Springfield City Councilors Urge Federal, State Officials to Provide Resources, Economic Relief to R


A group of Springfield City Councilors has sent communication to state and federal officials outlining efforts they believe are essential to providing economic relief to residents and businesses in the city in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent containment efforts.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis, and the steps being taken to contain the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 are 100% necessary,” said At-Large City Councilor Jesse Lederman, “At the same time there are very real economic impacts our constituents now face, and we must leverage the state and federal government apparatus to ensure families and businesses do not face undue hardship as a result.”

Councilors Justin Hurst, Tracye Whitfield, Adam Gomez, Michael Fenton, Melvin Edwards, Malo Brown, Marcus Williams, Victor Davila, Timothy Allen, and Orlando Ramos signed the letter in addition to Councilor Lederman, who authored it.

The sweeping communication was sent to Thursday to the offices of Governor Charlie Baker, Senators Markey and Warren, Congressman Richard Neal, State Secretary of Health and Human Services Mary Lou Sudders, and Springfield’s State Legislative Delegation.

The letter primarily expresses support for the following proposals:

-Direct cash payments to Americans to cover costs associated with lost wages and income as a result of COVID-19 and to stimulate the local economy.

-Suspension of rent payments, mortgage payments, and utility payments during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19.

-Suspension of evictions and foreclosures during the State of Emergency.

-Emergency shelter capacity to ensure social distancing among the homeless population.

-Conversion of Small Business Administration Emergency Loans into forgivable grants for businesses that sustain their operations and workforce.

-Suspension of debt collection activities during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19.

-Require all service providers and lenders servicing consumer and small business credit payments, car payments, student loan payments, and other debt and loan payments to offer fair and universal forbearance to those financially impacted by the impact of COVID-19.

-A moratorium on all negative credit reporting during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19.

“I am proud of my colleagues for their continued commitment to fight for the residents of Springfield in these trying times where all of us have been impacted to our very core by this pandemic,” said Springfield City Council President Justin Hurst, “As our federal and state government deliberate on how to best support local governments, it is important that they know our stance on critical issues that are impacting out community. I am hopeful they take heed to our recommendations and act with a sense of urgency.”

“Rent is due Wednesday. Millions won’t be able to pay their rent due to lay offs or illness. Others don’t have a home at all, or haven’t had an affordable and safe place to call home for a long time. The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated clearly the need to create safe, sustainable solutions for all,” said Ward 1 City Councilor Adam Gomez.

“During these unprecedented times we need unprecedented action. More importantly, we need to come together and help the most vulnerable among us,” said Ward 2 City Councilor Michael Fenton “Government must collaborate as well. Municipal, state, and federal officials must continue to work together to get us through these difficult times. These proposals demonstrate Springfield’s effort to lead with our colleagues in state and federal government.”

Read the full letter here:

FROM:

Springfield City Councilor Jesse Lederman

Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst

Springfield City Councilor Tracye Whitfield

Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez

Springfield City Councilor Michael Fenton

Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards

Springfield City Councilor Malo Brown

Springfield City Councilor Marcus Williams

Springfield City Councilor Victor Davila

Springfield City Councilor Timothy Allen

Springfield City Councilor Orlando Ramos

March 26, 2020

BY E-MAIL TO:

The Office of Governor Charles Baker

The Office of Senator Ed Markey

The Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren

The Office of Congressman Richard Neal

The Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders

State Senator Eric Lesser

State Senator James Welch

State Representative Jose Tosado

State Representative Bud Williams

State Representative Carlos Gonzalez

State Representative Angelo Puppolo

State Representative Michael Finn

State Representative Thomas Petrolati

Dear Governor Baker, Senator Markey, Senator Warren, Chairman Neal, Secretary Sudders, Senator Lesser, Senator Welch, Representative Tosado, Representative Williams, Representative Gonzalez, Representative Puppolo, Representative Finn, and Representative Petrolati:

The COVID-19 global health pandemic represents an unprecedented public health crisis. As our community works to contain the spread of the virus and flatten the curve to ensure that our medical facilities and health professionals do not become overwhelmed by demand, the economic impacts and social realities of these necessary precautions are already upon us.

Workers and small businesses who have undoubtedly lost wages and income will struggle in the weeks and months ahead to pay their bills, while others current situations make it near impossible for them to observe the recommended stay-at-home and social distancing advisories.

For these reasons we write in our capacity as local elected officials and based on our conversations with constituents in our city to emphatically urge you to prioritize the following legislative and administrative actions with regard to public health and economic relief for our constituents impacted by the spread and subsequent containment efforts of COVID-19:

Advocating for Direct Cash Payments to All Americans by the Federal Government

In the first week of the State of Emergency 20,000 new unemployment claims were filed in Massachusetts. That number has continued to increase, as new restrictions have been placed on businesses and workers. While unemployment insurance and paid leave can support some workers, it will not be enough for many. Additionally, too many will fall through the cracks, including self-employed individuals and small business owners.

