Blog & News

Back to Posts

This Week in Massachusetts – January 24, 2023

Posted on January 24, 2023

Healey’s First Two Bills Carry $1.4 Billion Bottom Line

NBC Boston – Saying she wants her administration to be known as one “driving economic development,” growth and opportunity, Gov. Maura Healey on Thursday announced plans to put before the Legislature a $987 million “immediate needs” bond bill for housing and economic development programs.

Healey also is filing a bill to authorize the state to borrow an additional $400 million to fund roads and bridges under the Chapter 90 program for the next two years.

Cities and towns are seeking a minimum $600 million commitment over two years. At a press conference in western Massachusetts, Healey discussed the first bill she’s filing, saying it will “ensure critical housing and economic development programs across the state can continue to serve the people of Massachusetts without interruption.”

“This includes production and preservation of affordable rental housing, public housing, climate resilient housing and transit-oriented developments,” Healey said during a visit to Greylock Works in North Adams Thursday afternoon.

The bill, which Healey called the 2023 Immediate Needs Bond Bill, authorizes funding for cities and towns, including targeted funds for rural and small towns to support libraries, seaport development, housing, tourism and planning, the governor said.

Union Membership Hits Record Low in 2022

Boston Globe – Union membership in the United States fell last year to a new low even as the labor movement scored a string of significant victories at high-profile companies that have long evaded unionization, such as Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Chipotle, and Trader Joe’s.

The share of the workforce in labor unions dropped to 10.1 percent, the lowest on record, the Labor Department said Thursday, even as the total number of union members in the United States grew by 273,000 last year. The labor movement could not keep up as the booming job market added 5.3 million jobs, and non-union jobs grew at a faster clip than union positions.

The share of the workforce in unions in the United States has been in a near-steady decline since the mid-1950s. Membership hit a record low of 10.3 percent in 2019 and matched that again in 2021, after a small uptick in 2020. At its peak in the 1950s, more than 1 in 3 workers belonged to unions.

The disappointing numbers for the US labor movement come at a time of unprecedented worker leverage because of the tight labor market — conditions that tend to favor unions and labor activism. American workers, particularly in low-wage jobs, have been able to demand higher pay and better treatment from employers, as labor participation rates remain low and job openings remain high with close to two job openings for every job seeker over the past year. That trend is only beginning to ease.

Bus Driver Hiring Woes Continue at MBTA

WBUR – The MBTA is “not making the sort of progress we really want to see” in its efforts to recruit new bus operators, a top official said Thursday, describing ongoing challenges in one of several areas where staffing shortages have bled into service disruptions.

About three dozen new bus drivers started in October as part of the first class in a new MBTA pilot program that allows applicants to receive commercial driver’s license training during the onboarding process, rather than before they get hired. Another 63 candidates are ready to hire for the second class in that pilot program, according to figures presented at a T subcommittee meeting.

But when pressed by board members on how many bus operator positions remain unfilled, MBTA Chief Human Resources Officer Tom Waye could not provide specifics and said he would need to circle back with an estimate.

“We’re making progress,” Waye said. “There are some significant numbers still to fulfill in that area.”

MBTA Chief Administrative Officer David Panagore jumped into the discussion, saying the agency is “making progress from the point of view of filling our class sizes” and “holding steady” in the face of retirements and other departures.

The New Year Brings New Tech Layoffs

Boston Herald – Already in 2023, there’s been a quick string of layoffs in the local technology sector.

American Robotics, a drone startup in Waltham, laid off 65 percent of its staff last week, or about 50 people, according to former employees. Definitive Healthcare in Framingham laid off 6 percent of its workforce, or 55 people, and Cambridge software company Pegasystems laid off 4 percent, or 250 people. And on Wednesday, Boston wireless Internet firm Starry cut about one-quarter of its workforce, or 100 people.

Earlier this month, Boston software company Jellyfish laid off 9 percent of its staff, and Whoop laid off 4 percent of its corporate workforce. Layoffs have also hit Boston’s Embark Veterinary, a dog DNA-testing startup, and SimpliSafe, a home security company, which is closing its Taunton warehouse.

Each layoff has its own reasons. But the range of companies affected shows that the tech community is still adjusting to the economic slowdown, uncertain market conditions, and (in some cases) over-hiring.

