Dear Greylock Together,
It feels like it’s been a while since we asked you to make some calls. Put your activism skills to work and let’s make the world a little better than it was yesterday.
Sheriff. The county jail has the potential to be a COVID-19 hotspot, with the captive population spreading the virus in their close quarters. The facility is only half full, but it’s still a big risk. Isolation measures can be taken, but they also make life more miserable for the inmates. Please call Berkshire County Sheriff Thomas Bowler and ask him to use his authority to release with GPS bracelets any inmates who are on mandatory minimum sentences and don’t present significant threat to the public. The focus should be on the populations most at risk (60+, immunosuppressed, or other underlying problems) but simply reducing the overall concentration will help. They are taking some measures, but this is an important one!
Call Assistant Deputy Superintendent Diane Maynes at (413) 443-7220 ext. 1102 to leave feedback as a member of the public and ask for the Sheriff to take this important step. She isn’t in the office today (Wednesday), so leave a message along these lines:
Hi there, I’m <NAME> and I live in <TOWN>, and I was calling to ask if the Sheriff would please begin releasing people from the county jail on GPS bracelets where possible, to help limit the risk from the coronavirus. There’s a lot of people on mandatory minimums who aren’t a threat to anyone, and they should be helping their families and not sitting packed in close quarters with others.Consider also leaving a message on their Facebook page.
Food Info. Here is a spreadsheet put together by Wendy that has detailed info on what food pantries are still open. We know that it is accurate as of yesterday. The Greylock Glass has also consolidated information about food supplies at shelters, churches, and the like on this map.
Masks Need Sewing. If you are willing and able to sew surgical masks, please consider making some for the front-liners who need them. Contrary to last newsletter, BMC won’t be using them, but there are at least a dozen other healthcare providers that are asking for them (often as covers over proper surgical masks, which are running low everywhere). Instructions are here. They’re very simple, but a ton of info is available. Contact Jessica Chittenden at Jchittendenlmhc@gmail.com if you’re willing, and she’ll tell you about safe drop-off procedures.
Notifications. The Baker-Polito Administration just announced a new “Alerts MA” texting service to allow Massachusetts residents to receive latest updates & information about #COVID19 from trusted sources. To sign up, text “COVIDMA” to 888-777.
Reminder: Mutual Aid. Facebook group mutual aid and dispensing info in the county here. The Greylock Glass has also set up this mutual aid board.
Vote by Mail. Election officials in both parties call for emergency funding to expand voting by mail before November. It’s just common sense.
Social Distancing Plaudits. Massachusetts and Berkshire County earn As for social distancing. Public health professionals agree that social distancing is critical to reduce the spread of this pandemic. Data scientists are using smartphone data to determine how well different states and communities are complying with this recommendation; you can see the results on this interactive map. Massachusetts, and Berkshire County have both earned A-grades, among the top in the country. Statewide, travel is down by 47%. Here in Berkshire County, it’s down by 43%. Let’s keep it up, Berkshire County; this is how we take care of one another.
GOP Profiting Off Insider Trading. After being briefed on the coronavirus — on 1/24 — as members of the senate intelligence committee, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) did nothing to help Americans understand the seriousness of the threat the virus posed. Instead, they cashed in:
Burr and Loeffler had an opportunity to sound the alarm. They could have broken ranks with other congressional Republicans and told the country to take the situation more seriously. They could have criticized Trump for not doing more. Such criticism, coming from Trump’s own party, would have received major attention. It would have had the potential to alter Trump administration policy and, by extension, the course the disease took….Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.Read more about it at the NYT.
Reminder: Unemployment Benefits Help. If you need help applying for unemployment, virtual town halls are here.
Check out more news from this week at Muckraker Farm.
Events (GCal,iCal)None. Stay at home.
Resist and persist!
Dear Greylock Together,
Usually our newsletter is on Tuesdays, but events are moving fast and people need help. Here’s more info about local needs and opportunities. Share this with other local people, please. Anyone who wants to sign up for this newsletter may do so at our website.
