The Baker administration announced on Tuesday a new $20 million rental and mortgage assistance program for Massachusetts residents facing housing insecurity during the pandemic.
The program is made up CARES Act and other federal funds. Starting Wednesday, families can apply for help with rent or mortgage payments through 11 regional agencies that work with the state program RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition), including Wayfinders in Springfield, Metro Housing Boston, and Community Teamwork, Inc in Lowell. Each household will be eligible to apply for up to $4,000.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said during a press conference Tuesday that Massachusetts has one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation and was already dealing with a housing crisis before the pandemic. She said the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a safe and stable home. “We need to ensure all families and all households have access to housing,” Polito said.
Gov. Charlie Baker also announced the state is lifting the requirement for a 14-day self-quarantine period for travelers entering the state from Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey. The self-quarantine guidance will remain in place for travelers coming from all other states, including Massachusetts residents returning to the state.
The exemptions for the Northeast states are due to reporting decreases in COVID-19 cases, Baker said.
Baker also shared plans to broaden population-level screening for COVID-19 by testing wastewater samples through a pilot program through the Massachusetts Wastewater Authority. Samples will be collected three times a week from different regions, and results will be shared with the Department of Public Health, he said.
Baker reported that statewide, there have been more than 1 million COVID-19 tests administered. He noted that Massachusetts was ranked as having the lowest transmission rate in the country by a group of academics and statisticians monitoring state data. Baker commended Massachusetts residents committed to do the things that they can do to stop the spread, including wearing face coverings, washing hands, social distancing, and staying home.
Ashley Belanger is an intern with WGBH News' New England Center for Investigative Reporting.