The Globe has also reported that tech companies — once in growth mode but now cutting back — are responsible for nearly half of the office space available on the sublease market in Boston.

“This year will likely be choppy,” said David Chang, general manager of recruiting startup Hunt Club’s expert network in Boston.

Definitive Healthcare CEO Robert Musslewhite cited changing economic conditions, which led some companies to become more cautious about their purchasing decisions, as well as aggressive hiring on his part, as reasons for the company’s cuts.

What is ESG and What Could it Mean for Your Retirement Savings?

Worcester Telegram – Climate change and your retirement savings. Two issues that have nothing in common, right?


As the impacts of global warming become more apparent – whether it’s massive snowstorms that buried Buffalo or the weeks of severe flooding that devastated parts of California – some market watchers expect more workers will want to put their retirements savings in investments that match their values around wanting to do what’s right for the planet.

Three letters, ESG, are central to this topic, and they could play a significant role in how companies in Worcester team up with investment advisers to give employees choices of where to invest their retirement savings.

What do the letters mean?

ESG stands for environmental, social and governance, and a new rule by the U.S. Department of Labor that takes effect Jan. 30 means ESG can be considered by “plan fiduciaries” when deciding where to invest retirement savings.  A plan fiduciary is anyone with discretionary authority or control over a retirement plan or its assets, or someone who gives investment advice to the plan or its participants.

 How Downtown Boston is Recovering Depends on Which Downtown

Boston Globe – Since the start of the pandemic, there have been lots of questions about the future of downtown Boston. But three years in, it’s increasingly becoming clear that the answer to those questions hinges largely on which downtown Boston you’re talking about.

After all, the city’s core business districts — stretching roughly from Mass. Ave. to the edges of Boston Harbor — are hardly a monolith. And in a time of hybrid work, it’s the hybrid places, where people don’t just work but also live and play, that are bouncing back fastest.

So the post-COVID recovery of downtown can look quite different depending on where you’re standing. Just ask Arturo Barroso.

Barroso owns Boston Instant Shoe Repair, a snug shoe-repair shop on Oliver Street in the Financial District where for 15 years he’s built a business on the foot traffic of office workers. When COVID hit, sales plummeted, and even now the volume of customers dropping off their brogues and boots is a fraction of what it once was.

City Leaders Have Ideas for Downtown – Fewer people and empty offices — after two-and-a-half years of the COVID-19 pandemic, will Downtown Boston ever be the same?

That’s not the question to ask, according to city leaders.

In a new report published Thursday, Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration put forth the charge to find new ways to use one of the city’s oldest and most influential neighborhoods that’s long relied on the worker weekday shuffle to breathe life into its skyscraper canyons.

Indeed, the report confirms there is at least 40 percent less foot traffic Downtown than prior to the pandemic, as remote work — likely permanent for as many as 25 percent of the would-be Downtown-based workers — is changing commuting patterns.

In fact, officials found foot traffic in the area is higher on the weekends, which they contend shows Downtown is being used less as an office hub these days. (Office occupancy is hovering between 30 and 35 percent of pre-pandemic levels, the report says.)

6.2 acres of Potential in the Seaport

Boston Globe – As the Seaport District rapidly transitions into a bustling neighborhood, one section of that vast territory remains grossly underutilized — neither a community nor a commercial hub, just fallow.

Attempts to fill in those vacant acres along the D Street corridor near the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center will, of course, have their detractors. Such is life in a part of town where once even using the name “Seaport District” — instead of Southie — could earn the uninitiated a stern reprimand.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, which owns the land it no longer needs for its own future expansion, has two promising bids in hand to turn three parcels totaling 6.2 acres into something other than the dustbins they currently are. This is good news, right?

Well, not to four local politicians who seem to think it’s a distressing development.

State Senator Nick Collins, Representative David Biele, Boston City Council President Ed Flynn, and Councilor Michael Flaherty sent a letter to MCCA executive director David Gibbons calling for a halt in the proposed development of the three MCCA-owned parcels, two on D Street, and one on E Street, under a 99-year ground lease.

Beacon Hill has a new ‘Big Three’

Boston Globe – With the cameras rolling, Massachusetts’ new political power trio emerged from the State House’s executive suite last week as a united front. Governor Maura Healey, newly settled into the corner office, walked in the middle; Senate President Karen Spilka, a thick black binder tucked into the crook of her arm, strode to her left; House Speaker Ronald Mariano, a half-eaten oatmeal cookie in hand, strolled to her right.

