Red Cross Aiming to Make More Than 600 Homes Safer by May 8
The American Red Cross of Massachusetts is on a mission to make more than 600 homes across the state safer between now and May 8.
Volunteers will meet with residents by appointment – either virtually or socially-distanced outside their homes – to share crucial fire safety information, help create an escape plan, and practice a two-minute drill. This information is free and available to anyone who makes an appointment. In some communities, the Red Cross is working with partner fire departments to offer free smoke alarm installations when it becomes safe to do so.
“Home fires remain the most frequent disaster during COVID-19, yet most of us don’t realize we have just two minutes to safely escape,” said Holly Grant, CEO of the Red Cross of Massachusetts. “We’re still spending more time than ever inside during the pandemic, so it’s critical that we help our neighbors protect themselves from these everyday disasters.”
This effort comes as part of a larger national push to educate 100,000 people about home fire safety in high-risk communities. Here in Massachusetts, focus cities include Worcester, Brockton and Quincy, although individuals in any city or town (owner or renter) may participate.
To sign up for free home fire safety education, please visit SoundTheAlarm.org/Massachusetts. The Red Cross is also looking for additional volunteers to train as home fire safety educators and offer this training in their own community.
The Red Cross of Massachusetts is grateful for the support of our sponsors, National Grid and Harvard Pilgrim. This effort would not be possible without the support of the focus cities, with special thanks to Mayor Joseph Petty of Worcester, Mayor Robert Sullivan of Brockton and the Quincy, Worcester and Brockton fire departments and emergency management teams.
HUD Allocates Funds for Affordable Housing
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the allocation of more than $16.9 million to Massachusetts through the nation’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for affordable housing, this funding is part of $689,565,492.92 being allocated nationally. The Housing Trust Fund was launched in 2008 as an affordable housing production program that complements existing federal, state, and local efforts to increase and preserve the supply of decent, safe, and sanity affordable housing for low- and extremely low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness.
“This past year has reminded us just how important it is to have access to safe and stable housing. But too many Americans are struggling to keep or find an affordable home,” said Secretary Marcia L. Fudge “We are excited to announce this historic funding allocation, which will enable states to expand and preserve affordable housing for our neighbors who need our support the most.”
The Housing Trust Fund is capitalized through the contributions made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This year’s allocation is a significant increase in funding from last year’s allocation of $322,564,267.66. This program is specifically focused on housing for some of our most vulnerable populations. HUD annually allocates HTF funds by formula. A state must use at least 80 percent of each annual grant for rental housing; up to 10 percent for homeownership; and up to 10 percent for the grantee’s reasonable administrative and planning costs. HTF funds may be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities. All HTF-assisted units will be required to have a minimum affordability period of 30 years. The Housing Trust Fund has supported the construction or rehabilitation of 775 rental units nationally since the first were allocated in 2017. There are currently 480 additional projects under construction. This year’s funding is expected to produce more than 5,400 additional affordable units.
National Grid Reminds Customers to Call 8-1-1 Before Digging
April is designated as National Safe Digging Month, and National Grid urges anyone who is planning on digging to call 811 to prevent serious personal injury, property damage and service interruptions caused by accidentally digging into electric, gas, telephone, water, sewer or cable facilities.
Nationally every nine minutes, an underground utility line is damaged because someone didn’t contact 811 before digging. Knowing where underground utility lines are buried before you dig will help protect you and your family from injury. With more people staying home and relying on their utilities to work and communicate, inconvenient outages are important to avoid.
“This year, it’s critically important to call 811 before you start digging to ensure all utility lines are marked. Even when digging only a few inches or taking on a small outdoor project, the risk of striking an underground utility is high,” said Mark Prewitt, VP Gas Pipeline Safety and Compliance. “This is a big responsibility that we all need to take a small part in. By spreading the word to call 811 we can decrease damages, service interruptions, and injury—or even save a life.”
Striking a single underground utility line can cause injury, repair costs, fines, and inconvenient outages. Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants contacting 811. Whether you’re planting a tree or shrub, or installing a deck or pool, every job requires a call to 811 to know what’s below before digging.
The depth of utility lines can vary for several reasons, such as erosion, previous digging projects and uneven surfaces. Utility lines need to be properly marked because even when digging only a few inches or digging in a location that’s previously been marked, the risk of striking an underground utility line still exists. A call to 811 is the best safeguard and the first line of defense to preventing strikes on underground utility lines.
A quick phone call to 811 several days before digging connects callers to their local one call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of their intent to dig. Professional locators then arrive at the digging site to mark the approximate locations of underground lines with flags, spray paint or both. The service is easy to use and free of charge.
State laws mandate that 811 must be contacted a few days in advance of beginning projects that require excavation. Failure to call 811 may be punishable by fines, which in some states can be as high as $1,000 for a first offense and $10,000 for subsequent offenses.
National Grid works closely with local fire and police departments and, with their strong support, people are calling before they dig. Calling 811 can potentially avoid an incident that requires police and fire response.
Pressley, Warren Applaud CDC’s Declaration
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement last week applauding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) commitment to address centuries of structural racism and discrimination in the U.S. public health system.
In February, the lawmakers reintroduced the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, a bicameral bill to declare structural racism a public health crisis and confront its public health impacts by creating a National Center for Anti-Racism and a Law Enforcement Violence Prevention Program within the CDC.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to over 500,000 deaths and tens of millions infected, has made it impossible to ignore the legacy of structural racism and how it has created deep disparities in health outcomes for Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous communities. Black and Brown people are nearly three times more likely than white people to contract COVID-19 and one to two times more likely to die from the disease.
“As the sponsors of the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, we welcome the actions by the CDC to acknowledge racism as a serious public health threat and to invest in health equity measures to combat these challenges. In addition to the threat of COVID-19, people of color are also disproportionately affected by chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, hepatitis, and hypertension; infant mortality; maternal mortality and morbidity; and police brutality—not to mention the lasting impacts racism has on mental health for Black and Brown communities.
“We will continue pushing in Congress to pass this important legislation, and look forward to working with the CDC to tackle these challenges and ensure health equity across this nation. This is a great step in the right direction, but we must now fight to confront these forces head on so that Black and Brown communities no longer disproportionately suffer from systemic racism and inequality in our health system and beyond.”