|COVID-19 State Briefs: Jobless Benefits Continue, Wifi Hotspots Extended|
|06:43PM / Monday, August 24, 2020|
BOSTON – Massachusetts' application to receive grant funding to pay an additional weekly unemployment benefit to claimants under the federal Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance program has been approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The application was submitted late last week by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in coordination with the Department of Unemployment Assistance.
Per FEMA's authorization, the grant will fund an additional $300 weekly payment to those who are eligible for the three weeks ending 8/1/20, 8/8/20, and 8/15/20. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has already begun work on the technology requirements necessary for this program and anticipates being able to quickly deliver retroactive funds to eligible claimants in the coming weeks. Most claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action because the commonwealth will automatically add LWA to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates they are eligible.
Free Wifi Hotspots Available Through 2020
The Baker-Polito administration has officially extended the free wireless hotspot program that has delivered public high-speed internet connections to residents and students in unserved Massachusetts towns, in response to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. The program, originally slated to end Sept. 1, will be extended through the end of 2020.
The program, announced in April by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and KCST USA, the operator of the commonwealth-owned MassBroadband 123 fiber optic network, has launched public hotspots in 26 communities that lack high-speed internet connectivity, providing a 250 megabit per second wireless hotspot, free of any monthly charge to towns or residents. The sites were connected with the active support of several regional internet service providers (ISPs), including AccessPlus, Crocker Communications, and Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E).
Each site will provide residents with instructions on how to access the hotspots. Residents who use these hotspots are urged to follow social distancing protocols in accordance with the guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
A current list of hotspot sites available in Berkshire County:
Becket Town Hall (WG+E)
Florida Senior Center (Access Plus)
Hancock Elementary School (Crocker Communications)
New Marlborough Library (Crocker Communications)
Sandisfield Town Hall (Crocker Communications)
Savoy Town Hall (Access Plus)
Washington Town Hall (WG+E)
Windsor Town Hall (WG+E)
Worthington, R.H. Conwell Elementary (Crocker Communications)
Pittsfield Garden Benefits From Food Infrastucture Grant
The Giving Garden in Pittsfield received $10,902 to construct a hoop house that will be used to extend the growing season and grow produce that is provided for free to the food pantry. The funding is from $3.3 million in state grants being made to address urgent food insecurity for residents as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and make the state's food system more resilient.
This funding is being awarded as part of the second round of the new $36 million Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, created following recommendations from the administration's COVID-19 Command Center's Food Security Task Force, which promotes ongoing efforts to ensure that individuals and families throughout the Commonwealth have access to healthy, local food.
The second round of the grant program includes 34 awards totaling $3,324,349 to fund investments in technology, equipment, increased capacity, and other assistance to help producers distribute food, especially to food insecure communities. When evaluating the applications, considerations included equity, economic impact and need, sustainability and scalability of efforts, and ability to support producer readiness to accept SNAP and HIP benefits. This round follows the first round of $2,941,838 in grants awarded last month to 26 recipients.
Two Berkshire Public Safety Agencies Awarded Coronavirus Grants
The Dalton Police Department and the Monterey Fire Department were among more than 100 local and state public safety agencies receiving $9.6 million in federal funding for additional resources to further aid in preventing, preparing for and/or responding to the novel coronavirus.
Eligible municipalities were invited to solicit up to $50,000 in total funding to benefit their police and/or fire department needs. In total, 65 fire departments and 44 police departments representing 94 cities and towns will directly benefit from more than $3 million in Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program awards. Another $6.6 million went to state public safety agencies.
The CESFP is a program of the U.S. Department of Justices and were awarded through the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's Office of Grants and Research.
The Dalton Police Department was awarded $8,844.18 for personal protective equipment, police station and cruiser cleaning, overtime and powertrain control module, or PCM, programming to enhance performance in its cruisers.
The Monterey Fire Department was awarded $24,119.35 for three reusable isolation coveralls, reusable N95 mask filter adapters, N95 masks, gloves, booties, and eye protection.