Supporting Nurses – Through Actions, Not Just Words

In recent weeks, we’ve all gone out of our way to show our appreciation for nurses – and rightfully so. From a military flyover, to tributes on the field at Fenway Park, to Facebook posts from public figures honoring National Nurses Day, we’ve tried our best to say ‘thank you’ to healthcare providers on the front lines.

It is fitting and proper that we offer these tokens of gratitude. But it’s even more important for elected officials – and those wishing to become elected officials – to step up and deliver for nurses through sound public policy. Actions speak louder than words, and our actions will remain important to nursing professionals long after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The State Legislature needs to follow up our public gratitude to nurses by thanking them in the form of legislation guaranteeing safe, fair working conditions. As a candidate for State Representative, I support several steps that would support these brave public servants in both the short- and the long-term.

First and foremost, we need to ensure that nurses have the PPE and workplace protections they deserve, including emergency paid sick time during the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve joined Raise Up Massachusetts and local community activists in calling for emergency sick time for essential workers, and I hope the Legislature acts on this immediately, especially now that they are holding remote formal sessions.

As the Commonwealth moves toward a phased “reopening” of economic activity, the voices of labor must be at the table in crafting how that looks – particularly the Massachusetts Nurses Association and other groups representing frontline workers. Ultimately, if we fail to take steps to reduce the rate of infection in Massachusetts that will come with a reopening, it’s nurses and other medical professionals who will be most burdened by another surge in visits to the ICU. We must protect our frontline workers by making sure our emergence from stay-home advisories is done carefully and thoughtfully.

In the long term, after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we can’t forget our nurses, and must continue to stand up for them. The Legislature is considering several bills that would help support nursing professionals that I commit to fighting for if elected.

One bill currently pending, the Workforce Development and Patient Safety Act, would create a series of independent studies to analyze the current nursing workforce and make recommendations on important workplace safety issues – including safe patient limits, workplace staffing, and steps to address violence and injuries on the job.

Another bill to support nurses and public health is the Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act. This bill would ensure that hospital groups that receive taxpayer dollars are transparent in how they spend their money – including how much is spent on things like executive pay and marketing, as opposed to patient safety and support for frontline workers. It would also create a mechanism for the state to claw back excessive profits and executive pay.

I also support a bill filed by Rep. LaNatra of Kingston that supports school nurses. Revere’s school nurses have truly stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis, participating in the city’s contract tracing program and providing support and care to those who are isolated due to the virus. Even in normal times, school nurses are vital to community public health and safety. Given that school nurses often start their careers in other healthcare settings, Rep. LaNatra’s bill would allow school nurses to credit up to three years of private sector nursing toward their service time to the Commonwealth.

Through taking these actions, Massachusetts can show that our gratitude to nursing professionals extends beyond just saying nice words. Nursing professionals in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus deserves representation that will fight for them long after this crisis is over, and I am committed to delivering that representation if elected this fall.

International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4 Endorses Gravellese For State Representative

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 4 has endorsed Joe Gravellese in the campaign for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District. The Democratic primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 1.

The IUOE represents construction workers who work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics, surveyors, and stationary engineers. Local 4 has over 5,000 members in central and eastern Massachusetts.

“From standing up to wage theft, to giving labor a seat at the table when crafting important safety regulations, I’ve committed to fighting for workers’ rights at the State House,” said Gravellese.

“I’ve had great conversations with labor groups across the state, but this endorsement is a special honor for me, as my father has been a union operating engineer for over 20 years. My family experienced firsthand what a difference it made to the quality of our lives when my father had access to a union.” 

“Labor has played a huge role in our lives – my grandfather was a teamster, and my brother-in-law is a laborer. In my public service, I am committed to advancing the cause of workers’ rights – not through lip service, but by fighting for the important changes to state policy that will protect the right to organize for fair wages and working conditions.”

Voters can learn more about Gravellese’s campaign at www.joegrav.com or by emailing info@joegrav.com.

