The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of July 22 to July 29, 2021

Senator Gobi Announces Return of In-Person Office Hours

Spencer- State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) is announcing a return to in-person services. Her office will be making monthly stops in the 28 communities of the Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex District. Lucas McDiarmid, district director to the Senator, will host meetings at town halls and senior centers.

On returning to in-person services Gobi stated, "Throughout the pandemic my office has remained open and active, providing services and meeting with constituents. While reopening the State House is under discussion, I am proud to formally re-open community hosted office hours. In this way, I can best support reopening and recovery efforts. My team and I look forward to meeting with municipal leaders and stakeholders, continuing in service to the district."

Moving forward, monthly office hours will be held in each region:

Week 1- North Central & North Quabbin
Week 2- Worcester County 1
Week 3- Worcester County 2
Week 4- Hampden, Hampshire, and Western Worcester Counties

Office hours are open to all district residents, regardless of where they are hosted. Residents who cannot attend scheduled hours can make special appointments by calling 413-324-3082. They may also email Lucas McDiarmid at

Monday, August 2, 2021
Ashby Town Hall: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Ashburnham Town Hall: 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Winchendon Town Hall: 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, August 3, 2021
Templeton Town Offices: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Athol Senior Center: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Phillipston Town Hall: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Monday, August 9, 2021
Barre Senior Center: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Hubbardston Town Annex: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Hardwick Town Offices: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
New Braintree Town Offices: 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Oakham Senior Center: 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Paxton Senior Center: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Rutland Community Center: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Monday, August 16, 2021
Spencer Howe Village: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
East Brookfield Municipal Offices: 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Sturbridge Senior Center: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Charlton Senior Center: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Wednesday, August 18, 2021
West Brookfield Senior Center: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
North Brookfield Senior Center: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Brookfield Town Hall: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Monday, August 23, 2021
Monson Town Hall: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Holland Town Hall: 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Warren Senior Center: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Brimfield Senior Center: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Ware Senior Center: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Palmer Public Library: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Thursday, August 26, 2021
Wales Senior Center: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

United Way Distributes More Than $600,000 to Local Non-profits through Community Impact Fund

Grants Seek to Make an Impact for More Than 45,000 People in Need throughout North Central Massachusetts

FITCHBURG, MA: July 21, 2021 — United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM) has distributed $602,663 in grants to 31 local agencies through its Community Impact Fund for 2021-22. Grant selection was based on a comprehensive community needs assessment and evaluation process, and the grants are projected to make an impact for nearly 45,000 people in need.

The Community Impact Fund is a long-standing UWNCM initiative that supports diverse programs targeting the region's highest priorities. Earlier this year, UWNCM updated the fund's focus areas based on a community needs assessment that leveraged extensive resources to identify critical issues impacting North Central Massachusetts. The revamped funding priorities focus on Education & Youth Development, Economic Opportunity/Financial Literacy and Supplemental Basic Needs.

In February, select agencies were invited to submit grant applications, and a team of more than 30 volunteers from throughout the community conducted virtual agency visits and evaluations. Recommendations were made to the UWNCM Board of Directors, which approved final grant recipients and award letters were sent out earlier this week.

Grants will support a wide variety of programs at 31 agencies throughout the region, ranging from toddler & preschool care to financial literacy and hunger relief. This year's recipients also include five new agencies that have not previously received Community Impact funding: Clear Path for Veterans New England in Devens; Ginny's Helping Hands, Inc. in Leominster; Growing Places Garden Project, Inc. in Leominster; NewVue Communities in Fitchburg and Wendell P. Clark YMCA in Winchendon.

Through these funding partnerships, UWNCM seeks to create positive impacts for nearly 45,000 individuals based on agency projections, including 27,297 families in the area of Supplemental Basic Needs; 16,747 children and youth in the area of Education & Youth Development; and 652 families in the area of Economic Opportunity/Financial Literacy. UWNCM and recipient agencies look forward to working together over the next year to make these numbers a reality.

"We congratulate each of these agencies on their funding awards and are proud to support the most effective programs in the region to build a brighter future for all," says UWNCM President Kory Eng.

