Rep. Gordon Files Pair of Bills to Facilitate Unemployment Benefits for Furloughed Federal Workers

Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) has filed two bills that will directly help Massachusetts federal workers who have been furloughed in the current federal shutdown.

These bills will not only define the workers as specifically eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, but they will eliminate the one-week waiting period usually required of unemployed workers and remove the requirement that they repay benefits if they are provided full back pay upon their return to work.

“Our federal workers are being used as bargaining chips by an executive who can’t get Congress to give him his way,” said Rep. Gordon.  “We will and we must protect our Massachusetts workers during this crisis.”

The bills would amend UI requirements for the 45,000 federal workers who live in Massachusetts and whose jobs have been suspended during the current partial shutdown. They do not affect workers forced to report to their jobs without pay unless they resign due to their lack of an income.  They do not amend UI laws in general.

“The need to eliminate the one-week waiting period should be obvious,” said Gordon.  “It usually takes between three and five weeks for a recipient to begin receiving benefits even without the artificial waiting period. These folks have been out of work long enough.”

Gordon recognizes that a portion of the bill absolving furloughed workers from the obligation to repay UI benefits if they are restored with full back pay is politically more complicated. “Some may say that these workers could eventually receive more than they would have earned if they had not been furloughed,” said Gordon. “That’s true.  But there is a cost to being without an income. Many people will be forced to borrow money at high interest rates.  Others will withdraw from savings or investment accounts and lose interest.  The burden will fall on either these workers or on a government that used them as collateral damage in a political dispute. I choose to protect the workers.”

UI benefits for these workers are paid by the federal government, not by the Massachusetts system.  They usually amount to between 30 and 50 percent of the worker’s salary, with a cap.

Gordon said he was motivated not only by the interruption of the workers’ access to income but the unfairness of their situation. “There are times when government leaders can’t get their way. I never would have thought we’d see anyone in government, let alone a president of the United States, use our workers as pawns – as hostages — simply to put political pressure on his opponent.

“The crisis in which we find ourselves has little to do with a wall; it has everything to do with whether we will allow our president to victimize our workers,”  said Gordon. “This is not about popularity, it is not about campaign slogans. It is about people’s lives.  It is flat out wrong.”

Gordon asks Massachusetts residents to contact their state legislators in the next two weeks, to ask they support H.D. 1553, addressing the one-week waiting period and the requirement to return the UI benefit upon receipt of back pay.

Rep. Gordon, Senator Friedman strongly support action on climate change solutions

Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Ken Gordon (D-Burlington) recently joined over 80 of their legislative colleagues in uniting to support bold climate solutions in 2019, a release from their two office states. The Burlington officials signed onto a statement circulated by Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton) and Representative Ruth B. Balser (D-Newton) – A New Year’s Resolution: Committing to the Enactment and Implementation of Bold Climate Solutions in 2019 – which signals considerable commitment to climate action in the 2019-2020 legislative session.

Friedman said that the threats of climate change are something that must be dealt with immediately to lessen the impact on future generations.

“We must take real action to address the threat of climate change with a sense of urgency so that we can build a sustainable future for generations to come,” said Senator Friedman. “The federal government may fail to address, or even acknowledge, this threat to humanity, but Massachusetts will not.”

Gordon also said failing to address the issue of changes in the climate now could lead to devastating impacts in the future.

“If we do not stand up for our environment today, our hopes for a sustainable tomorrow will dim,” said Rep. Gordon.  “We cannot hand our children a crisis, and expect them to deal with it. In Massachusetts, we will act and we will do it now.”

Final Funding Approved for Lowell to Burlington Restaurant Worker Shuttle

(BOSTON) – BOSTON – Burlington area businesses have a reason to celebrate the new year, as the Middlesex 3 Coalition, Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington) and Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) have secured funding necessary to establish a shuttle service that will allow local restaurants to fill hundreds of job openings with otherwise unemployed workers from Lowell.

The program, which has been a major priority for the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce, was awarded $290,000 over three years by the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (“MPO”).  Previously this fiscal year, the Middlesex 3 Coalition was awarded $125,000 by the Commonwealth to fund a regional transportation coordinator, bringing the total state support to $415,000 over a three-year period.

“We have been advocating for this program for several years now, and we are ecstatic that it is coming together,” said BACC President Rick Parker.  “It began at a meeting when dozens of our restaurants came to me and Rep. Gordon, and told us that if we could access the Lowell labor market, they could find applications for a significant number of job openings that are going unfilled.  Rep. Gordon and I never gave up on this concept, and it’s great to see it come through.”

The program will be funded largely by public investments in the first year, and then will transition to private support over three years. By the fourth year of the program, the transportation service will be funded entirely by the area businesses.  It will begin as a link between Lowell and Burlington, but as it grows, plans are for it to extend to communities such as Bedford and Billerica, as well as provide access to seniors and others members of the community.

“This is the epitome of a team effort,” said Rep. Gordon. “We began by laying out a plan.  Rick Parker never stopped working.  Stephanie Cronin, Executive Director of the Middlesex 3 Coalition, was instrumental in the details. Rep. David Nangle (D-Lowell) offered his help and guidance.  And when Sen. Friedman took office, she stepped right in and continued the hard work that Sen. Ken Donnelly began.”

“In 2014, the legislature appropriated the money for our plan, and then we turned to the Administration.  There are many worthy causes competing for economic development support, but Jay Ash, the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, came to Burlington several times where he listened to our challenges.  We brought in the Department of Transportation, and from there the Governor’s office approved our plan.”

The program will operate through the Middlesex 3 Transportation Management Association (TMA). Those who work on weekends or late at night will be picked up in Lowell and taken express to Burlington so that they can get to their employer on time. Riders will have transportation back home again, even in those instances where a sick child or other emergency may require them to return home mid-shift.

“Burlington has such a vibrant local economy and a wide variety of successful businesses” said Sen. Friedman.  “This program will be another opportunity for those businesses to access the workforce they need to succeed, ultimately strengthening our local and regional economies. Moreover, it will alleviate the traffic that congests our roads by transporting hundreds of workers into town, without requiring each of them to drive their own cars.”

Katherine Holahan, Vice-President at the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, demonstrated her group’s support of the program in a letter to the Boston MPO.  “We believe this is an opportunity for government and business to work together to connect workers and employers across the Commonwealth to facilitate stronger economic development.”

Regional transportation has been a focus of the Middlesex 3 Coalition from its inception, and its TMA was the choice of the business community to operate the system. “We worked hard with state and municipal government to identify the best ways to connect the Lowell workers with these opportunities,” said Middlesex 3 Executive Director Stephanie Cronin. “It was not easy, but the businesses stepped up, the Town of Burlington contributed, and when the state gave us final approval, we carried the program to the finish.  We will all benefit from this opportunity.”

Questions? Contact: [email protected]

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Rep. Gordon organizes the return of Bingo at the Burlington Council on Aging

Representative Gordon organized volunteers from the Burlington Board of Selectmen, Chamber of Commerce, District Attorney’s office, and local media members to help bring Bingo back to the Burlington Council on Aging. The Council on Aging’s weekly bingo game has become a favorite among seniors in town. However, the game was put on hold during renovations at the Murray-Kelly room. Rep. Gordon organized volunteers and called numbers to kickoff Bingo’s return after the new year.