Pathways to good jobs: My plan to expand access to vocational and technical education

There are over 3200 students on waiting lists to attend vocational and technical schools in Massachusetts. Each year, students from our district sweat out the admissions process to get into Northeast Metro Tech.

This is a policy failure. 

The jobs that vocational schools prepare students for – plumbing and pipefitting, electrical work, carpentry, robotics, and more – are jobs that will always be available, despite recessions and changes to the global economy. These are jobs that have offered pathways to the middle class to generations of families. 

We need to invest in the future of all of our students, no matter their aspirations – four-year college, a two-year program, or pathways into the workforce. 

If elected, I will focus on these priorities to expand access to vocational and technical education and job training programs:

Clear the waiting lists: We need to build enough capacity for vocational education to clear the 3200 student waiting list. Massachusetts officials rightly spent years crafting a plan to reform education funding, through a study commission mandated by the Legislature. I will propose a similar commission whose charge will be to expand access to vocational and technical education to all students who want it by 2030. 

There are many ways we can do this: creating more vocational programing in academic high schools, expanding “dual enrollment” programs that allow students to split time between academic and vocational schools, and expanding existing or building new vocational high schools. We should study which approaches are most effective and feasible, and get them done as quickly as possible. 

Work to ensure more access to vocational and technical education locally: Current discussions for the new Revere High School include having vocational education as part of the new school. I applaud these efforts and will fight to ensure they remain part of the plan. I will also work to expand access to these programs throughout the district. 

Fix the admissions process: Due to lack of seats and competitive admissions, students from low-income backgrounds, English language learners, and students with disabilities are underrepresented in vocational schools. Northeast Metro Tech is less diverse and has fewer economically disadvantaged students than Revere High and Chelsea High. This needs to be fixed. 

Fight for strong Project Labor Agreements that follow the example of Suffolk Downs: In November, a historic Project Labor Agreement was signed for the upcoming Suffolk Downs development. The PLA ensured that the project will not only create union jobs, but also fund for job training programs to ensure those who live in the working-class communities of Revere and East Boston have access to the union jobs being created. Leaders at the state and local level must advocate for similar agreements as part of future development.

Workforce development programs in our cities: The Next Stop Revere planning process outlines steps the city can take to invest in its residents by partnering with employers moving into the region to create job training programs. Communities like Revere, Chelsea and Saugus should be looking to partner with local community colleges, workforce development boards, and employers on such efforts. The next State Representative should play an active role in securing state funding and support for these programs. 

Community college access: We already know where many of the middle-class jobs of the future will come from – advanced manufacturing, robotics, wind and solar energy, and other similar fields. Two-year programs at community colleges can prepare students for careers in these fields, but we chronically underinvest in these schools. Massachusetts must work to make two-year programs at our community colleges free and accessible to all residents. 

I will host a Virtual Town Hall to discuss these proposals on Tuesday, May 5 at 6:00 PM with Lew Finfer, co-chair of the Alliance for Vocational and Technical Education. You can questions and stream the event on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/joegrav

With decisive action by the state government, Massachusetts can clear the backlog of students waiting to get into vocational education programs, and give more students access to a quality educational experience that meets their needs. 

Cleaner Air, Cleaner Water, Healthier Communities: An Agenda for the Environment and Public Health

Harvard’s School of Public Health recently published a study proving what those of us living in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus already know – that even small increases in air pollution lead to dramatically higher risks from COVID-19. This is part of why working-class neighborhoods like ours are the hardest hit. 

Even before this pandemic, air pollution has been linked to tens of thousands of deaths annually – a toll that has only increased as the Trump administration has rolled back critical air quality protections.

Revere, Chelsea and Saugus are especially vulnerable to environmental hazards. 

From the Wheelabrator plant in Saugus, to the continued unchecked expansion of Logan Airport without proper mitigation, to escalating tailpipe emissions due to underinvestment in public transportation, to proposed new fossil fuel infrastructure, working-class communities like ours bear the brunt of environmental burdens. 