Michael Quinn, Executive Director of Wendell P. Clark Memorial YMCA, states, "We are proud to partner with UWNCM to help families and children in our community gain access to affordable, licensed childcare and out of school time activities. The lack of access to these programs often prevents parents from being able to attend school or gain employment. We want to help alleviate that barrier, allowing parents to complete their academic and career pursuits while providing enriching programs for children. The support of the UWNCM will help us make that opportunity a reality for many families."

Neddy Latimer, Executive Director of the Spanish American Center, says, "The Spanish American Center thanks UWNCM for their continued support with our food pantry effort. With this support we are able to help many local families and individuals with food and security. We are grateful."

The Community Impact Fund grants are made in addition to approximately $1.5 million that UWNCM puts out into the community each year through donor designations, donor advised funds and other mechanisms. Visit to learn more and make a gift.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Pepperell, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.

MassHealth Developing Processes to Strengthen Program Integrity Following Audit that Showed State Funding Being Used for Federally Funded Program

BOSTON (July 20, 2021) - In an audit released today by the Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, MassHealth agreed to improve its systems for avoiding costs for hospice services that should instead be paid for by the federal government's Medicare program. The audit examined the period January 1, 2015 through July 31, 2019 and was performed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General's (OIG) Boston office, which concurred with the State Auditor's findings. This collaboration allowed for an effective and efficient review of the Commonwealth's Medicaid program, which has a significant financial impact on both federal and state budgets.

The audit found that, because MassHealth was not requiring hospice service providers to notify the agency when it began providing services to MassHealth members or requiring ongoing collaboration of services to these so-called dual-eligible persons, the Commonwealth improperly paid for some services, durable medical equipment and transportation costs, and was at great risk of significant improper payments. During the audit period, MassHealth spent $620 million on hospice-related services provided to 38,568 dual-eligible members.

"This audit, which was performed at the suggestion of and in partnership with the U.S. HHS Inspector General's Office, provides critical insight relative to the elements of proper claims payments for care for certain persons at the end of life. MassHealth's deficiencies in checking dual-eligible member claims have resulted in improper state spending for hospice services. We applaud MassHealth's acceptance of our recommendations to correct these deficiencies," Bump said. "This audit will not only benefit MassHealth and the state's taxpayers, but also Massachusetts hospice providers and the federal offices of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who may now enter similar collaborations with other state auditors."

Under federal regulations, hospice providers must direct, coordinate, and supervise all services for dual-eligible members receiving hospice care. The audit found MassHealth may have paid an estimated $45,110,697 in claims for services, such as home health aide, homemaker services, and companion care that were not coordinated by members' hospice providers. Instead, these services were arranged by members, their relatives, or others without the hospice providers' knowledge, resulting in MassHealth being billed directly.

The audit recommends MassHealth work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and each of its hospice providers to better obtain hospice information about dual-eligible members and determine whether all required patient forms for hospice care have been submitted. The audit also calls on MassHealth to improve its claim-checking system to ensure it can detect and deny improper claims and costs. Based on its response during the audit process, MassHealth has taken steps to address these recommendations.

Further, in examining the agency's oversight of hospice providers, the audit found MassHealth does not require providers to submit any plans of hospice care. At least three other states' Medicaid departments, including Nebraska, Nevada, and West Virginia, have such a requirement in place. The audit notes that if MassHealth were to begin requiring the submission of plans of care from providers, it could limit the risk of improper payments. Lastly, the audit suggests that the agency consider providing additional guidance to hospice providers on expenses that can be billed to MassHealth.

According to the CMS, the Fiscal Year 2020 national Medicaid improper payment rate estimate is approximately 21%, representing over $86 billion in improper payments. The OSA's collaboration with the HHS Office of Inspector General's Boston office is a critical partnership that allows for joint reviews of rising Medicaid costs. The audit will be the subject of a joint presentation by the OSA and the HHS OIG this week at a national virtual conference sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants. The last audit conducted collaboratively with the HHS Office of Inspector General's Boston office was in October 2008, when an audit was conducted of Medicaid claims for personal care attendant services provided to beneficiaries during inpatient stays.

MassHealth provides access to healthcare services for approximately 1.8 million eligible low- and moderate-income children, families, seniors, and people with disabilities annually. In fiscal year 2019, MassHealth paid healthcare providers more than $16 billion, of which approximately 50% was funded by the Commonwealth. Medicaid expenditures represent approximately 39% of the Commonwealth's total annual budget.

