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Mass. Lawmakers Call For Changes At Assisted Living Facilities

The United States Capitol building at dawn. (Mark Tenally/AP)
The United States Capitol building at dawn. (Mark Tenally/AP)

It’s infrastructure week in Congress, at least for Democrats.

And institutions across the country continue to confront symbols of racism — even the ones we didn’t know about.

Warren, Markey Release Blistering Report On Assisted Living COVID Response

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey during a hearing in November 2018 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Winslow Townson/AP)
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey during a hearing in November 2018 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Winslow Townson/AP)

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey today published the results of their investigation into the state of COVID-19 in more than 10 of the nation’s largest assisted living facilities — not to be confused with nursing homes, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic. The report cites widespread lack of substantial reporting on cases and deaths, inadequate sick leave policies and insufficient testing protocols, all of which, the lawmakers say, put residents and employees at serious risk.

Released in partnership with Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the report found that more than 30% of residents in the facilities who tested positive for COVID-19 died. The lawmakers estimate that as many as 7,000 such residents may have died from the disease nationwide.

Now, the lawmakers are calling for new legislation to provide better protocols and oversight for the industry.

"Our investigation found assisted living centers are facing a COVID-19 crisis that is almost as bad as the crisis in nursing homes — but without being subject to the same regulations or oversight, and with no help from the federal government,” Warren said in a statement.

The Assisted Living Facility Coronavirus Reporting Act would require facilities to report weekly COVID-19 infections and fatalities (with demographic breakdowns) and direct the Department of Health and Human Services to extend nursing home reporting requirements to include assisted living facilities. The Government Accountability Office would be required to issue recommendations for improving reporting requirements.

“The federal government needs to ensure that these facilities are actively monitored for potential outbreaks and are getting the test supplies and personal protective equipment they need to prevent outbreaks,” Markey said in a statement. “We need to put in place stricter requirements on these facilities so that they are better prepared to protect our beloved family members.”

House Passes Infrastructure Bill Full Of Mass. Delegation Priorities

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Richard Neal on their way to promote the Moving Forward Act, June 18, Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Richard Neal on their way to promote the Moving Forward Act, June 18, Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

House Democrats passed a sweeping $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill yesterday, which includes funding for everything from schools, hospitals and clean drinking water to broadband and the energy grid.

The climate-friendly legislation stands little to no chance in the Senate, but it does serve as a vessel for Massachusetts lawmakers to present a host of climate-friendly proposals.

“The Moving Forward Act’s investments aren’t just big, they’re smart and responsible too,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal from the floor of the House. “The legislation promotes investment in clean energy technologies, incentivizes the ‘greening of the fleet’ and rewards renewable energy projects engaging in responsible labor practices that prioritize workers’ rights and wellbeing.”

The bill includes a $10-billion plan to boost child care facilities from Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the Democratic Caucus; the Safe Drivers Act from Rep. Seth Moulton, which would improve state-to-state sharing of traffic safety data; the Stop Sewage Overflow Act from Rep. Lori Trahan, aimed at curbing sewage overflows into waterways like the Merrimack River; and Ensuring Health Safety in the Skies from Rep. Stephen Lynch, which would create a task force to develop federal safety guidelines and protect airline passengers and employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

No floor debate has been scheduled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, nor are there any current plans to attempt to reconcile the House measure with a narrower Senate infrastructure bill that was filed nearly a year ago.

Collins Lays Out New Paycheck Protection Priorities

Sen. Susan Collins listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 23, 2020 on Capitol Hill. (Greg Nash/pool via AP)
Sen. Susan Collins listens during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 23, 2020 on Capitol Hill. (Greg Nash/pool via AP)

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — the only remaining Republican in the New England congressional delegation — laid out her wish list for small businesses in the next coronavirus-related stimulus bill in comments made yesterday from the House floor.

“As the Fourth of July draws closer, near-empty hotels, inns, and restaurants portend a profound and long-lasting disaster, as many of our state’s seasonal businesses rely on the busy summer season to pay their major bills for the year, including their mortgage and property taxes,” said Collins, who is a member of a bipartisan Small Business Task Force in the Senate. “As the shutdowns have grown longer, it has become clear that millions of small employers need additional help if they are to keep their heads above water and survive.”

The proposal would include limiting the small-business loan program to entities with fewer than 300 employees, allow businesses with coronavirus-related revenue drops of 50% or more to receive additional loans, extend program eligibility to 501(c)(6) organizations that aren’t lobbyists and allow borrowers more time to apply for loan forgiveness.

Collins is currently locked in a tight re-election bid against Democratic challenger Sara Gideon, a Maine state representative.

3 More Things:

Neal urges IRS to release coronavirus cash: Rep. Neal, in a letter co-authored with Rep. John Lewis, the Democrat from Georgia, is calling on IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to rectify the problems that have prevented some Americans from receiving their pandemic-related economic stimulus checks and ground other IRS services to a halt in recent months. Americans “rightfully are frustrated,” Neal and Lewis wrote, and they “cannot get an explanation from the IRS as to why they have not received their [economic impact payments] or information on when they can expect payment.”

Kennedy presses Azar to release health care relief funds: Rep. Joe Kennedy III is urging Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to immediately release the remainder of the $175 billion fund allocated for community health centers and other health care providers as part of the CARES Act. In a letter to Azar, Kennedy noted that as much as $72.6 billion in funding has still not been distributed, as health care workers fight a daunting summer resurgence of COVID-19 and prepare for a second wave in the fall. “Without the distribution of these funds, you will again be leaving our frontline health care workers without the necessary PPE and equipment they need because our hospitals will not have the finances to purchase them.”

Markey, Blumenthal tackle traffic safety: Sen. Ed Markey and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal filed a package of auto safety bills that would improve the automobile recall notification system, require auto manufacturers to provide the public with more timely and user-friendly information on car accidents resulting in fatalities and serious injuries, and modernize seat-back safety standards. The measure also directs the Department of Transportation to study and then implement driver-monitoring systems, which may help prevent distracted driving due to technology. “In 2019, an estimated 38,000 people lost their lives in car crashes, while over 4 million people were seriously injured,” Markey said in a statement. “These numbers repeat year after year and reveal a public health crisis that we must not accept as inevitable.”


WHAT I’M READING


TWEET OF THE WEEK

Warren’s response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the leadership structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she created, while leaving the rest of the agency intact.


PARTING NOTE

Today on On Point, I joined my colleague Anthony Brooks to discuss the future of the Republican Party and the latest fundraising news in the presidential race. You can catch it here, or check your local NPR station schedule.

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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