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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

DPH TO SURVEY SYSTEM PREPAREDNESS FOR EBOLA

The state public health commissioner has advised Massachusetts hospitals to review their infection control protocols and provide preparedness trainings in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of Ebola. Cheryl Bartlett, the DPH commissioner, told a Beacon Hill committee that she is meeting on Thursday and Friday with hospital associations to discuss her agency’s plan to send staff into the field to support implementation of infection control protocols and preparedness trainings. “We will be working closely with our providers and their frontline workers, and fellow nurses and others, and we will conduct a robust survey with them of our preparedness throughout the system,” Bartlett told members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, which is taking testimony Thursday in its second hearing on Ebola response capacity. The Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory is one of a “small number” of state laboratories that the federal Centers for Disease Control has approved for preliminary testifying for Ebola. Bartlett stressed that so far, there have been no cases of Ebola in Massachusetts and the risk remains low in Massachusetts. The lab can have testing results within four to six hours of submitting a specimen, she said. Bartlett, who is leaving her post later this year, was joined by Mary Clark, director of the Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management, and Public Safety Undersecretary Kurt Schwartz. – G. Dumcius/SHNS [Developing]

EFFORT LAUNCHED TO HELP MASS. BIZ PREP FOR DISASTERS

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and a Massachusetts business trade group are teaming up on a white paper to help companies prepare facilities, operations and employees for disasters and interruptions. FEMA announced Wednesday plans to work with the Massachusetts Business Roundtable with the goal of motivating businesses to be ready to serve their customers after disasters strike by being capable of providing goods and services, such as food, gas, medications, personal hygiene products, home repair supplies, insurance and banking. Citing Insurance Information Institute data, FEMA Region I Acting Administrator Paul Ford said up to 40 percent of businesses fail after a disaster. “Conversely, businesses that can open for business immediately after disaster strikes experience a sharp increase in sales, increased customer loyalty and a significant competitive edge over businesses that are not prepared for disasters,” Ford said in a statement. On Sept. 11, officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Northeast Utilities, Santander Bank, Suffolk Construction and Tufts Medical Center began the project, with a final report expected by April 2015. The UMass Boston Center for Collaborative Leadership is assisting with the effort. – M. Norton/SHNS

GAO: 99 PERCENT OF IRA BALANCES BELOW $1 MILLION

Saying it did its study to address concerns that IRA tax benefits are accruing primarily for higher-income individuals, the General Accounting Office reported Wednesday that 99 percent of taxpayers who had individual retirement accounts in 2011 had balances of $1 million or less. The GAO reported that about 43 million taxpayers had IRAs in 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, and the accounts had a total fair market value of $5.2 trillion. Of those, 42.4 million taxpayers had balances lower than $1 million, nearly 503,000 had balances between $1 million and $2 million, 84,000 had balances between $2 million and $3 million, 36,171 had balances between $3 million and $5 million, 7,952 had balances between $5 million and $10 million, 791 had balances between $10 million and $25 million, and 314 taxpayers in 2011 had IRA balances north of $25 million. The GAO said an individual who made maximum contributions every year since 1975 to a traditional IRA could have accumulated about $303,000 assuming returns equal to the average Social Security interest rates. The agency conducted the study because the federal government this year will forgo about $17.5 billion in tax revenues from IRAs. – M. Norton/SHNS

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