meal distribution sites—also often exposing themselves and their children to risk of coronavirus exposure on mass transit—to replace the two meals a day previously provided at schools. Formerly routine trips to the laundromat are now costly moral choices between leaving young children home alone longer, taking a less-frequently running bus, or paying for a TNC ride to get home to your kids faster. Residents in need are spending scarce cell phone minutes on long wait times to apply for emergency aid or to get telemedicine consults.

Massachusetts’ assistance programs, as currently configured, are not adequate to meet this unprecedented need. Applications for SNAP benefits have increased fourfold in the last two weeks. The unemployment system has been flooded with applications, many of whom are ineligible for assistance under current parameters. And even for those who do qualify, the existing 50% wage replacement will not sustain already-low-income families. Advocates in the domestic violence space are steeling themselves for a wave of families in crisis. And these are just a few examples. The coronavirus pandemic has put immense stress on the safety net system.

Many proposals have been floated for how to address different facets of this flood of need, and to keep circulation flowing in our local economies: a one-time supplemental payment TAFDC and EAEDC cash assistance beneficiaries; a universal basic income intervention; closing holes in healthcare coverage for the underinsured; expansion of the UI benefit beyond 50%; supplementing the federal LifeLine program to ensure people have adequate minutes on their

phone to enroll in these programs and to realistically practice social distancing; an infusion of dollars into the shelter system and RAFT program to help people be/stay safely housed. We implore you to choose some of these solutions and move on them now.

Low-income families are in desperate, health-compromising situations and have been so for many days already. Specifically, we call on you to put a package of safety net measures on the floor of the House and Senate for a vote no later than April 10—a full month after the state of emergency was declared.

We recognize that funding will be necessary to back up these interventions. While federal assistance may cover some of these expenses, it likely won’t cover all of them. Thanks to your stewardship of the state budget in recent years, Massachusetts boasts the strongest “Rainy Day Fund” we have ever had, at $3.47 billion. One of the three allowed purposes for appropriations from the fund is “for any event which threatens the health, safety or welfare of the people or the fiscal stability of the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions.” If this isn’t such an occasion, we don’t know what is. We urge you to use the Rainy Day Fund to swiftly enable some combination of the interventions above.

We recognize that the Fund, combined with federal resources, will likely be needed to support emergency response and economic recovery over several months and potentially years. But given the acute state of emergency facing our people and our economy in the immediate weeks, a modest draw of up to 6%, or about $200 million, from the $3.47 billion total in the Rainy Day Fund is entirely warranted. As many of our family members, neighbors, and fellow Bay Staters enter the third week of coronavirus impacts, we believe this $200 million is not only desperately needed, but overdue.

In Massachusetts, we have the means to protect the health and welfare of our residents. We beg you to act with the urgency this crisis requires.

Progressive Massachusetts

Act on Mass

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) MA

American Friends Service Committee MA

Brazilian Worker Center

Chinese Progressive Association

Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries

Council on American-Islamic Relations-MA

Dismas House

Lynn United for Change

Massachusetts AFL-CIO

Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN)

Massachusetts NOW (National Organization for Women)

Massachusetts Public Health Association

Mijente Boston Asamblea

NAACP, New England Area Conference

National Association of Social Workers (NASW), MA Chapter

Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts

New England Jewish Labor Committee

One Fair Wage

Our Revolution Massachusetts

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts

Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)

Rosie’s Place

Somerville Community Corporation

UAW MA State CAP Council

Union of Minority Neighborhoods

United for a Fair Economy

Worcester Interfaith

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