Well this was the week that this crisis became real for most of us.  The escalation of this pandemic continues to outpace the ability of the Federal government to cope, but we are fortunate that the Baker Administration has stepped up to this challenge.

#PullTogether
The work you are all doing is so incredibly impressive and vital. You are reaching out to, and supporting one another in ways that will build bonds for decades.  Riding rough waters we #PullTogether for older adults in need. The needs are many, but you continue to seek and find the solutions. You are inspirational, and we at MCOA are among the many who are grateful for all that you are doing.

Resources: NCOA has put together a Toolkit  Senior Centers Connect, for centers that are temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but are still providing services remotely. The toolkit is compilation of programs, webinars and resources that have been shared by aging service professionals over the past few weeks for you to use, and they intend to update it as more resources become available, https://d2mkcg26uvg1cz.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/Senior-Centers-Connect-final-03302020.pdf

10 things you need to know right now:  Message from Executive Director David P. Stevens

  1. Given the priorities of the Administration and the Legislature (PPE, ventilators. ICU beds); I do not expect any decision about request to retain unused allocation from the FY20 budget until late May. My personal guess would be that all unused funds be returned to the “general fund” because state revenues are declining across the board ( income tax/unemployment, capital gains/stock market losses and the lottery/casinos)
  2. For COAs that would mean that next September when you report back to EOEA any funds that were not properly expended in FY20, your allocation FY21 would be reduced by said amount.
  3. Having said that, you now have 90 days to think about ways to repurpose your Formula Grant funds. Since in person group activities are prohibited, possibly you could focus on taking that activity online.  MCOA has initiated a work group to explore online programming and more details of this endeavor will be in later Alerts and MCOA Briefs.  Additionally many of you found that when you sent employees home, your operation lack the portability for your staff to work at home. Investing in laptop computers, cell phones, and the needed technology and online platforms like GoToMeeting, Click and Zoom are necessary to conduct business, would be allowable costs under Formula Grant guidelines.  In addition the expenses that you are incurring with this new reality (different paper products for grab and go vs. congregate, sanitizer stations within your centers, changes in staffing needs, etc.) may be allowable costs. Please contact Adam Frank in writing for your request to change your Formula Grant change order: adam.frank@state.ma.us   Include your “current” phone number.
  4. If you expect to have balance with your SIG contracts either with MCOA or EOEA please let us know asap because we can repurpose these funds to other membership priorities.  For all EOEA SIG contractees, respond to Adam Frank adam.frank@state.ma.us  . All MCOA contractees, respond to our Fiscal Manager Shari Cox Shari@mcoaonline.com .  As you can imagine we as a Commonwealth face many new challenges coping with this virus and any return of funds from SIG awards by you, can be repurposed back into the system by June 30th. As mentioned above unexpended Formula Grant unused funds only get deducted from your next year’s allocation; SIG can be repurposed.
  5. FY21 Formula Grant Allocation.  Usually about now the Legislature begins the 90 day process to finalize the next year’s budget (FY21) but the legislature has already postponed any deliberations until June. In addition we still do not know the full impact this crisis will have on our revenues (bad, badder, or the “really baddest ever”) thus there will be no answer to that question until mid-Summer.  I would have Plan B in place, that factors in a reduced Formula Grant rate of $10-11/elder. Plan for the worse, hope for the best.
  6. As you know our Membership/ Advisory Council Meeting slated for April 8th is cancelled though we hope to offer the program from Jason Taite from the Office of Campaign and Public Finance as a webinar on the date. Details to follow.
  7. The Small and Rural COA Conference was postponed from late April to June 30th, though I feel it is highly unlikely that will occur on that date. We are also exploring online format for this event, building on what we learned with producing the April 8th event.
  8. If we are successful in moving the Small and Rural COA conference online, we will build on the knowledge to have a Plan B in place for our Fall Conference scheduled for October 21-23, 2020 at the Sea Crest Resort; potentially mailing all of you a small jar of sand and salt water from the Cape. ☺
  9. COVID 19: Yes this is the biggest challenge we have ever faced in our network, and with our Commonwealth, during our lifetime.  Governor Baker and the Administration feel the peak will hit Massachusetts sometime between April 10th and April 20th. But that will not end this pandemic. By flattening the curve we have potentially reduced the number of daily hospitalizations and the need for ICU beds, incubators and the need for PPE (personnel protection equipment- masks gloves) but we have lengthened the COVID’s duration.  We still do not fully understand how the virus is transmitted; how long it lasts in the environment; how long before and after symptoms are displayed a person is contagious; will the summer heat kill it or will it come back in the fall; can you get it a second time; and when a vaccine will be available. This new normal may be with us until 2022.
  10. And finally, I am a glass half full kind of a guy. I believe we will get through this stronger, more versed in technology, and with a closer relationship to our peers and our communities.  Our Assistant Director Betsy Connell reminds us of emotional cycles of grief that we all now face. Whether it is your staff, your older adult population, your family and friends and even you, we are all on the cycle first described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross fifty years ago.  Take a moment to understand these stages and realize that each of us are at a different place in this cycle.  We may move forward or regress, but for the foreseeable future this is the roller coaster ride we are all on and we all need to be compassionate of others as they struggle.   Our words and actions can provide leadership during this crisis. I am proud of what our network has accomplished so far, and I am confident we can get through this.

Source: Wikipedia

Please remember, it is also important to take care of ourselves.  The sudden loss of contact has a potential for increasing the feelings of social isolation and stress on the people we serve, our loved ones and ourselves. There are resources to help us. You can access the links below from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on mental health support and please consider sharing with your staff.

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_2

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp

https://www.samhsa.gov/dtac/disaster-behavioral-health-resources

Stay well,

David

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Massachusetts Councils
on Aging

116 Pleasant Street, Suite 306
Easthampton, MA 01027
Telephone: 413-527-6425
Fax: 413-527-7138