As such, the next State Representative for the 16th Suffolk District must push for an aggressive agenda to make Massachusetts cleaner, greener, and more sustainable – for the sake of the environment, and for public health. 

If elected, you can count on me to fight for cleaner air and public health, through these important priorities:

Clean, renewable energy: Massachusetts must move rapidly to 100% clean, renewable energy. By doing this, we can make our air and water cleaner, combat climate change, protect coastal communities, and create thousands of good jobs. 

The manufacturing and installation of solar panels is already one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and we can strengthen it locally by removing unnecessary caps on solar net metering incentives in Massachusetts. We can also become a global leader in offshore wind by improving the permitting process to get those projects online. We need to kickstart these industries and hasten the transition to clean energy by opposing any new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Right now, Massachusetts is only on track to reach a standard of 100% clean energy by 2095. This is not acceptable. Our lungs and our coastline can’t wait until 2095.

Stronger environmental enforcement: When the Wheelabrator plant keeps residents of Revere and Saugus awake at night, remember that these risks increase due to understaffing of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

After the last recession in 2008, DEP was hit by a round of staff retirements, and these employees were never properly replaced. We now have the lowest staffing level in 12 years at the agency whose job it is to make sure our air is clean and our water is safe. This trend continues across other environmental agencies, which receive $50 million less in funding annually now than they did in fiscal year 2001.

We are about to enter into another challenging period with the state budget. But when we get to the other end of this – and we will – we cannot repeat the same mistakes we made after the last recession and keep up austerity budgets. We need to properly invest in environmental protection, and make sure we dedicate at least 1% of the state budget to the environment.

Zero-waste: Massachusetts must pursue zero-waste policies, so there’s less of a need for facilities like a trash-burning incinerator in the first place. There are several tools we could use to do this, such as policies that promote producer responsibility, and those that encourage reuse and recycling. 

Reforming land use and transportation: The average resident of Massachusetts drove 30% more miles per person in 2017 than they did in 1981. Between underinvestment in public transportation, poor land use policies, and the explosive expansion of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, pollution from tailpipe emissions is escalating around the state. Smarter land use policies and proper investment in transportation will help make our air cleaner and reduce carbon emissions while making Greater Boston more livable and economically productive. We need reliable regional rail, more frequent and reliable bus service, and repairs to the core subway system.

Defining environmental justice: The state constitution declares that all residents have the right to be protected from environmental pollution. But in reality, low-income communities are likelier than wealthier ones to be home to environmental hazards. We need to define environmental justice in state law, ensuring that lower-income communities aren’t overly burdened by environmental hazards compared to wealthier ones. 

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By taking these steps, we can create a new generation of well-paying jobs, fight against the impacts of climate change, and make our communities more resilient to public health hazards – from pandemics like COVID-19, to everyday challenges like asthma. 

Unfortunately, the failure to properly fight for environmental justice is a bipartisan one. We have a Democratic supermajority legislature, and they’ve not moved aggressively enough toward a fully clean energy future. We will change that only by electing leaders who put environmental justice and public health front and center.

This plan is more important than ever now in the wake of COVID-19. We’ve always known that air pollution is terrible for kids’ academic performance, for rates of asthma and cancer, and for a score of other public health and safety challenges. Now we’re seeing clearly that living in polluted areas puts you at higher risk from COVID-19 – something people in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus know all too well.

If elected on September 1, you can count on me to be a leader on environmental issues. When I worked at the State House, I worked for one of the Legislature’s leading environmentalists, Lori Ehrlich, and I was part of the team that worked to move Massachusetts away from coal, shut down a polluting coal plant in Salem, and hold utility companies accountable for gas leaks.

I will keep up that fight if you send me to the State House as your next State Representative, and work with other environmental leaders around the state to push for cleaner air, cleaner water, and a healthier Massachusetts. 