Direct cash payments are the only way to ensure as many families as possible receive the needed financial resources during this unprecedented time to pay their bills and keep their families fed.

We are aware that several proposals have been made at the Federal level with regard to this matter. We urge you to act swiftly to ensure a fair agreement is reached to provide relief to our constituents in need.

Suspending rent, mortgage, utility payments, evictions, and foreclosures for residential and commercial property owners and tenants impacted financially by COVID-19 in Massachusetts during the State of Emergency.

The economic impact of the spread and subsequent containment efforts as they relate to COVID-19 cannot be overstated. As a new month approaches, too many residents and business owners of our community and the broader Commonwealth are left wondering how they will pay their bills through no fault of their own.

While Congress may authorize direct cash payments, most recent reports indicate that those payments will likely not arrive until May, and in many cases will not be enough to cover the raw expenses of many households and businesses.

The Commonwealth must act to provide temporary relief from rent, mortgage, and utility payments for struggling residents and business owners who have been financially impacted by requiring lenders to offer universal forbearance options to those financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also preventing evictions, except in circumstances related to public safety and/or criminal activity, and foreclosures for residential and commercial properties during the State of Emergency, in a comprehensive way that ensures individuals are not left homeless and landlords are made whole.

In light of the Stay-at-Home Advisory issued by the Commonwealth, ensure that all Massachusetts residents have a safe place to stay during which they can practice social distancing, especially with regard to the homeless population during the State of Emergency.

While the Department of Public Health has issued a state-wide “Stay-at-Home” Advisory, too many individuals have no where to call home. Our local shelter networks remain at capacity, even as they were before the COVID-19 outbreak, and we have real concern regarding capacity to physically distance individuals seeking shelter at local facilities due to constraints of the physical space.

The Commonwealth must act now to make resources available to establish additional emergency shelter space for the homeless population in our communities.

Convert Small Business Administration Emergency Loans into forgivable loans if certain conditions are met.

Many small businesses are working to determine how they will make payroll and sustain their operations during this difficult time. While existing Small Business Administration Emergency Loans provide an opportunity for bridge funding, many small business owners were already stretching to cover their expenses and support their employees. Additional debt will stifle their ability to recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Federal Government must act to convert these small business loans into forgivable grants provided that the receiving small businesses utilize the funds to maintain their operations and retain employees. Doing so will ensure that this needed bridge funding does not later present an additional financial burden during the needed recovery that must follow the COVID-19 outbreak.

Suspend all debt collection activities including wage garnishment and repossessions during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19.

Debt collection is already a serious issue for many Massachusetts residents, and it will only get worse given the inevitable financial impact of COVID-19 on our citizens. People should not have to choose between putting food on the table for their families and risking default on a collection action which could lead to numerous negative collateral consequences or even a civil arrest.

Currently, at least 20% of the population in our state have a debt in collections, and that number rises to 39% in communities of color. In Western Massachusetts, the situation is particularly grave: 30% of residents overall, and 50% of communities of color in Hampden County have a debt in collection. Further, National Consumer Law Center data from 2015 revealed that 46% of all cases filed in in Springfield’s District Court were debt buyer cases, and our Court is one of the busiest in the state. In the Springfield District Court Small Claims session, an estimated 80% of the 100+ cases scheduled each week involve consumer debt.

Among other things, Massachusetts should take all possible actions to suspend debt collection activities during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19, including to: prevent the filing of new cases or any action or judgments on existing cases; prohibit all garnishments or liens; issue a moratorium on defaults; and toll all relevant deadlines and rescheduled case dates for a period of time following the conclusion of the State of Emergency.

In addition to the above stated goals, we also strongly urge you to take the following steps to prevent further damage to the economic well-being of our communities in the long-term:

Require all service providers and lenders servicing consumer and small business credit payments, car payments, student loan payments, and other debt and loan payments to offer fair and universal forbearance to those financially impacted by the impact of COVID-19.

Impose a moratorium on all negative credit reporting during the State of Emergency for those financially impacted by COVID-19.

Many of the above stated priorities are not within the power of our local governments, but they are within your respective domains. We appreciate the around the clock work that you and your staff are doing to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. We believe that the above stated goals are in the best interest of the residents and business community of the City of Springfield, and we hope you will act swiftly to enact these important measures during this unprecedented time.

Respectfully,

Jesse L. Lederman

Springfield City Councilor, At-Large

Justin Hurst

Springfield City Councilor, At-Large

President

Tracye Whitfield

Springfield City Councilor, At-Large

Adam Gomez

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 1

Vice President

Michael Fenton

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 2

Melvin Edwards

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 3

Malo Brown

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 4

Marcus Williams

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 5

Victor Davila

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 6

Timothy Allen

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 7

Orlando Ramos

Springfield City Councilor, Ward 8

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