Friday, November 20, 2020

Commonwealth Magazine: "In-person learning now considered ‘high risk’ by CDC"; "Parents frustrated"

From CommonWealth Magazine we share two articles of interest for Franklin:

"THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL for Disease Control and Prevention quietly removed controversial guidelines from its website promoting in-person learning in schools, and instead is now listing it as “high risk.”

The disputed guidance was composed of documents written by political appointees outside of the agency. One of the documents stated that children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults and that children are unlikely to be major spreaders of the virus, according to The Hill. The CDC removed the guidance from its website without public announcement some time in late October.

“Some of the prior content was outdated and as new scientific information has emerged the site has been updated to reflect current knowledge about COVID-19 and schools,” a spokesperson told the news outlet.

Now the website says “the body of evidence is growing that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and contrary to early reports might play a role in transmission,” and lists in-person learning as high risk."

The CDC page with school guidance

Reports from American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association released this week:


Parents frustrated, concerned with pandemic school year, poll finds

"THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Massachusetts K-12 students are either learning remotely from home or in a hybrid model that mixes in-person and at-home instruction, and most parents have a dim view of how the school year upended by the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their children.

Those are among the findings from a new poll of Massachusetts parents, who offer particularly negative reviews of hybrid learning. Meanwhile, pandemic “pods,” in which families share childcare and remote learning supervision, are not that common, despite the flurry of national and local attention they’ve received, according to the survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

Overall, more than half of Massachusetts parents (52 percent) think the school year that’s been completely reshaped by the pandemic is having a negative impact on their child’s academic learning. Similar numbers of parents say the school year is having negative effects on their child’s mental health, social and behavioral skills, and opportunities for friendship. "


Help Raise Some Dough for ALS at Franklin's HoneyDew

Purchase The ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter Donut @ Participating Honey Dew Donuts Locations

100% of Proceeds Raised Go Directly to The ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter

  • 213 East Central St, Franklin
  • 405 West Central St, Franklin 
Download your copy of the flyer as a reminder:


Help Raise Some Dough for ALS at HoneyDew
 Help Raise Some Dough for ALS at HoneyDew


"State officials don’t expect a full recovery for several years, particularly in business travel"

From the Boston Globe, an article of interest for Franklin:

"The Massachusetts Port Authority is trimming about 25 percent of its workforce through layoffs and voluntary buyouts as it reacts to an unprecedented plunge in air travel at Logan Airport due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The port authority avoided layoffs in its first big round of budget cuts in the spring, but not this time. The downturn in jet passenger traffic has been far more protracted than Massport executives anticipated, forcing them to plug a new shortfall exceeding $100 million in this fiscal year’s budget.

“We are trending below our worst-case, business-activity forecast at Logan Airport,” Massport chief executive Lisa Wieland told the port authority board on Thursday. “It’s hard, and I hoped we wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, we are.”

Rather than rebounding as Wieland and others had hoped, the number of passengers actually declined in August from July levels, and again in September. Only about 633,000 passengers were tracked through Logan in September, an 82 percent plunge compared with the same month a year ago. The number of flights, meanwhile, was down 64 percent, year over year."

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)
From CommonWealth Magazine we share an article of interest for Franklin:
"FACING MASSIVE financial strain inflicted by the pandemic, the Massachusetts Port Authority plans to slash its workforce by about 25 percent through a combination of voluntary retirements, buyouts, furloughs, and layoffs.

The cost-cutting effort comes as Massport officials grapple with a $400 million budget gap projected over the next three fiscal years, driven by passenger volumes at Logan International Airport dropping to their lowest level in decades.

With a current workforce of about 1,300 full-time employees, hundreds of Port Authority employees could take incentivized retirements or buyouts, be terminated, or forced to take several unpaid days off in the coming months.
“If we thought the airport would be coming back soon, maybe we could try other approaches, but we are years, many years, away from getting back to the number of passengers that were carried last year, and we have to be realistic about the right size for our workforce,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said."
Continue reading the article online

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Franklin Public Schools: Re-opening Update Nov 19, 2020

November 19, 2020 
Dear Franklin Families, 
All of us at Franklin Public Schools hope that you and your family are doing well. We also recognize that this is an incredibly challenging time. I am writing today with a few updates; a similar message has also been shared with our faculty and staff.

Definition of Close Contact
Beginning last week, we have begun using the new CDC definition of close contact when conducting contact tracing, under the direction of our local health department and DPH assigned public health nurse. This means that we are looking to identify those individuals “who have been within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated”, with or without masks. This new definition may lead to additional individuals needing to quarantine. We are asking everyone in our schools to adhere to the 6 feet of distancing whenever possible.

Governor’s Message About In-Person Learning
As you likely know, the Department of Public Health and Governor’s office adjusted the health metrics last Friday, November 6, to take into account both the size of the community and the percent positivity of testing in addition to the number of positive cases per 100,000. The effect has been to change the way communities are identified for risk. Across the state, this has increased the threshold to be a yellow or red community. Franklin returned to green after a few weeks of being yellow; however, on November 12th, Franklin returned to yellow status. It is important to note that a cluster of cases in a particular facility in town is contributing significantly to Franklin’s overall numbers.

As part of this message, the Governor and Commissioner of Education adjusted the state’s expectations of learning models based on the metrics’ new color-coding. To summarize:

●    Districts and schools in communities designated gray, green, or yellow are expected to have students learning fully in-person, if feasible. A hybrid model should be used only if there is no other way to meet health and safety requirements.
●    Schools in red communities should implement hybrid models while maximizing in-person learning time for high-needs students.
●    Fully remote instructional models should be implemented only as a last resort.

While the public health metrics favor in-person learning and we ALL want to get students back into school full-time, guidance based on health metrics alone does not account for feasibility factors that lead me to continue to recommend a hybrid model of instruction.

Several practical matters come immediately to mind with respect to the feasibility of being full and in-person: distancing standards/space, staffing, transportation, and funding.

Similar to many districts across the state, Franklin has committed to 6 feet of distance among individuals based on health guidance, including contact tracing. This means that we can only accommodate roughly half of our students (one-third at FHS) in a hybrid model. Although we have additional space in some of our buildings for classes of students to spread out, we do not have enough staff to provide two supervisors per class list of students. If we shrink distancing standards to below six feet, the number of individuals quarantining as a result of positive cases will increase dramatically.

Franklin, like many communities, has worked diligently to staff schools and classrooms during the pandemic. The health and safety practices that are in place require additional supervision. This comes at a time when more people are unable or unwilling to work in-person in schools. Although we have sought to add monitors, interventionists, additional paraprofessionals, and permanent building substitutes, many positions remain vacant despite recruitment efforts. As COVID cases increase across the state, we are seeing an increase in the number of staff having to quarantine for long periods of time, exacerbating the problem of supervision. Other districts, at times, have had to return to remote learning for lack of educators in schools. This could be a possibility in the future for one or more schools in Franklin, particularly as cold and flu season approaches and COVID numbers rise.

Full and in-person instruction will require modification to transportation. With buses only able to accommodate one-third of the students at a time, transportation would need to be increased in order to have full and in-person learning. It is not likely that Franklin could add additional buses and, therefore, buses would have to do “double runs” in order to transport all students to school safely. This would disrupt the rhythm of the school day and impact time on learning.

The district would incur additional costs in order to provide full and in-person learning. Additional staff would be needed (even though we would struggle to be able to hire them), and additional Personalized Protective Equipment (PPE) would be required. While we have been fortunate to have been able to access Coronavirus relief funding to both the schools and the Town in order to support PPE, additional staff, tents and fences for outdoor use, HVAC improvements, Chromebooks, software, and other COVID related expenses, this funding must be spent by December 30, 2020, after which we would be expected to incur costs beyond this using tight funds from our operating budget.
Lastly, Franklin, like other districts, worked collaboratively with the union, in our case the Franklin Educators’ Association, to negotiate two unique Memorandum of Agreement in good faith to which we must abide.

We truly value having students in our school buildings -- seeing each other and developing in-person relationships with educators around them. Given the feasibility factors described above, however, we do not have plans at this time to shift to full and in-person instruction.

Over the summer, we had prepared a reopening plan with three models of learning: full and in-person, hybrid; and fully remote. We will continue to develop and refine each model and, as the field understands more about the virus, its risk, and how best to meet health and safety requirements in the school setting, look forward to a time in the future when we can return to school fully in-person.

Recognizing that our Kindergarten and grade 1 learners are struggling the most due to developmental factors, we are prioritizing this group in our examination of how to teach them full and in-person while meeting all health and safety requirements. A series of scenarios/implications will be shared with the School Committee in the coming weeks.

HVAC Update
We have been working with the Facilities Department to put the installation of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) out to bid. The Town will be using Coronavirus relief funding to fund the installation; as noted above, these funds must be spent by December 30, 2020. Unfortunately, there is a supply chain issue of materials. As a result of the spending deadline and supply chain delays, parts of the project will move forward, but parts of the project need to be postponed.
UVGI will be installed as follows:

●    “Large Units” at ECDC/HMMS/Oak; Remington/Jefferson; Keller/Sullivan to cover large spaces where ventilation is tied together among rooms
●    All of Franklin High School
UVGI may be installed in the “Large Units” at DT, Kennedy, and Parmenter if able to be completed by 12/30/2020.

As an alternative to UVGI, the District has purchased portable HEPA air purifier units for classrooms and workspaces where UVGI is postponed. HEPA units will be provided according to the square footage of the room and will filter the air. We expect these to be due in a few weeks, which is helpful as the colder weather approaches. This solution is one that many other Districts have or are pursuing as an effective approach.

Additional information about classrooms, ventilation, windows, especially in light of the approaching winter conditions will be coming out soon.

Travel Reminder/Holiday Celebrations
We would like to remind families of the District’s travel expectations and Governor Baker’s Executive Order requiring those who travel out of state to quarantine or receive a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to their return to Massachusetts. As noted in the COVID-Handbooks for Families/Students, FPS requires travelers of all ages (including those 10 and under) to test or quarantine when returning to Massachusetts from a non-lower risk state in order to return to school in-person.

As you make plans for holiday celebrations, we recognize that college age students may be returning home. As emphasized in Governor Baker’s press conference from yesterday, college age children should also be tested for COVID. Should you have other visitors to your home, they should also be tested. Visitors and college students are also advised to isolate as much as possible, and household members are advised to wear masks, distance physically, practice 20 seconds of handwashing/hand hygiene, and clean high touch surfaces frequently.

Given the increase of cases that seem to be occurring in private gatherings, the Governor and health experts issued guidance about limiting holiday travel and limiting the size of holiday gatherings to those within the immediate household. I recognize the difficulty this presents for staff and families, as holiday gatherings of family and friends are something most looked forward to and celebrated at this time of year. This year, in particular, I think we are all looking for something positive to anticipate. For my family, our gathering will be a quiet dinner for the four of us, and we will be Zooming or Face-timing with our loved ones. We will miss the hugs, kisses, and conversations of extended family and friends, but we feel this is the best course of action for our family.

At this time, Franklin Public Schools does not have a plan to return to full remote learning in anticipation of rising cases due to the Thanksgiving holiday. However, we will monitor case counts and positivity rates closely, in collaboration with our local health department, as we always do. We ask that you please be safe in order to protect the entire community.

Please see the full list of travel guidance here:

On behalf of the entire Franklin Public Schools, I want to extend sincere wishes for a restful Thanksgiving holiday. Please know how grateful and thankful I am for the Franklin community.
Sara Ahern
Superintendent of Schools 
This was shared from the FPS page
Sara Ahern, Superintendent of Schools , provides an update at a recent SChCOmm meeting
Sara Ahern, Superintendent of Schools , provides an update at a recent SChComm meeting

Franklin Food Pantry: Sharing the bounty of love and giving

Dear Pantry Friends,

During this season of Thanksgiving, hunger and food insecurity receive a lot of attention. Thanksgiving is, typically, a time when families and friends gather around a table and a bounty of food!  Unfortunately, that bounty of food is not a reality for everyone and this year many more people are facing a more difficult holiday season. Feeding America has just shared the most recent statistics  reminding us that there is still a lot of work for us to do to continue to decrease food insecurity in the Commonwealth.   

-    1 in 7 people (1 in 5 kids) in the Commonwealth is considered food insecure
-    During the pandemic, Massachusetts, has seen the greatest percentage increase of individuals experiencing food insecurity anywhere in the country - up 59%.
-    We have also seen the greatest increase in childhood food insecurity - up 102%.
-    Norfolk County has seen the largest percent change in child food insecurity - up 163%.
-   Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and food insecurity - 1 in 5 Black households, and nearly 1 in 3 Latino/a households is experiencing food insecurity.  For white households, the number is 1 in 8.   

The Franklin Food Pantry's mission is to alleviate food insecurity and compassionately empower our community through resources and collaboration.  We are doing this with your help.  Hunger does not stop after the holidays.  We can continue to provide food for our neighbors through your support - and there are a number of ways in which you can help:

  -  Donate. If you can make a monthly commitment, that helps us even more!
  -  Run or walk in this year's re-imagined Turkey Trot.
  -  Sponsor a Food Elf.
  -  Create a fundraising page.
  -  Become a Food Pantry Ambassador.
  -  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  -  Share our newsletter.
  -  Continue to educate yourself about food insecurity.

Everyone can make a difference. Thank you for all that you have done for the Pantry.  From our hearts to yours, we wish you a very safe and happy Thanksgiving.  As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or would simply like to talk (or zoom!), my door is always open!

With Appreciation, 

Lynn Calling

Executive Director


Franklin Food Pantry
Franklin Food Pantry Turkey Trot 2020

This is the entry memo to the email update shared recently, for the full contents, please visit

Senate Passes FY 2021 Budget, Conference Committee to start with House to reconcile differences

The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a $46 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), after adding $36.1 million in targeted investments over the course of two days of deliberations. Passed with bipartisan support, the budget aims to move the Commonwealth towards an equitable recovery by making critical investments in sectors impacted by COVID-19 including early education and childcare, food security, housing supports, and public health.

“With a second surge of COVID-19 upon us, we must do everything we can to shore up critical resources for those most in need so that we can begin to build towards an equitable recovery,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This unprecedented budget is a testament to the challenges we face as a Commonwealth, but I am confident Massachusetts will emerge stronger and more resilient than before. I am thankful for the hard work of Chair Rodrigues, his team, Vice Chair Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Lewis and the entire Senate Committee on Ways and Means for the budget they produced and finalized under these very difficult circumstances.”

“Under difficult circumstances because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud of the Senate's ability during these last two days to meet the moment, engage in respectful debate, take action to protect our most vulnerable and set the Commonwealth on a path toward an equitable recovery,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D- Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Under the leadership of Senate President Spilka, the Senate has taken important steps this week to confront the unprecedented challenges brought on by this public health crisis and pass a fiscally responsible budget plan that further protects access to child care, health care, housing, public transportation and economic opportunity. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for their tireless work and passionate advocacy over the course of our debate.”
As COVID-19 continues to spread across our Commonwealth, the Senate budget preserves access to essential services for our most vulnerable residents. The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.2 billion to maintain critical access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.9 million people, ensuring that comprehensive care for our most vulnerable children, seniors and low-income residents is protected in the middle of a public health crisis. The Senate’s budget also includes targeted investments to maintain and expand access to mental health care, while strengthening public health infrastructure at the local, state and regional level to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am proud to have voted in favor of this budget—the $46 billion in funding will help our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable, as the Commonwealth continues to face new and unprecedented challenges that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Senate's investments in behavioral health services, housing protections, reproductive health access, education, and food insecurity in particular are crucial steps toward ensuring a more equitable economic recovery and a more equitable Commonwealth for all. I thank Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and fellow committee members for their diligent but expeditious efforts in passing this budget.”

