Chelsea, Massachusetts – The Care Industry During COVID-19


ROBIN WOOLFORD (Northeastern University) 

ORLANDO OCHOA (University of Texas at Austin)

2023 UPDATE: Research team members Leanna Katz and Rebecca Horwitz-Willis published an article in the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy, “The Interdependence of Family, State, and Market: Childcare in the Shifting Landscape of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” expanding upon the team’s summer 2020 research and findings, detailed below. Read the article here.

July 2020

Care Workers Presentation Slide
Chelsea Team Slides from Virtual Presentation on July 27, 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been equally felt across Massachusetts. In Chelsea, the infection rate was six times the state average. On the surface, this high infection rate appears to be a result of the high number of “essential” workers; nearly 80 percent of workers in Chelsea fall into this category.

Our research focused on “essential” care workers in Chelsea. Care work takes place both in the context of remunerated and regulated employment (for example child care workers, personal and home care aides), as well as unpaid care in the home and community (including child care, cooking, cleaning and eldercare). Underlying our research, we imagined a case study of a female-identifying undocumented Latinx individual who lives in Chelsea with her children and works in Boston. We considered what historical, legal, and social forces have made her both vulnerable and resilient amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on our research and interviews with members of the community, we focused on three key forces: 1) limited access to care for care workers and their families, including food insecurity, 2) limited income from both employment and welfare, and 3) environmental injustice, including housing insecurity.



On this page:
Key Policy Insights
Annotated Bibliography


Key Policy Insights

Highlighting Local Organizations

Local grassroots organizations seem well-positioned to deliver social assistance to Chelsea residents because they are familiar with the community’s needs and have the community’s trust.

The Role of Environmental Factors

Environmental factors created pre-existing health conditions and potentially link to current COVID infections.

Unique Vulnerabilities of Undocumented Workers

Undocumented workers are excluded from an array of benefits such as unemployment insurance because they lack work authorization.

Existing Legislation  

In our research we learned about several bills that could benefit Chelsea residents:

 Legal and Policy Tools


Annotated Bibliography

Background on Chelsea
Personal and Family Care
Employment & Social Services
Additional Sources


Background on Chelsea

Clark, Margaret H. Chelsea in the 20th Century. Arcadia Publishing, 2004.

Government of Massachusetts. “COVID-19 Essential Services.” Accessed September 17th 2020.

Trott, Robert W. “Massachusetts Governor Approves Receivership for City of Chelsea.” Associated Press, September 12, 1991.

Daniel, Seth. “Receivership Ends for CHA.” Chelsea Record, March 16, 2012.


Personal and Family Care

Daniel, Seth. “New Brief.” Chelsea Record,  May 14, 2020. 

Chelsea Public Schools. “Emergency Food Programs.”  Accessed September 17th, 2020. 

Fortuny, Karina and Ajay Chaundry. “Issue Brief: Overview of Immigrants Eligibility for SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, and CHIP.” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. March 2012. 

Frye, Jocelyn. On the Frontlines at Work and at Home: The Disproportionate Economic Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Women of Color. Center for American Progress, April 23, 2020.

Hartmann, Heidi, Jeffrey Hayes, Rebecca Huber, Kelly Haase, and Jooyeoun Suh. The Shifting Supply and Demand of Care Work: The Growing Role of People of Color and Immigrants. Institute for Women’s Policy Research, August 2020. 

Lagalesse, Erica. “Care Work, Capitalism, and the Labour of Love.” The Sociological Review, April 2019. 

Child Care Aware of America. “Mapping the Gap in Massachusetts.” Last modified February, 2018.

Department of Early Education and Care. “Massachusetts 606.CMR 10.00: Subsidized Child Care.” Accessed October 5, 2020.

Government of Massachusetts. “Massachusetts Emergency COVID-19 Child Care.” EEC Coronavirus Update. Accessed September 17, 2020.

Food Bank Coalition of Massachusetts.“Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program Agencies by City/Town.” Updated through July, 2017.

Matthews, Hannah. Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Childcare and Early Education Programs. Center for Law and Social Policy. April, 2007. 

USDA Food and Nutritional Services. “TEFAP Fact Sheet.” Last modified January 6, 2020.

Shamir, Hila. “What’s the Border Got to Do With It? How Immigration Regimes Affect Filial Care Provision – A Comparative Analysis.” Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law 19, no. 2 (2011): 602-3. 

Shamir, Hila. “Between Home and Work: Assessing the Distributive Effects of Employment Law in Markets of Care.” Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law 30, no. 2 (2009): 404-60.



Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “Immigrants and Housing.” In Legal Tactics: Finding Public and Subsidized Housing. Advocacy Guide, 2015. 

Ambrosino, Thomas G. City of Chelsea Comprehensive Housing Analysis and Strategic Plan. Chelsea: City of Chelsea, November 15, 2017. 



Padmanabhan, Anahita, Jillian Gearin, Taylor Carlington and Stayshia Cody. “Chelsea’s Asthma Problem.” #Emersondataviz. Last modified December 2017. 

Government of Massachusetts. “Press Release: AG Healey Brief: Environmental Pollution Contributes to Disparate Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Communities of Color.”, May 12, 2020. 


Employment and Social Services

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 – 31-1120 Home Health and Personal Care Aides.” Occupational Employment Statistics. Last modified July 6, 2020.

SEIU.“Massachusetts home care workers, Gov. Baker celebrate new standard-setting contract.” Accessed September 17, 2020. 

Lahoud, Raymond G. “Do the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Apply to Immigrant Employees?” National Law Review 10, no. 114 (April 23, 2020). 

Edwards, Lydia. “Employment Information for Undocumented Workers.” Mass Legal Help, January 2019.

OSHA. Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, U.S. Department of Labor. March 2020.

Harris, Deborah. “Can you get TAFDC just for your children if you are a non-citizen?” Mass Legal Help, December 2017. 

Harris, Deborah. “What if you are not a citizen?” Mass Legal Help. December, 2019.

Smith, Rebecca. “Immigrant Workers’ Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance.” National Employment Law Project. March 31, 2020.

Nakaishi, Lindsay, Helen Moss, Marc Weinstein, Nancy Perrin, Linda Rose, W Kent Anger, Ginger C Hanson, Mervyn Christian and Nancy Glass. “Exploring workplace violence among home care workers in a consumer-driven home health care program.” Workplace Health and Safety 61, no. 10 (2013): 441-50.


Additional Sources

Several pages from the website provided information about minimum wage laws, overtime pay, COVID-specific programs, and benefits available to citizens and non-citizens, including: