Frost and Moore Announce Legislature’s Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak

by | Apr 4, 2020

BOSTON – Representative Paul K. Frost (R-Auburn) and Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announce Governor Baker has signed into law legislation passed by both the Massachusetts House and Senate to address the COVID-19 outbreak in the Commonwealth on Friday, April 3rd 2020.

The bill, An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19, was designed to assist municipal governments with the continued operation of essential services for residents as Massachusetts faces the impact of the global pandemic. The new law affords flexibility for communities to conduct business under the considerable constraints imposed by the State of Emergency declared by the Governor on March 10th.

In an effort to help local businesses suffering from the temporary ban on dining-in, restaurants and bars holding liquor licenses are now allowed to to sell beer and wine to customers ordering take-out food. In accordance with recent changes to the federal tax filing deadline, the state’s personal income tax filing deadline has been extended from April 15th to July 15th this year. Town moderators have been granted the authority to declare a recess or continuance of town meeting for 30 days at a time, while giving local select boards the ability to extend town meeting business beyond the normal June 30th cutoff. Communities unable to finalize a budget for the next fiscal year will be able to seek approval for monthly interim budgets from the Department of Revenue.

Frost said, “We have a long way to go. We will continue to work in a bi-partisan fashion with the Governor and Lt. Governor to weather this COVID-19 crisis. These measures aim to help our communities, struggling restaurants and all state taxpayers deal with and adapt to the strict social distancing guidelines and rules we need to practice to slow the spread of this terribly contagious virus.”

“Due to the state of emergency, many business in the Commonwealth face uncertain futures,” said Senator Michael Moore. “This legislation will provide a way for business affected by the ban on dining-in to generate revenue for their establishments. We must continue to adapt in a way that allows us to remain safe while still empowering local business”

The new law, known as Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, also:
· – authorizes cities, towns and districts that incur a deficit this year to amortize the debt over the next three fiscal years, using guidelines issued by the Commissioner of Revenue;
· – extends the deadline for municipalities to exercise a right of first refusal option to purchase property until 90 days after the State of Emergency is lifted;
· – removes the annual cap on hours and earnings for retired employees collecting a pension so they can work during the State of Emergency, provided they did not retire under a general or special disability law;
· – permits cities and towns to extend the deadlines for property tax payments and applications for tax exemptions to a date no later than June 1;
· – authorizes cities and towns to waive interest payments and other penalties for late payments of excises and taxes, including water and sewer payments, if payment is made before June 30;
· – prohibits cities and towns from terminating essential services – including water, trash collection and electricity – for non-payment of taxes or fees resulting from loss of employment, serious illness or other financial hardship related to the outbreak of COVID-19;
· – allows permit-granting authorities to hold meetings and public hearings remotely during the State of Emergency, using the guidelines established in the Governor’s March 12 order suspending certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law;
– ensures that no permit, variance, special permit, license, amendment, extension, or other approval issued by a permit-granting authority will lapse or be deemed granted, approved or denied until 45 days after the State of Emergency is lifted, or by a date otherwise prescribed by law, whichever is later; and
· – enables public corporations to conduct meetings remotely for the duration of the State of Emergency, and for 60 days thereafter.