The Senate’s budget protects Massachusetts students and educational institutions. Continuing the Senate’s long- standing support of targeted investments in education, this budget holds harmless Chapter 70 funding in a manner consistent with the agreement reached between the Senate, House and Administration in July by providing $5.283 billion, an increase of $107.6 million over FY20.

This additional level of investment will allow all school districts to maintain foundation spending levels while accounting for enrollment and inflation changes. The budget also includes $345 million for the Special Education (SPED) Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate. In addition to ensuring stability for the state’s K-12 population, the Senate’s budget takes steps to invest in childcare providers and higher education institutions—both of which are critically important to the state’s economy and recovery in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As our communities continue to struggle with both a public health and economic crisis, this budget represents an essential step forward to help our Commonwealth recover from the pandemic and rebuild a strong and equitable economy,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m especially pleased that despite a significant decline in revenue, this budget invests substantially in early education and childcare -- recognizing how critical this sector is for children, working families, and the state’s economic recovery -- and also seeks to protect important public transit services that are currently at risk.”

The Senate’s budget recommends a total of $46 billion in spending, a 5.5% increase over the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a revised tax revenue estimate of $27.592 billion, which provides for $3.558 billion less in available revenue than the original consensus revenue estimate originally agreed upon in January 2020. To close this anticipated revenue shortfall, the FY21 budget includes $1.5 billion from the Stabilization Fund, ensuring a majority of the Stabilization Fund balance remains for future years; $1.38 billion in available federal supports; and more than $400 million in new revenue initiatives. Among those initiatives, the budget includes provisions such as accelerated sales tax collection and a new fee structure for Transportation Network Companies. The budget also avoids drastic budget cuts while leaving the Commonwealth in a sound fiscal position moving forward.

Additional education investments include:

•    $5.283 billion for Chapter 70 education funding
•    $345 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker
•    $115 million to reimburse public school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
•    $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs
•    $560.4 million for the University of Massachusetts, $308 million for the fifteen community colleges, and
$285.5 million for the nine state universities; and $2 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities
•    $40 million for a new reserve to cover parent fees for families receiving subsidized childcare for the remainder of FY 21
•    $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Workforce and COVID-19 Supports Reserve to provide classroom stabilization grants, incentive pay for providers, and support for increased operational costs due to COVID-19
•    $15 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low- income families
•    $5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to preschool in underserved areas
•    $6.4M for Youth-At-Risk Matching grants, including support for YWCAs, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs, after adding $5M on the floor
•    $3.0 million for Rural School Aid, after adding $1.5M on the floor
•    $1.5 million for the Civics Education Trust Fund Additional health investments include:
•    $500.3 million for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
•    $163.6 million for a range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services
•    $94.5 million for children’s mental health services
•    $45.2 million for domestic violence prevention services
•    $35.4 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities
•    $20 million for funding to support expanded access to mental health services, including $10M for the Behavioral Health, Outreach, Access and Support Trust Fund and $10M for a new inpatient mental health acute care beds grant program to expand access to critical mental health services
•    $17.5 million for Family Resource Centers to meet increased demand for services
•    $10 million for grants to support local boards of health to combat COVID-19
•    $2.5 million for a new matching funds grant program to assist communities making public health-oriented adjustments to their public safety systems, including targeted reforms such as jail diversion programs, de- escalation training and professionals, and behavioral health staffing and supports
•    $1.7 million for the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) program to support a more effective local and regional public health delivery system
•    $1 million for a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan program, focused on equitable vaccine distribution

In addition to these health care investments, the Senate’s budget takes meaningful steps to expand access to care. It includes provisions that prohibit insurers from denying coverage for mental health services and primary care services solely because they were delivered on the same day in the same facility. This important measure will remove a significant financial barrier to the integration of primary care and mental health. The budget, through the amendment process, also includes provisions that further expand reproductive health care options.
The Senate is committed to building an equitable recovery while dismantling the systemic barriers that exist in our society. To that end, the Senate’s budget creates and invests in programs to educate, train and prepare Massachusetts workers.

Opportunity investments include:

•    $46.4 million for a new Economic Planning and Response Program, including grants and loans to small businesses, small business technical assistance and capital improvement supports
•    $40.6 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce
•    $20 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
•    $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant program to provide economic supports to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
•    $10 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
•    $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state
•    $5 million for Community Foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations across the Commonwealth
•    $3 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
•    $2 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership

Access to affordable housing, which has taken on new urgency for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key Senate priority for recovery. The Senate’s budget recognizes the crucial importance of housing to the Commonwealth’s recovery efforts and invests over $540 million in housing stability programs to support many families, tenants and property owners in this time of crisis.