Gravellese To Host Virtual Town Hall Friday on Voter Participation With Samuel Gebru of Generation Citizen

Joe Gravellese, candidate for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea and Saugus), will host a virtual town hall on Friday, April 17 at 5 PM on Facebook Live with Samuel Gebru, Development and Partnerships Manager of Generation Citizen, to discuss steps to strengthen democracy, improve voter turnout, and increase engagement of young people in local politics.

“Now more than ever, political leaders need to step up to protect democracy and promote civic engagement,” said Gravellese. “Too many states are taking steps to make voting more difficult, and too many students graduate high school without an effective civics education.”

“I’ve laid out a platform to increase voter participation here in Massachusetts – not just during the COVID-19 crisis, but in every election moving forward. I look forward to this conversation with Samuel to discuss ways to strengthen democracy here in the Commonwealth.”

Generation Citizen is a national organization that works to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective Action Civics education, which provides them with the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in our democracy as active citizens. Generation Citizen works to create a country of young people working as active and effective citizens to collectively strengthen our American democracy. 

The event can be viewed on Joe Gravellese’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/joegrav. Voters can learn more about Gravellese’s campaign at www.joegrav.com

Protecting this Fall’s Election and Strengthening Democracy 

Last week, voters in Wisconsin were shamefully forced to choose between exercising their right to vote or adhering to social distancing. Voters stood in long lines and potentially were exposed to COVID-19, largely because powerful interests continue to stand against making voting easier and more convenient.

With Massachusetts’ primary election coming up on September 1, the Legislature should act quickly to both protect residents’ right to vote in the upcoming election, and improve voter participation for years to come.

Massachusetts should act immediately to allow for no-excuse absentee voting – not just in this election, but in all future elections. We should not wait and scramble to put a new system in place if the pandemic is still raging in late July or early August – we should act now, and take this commonsense step to expand voting access.

This prudent step would make sure voters – especially seniors, people with disabilities, and those with preexisting conditions – don’t feel pressured to stand in a crowded line in order to vote this year.

Allowing absentee voting for all who want it will also make it easier and more convenient for people to vote, even if they work two jobs, have childcare commitments, have long commutes, or face exhausting workdays that make it difficult to vote between the hours of 7 AM and 8 PM. Working-class voters are more likely to have jobs that don’t offer time to duck out and vote, or have childcare commitments that make it more difficult to make it to the polls on time. This situation gives wealthy voters disproportionate influence over our elections.

Paper ballots are the most secure and safe system for elections, and our local election departments already do a tremendous job handling the existing absentee balloting process. Senior citizens, troops serving overseas, and others regularly vote by mail now, and do so safely.

Over 30 states already offer absentee voting to all. Five states conduct their elections entirely by mail. Here in Massachusetts, we can have the best of both worlds, by allowing anyone to vote absentee while still opening the polls on Election Day.

We can also increase access for voters on Election Day by making it a state holiday, in order to make it easier for working people to go to the polls.

We should also consider other steps to protect our democracy and increase voter participation, including having an independent commission re-draw fair districts after the 2020 census instead of letting the Legislature pick its own districts; expanding the right to vote in municipal elections to 16- and 17-year olds to give young people a stake in the future of their communities; and getting big money out of politics.

Last but not least, we need to provide more funding to local Election Commissioners to hire and train election day staff, so that the voting process on Election Day is fairer and more efficient.

In Sweden, 83% of adults voted in their last election. In New Zealand, turnout was 76%; in Italy, 65% went to the polls. But here in the US, just 56% of eligible adults cast a ballot in the last presidential election. Turnout for local elections is even lower. 

We can make our democracy healthier by improving voter turnout – but in order to do that, we need to take away barriers that keep people from people getting involved. The COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity for Massachusetts to both do the right thing by public health, and improve our democracy for years to come. 