It may be the last time they appear in such lockstep.

The three Democrats are launching a new version of Beacon Hill’s so-called Big Three with distinct agendas, styles, and personalities — factors that are likely to drive what does, and doesn’t, get done in the State House’s marbled halls.

That first leadership meeting, which all three later described as collaborative, happened early in the new arrangement, before the leaders truly begin putting policy to paper. And while trios of the past are remembered for their quirks, friction, and sometimes uneasy alliances, how this new dynamic will exactly unfold remains unclear, according to interviews with a dozen political observers and lawmakers.

What observers do know: being from the same political party doesn’t guarantee agreement.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time since I started that all three have been in sync. I don’t even know if that’s possible,” said Richard Tisei, a former Republican leader in the Senate who now works as a lobbyist. “A lot of times it’s driven more by personality or different agendas than it is by party. If the Big Three were all in the same party and were all totally in sync, they can do anything — in theory. But it hasn’t happened.”

City Hall and Beacon Hill Brace for Rent-Control Debate

WGBH – A day after preliminary details of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s long-awaited local rent-control policy emerged, elected officials who may soon vote on the issue have begun contending with what it will ultimately look like. Boston councilors are debating if the mayor’s ideas go too far, or far enough — and if they ultimately approve it, that it will reach a state Legislature that has historically opposed reviving rent stabilization.

The concept of rent control, outlawed by state referendum in Massachusetts in 1994, was controversial even before Wu’s scant specifics become public. A GBH News review of public comments submitted to the city on the topic found an almost even split among those who do support bringing back the banned policy and those who oppose it.

The new local proposal, first reported by the Boston Globe, would tether annual rent hikes to inflation and bar increases beyond 10%. It would exempt owner-occupied properties, where landlords live alongside tenants, as well as new buildings for the first 15 years from when they’re legally allowed to open.

Fifty-six percent of rental units in Boston — or approximately 185,000 units — would be impacted by the proposal, according to a city spokesman.

The policy, so far, would also include “just cause” eviction protections that limit landlords’ ability to evict tenants without leases, requiring property owners to have legal grounds to force a renter out of a unit.

Wu’s policy will go before the City Council in the form of a home-rule petition. If it passes there, it goes on to the state Legislature and Gov. Maura Healey.

Healey Urges ‘Aggressive’ Approach to the Housing Crisis

WGBH – Gov. Maura Healey asked local officials Friday to partner with her to tackle the state’s housing crisis, encouraging them to share their ideas and not to fear trying new things.

“We’re going to have to do some things that we probably haven’t done before in our state in order to get there,” she said during the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual conference. “But we’re in this together, and with urgency, focus and collaboration, I know we can not only rise to this challenge, we can meet this challenge and really knock it out of the park, but we’ve got to be aggressive.”

In her talk at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, Healey told local leaders that housing and economic development will be a major focal point to her administration. She’s previously said she plans to file legislation within her first 100 days to create a dedicated housing secretariat in her cabinet, and on Friday she said she would convene a working group to help her envision how the housing office will be structured.

The group, Healey said, will feature developers, municipal officials, advocates and others, and it will be led by Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, the former mayor of Salem. Driscoll also spoke at the conference, giving closed-press remarks at a luncheon for women elected to municipal office.

Healey called housing one of the biggest issues facing the state, and said making progress will require “intense collaboration” across local, state and federal government.

Feds Reject $1.2 Billion Request for Pike realignment

Boston Globe – The Mass. Pike realignment in Allston sure sounded like an infrastructure dream last May when the Baker and Wu administrations sought federal help to pay for most of it.

Significantly reducing vehicle crashes by straightening out a crumbling stretch of highway and its tangle of ramps? Check. A massive new train station in an area starved for public transit? Yes, it’s in there. More green space, including a long-awaited link to the Charles River. Sounds awesome. And don’t forget the millions of square feet of new buildings that could go up — or the reuniting of a neighborhood that the turnpike severed in half six decades ago.

Hard to say no, right?

But that’s exactly what the US Department of Transportation just did, by rejecting the city-state request for a “Mega” grant of $1.2 billion, which would have covered 60 percent of the project’s $2 billion price tag.