Housing investments include:

•    $180.7 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
•    $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
•    $50 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), as well as emergency changes to the RAFT program to increase the maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 and allow eligible households facing a housing crisis to access both RAFT and HomeBASE.
•    $53.4 million for assistance for homeless individuals
•    $27.2 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs
•    $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
•    $10.5 million for housing vouchers for Department of Mental Health (DMH) clients to transition into housing and community-based services
•    $4.75 million for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs)
•    $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including
$250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth
•    $2.5 million for the Office of Public Collaboration to support housing dispute mediation efforts across the Commonwealth
•    $1.3 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program
In addition to these critical investments, this budget includes additional protection measures to ensure the state’s residents most at risk of eviction in the middle of a pandemic are kept safe and secure in their homes. Through the amendment process, the budget also includes a provision that would simplify the application process for RAFT and protect the credit rating of individuals who face eviction due to COVID-19 by sealing eviction records. This proposal provides additional protections and resources to tenants suffering a COVID-19-related financial hardship, as well as stability as they await short-term emergency rental assistance.

Food insecurity has become one of the most prevalent consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting children, adults and seniors alike. The Senate’s budget therefore prioritizes access to food resources across the Commonwealth.

Food insecurity investments include:

•    $30 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program
•    $13 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to ensure vulnerable households have continued access to food options during the pandemic
•    $1.2 million for Project Bread to support the Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP) and the FoodSource Hotline

The Senate’s budget supports cities and towns while allowing them flexibility to confront the unique challenges facing them by directing significant resources to local and regional aid. This includes increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to $94 million to ensure that commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities have access to reliable public transportation during this time of critical need. Along with traditional local aid, the Senate’s budget level funds payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $30 million. PILOT funding has been a beneficial source of local aid that provides cities and towns with additional resources to support core public services.

Local investments include:

•    $1.129 billion for unrestricted general government aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges
•    $32.6 million for the Board of Library Commissioners, $11.5 million for regional library local aid, $12 million for municipal libraries and $4.4 million for technology and automated resources
•    $18.2 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
•    $17 million for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state.

A Conference Committee will now convene to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives last week. 

The chart hadn't been update with the most recent action by the Senate moving the budget to Conference Committee
The chart hadn't been update with the most recent action by the Senate moving the budget to Conference Committee


Voices of Franklin: KP Sompally - Keep Franklin Beautiful

Several community members and I have been raising awareness to seek participation towards establishing an initiative surrounding the goal of keeping Franklin beautiful. Through our collective efforts, we as a community intend to maintain cleanliness throughout the town of Franklin during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. We intend to meet during the first Saturday of each month during these seasons and will work together to clean up public areas of our community. Due to the pandemic, we are currently working with a limited number of volunteers for general safety of our community.

The net impact brought upon by this initiative is heavily reliant on the collective effort of volunteers and the active participation of our residents. If interested in joining us in our mission to keep our community clean, please reach out via email at,, those who are interested will be periodically updated with the list of volunteers, progress and milestones accomplished during the cleaning process and the opportunity to reflect and develop our general shared goals and ideas. Join us and help us keep our community clean!!!


Keep Franklin Beautiful
Keep Franklin Beautiful

FHS Swim team fund raiser - candle sale

From Jill Gabel Simms:
Hi Everyone! Franklin High School Varsity Swim is holding a candle sale this week only. Below you can see the candles being offered, all locally poured here in Franklin by Boston Wick. The scent of each candle is marked in the lower right hand corner of the label, and a description of each scent is in the list. Candles sell for $20/each and the team will earn $10 from each candle. 
Please reach out to your favorite swimmer from the team to order or PM me directly, as my son, Zach, is a swimmer. Orders will be accepted this week only in order to be delivered in time for the holidays. Payment with order via cash, check or Venmo. 
Thanks so much!

FHS Swim team fund raiser - candle sale
FHS Swim team fund raiser - candle sale

FHS Swim team fund raiser - candle sale 1
FHS Swim team fund raiser - candle sale 1

FHS Theatre Company: tickets on sale for CLUE - Dec 3 and Dec 4

Join us for our production of CLUE at 7 PM on December 3rd and 4th. Purchase tickets for our live-streamed production using the QR code below!!


FHS Theatre Company: tickets on sale for CLUE - Dec 3 and Dec 4
FHS Theatre Company: tickets on sale for CLUE - Dec 3 and Dec 4


Two Facebook Pages Created to Promote Local Businesses - United Regional Chamber of Commerce is ready to help promote your business

The United Regional Chamber of Commerce (URCC) has created two Facebook pages to promote local businesses – Rally ‘Round the Restaurants and Back to Business. These pages are open to all local businesses (URCC members as well as others) that want to promote how they are innovating to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In these difficult and uncertain times, many local restaurants are struggling, day to day. Local restaurants are welcome to post their specials, events, and hours of operation on the URCC Rally ‘Round the Restaurants page (  

URCC Rally ‘Round the Restaurants
URCC Rally ‘Round the Restaurants page

Holiday shopping has begun and the URCC wants to help by bringing customers to local businesses. These businesses can post their information including special holiday promotions and sales On the Back to Business Facebook page (

Back to Business Facebook page
URCC Back to Business Facebook page

The URCC has created these pages to get the word out and to help local businesses succeed.

