Pignatelli, Barrett File Bill to Establish Coronavirus Fund

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BOSTON — State Reps. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and John Barrett III have filed an emergency bill to establish a "COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Fund."
The act would establish an account to be administered by the secretary of health and human services and to be funded through amounts transferred or authorized by the Legislature. 
The money would be expended as grants to residents of the commonwealth of Massachusetts who are unable to work during an infection, quarantine or isolation period caused by the novel coronavirus. 
"In this time of public health emergency, it is vital that we do all we can to assist those in Massachusetts who are negatively impacted by COVID-19," Pignatelli wrote in posting the bill's language on Facebook. "Through measured and appropriate responses, Massachusetts will be able to navigate and see the other side of this public health challenge."
The coronavirus has spread to more than 70 nations and, at last count, the state had about 100 presumed cases. Health officials are recommending those who have been exposed to the virus "self-quarantine" for two weeks since symptoms usually arise within within that time. The virus is easily passed through contact and air; "social distancing," staying about 6 feet away, is being encouraged. 
The two-week quarantine as well as the actual virus puts stress on individuals who may not be able to afford time without pay. 
"That is why today, Representative John Barrett and I have filed a bill to ensure that those who are financially vulnerable are not left behind," the Lee Democrat wrote. 

The bill currently has more than 50 legislative co-sponsors and counting.

"This legislation will provide much needed assistance to small business owners and furloughed employees who have no sick leave benefits,” said Barrett. "The ramifications of the coronavirus is far reaching and it is critical that action be taken now.”



Tags: COVID-19,   Legislature,   state officials,   

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Authorities Investigating Ward's Nursery Fire in Great Barrington

The aftermath of the blaze behind Ward's Nursery.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — An outdoor storage area at Ward's Nursery caught fire on Friday and damaged the exterior of an apartment house less than a dozen feet away on Silver Street. 
The cause of the fire is unknown and the State Fire Marshal's office is working the investigation with local police and fire. There were no injuries.
The fire was reported at about 12:52 p.m. and firefighters on Engine 2 could see heavy black smoke while en route to the Main Street business and found a large outdoor fire in the rear of the nursery complex that was extending to an adjacent wood staircase to a second-floor apartment of a stucco multifamily building off Silver Street. The apartment wasn't occupied at the time.
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