State Policy Legislation in 2023: What to Expect
Multistate – With 45 state legislatures back in session, many lawmakers fresh off wins last November are eager to put their stamp on public policy. Recent sessions have seen more proposals to regulate data privacy, and that trend should continue this year.

Congress fell short of passing a federal comprehensive privacy law last year, in part because California House members objected to federal preemption of their state law. House Republicans have made children’s privacy part of their Commitment to America, but it remains to be seen how much can get done within a divided Congress. Without federal action, states will again fill the vacuum, and we have already seen a few states introduce legislation that grants certain rights to consumers over the personal information collected from them.


Lawmakers to Revisit Stalled Tax-Cut Proposals

Eagle Tribune – A stalled package of permanent tax cuts is back on Beacon Hill’s agenda with lawmakers re-filing the proposals for the new legislative session.

The proposals include plans to adjust state income tax laws, boost rent deductions, expand tax credits for housing and child care and overhaul the estate tax.

They were originally proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2021, but lawmakers didn’t take up the plan before the Dec. 31 end of the previous session.

A new two-year session gets underway this month, and lawmakers appear to have permanent tax reform at the top of their agenda.

House Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, has filed a proposal that includes a plan to overhaul the estate tax, which is charged to a decedent’s estate when their assets pass on to their beneficiaries.

Massachusetts is one of only a dozen states to charge a “death” tax, which applies to an estate worth more than $1 million in value and is tied with Oregon for having the lowest triggering level. Assets can include stocks and proceeds from life insurance policies, boats, vehicles and other earthly possessions.

Tarr’s plan calls for doubling that threshold to $2 million, which has previously been estimated to save an estimated 2,500 taxpayers more than $207 million.

City Eyes Colleges, Universities for Possible Tax Revenue to Aid Taxpayers

Worcester Telegram – The city will compile a report on local nonprofits – in particular, local colleges and universities – and the impact they have on property tax rolls.

The report will include any current or possible future arrangements such organizations may have to provide community benefits or payments in lieu of taxes.

But councilors cautioned that residents should not expect any significant windfall to result from their efforts.

“I welcome the information but don’t want folks out there to think that we the City Council can dictate colleges’ and universities’ tax policies,” at-Large Councilor Moe Bergman said at the council’s Tuesday meeting. He said that around 30% of city property was held by nonprofits. “At the end of the day don’t think (getting property tax benefits from nonprofits) could ever be changed by the state without significant advocacy at the state level or change through the state Constitution.”

District 1 Councilor Sean Rose agreed.

“In order to do that, we are going to need some significant state and federal help,” he said.

The conversation started with District 5 Councilor Etel Haxhiaj’s request for information on local colleges’ and universities’ real-estate transactions in the last few years and how that has affected tax rolls and payment in lieu of taxes agreements, sometimes called PILOT agreements. Such payments help communities recoup revenue lost from property tax exemptions. Several local colleges and universities have such agreements in place which provide revenue, programs and/or other benefits to the city.

Health Care

Boston Women’s March Marks Roe v. Wade Anniversary

Boston Globe – Boston joined scores of other cities Sunday with hundreds gathering at the State House to rally for women’s reproductive rights on the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion but was overturned by the Supreme Court last June.

“For me, it’s very personal,” said Julie Hermosillo, 64, of Newton, a mother and grandmother, who had a legal abortion in California in the 1980s and said she feels fortunate that she could safely make that choice when she felt she needed to.

Women “have no dominion over their bodies anymore, and it really hurts my heart,” said Hermosillo, her eyes welling with tears. “So, I’m out here fighting for my baby grand-daughters.”

“Our primary fight is the freedom of choice,” said Hermosillo’s daughter-in-law, Rose Gabriel, 36, of Newton. who stood next to her holding a poster board sign that she made the night before, depicting a female symbol and a fist with the word “Freedom” in all capital letters.

Massachusetts to Revisit Limits on Numbers of Patients Assigned to a Nurse

Worcester Telegram – It’s a fight that never ended, even when Massachusetts voters defeated a 2018 ballot question that would have set limits to the number of patients assigned to hospital nurses.

That fight, called a matter of life and death by the nurses who work bedside in the state’s hospitals, was taken up by legislators in this new session with the filing of bill H.D.2491 by state Sen. Lydia Edwards, D-Boston and Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster.

