Debt collectors reined in; leniency for late rents; no gas & light shutoffs; guidance for housing managers…

Neighbors and officials pitch in 

SATURDAY, MARCH 28—We and many of our neighbors must now cope with sudden loss of both income and access to goods and services. State and local authorities are moving on several fronts to forestall what might otherwise be a massive collapse of household security. At the same time, neighbors are organizing to help one another weather the gathering storm. Everyone should be aware of the the developments discussed below.

On Friday March 27 Mass. Attorney General Maura Healy issued rules to protect debtors during the current state of emergency. The regulations forbid bill collectors to 

  • file new debt collection lawsuits 
  • initiate garnishments of your wages or property
  • repossess your vehicle
  • visit or threaten to visit your home or workplace
  • make unsolicited calls to your phone 

Cambridge Housing Authority will not be issuing late payment notices during April 2020. Instead, the CHA will be keeping the entire month of April open for rent payment submissions. This does not necessarily apply to voucher holders in buildings not managed by the CHA.

In Cambridge, Volunteers have established a locally based grassroots effort called The Neighborhood Aid Network.  The goal is “To provide a platform for volunteers to coordinate care on a neighborhood basis.” There is also a Human Network Initiative that links similar efforts on a regional level.

website: https://sites.google.com/view/cambridge-nan/home

email: cambridgemutualaid@gmail.com 

On March 21, the Cambridge Public Health Dept. issued guidance for managers of all “Large Residential and Multifamily Residential Buildings.” Highlights parallel some of the measures already taken in publicly managed affordable housing. Among details, building managers are asked to

• identify all high-touch surfaces (both public access and employee-only areas) for twice-daily cleaning—more for the most-often-touched surfaces.

• close all collective facilities except laundry rooms and lobbies

• allow no more than one or two at a time in elevators

• advise residents to keep six-feet of distance between them

• don’t let sick staff come to work

On Saturday, March 24, State Dept. of Public Utilities chair Matthew Nelson ordered that, until the state of emergency is lifted, private gas and electric companies 

• shall not shut off gas, electric, or water service to any of their customers for failure to pay a bill or any portion of a bill 

• shall not send communications that threaten to shut off gas, electric, or water service to any of their customers for failure to pay 

For updates to the ACT office, many thanks to Susan Hegel (CASLS), Maureen Glynn, Teresa Cardosi, Abdulmalik Jackson, Brian McCarthy, Hasson Rashid, Corinne Espinosa (CEOC), Hannah Lodi Bolcome and Kevin Braga (CHA), Joe Deignan (HRI), Elizabeth Winston (JAS)