The full audit report is available here.

Gobi Continues Push to Help Homeowners Affected by Pyrrhotite

BOSTON (July 19, 2021) - An amendment submitted by State Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) to the FY22 state budget extending the life and coverage area of the Crumbling Foundations Testing Reimbursement Program has been included in the final conference committee report agreed upon by the two branches of the legislature. The amendment allocates an additional $50,000 for the program, which reimburses homeowners at a rate of 100% for visual testing conducted by a licensed professional engineer up to $400 and a rate of 75% for the testing of two core samples up to $5000.

First established through amendment by the Senator in the FY19 state budget, the program helps defray the cost of testing for the presence of the mineral aggregate, pyrrhotite, in the basement walls and foundations of homes located within a radius of J.J Mottes Concrete Company, located in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Gobi moved to extend that radius from 20 to 50 miles during this legislative session, and had this to say on the need for expanded reach to help more people in the state, "This testing reimbursement program is a critical tool that will help the state gain a sense of the issue while relieving homeowners of a small bit of debt at the beginning of the process. We are starting to see more homeowners reach out from even further away than anticipated, and getting your foundation inspected by a licensed engineer is the first step towards remediation."

Pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral, has been found in the concrete aggregate of homes throughout central and western Massachusetts and our neighbors to the south in Connecticut. When exposed to water and oxygen this mineral begins to expand and decay, leading to spider and web-cracking that can cause the home foundation to inevitably fail. It is estimated that as many as 2,000 homes in Massachusetts may be effected, and the testing program is the first form of financial relief being offered by to homeowners in this state. Connecticut has moved several steps ahead of the Commonwealth in attacking the issue, with a legislatively funded captive insurance company having been established to oversee repairs and reimburse homeowners for costs. Their program has repaired more that 1,100 foundations at this time.

Senator Gobi has submitted a bill, S.548 An Act Relative to Crumbling Concrete Foundations, to begin addressing the problem and implement recommendations made by the 2019 Legislative Special Commission established to study the issue. Among other things the bill would require home sellers to disclose any repairs or testing done on the foundation to perspective buyers, would allow for residential property tax abatements to affected homeowners, and it would mandate that quarry operators test for the presence of pyrrhotite before opening new cells. The bill currently has 26 bipartisan cosponsors, and stands before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agricultural awaiting a hearing.

For more information about the amendment, foundation testing program, or legislation please contact Senator Gobi's office by email at

Gobi Advocates for Preservation Initiatives in Budget Debate

BOSTON - Senator Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer) saw several amendments she submitted during the state's FY22 budget process be agreed upon last week as the House and Senate adopted the legislative conference committee report on Friday, including those aimed at preserving both manmade and natural habitats in central Massachusetts. Among the twenty-two amendments submitted by the Senator were those addressing preservation of the prison camp structures and maintaining the historic Wood House in the town of Rutland, and addressing agricultural maintenance in the town of Spencer.

Gobi had this to say on the local projects being included in the conference committee report, "It is important to preserve historic structures that are a benefit to the entire state, telling the tale of our past while remaining open for enjoyment to those in the future. I am thankful that these local projects have been approved, and I will continue to advocate for items that maintain our local landmarks for consecutive generations."

The first amendment submitted by the Senator allocates $50,000 for the preservation, protection, signage and maintenance of the prison camp structures located in the town of Rutland. Built in 1903 on 914 acres of land the camp held prisoners serving sentences for drunkenness and other minor offenses, and included a working farm, until 1934 when it was abandoned due to its location atop a drainage area of water supply for the region. The area is a popular location for hiking, biking, hunting and other outdoor activities and the structures themselves remain popular features at the location.

A second amendment submitted by the Senator allots $25,000 for repairs to the roof of the Wood House. The Wood House was built in 1915 and has been the home of the Rutland Historical Society for 28 years, which shared the space until 2002 with the Rutland Police Department.

In addition to these, Gobi advocated favorably for the addition of two items geared towards cleaning up natural space in the town of Spencer. Included in the conference committee version of the budget are $150,000 for the purchase of a new highway department truck for the town, and $50,000 to the Spencer Agricultural Association for the construction of a new building on their grounds to house animals.

For more information on these amendments or the budget process, please contact Senator Gobi's office by email at