This is important. Even if you don’t need anything or have anything extra, you should try to find a way to help if you have the time and energy. It’s not enough to just sit back and ride things out — to hope for good things from a distance. Find ways to help. Remember: “hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.” (Francis Bacon)
Masks Need Sewing. BMC recently got some supplies of PPE (personal protective equipment) from the federal stockpile, but stocks are still quite low. This is one way in which our community might be able to help. If you are willing and able to sew surgical masks, please consider making some for the front-liners who need them. Instructions are here. They’re very simple and the design is already approved by BMC. Contact Jessica Chittenden at Jchittendenlmhc@gmail.com if you’re willing, and she’ll tell you about safe drop-off procedures.
Food Info. Do you need food, or do you want to donate some? The Greylock Glass has consolidated information about food supplies at shelters, churches, and the like on this map. If you recently lost your job and you’re suddenly food insecure, don’t be shy! These services exist for you!
Mutual Aid. There’s a Facebook group set up for setting up mutual aid and dispensing info in the county. Check it out here. We’re also looking into joining this campaign for mutual aid, but if you need help before then with something, please join their Slack and ask! And finally, The Greylock Glass has also set up this mutual aid board. If you have services or supplies to donate, including being willing to deliver things, please volunteer on the board.
Unemployment Benefits Help. If you’re out of work and need help applying for unemployment, go to one of the virtual town halls that the DUA is running here. Please apply ASAP in case there’s delays!
Petition for Grocery, Pharmacy, Food Workers. There are a ton of people doing simply vital work right now and risking themselves to do it, but they’re not entitled to appropriate benefits. Sign this petition to have them designated as essential emergency personnel.
Tax Day Delayed. The federal government is moving tax day to July 15. Current understanding is that returns and refunds will still be processed if you submit by the usual date of April 15, but the deadline for doing so is now extended out to July, and you will suffer no penalties if you wait.
RMV Inspections Delayed. There’s a two-month extension for anyone whose inspection sticker expires in March or April. More (and complicated) details here if this affects you.
Reminder: Blood Drive. Reminder that there is a blood drive this Tuesday! The South Williamstown Community Association is organizing a blood drive at the South Williamstown Historical Museum on Tuesday, March 24th from 9am – 2pm. All donations made via Berkshire Health Systems help local patients, and for those dealing with cancer, other illnesses, and emergencies, the need is great. Blood donations are needed urgently as many have stopped donating due to COVID-19. Donors are requested to be healthy without any symptoms of cough, cold, or fever. Please schedule an appointment today, which helps prevent long wait times and assists BHS to plan for this event. To sign up, please contact (413) 447-2597 x 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder: Stop and Shop. Reminder that each Stop & Shop has early hours for customers who are aged 60 and older from 6:00 to 7:30 AM daily. In Williamstown, the Council on Aging can provide transport — contact the Harper Center at 458.8250.
Reminder: Command Center. The COVID-19 Command Center is open for inquiries from individuals become aware of resources, needs, and individuals who would like to volunteer. Call 413-662-3614 (7am to 7pm) or email at email@example.com. There’s a lot of calls, so you might be on hold for a short time.
None. Stay home.
Did you get a chance to call your senators? If so, awesome (it’s kind of empowering, no?). This weekend, let’s pay it forward with our final 5-minute action of this week. Let’s all reach out to friends and/or family —particularly those in states with GOP senators who are most likely to be on the fence about the AHCA (list provided below) — and ask them, directly, to call their senators.
The moment to do this is right now. Topher Spiro, from the Center for American Progress, has reported that for senators who are on the fence about the AHCA, this congressional recess is the test. If they get too much backlash in their home districts, they will tell Mitch McConnell that TrumpCare is dead.
So every one of these on-the-fence senators need to be met with more backlash than they can possibly imagine. We need everyone in this effort — both those who have been visiting/calling/protesting, and also those that haven’t yet started. This is entirely within reach; we need only three Republican senators to defect for the AHCA to fail.
The task, should you choose to accept it.
- Look through your contacts list, Facebook friends, twitter followers, address book. See if you can find at least one person (ideally more!) who lives in these states:
These are the states whose senators are on the fence. These senators must be completely unnerved by the end of next week.
- Call these loved ones. Or write to them. Don’t just communicate to a broad audience in a general Facebook post. Write to at least one person specifically. Use their name. Use their senator’s name. Here are the names and contact numbers for the target senators.
Ask them to contact their senator/s. Tell them you’re worried about health care, and that because they’re a resident of (NAME STATE), they are in a better position to influence health care than almost anyone in America. Say, “will you please pick up the phone, or go to a protest?” Tell them you’ll walk them through it if they’re nervous. Some suggested phrasing is below.
Tell them your own story about making a first phone call. Tell them that you were nervous, that your voice shook, that you stumbled over your words, and that’s okay. It is so much more important that they call then how they sound when they call.
Tell them you’ll check back in with them. And that as long as they pick up and dial, and say manage the words: “do not repeal obamacare, or do not repeal the ACA,” you will cheer like heck for them.
Please provide the senators’ contact number in your email. Give them everything they might possibly need.
Not sure what to say? Here’s a possible model:
I hope you’re well! I don’t know if you’re aware, but like many people, I’ve become much more politically involved since November. I’ve been calling my own senators and representatives about a variety of issues — one of which is health care. I believe — and all the data suggest — that the AHCA (TrumpCare) would be a disaster for the nation’s health — far, far worse than Obamacare, which I’m committed to help improve.
Here’s why I’m writing to you: the GOP needs 50 senate votes to pass the AHCA…which means we can block this by convincing just three moderate Republican senators not to vote for it. Your senator, Susan Collins, is very much on the fence…and word is that she’s spending this congressional break trying to figure out where her constituents stand. This means you (yes you specifically!) are in an extraordinary position to influence the health of this nation. Can I ask you to pick up the phone and call Senator Collins?
I don’t know if you’ve ever made a call to your senator before…I will offer that I was super-nervous the first time I did it. What I learned is that (a) the first phone call is always the hardest, (b) it doesn’t matter what you sound like when you call…it only matters that you call, and (c) it actually feels really, really good when you’re done.
You don’t need to know any specific policy points. As long as you say that you’re opposed to repealing Obamacare (the ACA), or that you’re opposed to the AHCA, you’ll have done what you needed to. If you stumble over your words (as I did), or if your voice is shaky (as mine was), that’s actually great — it’s a sign that you’re an ordinary citizen.
If you’re nervous, I’m happy to help coach you through the phone call. Please know that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t believe that both the issue and the moment were critically important. I spent my whole life not talking about politics…but this moment, right now, matters too much to for me to stay quiet.
Susan Collins’s # is 202-224-2523. Phone calls are much more effective than emails, FYI. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get through. If you want a sample script, there’s one here: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/resource/demand-member-congress-oppose-trumpcare/
Let me know if you have any questions…and let me know when you call: I will cheer like heck for you!
Why ask friends and family?
Many, many people hesitate to make that first phone call. They want to call. They intend to. Maybe they’re sitting there right now, feeling like they should, but…something’s holding them back. While that “something” might be different for every one of them, all of them are much more likely to take the leap if they’re directly asked by someone they know.
But isn’t it rude to pressure loved ones about politics?
Don’t think of it as pressure. Think about it as encouragement. If any part of them wishes they can do something, then they’re going to feel empowered when they make that first call. They’re going to feel good.
I say this with experience. Back in January, I wrote to my mother-in-law — a southern woman who is deeply uncomfortable discussing politics. I knew she didn’t like Trump and that she was worried about the country. But I also knew that 70+ years of not talking politics meant she probably wouldn’t pick up the phone on her own.
I didn’t feel comfortable asking. But I asked anyway. She did call, and then she wrote me to say, “I’m afraid I’m not very good at this, but I did it!” She was relieved, and proud…and it was a beginning. Now, she’s calling regularly (woohoo!).
But it’s so uncomfortable to talk about politics.
You bet it is. But the folks out there who are rooting for Trumpism— all those who support white nationalism, who want to ban all members of an entire religion from entering the country, who are discrediting legitimate journalism as fake news, and who are shouting “lock her up” like we’re living in Salem 1692— aren’t uncomfortable. Nor are they being quiet. This means the alternative to talking with our loved about politics is having them hear the Trumpists in one ear…and a vacuum in the other.
And if you think it will help them relax, you can always send them these humorous tips for calling your elected official, from the New Yorker.
Want to take it one step further? Help them find a resistance event near them: https://twitter.com/TopherSpiro/status/868080004290183168