Please contact President/CEO Jack Lank for more information or if you have any questions. He is looking forward to hearing from you to learn about anything that the URCC can do to help local businesses.

"State will roll out rapid testing in 134 school districts"

From CommonWealth Magazine we share an article of interest for Franklin: 

"STATE OFFICIALS ARE rolling out a rapid testing program in 134 school districts, where students who show symptoms of COVID-19 will be able to get test results in just 15 minutes.  

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley said testing will help schools “identify infected individuals and close contacts more quickly and stop the spread.”

Riley said while news about potential vaccines is promising, it is unlikely children will get the vaccine this academic year, and steps must be taken to keep as many students in school as possible. “It’s clear the virus will be with us for a while,” Riley said.

The US Department of Health and Human Services announced in late October that it would send 2.07 million Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 antigen tests to Massachusetts. The federal government purchased the first 150 million tests to distribute them to states, which can use them for education, nursing homes, first responders, or other priorities."

Continue reading the article online
Gov Baker's  press conference where this was discussed on Wednesday

IR-2020-256: Get Ready for Taxes: Get ready now to file 2020 federal income tax returns

The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to take necessary actions this fall to help them file their federal tax returns timely and accurately in 2021, including special steps related to Economic Impact Payments.

This is the first in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. A special page (, updated and available on, outlines steps taxpayers can take now to prepare for the 2021 tax return filing season ahead.

Steps taxpayers can take now to make tax filing easier in 2021

Taxpayers should gather Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, Forms 1099-Misc, Miscellaneous Income, and other income documents to help determine if they’re eligible for deductions or credits. They’ll also need their Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, to calculate any Recovery Rebate Credit they may be eligible for on their 2020 Federal income tax return.

Most income is taxable, including unemployment compensation, refund interest and income from the gig economy and virtual currencies.

Taxpayers with an Individual Tax Identification Number should ensure it hasn’t expired before they file their 2020 federal tax return. If it has, IRS recommends they submit a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, now to renew their ITIN. Taxpayers who fail to renew an ITIN before filing a tax return next year could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credits.

Taxpayers can use the Tax Withholding Estimator on to help determine the right amount of tax to have withheld from their paychecks. If they need to adjust their withholding for the rest of the year time is running out, they should submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to their employer as soon as possible.

Taxpayers who received non-wage income like self-employment income, investment income, taxable Social Security benefits and in some instances, pension and annuity income, may have to make estimated tax payments. Payment options can be found at

New in 2021: Those who didn’t receive an EIP may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit

Taxpayers may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit if they met the eligibility criteria in 2020 and:

 -   They didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment this year, or
 -  Their Economic Impact Payment was less than $1,200 ($2,400 if married filing jointly for 2019 or 2018) plus $500 for each qualifying child.
 -  For additional information about the Economic Impact Payment, taxpayers can visit the Economic Impact Payment Information Center.

Received interest on a federal tax refund? Remember these are taxable; include when filing

Taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. The IRS sent interest payments to individual taxpayers who timely filed their 2019 federal income tax returns and received refunds. Most interest payments were received separately from tax refunds. Interest payments are taxable and must be reported on 2020 federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send a Form 1099-INT, Interest Income, to anyone who received interest totaling at least $10.

Although the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, the IRS cautions taxpayers not to rely on receiving a 2020 federal tax refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Some returns may require additional review and may take longer.

EITC/ACTC-related refunds should be available by first week of March

By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund − even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC. The IRS expects most EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return. Taxpayers should “Where’s My Refund?” for their personalized refund date.

With social distancing continuing, taxpayers can stay home and stay safe with IRS online tools

Taxpayers can find online tools and resources to help get the information they need. These tools are easy-to-use and available 24 hours a day. Millions of people use them to find information about their accounts, get answers to tax questions or file and pay their taxes.  

Almost everyone can file electronically for free.The IRS Free File program, available only through or the IRS2Go app, offers brand-name tax preparation software packages at no cost. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits and exemptions for you. It‘s free for those who earned $72,000 or less in 2020. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation.

If you’re comfortable filling out  your own tax forms electronically, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, regardless of your income, to file your tax returns either by mail or online.

Taxpayers have several options to find a tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional, which offers a wealth of information for selecting a tax professional.

The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help taxpayers find preparers in their area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS, or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant beginning in January 2021 to get answers to a number of tax law questions. The ITA can help determine if a type of income is taxable, if someone is eligible to claim certain credits, or if they can deduct expenses on their tax return.

Taxpayers can check the status of their refund using "Where's My Refund?". The status is available within 24 hours after the IRS receives their e-filed tax return or up to four weeks if they after they mailed a paper return. The “Where’s My Refund?” tool updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so taxpayers only need to check once a day.

The best and fastest way for taxpayers to get their tax refund is to have it direct deposited into their financial account. Taxpayers who don’t have a financial account can visit the FDIC website for information to help open an account online.

Taxpayers are invited to join the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. VITA/TCE volunteers receive training to provide free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers. There’s never been a better time to get ready to help others file and the IRS is rolling out new ways to make volunteering easier. Visit to learn more.  

Visit IRS page for the deep links to all the tips for preparing to file


Residents Invited to Light Up Franklin and Beyond

Light Up Begins This Weekend
Light Up Downtown Franklin and Beyond
Starts This Weekend!