Gravellese Campaign “Virtual Trivia Night” Raises Over $400 For Revere Veterans

On Thursday, April 9, Joe Gravellese’s campaign for State Representative hosted a “virtual pub trivia night” over Zoom, trying to recreate the trivia night experience online. The goal was to drive up support for local businesses and for Revere’s Veterans Services Office.

All trivia participants were asked to donate at least $5 to the Revere Veterans Services office. As of Friday morning, the event raised $403. The funds will be put to use by the Veterans Services Office to fund their efforts to assist local veterans in need – including hosting the monthly veterans food bank, assisting veterans in applying for benefits, and providing wheelchairs and other mobility tools to veterans in need.

“The need right now is so staggering all over the community during the COVID-19 crisis, so every bit helps our fellow residents in need,” Gravellese said. “Over 200 veterans were served at the most recent Veterans’ food pantry. People are going to need to chip in to keep our food pantries stocked as more and more people face urgent needs. I’m so grateful for my friends and supporters who stepped up to support this great cause.”

In addition to raising money for Revere veterans, the event also dished out $100 in gift cards to Easy Pie restaurant.

“Our local small businesses are hurting right now too,” added Gravellese. “Hopefully the gift card winners will go out and spend to support a great local business. If you have a favorite local restaurant, please support them – order takeout, order delivery, and be ready to go back and support them when they reopen.”

Supporting People with Disabilities During The COVID-19 Crisis

by Joe Gravellese, Candidate for State Representative 

On Monday night, I participated in a conference call with leading advocacy groups for persons with disabilities, including the Arc of the United States and the American Association of People with Disabilities. 

Unfortunately, efforts to provide relief and support to Americans during the COVID-19 crisis have not properly included the needs of people with disabilities. We must urge our state and local government to do more to make sure our friends, relatives and neighbors with disabilities are not left behind.

Advocates are focusing on these important priorities to better support people with disabilities during this pandemic:

  1. Support for home and community-based services

Home and community-based services – like home health aides, personal care attendants, and adult day health services – are crucial in ensuring that people with disabilities’ constitutional right to independence and self-determination is protected. 

These services are funded by both the federal and states governments through the Medicaid program, and it is vitally important that Congress specifically increases funding for these services in the next COVID-19 relief bill. 

2. Making sure people with disabilities are not left out of the $1,200 stimulus relief checks

Congress passed a bill to send Americans a $1,200 “recovery rebate” to help during this challenging time – but currently, many people with disabilities face hurdles to actually receiving this money.

Instead of sending the stimulus checks through the Social Security Administration, they are being sent out by the Treasury – meaning that if you don’t file a tax return, you may not get the rebate. Many senior citizens and people with disabilities only receive income from either Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and do not earn enough to have to file a tax return.

The administration has ensured that recipients of SSDI will receive checks, but they have not done so for people on SSI – meaning some of our most vulnerable residents, whose bank information is already on file with the government, face needless paperwork and hurdles before being able to access emergency relief.

This loophole must be closed to protect Americans with disabilities.

3. Extending paid leave for caregivers

Congress’s initial coronavirus relief package extended two weeks of paid leave – but it’s clear that this crisis will go on much longer than two weeks. To protect caregivers and people with disabilities, these provisions must be extended – and family caregivers must be included in paid leave legislation.

4. Ramping up production of personal protective equipment

In this instance, the needs of Americans with disabilities are the same as the needs of all of us all over the country – the immediate ramping up of production of personal protective equipment, like ventilators and face masks, not only for hospitals, but also for home-based providers of care for people with disabilities.

The administration must unleash the full power of the Defense Production Act and end the current shameful spectacle of states bidding against one another for critical protective equipment, or hatching schemes to go around the federal government, like Massachusetts just did last week.

People with disabilities are especially vulnerable if we lack proper protective equipment during this surge in COVID-19 cases. If the administration won’t act, Congress must make them act.

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Locally, I was proud to be part of the team that re-launched Revere’s Commission on Disabilities, fought to ensure ADA compliance across the community, and worked with the Recreation department to increase programming for children with special needs. 