The proposed law would require the state Department of Public Health to take the question of whether limits should be set, and at what level, directly to the public in a series of hearings it would schedule around the state.

Once the department has collected the necessary data and heard public comment, it would be responsible for setting and then enforcing limits.

“By law, we couldn’t go back to the voters once the ballot question was defeated,” said Katie Murphy, a nurse assigned to the intensive care unit at Brigham and Women’s in Boston and the president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, an umbrella organization that represents some 25,000 nurses.

Massachusetts nurses had to find a new way to address the overriding issue of ensuring patient safety by limiting patient loads, and to ensure safe working conditions for the nursing staff.

Mass General Brigham Restructures Community Hospitals

Boston Globe – Facing pressure to cut spending and distribute patients more efficiently through a crowded system, Mass General Brigham is reorganizing the leadership of its community hospitals and consolidating oversight of its community doctors.

The move, executives say, is the latest step in integrating the state’s largest health system, as it tries to move from a federation of hospitals and structures to a unified organization.

“From one perspective, we’re doing OK. But the truth is, this is an unprecedented, challenging time. Doing OK really isn’t good enough anymore,” said Dr. Gregg Meyer, president of the Community Division for Mass General Brigham. “We have to be able to make decisions clearly. People need to be able to get guidance relatively rapidly. … In the end, this is about us improving efficiency of decision making and clarity of authority.”

Like other health systems, Mass General Brigham is strained by workforce shortages, the high cost of temporary labor, and overcrowding due to delays in discharging patients to understaffed nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and psychiatric clinics.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Business Insider – : Marty Walsh, the US labor secretary, on Tuesday said he wanted to see more women become CEOs and board members so that the gender pay gap can be closed.

During a round table discussion at the 2023 World Economic Forum in Davos, Walsh spoke to the media about recession, wages, and inequity in the workforce.

Insider’s Cadie Thompson asked Walsh about how companies should address the difference in earnings between genders after many women dropped out of the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Companies shouldn’t have to pass legislation to realize there’s an inequity pay gap in the United States of America,” Walsh replied.

Walsh said the US needed to have more women CEOs and board members. They would be able to focus on the imbalance of wages and “close that gap immediately,” he said during the discussion.

The WEF estimated in its Global Gender Gap Report, published in July, that it would take 132 years to close the gender gap. This was compared with 2021 when the WEF predicted it would take 136 years.

Sustainability and Climate

Is This the Year for Climate Tech to Pay Off?

Boston Globe – The climate tech sector has a post-pandemic problem.

Investors say they’re willing to be patient: they realize that developing a new kind of battery or solar cell technology takes longer than coming up with a new mobile app. But we’ve seen a dearth of big paydays, when these companies go public or get acquired.

And overall funding for the sector has been sliding after setting records in 2021, according to data from PwC’s State of Climate Tech report. That downward trend has been playing out as US greenhouse gas emissions are back on the rise after a quarantine era dip, according to the Rhodium Group, a New York research firm.

Boston has the potential to be a leader in climate tech, with incubator spaces like Greentown Labs in Somerville and The Engine in Cambridge, and several investment firms that funnel money into the sector. It’s just hard ― 17 years after a group of investors and entrepreneurs got together to form the New England Clean Energy Council ― to find examples of how climate tech (once known as “cleantech”) has spawned big employers, big public offerings, big acquisitions, or companies with technology that is having a big impact on carbon emissions.

Coming Soon: A National Charging Network for Electric Vehicle

Overtime – Last fall, the Biden administration announced a $900-million disbursement of funds to states as part of a previously announced five-year, five-billion-dollar plan to help construct a nationwide charging-station network to accommodate travel by electric vehicle (EV). The funds are from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The forthcoming construction will augment the comparatively modest existing EV infrastructure that has been built by a coalition of like-minded electricity-based companies.

To highlight the importance of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the press has focused on projects like the reconstruction of the ramshackle Brent Spence Bridge connecting Covington, Kentucky with Cincinnati, Ohio, mostly because Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell provided a rare joint media appearance there to announce the project.

However, the funds from the infrastructure law that can be truly transformative are those earmarked for the charging-station network. That’s because the creation of such an electric infrastructure, with 500,000 stations in rural and urban locations from coast to coast, will likely usher in nothing short of a revolution in transportation in America.

