State Rep. Nika Elugardo, like others who work at the State House, has had her normal workload and schedule turned upside down over the past few weeks.
“More than 90 percent” of what she works on is related to the COVID-19 response, she told the Gazette. She has been working on several things within her district and legislatively to try and help folks out during this crisis.
“In the district, I try to support the existing work of my colleagues and fill in gaps so I’m not duplicating responses,” Elugardo said. She has sent volunteers the way of City Councilors Matt O’Malley and Julia Mejia, who have organized phone banks to call and check up on seniors. She also said she has offered to share phone lists from the Council on Aging with the City Councilors if they are interested.
“I’m trying to make sure that we support the calls that are happening in the different ways we can,” she said, “making sure there is a clear line to resources.”
She said an area within the district where help is already being given but needs double the attention is making sure food distribution is free and safe for people who are unable to get food themselves for a variety of reasons.
She thanked City Councilor Kenzie Bok for her work to distribute fresh produce to residents across Boston, and Elugardo’s office has helped provide Stop and Shop gift cards to seniors.
“There are lots of options for families with school-aged children as well as college students,” Elugardo said. “We want to make sure our seniors are getting what they need.”
She said that they were able to distributed over 300 cards to seniors in places like Mildred C. Hailey, the Tobin Community Center and other places around Mission Hill.
“My supporters, as always, really showed up,” she said. “Someone put a Venmo together” to raise funds to buy more gift cards for seniors.
Elugardo said that a population she is particularly concerned about is the people who are not already part of some senior program or someone who isn’t a family with children. She urges people who know of someone who may be in their 30s or 40s with a disability, are at high risk, or otherwise unable to buy food for themselves, to reach out to her office. She wants to help out these people who do not fall into one of the “programatic categories” that exist already, such as seniors or those with young children
“I did go grocery shopping for one of the younger women in our district who has serious respiratory illnesses and it is not safe for her to leave the house,” she said. She also said that tenants who live in the district’s public housing units and have volunteered to help others also received grocery store gift cards, as “we want to make sure they, too have what they need,” Elugardo said. “We’re trying to cover the bases and the gaps.”
Elugardo commended Mayor Walsh and the City Councilors for “doing such a great job.” She also expressed gratitude to Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and her colleagues in the Boston delegation, especially the Boston Electeds of Color.
She also said she has been trying to gather an understanding of what the needs of small businesses in the district are. She has spoken with JP Centre/South Main Streets to make sure they understand the resources available for businesses and “where I need to press for legislation at the state level,” she said, as well as making sure they are connected to the federal paycheck protection program.
Elugardo also said that “every small business under 500 folks” should apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. “The money may run out on that, so we’re supporting our congressional delegation, she said.
Additionally, the Rep. has cosponsored over 40 housing bills as well as filed a bill that makes sure that elders who have preexisting conditions who “had the wisdom to stop working even more the state of emergency,” even if they’re gig economy workers, will not face issues getting unemployment insurance.
She also said she wants to make sure that no low and mid-income property owners lose their home or their commercial space as a result of the virus. “Some people will be able to bounce back and others won’t, and where they can’t, we want to help them bounce back,” she said.
“We’re trying to think ahead but it’s quick and easy to file this type of legislation,” she said. “People can let us know what’s missing.”
She also said that “we are keeping our eyes on the incarcerated community and immigrant community,” and urging the release of people who are in detention and incarcerated for nonviolent offenses, as “there are so many types of people who shouldn’t be incarcerated.” She said that jails and prisons should not be putting people at risk of catching this virus.
It’s been a challenge for legislators to be able to communicate with one another during this crisis, as “the technology is way behind the times in the legislature,” she said. But, she added, “I feel really blessed. There’s very strong leadership at the City and at the state [levels] and I think we’re going to take care of each other and I hope that can be true for every district in Massachusetts,” she said.
With the holidays coming up, “folks should just tap into technology and really work hard to connect with each other,” she said. “Remember that there are some people who are quietly suffering. Keep taking care of each other.”