News Briefs

FKO Afterschool Submits Community Learning Centers Application

For Kids Only Afterschool (FKO) will be submitting a proposal to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) grant to support students attending the William P. Gorman Fort Banks School. The purpose of this federally funded grant is to support additional learning time for students during the out-of-school time hours to provide academically enriching and project-based learning opportunities that build career readiness and success by addressing the academic and social and emotional learning needs of students.

FKO, a non-profit licensed afterschool provider, has been operating in Winthrop since 1984. Later this year, FKO will open its new home at 233 Winthrop Street, a 10,000 square foot state of the art facility that will house up to 140 children in grades K-8 everyday afterschool, during school vacation weeks and the summer months. If awarded this 21st CCLC funding, FKO will be able to enroll up to 40 Gorman Fort Banks School students to attend FKO’s afterschool and summer program through grant support.

A typical day at FKO’s afterschool program will begin with a healthy snack. After some free time to enjoy the school-day’s end, all children will participate in enrichment classes and social and emotional learning activities facilitated by afterschool educators and community partners.  Children will choose from a variety of activities offered within the Nutrition Café and Teaching Kitchen, STEAM Lab (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), Movement Studio, Library, half court Gymnasium and Reflection Room. Through participating in the 21st CCLC program, students will make connections between the content covered in the school day classroom and their everyday life.

FKO looks forward to continuing its long-standing partnership with the Winthrop Public Schools through the possibility of this 21st CCLC program partnership and providing more Gorman Fort Banks School students with the opportunity to participate in afterschool enrichment activities. The announcement of grant awardees will be made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in late Spring, 2021.

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 Commitment

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.”

Red Cross aiming to make more than 600 homes safer

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 The Red Cross is also looking for additional volunteers to train as home fire safety educators and offer this training in their own community.

Pressley and Clark Secure COBRA Subsidies

Massachusetts Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley and Katherine Clark, and some of their colleagues, applauded the U.S. Department of Labor’s recently-released guidance confirming that striking workers are eligible for COBRA subsidies under the American Rescue Plan, a victory for striking workers nationwide.

The expanded guidance, which marks a major reversal from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, comes after Pressley, Courtney, McGovern and Clark sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, IRS Commissioner Charles Retting, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, requesting that any guidance issued to implement the American Rescue Plan clarify that workers exercising their right to strike under the National Labor Relations Act are covered by the COBRA subsidies.

The American Rescue Plan does not explicitly address the issue of striking workers, but the letter requested that any guidance issued regarding eligibility of workers to receive subsidized COBRA coverage explicitly clarify that these workers are eligible in order to ensure that striking workers are not unintentionally harmed. This decision will prevent striking workers from having to pay the extremely high cost of COBRA out of pocket, lose their providers, or become disconnected from their providers during expensive and complicated treatments in the middle of a pandemic.

“I’m glad we were able to secure these subsidies for workers in Massachusetts and across the country exercising their right to organize and collectively bargain,” Rep. Pressley said. “Health care is a human right. And when workers choose to withhold their labor to demand and secure safer working conditions, better wages or better benefits, that choice shouldn’t come at the expense of their health care.”

“This is an important victory for workers,” said Rep. Clark. “This guidance ensures that workers exercising their legal right to organize can receive the COBRA subsidies they need to maintain their health care coverage during the global pandemic. I applaud the Biden Administration for this important step to protect our workers’ rights.”

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