We invite residents to join with businesses to decorate for the winter season! Let's roll out the welcome mat to our businesses and town by lighting it up!
Residents Invited to Light Up Franklin and Beyond

Franklin Downtown Partnership | 9 E. Central St., Franklin, MA 02038

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

FM #392 SNETT Timeline - 11/12/20 (audio)

How do the Franklin Odd Fellows and a flat tire play a part in the story of the SNETT tunnel? Listen to find out.

FM #392 = This is the Franklin Matters radio show, number 392 in the series. 

This session of the radio show shares the group conversation to talk through the timeline for the SNETT trail development in particular the work to make the tunnel a reality. We had our conversation via conference bridge to adhere to the ‘social distancing’ requirements of this pandemic period.

Participants in the timeline discussion are

  • Alan Earls
  • Marc Kaplan
  • Dave Labonte
  • Representative Jeff Roy

While the discussion was recorded with these folks, they all acknowledged the work of a host of others who at some point played a key role along the timeline.

The recording runs about 45 minutes, so let’s listen to the discussion on the timeline of the SNETT trail and in particular the work to bring the tunnel to reality.

Audio file =


The Franklin Bellingham Rail Trail Committee page 

SNETT archive documents (Courtesy of Alan Earls)

We are now producing this in collaboration with Franklin.TV and Franklin Public Radio ( or 102.9 on the Franklin area radio dial. 

This podcast is my public service effort for Franklin but we can't do it alone. We can always use your help.

How can you help?
  • If you can use the information that you find here, please tell your friends and neighbors
  • If you don't like something here, please let me know
Through this feedback loop we can continue to make improvements. I thank you for listening.

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission.

I hope you enjoy!

You can also subscribe and listen to Franklin Matters audio on iTunes or your favorite podcast app; search in "podcasts" for "Franklin Matters"

the new tunnel under Prospect St improves the SNETT experience
the new tunnel under Prospect St improves the SNETT experience

Franklin, MA: Budget Subcommittee - Agenda - Nov 18 (overall budget FY 21 status)

Town Council Budget Subcommittee Meeting
Agenda & Meeting Packet
November 18, 2020 - 6:00 PM

1.    FY21 Budget Update & Discussion
a.    Recommendation on Recreation Department & Town Clerk Department
b.    Recommendation on Budget Stabilization deposit
November 13, 2020

To:    Town Council Budget Subcommittee, Town Council
From: Jamie Hellen, Town Administrator

RE:    FY21 Budget Update & Close out

As many recall, when the FY21 town budget was considered and approved in the Spring, there was great uncertainty to the town's budget position.  Staff lowered local revenues by about 15% and expected a further state aid cut.  I decided to wait to make reductions in the Town budget until we knew exactly what that state aid cut would be. For details of the budget approved in June please visit the Town’s budget page at:

I am pleased to report that the Town will not need to adjust any portions of the FY21 town budget with two exceptions: the Town Clerk’s Department and the Recreation Department. The Town has revised its revenue projections and will see additional revenues now that we have a commitment from the state on local aid numbers. I have attached a new Budget Control sheet to this memo.

I am recommending to the Finance Committee support two revised budget expenditures of $75,000 to the Town Clerk Department and $75,000 to the Recreation Department. I have included more details below.

I am also recommending to the Finance Committee to appropriate all excess revenues to the Town’s Budget Stabilization Fund (assuming support for the two above appropriation recommendations of the combined $150,000). After all of the revisions to the budget, the Town has an additional $853,842 in revenue. These funds will help offset any budget deficiencies later in FY21 if the state's economy takes a downturn, the Governor makes any 9C cuts or other unforeseen operating budget challenges arise. The funds in the Budget Stabilization fund also could be applied to FY22 or FY23 as a one-time revenue source to continue to address budget shortfalls

Overall Budget Update Highlights

●    State Budget Update. The Legislature and Governor have committed to FY20 local aid revenue CH70 and Unrestricted Aid numbers, which are reflected in Governor Baker’s H.2 Budget proposal filed in October. I have attached the updated cherry sheet. While the Legislature has not formally finalized its budget, we have been assured these numbers will be a part of the final FY21 state budget through our legislative delegation. Make no mistake, this policy by the legislature is the reason the Town is anticipating no further cuts to its revenue sources for the year. The Superintendent and I wrote them a letter on this in June and they have concerns.

●    Local Receipts. Town local receipts revenues have stayed consistent and on par with predictions through the end of October. I have attached an updated revenue sheet. Please note that the largest category of local receipts is the vehicle excise tax, which is mostly due in the Spring. Fees then licenses and permits are the next largest categories and the Town is currently near 50% of anticipated collections. We do expect a drop in some revenues due to the winter months, but we will monitor it closely.

●    Federal COVID-19 Assistance. The Town has received or applied approximately $4.5 million in federal assistance from a variety of sources. I have attached an updated sheet on the federal monies. None of these monies impact the town budget directly. These funds are required to be in special revenue accounts.

