Mass. seniors rally for more rescue funds for health care
Coronavirus-related developments around New England:
Activists dressed in hospital gowns will gather on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse to urge state lawmakers to use $17 million of about $5.1 billion in federal pandemic relief funds to close the gap that they say prevents seniors from being able to afford needed health care.
Monday’s rally is being organized by the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. Members will press state lawmakers to expand the Medicare Savings Program to include those living at up to 200% of the federal poverty line — or about $2,146 per month.
Supporters said the program helps thousands of Massachusetts seniors save hundreds of dollars a month on health care expenses. Activists who pushed to expand the program to include those at 165% of the federal poverty level in the 2020 budget said thousands of seniors who still don’t qualify are struggling.
Nearly all Massachusetts seniors with incomes below $2,000 a month, and without MassHealth or other assistance, spend more than 20% of their income on Medicare premiums according to the council. COVID-19 has only thrown more seniors into economic insecurity, activists said.
The protest is planned for 10 a.m..
The University of New Hampshire is making some of its pandemic-related graduation ceremony changes permanent.
The school traditionally has held one large ceremony in its outdoor football stadium, but because of the pandemic, it divided seniors up by their colleges and held a handful of separate ceremonies.
That gave students the chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas instead of being recognized all at once, and officials have decided to keep that practice going forward.
Starting next May, commencement exercises will be moved indoors to the Whittemore Center and graduates will be split up by academic college, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported.
Connecticut’s colleges and universities have recorded few COVID-19 cases after many began requiring students to be vaccinated when they returned to campus.
According to data provided by the schools, UConn has recorded 18 cases, Central Connecticut State has recorded 12 and Southern Connecticut State has reported 11, the Hartford Courant reported. Eastern Connecticut State and Western Connecticut State have reported seven cases and one case, respectively.
That represents a dramatic turnaround from last fall, when many schools were forced to impose quarantines and send home students who violated social distancing rules. UConn had to quarantine entire dorms on several occasions.
The state’s private universities also have seen a downturn, though Connecticut College briefly switched to remote classes this month and Sacred Heart University has seen a recent spike.
The introduction of vaccines and the fact schools now have been managing COVID-19 for over a year has reduced the anxiety level.
“Last year when you found out you had a positive student it was almost like a panic,” Jessica Nicklin, associate vice president for student success at the University of Hartford, told the Courant. “Now if you get a positive student, there’s a little more comfort in knowing, ‘OK, this is what we have to do.’”
The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing has launched a Tourism and Economic Recovery Marketing Grant Program.
The grants are funded through a $600,000 appropriation by the Vermont Legislature meant to support regional tourism and marketing efforts to aid recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bennington Banner reports the grants are for local, regional or statewide organizations that want to implement campaigns that increase tourism, support local businesses and advance community recovery efforts.
The department will award grants to reach a broad audience, including underrepresented communities and new and diverse communities of visitors.
“We heard from community leaders around the state that the regional marketing grants awarded last year were very helpful in getting Vermonters and visitors back to downtowns and village centers,” said department Commissioner Heather Pelham. “The creativity and ingenuity of our local partners is always inspiring and we know great new marketing ideas and strategies will be developed as a result of this program.”