Residents with disabilities are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just like all Americans – and government must fight to protect these rights, especially during times of crisis. 

Joe Gravellese is a candidate in the Democratic primary for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea and Saugus) 

Gravellese campaign to host “Virtual Trivia Night” Thursday to support local business, veterans

Joe Gravellese’s campaign for State Representative will host a “virtual pub trivia” night on Thursday, April 9, at 8 PM, via Zoom. 

The event can be accessed via Zoom at www.tinyurl.com/VirtualTriviaNight (Zoom meeting password: 781), or on Joe’s Facebook page, facebook.com/joegrav.

The winner will be sent a $50 gift card to Easy Pie restaurant in Revere. The second and third place finishers will also earn $25 gift cards to Easy Pie.

“With everyone stuck inside, a virtual trivia night will be a fun way to bring the community together,” said Gravellese.

“I hope everyone will do what they can to support local restaurants, who are really struggling during this time. I encourage everyone who participates to order take-out or delivery Thursday night and support a restaurant in Revere, Chelsea or Saugus. 

Hopefully these gift cards encourage the winners to go out and spend time at a great local business once this pandemic is over.”

In addition to general knowledge trivia, there will be several questions focused on Revere, Saugus and Chelsea history, sports and culture, to add a local flavor to the trivia night. 

On top of supporting a local restaurant, Gravellese is asking all trivia night participants to donate at least $5 to the Revere Veterans fund, supporting emergency food relief, wheelchairs, and other services for local veterans. Gravellese is committing $100 to the effort and is hopeful this push will help raise crucial funds for veterans in need.

Checks can be made out to City of Revere Veterans Services, 249 Broadway, Revere.

With any questions about the event, contact the Gravellese campaign at 781-632-5610 or via email at info@joegrav.com.

My plan to stop surprise medical billing and lower prescription medication prices

The COVID-19 crisis is providing another example of something many Americans already know: we need serious reforms to our healthcare system – especially reforms that protect families from excessive out-of-pocket expenses. 

Seniors, children, and people with disabilities are especially vulnerable to out-of-pocket medical expenses – even if they have health insurance.

We don’t need to wait for the federal government to act to take steps right here in Massachusetts.

That’s why today I’m endorsing three bills that would help control costs for Massachusetts residents by ending surprise medical billing and lowering the cost of vital prescription medication. If elected, I will co-sponsor and fight for all three:

-1. A bill sponsored by Rep. Lenny Mirra would allow Massachusetts residents to import prescription medications from countries where they cost less than they do here. Prescriptions cost on average 30% less in Canada than they do in the US. This bill would allow residents of Massachusetts to take advantage of importing medication at lower prices.

Colorado, Maine, and Vermont have already adopted such policies – it’s time for Massachusetts to join them. 

-2. Governor Baker has sponsored legislation called the “Stop Surprise Bills Act,” which would require notice to patients before incurring any out-of-network charge, and prohibits out-of-network fees for emergency services. 

When people are facing an emergency and being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, they’re not asking what insurance provider they take. This bill would protect residents facing an emergency from them being surprised with a massive out-of-network bill.

Twelve states have already passed similar bills, including Connecticut and New Hampshire.

-3. A bill sponsored by State Senator Eric Lesser would work to establish a system for the bulk purchase and distribution of medications with widespread public health benefits, such as insulin. Cities and towns are currently able to bulk purchase narcan, which helps them procure it at a lower price and make it widely available. Using bulk purchasing power, we can make additional medications more affordable.

None of these bills will fully solve our health care cost crisis, but they would all make progress. These are bi-partisan efforts across the country that bring people together and work to help everyone – especially our most vulnerable residents, including senior citizens.

To get these kinds of reforms enacted, we need strong and thoughtful leadership at the State House. I’m ready to bring that kind of leadership to the 16th Suffolk District, and fight to lower healthcare costs for residents of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus.

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