Massachusetts is providing $16.1 million in relief funding to special education residential schools, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Monday.
The funding will be distributed to 32 residential school providers throughout the commonwealth that have stayed open during the pandemic and incurred extra, unanticipated costs in doing so. These schools, Baker said, suddenly found themselves needing to pay for extra staffing, personal protective equipment and increased cleaning costs in order to remain operational and safe.
“The ability this community has shown to adapt, to maintain a safe environment for students in their care and for their 24-7 staff has been a Godsend.” Baker said. “We know this was difficult work, and we know that so many people, time and time again, found a way to simply get it done.“
The announcement came during a press conference at The New England Center for Children in Southborough, which runs a school serving children with autism. Vincent Strully Jr., the center’s founder, president and CEO, said the organization incurred $3 milllion in unanticipated costs in order to contain the virus and remain open.
At the press conference, Baker also gave an update on the state’s COVID-19 caseload and testing rates, and announced a new process for reporting businesses that are not following the state’s safety guidelines.
If a resident thinks a business or employer is not complying with safety regulations, they can report the business at mass.gov/compliance or call the state’s 211 COVID-19 safety hotline, Baker said.
Baker announced this new process on the day Boston enters Phase Three of the four-phase reopening plan, which allows movie theaters, museums, historical sites and gyms to reopen, with restrictions that include requiring masks and social distancing. Massachusetts entered Phase Three last week, but Boston took an extra week to do so.
“COVID is not going to take the summer off, and our success in slowing the spread and containing the virus will continue to depend on the efforts of all the residents here in Massachusetts,” Baker said. “Our success on the reopening piece will depend on workforce safety standards compliance.”
Sunday saw 172 new positive cases in Massachusetts, Baker said, for a statewide total of more than 105,000. The 7-day average positive test rate stands at 1.7 percent, he added, which is a decrease of 94% since the middle of April. Fewer than 600 COVID patients are hospitalized statewide.
The virus is surging in many other areas of the country. On Sunday, Florida reported the largest increase in cases in a single day of any state since the pandemic began.