●    Congressional Update. The prospect of additional federal stimulus to the state for local cities and towns appears unknown at this time. The Superintendent of Schools and I sent Massachusetts’ elected representatives a letter regarding this issue in June. The Superintendent and I also wrote a letter recently encouraging our Congressional delegation to extend the deadline for CARES Act funding.

Revenues Summary

Please reference the “Increase/Decrease” column on the attached control sheet. Revenues are as follows relative to the approved FY21 budget in June:

●    New Growth. The Town estimated a very conservative New Growth projection in June at $650,000. The Assessors are now confident the revenue projection will be $1,650,000, or $1 million more than anticipated. Why? Despite the pandemic, actively financed or planned projects continued. This relates to personal residential home improvements, commercial/industrial and residential development. Like the Town’s own infrastructure projects, we did not see any major slow down of development projects in town. This includes home improvements.

A big shout out to the Board of Assessors and the Assessors Department for their commitment and bravery during this pandemic. It is easy to overlook this or take it for granted, but our inspectors picked back up in June and have not looked back. The Town is in the fiscal position it is in due to our Assessors continuing inspections and working diligently to capture revenue.

●    Hotel/Motel tax. The Town did see a large decrease in hotel motel tax as expected. We expect this fiscal year to be even lower. Our final number is $285,558, almost half of what has traditionally been received in recent years. This number is reflected in an increase in local receipts.

●    Local Receipts. As described above, we increased the assumption made in June to reflect the hotel/motel tax revenue. As described above, steady as we go. The big concern is January through March.

●    State Aid. To date, the town will see a decrease in state aid. But this pales in comparison to the expected 10% (+/-) cut of local aid we expected in June. State aid numbers will continue to fluctuate based on the final legislative approval over the coming month.

●    After all considerations, the Town $853,842 in unanticipated revenue projections.

Challenges ahead

Outside of the overall uncertainty in America over the pandemic and the economy, these are some of the concerns I have as we move into the winter relative to our local budget:
●    Unemployment Insurance. The Town has already overspent its unemployment insurance line item for the year due to the personnel redundancies at the town and school level at the beginning of the pandemic. We believe these cost overruns will be absorbed by other line items in the benefits budget, notably a partial reduction in health insurance premiums for the Town and employees. Our Human Resources Department was successful in working with Harvard Pilgrim to see a 15% rate reduction for April due to the pandemic. We also believe (hope!) that we can withstand any more personnel redundancies for the remainder of the fiscal year, which will ensure this line item does not increase any further. That said, this is an account we will monitor closely.

●    PPE & other COVID-19 mandates. CARES Act funding deadlines are December 30th, 2020. The federal government has paid for all of the Town’s PPE and resources to get us to this point. The future is uncertain. If this deadline is not extended, the Town will be on the hook for all costs relative to PPE, disinfectant, personnel costs and so forth.

●    Free Cash. The Town recently had its FY20 Free Cash certified by the Department of Revenue. The Town has certified at 2,730,757, which is nearly $1 million less than last year. I am recommending to put the FY20 Capital program on hold to reserve these funds for unintended expenses in the winter and spring. This will put a large strain on our departments who rely on our annual capital program to maintain vehicles, equipment and so forth. I will outline in a deeper memo to the Town and staff how FY20 capital will be recommended at a later date.

Town Clerk Department

I am recommending adding an additional $75,000 to the Town Clerk’s budget to pay for the federal election cycle and local town election on December 5th. This will not be an exact figure as the situation is fluid and ongoing. But the reality is that after the incident on the September 1st primary, our staff did what was needed in order to rebuild the confidence in the community’s election process.

Recreation Department

As has been discussed for years, the Recreation Department is mostly self-sustainable. The fees pay for the majority of the expenses and costs for programs. In June, the FY21 budget approved anticipated a 25% reduction in fees, thus, we reduced the expense budget by 25% as well. We anticipated a very weak summer schedule and even cut Concerts on the Common. By the 4th of July, the plan completely changed.

One positive story during this pandemic has been the successful Recreation programs families have been able to rely on. Beginning almost immediately after the budget was approved in June, the Governor’s Executive Orders offered the Town more latitude to conduct programs. Ryan Jette and his staff set out some exceptionally safe programs for kids and families in need of supervised, safe and structured sports. We also were able to have some concerts on the common this summer, too. We anticipated none of this in June.

I am recommending an additional $75,000 to be added to the Recreation budget to compensate for the expenses we did not anticipate in June for many of the Summer and Falls programs. Recreation’s expenses are over 50% expended so far and we will need to add money in personnel and expenses in order for us to get through the year.

Five Year Forecast
It will continue to be difficult for me to draft any relevant or meaningful “five-year fiscal forecast” that is valuable for any longer than a week. The global geopolitical and economic climate is still simply too uncertain to predict. I remain steadfast, however, that in order for certainty and stability in our economy to appear, the public health crisis must continue to be contained, if not solved.

As for FY22, I am hopeful that once we reach the holidays, the staff can get back on a regular budget schedule. I am hopeful we can begin the FY22 budget process after the tax rate is set on December 2nd. I am optimistic as the new year begins, the Town can pivot to the FY22 budget in January and get back on a regular budget cycle.
The full agenda and released documents for this meeting, including connection info, can be found:

The drive through window is a great service feature of the Municipal Building
The drive through window is a great service feature of the Municipal Building