Legislative action helps homelessness, addresses MCAS testing requirements

BOSTON – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all facets of daily life, State Senator Nick Collins and State Representative David Biele joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing legislation that supports those experiencing homelessness and provides testing and budgetary flexibility to school districts.

The legislation repurposes existing homelessness funds for services that cannot be provided due to the COVID-19 outbreak and redirects that funding to support immediate and critical homelessness needs resulting from the public health emergency.

To address disruptions caused by the closure of K-12 schools due to COVID-19, the legislation waives the MCAS requirements for the 2019-2020 academic year.  The legislation also allows the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to modify or waive competency determination requirements related to high school graduation and provides budgetary flexibility for schools as a result of COVID-19.

Additionally, under the provisions of this session’s Student Opportunity Act, school districts were required to submit three-year academic plans to DESE in April.  The legislation extends the deadline to May 15, 2020, or later, as determined by the Commissioner, to provide flexibility for school districts impacted by COVID-19.

The legislation also provides the MBTA additional budgetary flexibility amid the COVID-19 emergency.

“Supporting those most vulnerable in our communities is our number one priority right now,” said Senator Collins. “Providing services and resources to those without stable housing, and giving our students and schools much needed flexibility will relieve some of the stresses associated with this crisis, and help our communities get through it together.”

“This legislation will provide crucial support to our most vulnerable residents while giving relief to our communities faced with unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID-19,” said. Rep. Biele.  “This legislation will help provide life-saving resources to those most in need, ensure that students and educators focus on staying healthy, and provide municipalities much-needed flexibility to focus on protecting the public’s health while responding to new daily challenges.”

The bill passed both the Massachusetts Senate and the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was signed into law by Governor Baker.

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