Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, I have published “House Call” op-eds every two weeks to provide an update on our Towns’ and Commonwealth’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the time since my last post, our society has coped with another, long-festering sickness: racism. Our country is sick in body and soul. The COVID-19 virus sickens and kills. Racism sickens the systems and structures of society and as we witnessed with the murder of George Floyd, it kills. We must eradicate both.
I know we must do more in the coming days and months. I stand with the people of the black and brown communities in Massachusetts and across our country.
In the Towns of Needham, Dover, and Medfield, across the Commonwealth, and throughout the country, people facing the brutal reality of racism are asking ourselves what we can do. How can we demonstrate that we reject racism in its overt and covert forms- how can we show respect and make a meaningful difference? Each of us must use the tools we have. All of us together, in words and action, large and small, can address racism and change the systems and structures that have supported it. Family members, friends, and neighbors are engaging in protests. Community leaders as well as my colleagues in the House of Representatives’ Black and Latino Caucus have mobilized and are providing concrete actions, which I support. As your State Representative, one of the several tools that I can utilize is to craft public policy.
Safeguarding Fall Elections
Using that tool, I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives on June 4 to pass legislation that guarantees your right to vote in person or by mail after completing an application mailed to your home in both the primary and general elections this Fall: An Act relative to voting options in response to COVID-19. For more details contact my office at Denise.Garlick@MaHouse.gov or 617-722-2380.
For years we have fought to improve voting rights in our Commonwealth, including the implementation of early voting in 2014 and automatic voter registration in 2018. This bill has never been more important.
While it is just the beginning of what we must do to address historic structural injustices, Massachusetts can be an example for the rest of the country. Voter suppression is one of the gravest threats to our democracy. Increasing access to the ballot box is one of the strongest ways we can combat the voter suppression that is directly related to the racism that plagues our country.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many injustices, but we cannot allow it to sicken our democracy and deny the voters of our Commonwealth the most important tool we all possess- the VOTE. Promoting participation in the democratic process is a way for all people to make a meaningful difference. This legislation is the surest way to ensure decent and empathetic leaders that reflect our values and our goals will be reflected in the individuals we elect to positions in our towns, state and at the federal level in the Congress and White House. This bill ensures your ability to vote safely and with confidence knowing that your voice is heard and that you can make a difference.
Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, we knew that social determinants of health drove racial and ethnic health disparities. Community factors, such as where we live, our wealth, access to quality education, and color of our skin all too often indicated physical and mental wellbeing. COVID-19 has blown that door open as hotspots emerged in communities of color.
The House and Senate approved legislation that enhances data collection of COVID-19 testing and creates a task force to provide recommendations on how to mitigate health disparities for underrepresented and underserved communities in the wake of the pandemic. As of this writing, the legislation awaits the Governor’s signature. I look forward to quick work by the Task Force so we can turn recommendations into action.
Reopening and Restaurant Relief Legislation
At the same time, the Governor continues the phased reopening of the economy. As of this writing, we are in Phase 2: Cautious. Additional industries are resuming operations with restrictions and capacity limitations, which you can read online at mass.gov/reopening.
Recognizing the need to support our local restaurants during this unprecedented crisis, I recently joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass a legislative package that provides more tools to the restaurants of Massachusetts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The package eases restrictions to allow outdoor dining, expands alcohol delivery options to include mixed drinks in addition to beer and wine, extends takeout options to February 2021, waives interest on late meals tax payments for restaurants, and caps the amount that can be charged by a food delivery services. As of this writing, it is before the Senate for consideration.
In our communities, local restaurants are our lifeblood. Their spirit and resilience are encouraging during an otherwise distressing time. I hope that these measures will make it easier for restaurants to reopen and will ensure we can all dine safely.
It seems like life gets more difficult with each passing day. I am dedicated to doing my part to listen, lean in, and learn as we work together for a more just and healthy society.
I continue to publish daily email updates – email me at Denise.Garlick@mahouse.gov to be added to the list. If you would like to register for our next virtual office hours, please email or call me at 617-722-2380.
I wish you and your loved ones, friends and neighbors, hope, health, strength, and resilience.
My office remains open, operating remotely and at full strength. I will continue to provide up to date, accurate information through social media and I encourage you to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Yours in service,
Denise C. Garlick