2022 Marked State’s Sixth Warmest Year on Record

Gazette Net – If you felt last year was historically warm, new data from the University of Massachusetts confirms that feeling as 2022 marked the sixth-warmest year and second-warmest summer on record in the state.

With statewide temperatures averaging 50.3 degrees — 3.4 degrees above the 20th-century mean — 2022 tied 2016 as the sixth-warmest year in Massachusetts since 1895, with only January’s average temperature registering below normal, according to data from UMass’ Climate System Research Center.

“It’s a continuation of this multidecade trend we’ve been seeing,” said Michael Rawlins, the center’s associate director. “It’s not surprising.”

What did surprise Rawlins, however, was February through December were warmer than average during a La Niña year. La Niña, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is the cooling phase of a recurring climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that typically brings cooler temperatures and shifts precipitation patterns. Its counterpart is El Niño and the two shift back and forth every three to seven years on average.

“Global average temperatures are often a lot colder when we have La Niña,” Rawlins said. “The fact that Massachusetts, the contiguous U.S., and global temperatures are fifth or sixth warmest in a La Niña year tells us the Earth’s energy imbalance and warming will continue, and likely be even warmer still when it eventually transitions to neutral and El Niño.”

More Massachusetts Districts are Switching to Electric School Buses

WBUR – In a school bus lot in Beverly, bus driver Henry Birkemouse starts up an electric school bus.

A green light on the dashboard signals to the driver he can hit the accelerator. The bus resembles a traditional gas- or diesel-powered bus, yellow exterior and all, with the exception of the lettering on the hood that says “high voltage.”

“It operates the same as any other bus,” said Birkemouse. “It drives sort of like a golf cart.”

Using about 60% less fossil fuel than gas-powered buses, electric buses are also a lot quieter and more energy-efficient than a traditional school bus, which emits exhaust fumes during idling. Diesel fumes, for example, can lead to eye irritation and nausea. And it can sometimes cause asthma and even lung cancer.

But with a price tag of roughly $350,000 — or two-and-a-half times that of a regular school bus — the electric model can be cost-prohibitive for school districts. It also presents logistical challenges due to the need to install charging stations and coordinate with local power companies.

Lights Remain On in Wilbraham

Boston Globe – A quiet town outside Springfield, Wilbraham won’t soon be mistaken for the City of Lights.

But at Minnechaug Regional High School, the lights have shone day and night for more than a year, with no end in sight.

The ironic culprit? A glitch in the energy conservation software that runs the school’s lighting system and seemingly can’t be fixed.

“They are stuck either all on, or all off because of a server malfunction that occurred,” after a power outage in August 2021, The Smoke Signal, a student news site, reported that fall.

Since that outage, “all the lights in the high school have been on 24/7,” the school newspaper reported. “There is currently no manual way to control the lights other than a series of breaker switches that can only shut off whole sections.”

Edward Cenedella, the director of facilities and operations for the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District, told the Signal that the energy conservation software was installed when the high school was rebuilt in 2012 and it automatically controls about 7,000 lights in the building.

“On occasion, the software would go down and it would somehow get corrupted,” Cenedella said. “Unfortunately the last time it got corrupted it was unfixable.”


Warren Says Student Borrowers Face Rising Payments if Dent-Relief Plan is Struck Down

Business Insider: Student-loan borrowers’ ‘monthly costs could rise dramatically’ this year if Biden’s debt relief gets struck down, Elizabeth Warren says. She wants to know how that would impact you.

In a series of letters  Warren sent out on Wednesday, she asked nearly 20 advocacy groups — including the NAACP, the Student Borrower Protection Center, and The Debt Collective — how the efforts to block President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt for federal borrowers are impacting the groups’ members.

After Biden announced the relief at the end of August, two conservative-backed lawsuits successfully paused the implementation of the policy. One of the lawsuits was filed by six Republican-led states who argued the relief would hurt their states’ tax revenues, along with that of student-loan company MOHELA, and the other lawsuit was filed by two student-loan borrowers who did not qualify for the full $20,000 amount of relief.

The cases are now headed to the Supreme Court on February 28. Warren wrote in the letters, first viewed by Insider, that “if not for the courts and Republican efforts, roughly 16 million Americans could have been approved and seen up to $20,000 in student debt cancelled. Instead, these partisan and legally tenuous attempts to block the President’s authority have left these borrowers in limbo.”