State help for SSA unclear

Baker says SSA has federal oversight, but ferry spokesman says talks continue with state.

Both the Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard SSA routes will feature contactless ticketing options. —File photo Courtesy Carl Treyz

Updated 7:15 pm

Help from the state government seems unlikely for the Steamship Authority after Gov. Charlie Baker said the state doesn’t have jurisdiction over the ferry service.

“The Steamship Authority is basically not an entity that we have jurisdiction over for all intents and purposes,” Baker said at a press conference Monday, adding that he believed most of the SSA’s rule-making and regulatory oversight is federal. “The states as a general rule do not have jurisdiction, funding, anything to do with organizations like that,” Baker said.

In an April 16 letter to Baker, the Steamship Authority outlined a need for “urgent financial assistance” or service would not be able to operate beyond the end of May.

“Should ridership trends continue at the current pace, weekly revenue losses will increase,” SSA general manager Robert Davis wrote in the letter. “After reviewing these ominous figures, the authority is genuinely and credibly concerned that we will be unable to meet our statutory obligations to the islands by the end of May 2020.”

Steamship Authority board chairman Jim Malkin told The Times he was not aware of any official response form Baker’s office. 

The Steamship Authority will meet via Zoom on Tuesday.

The ferry service will receive $2.4 million in annual funding and $9.8 million in special CARES Act funding through the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (FTA). The funding has been put on the fast track as a result of efforts by U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Bourne. The funds are expected to keep the SSA afloat until Aug. 1.

In an email to The Times responding to Baker’s comments, spokesman Sean Driscoll said there have been talks with the state. “As a public instrumentality of the commonwealth, the Steamship Authority falls under the jurisdiction of both state and federal authorities on a variety of matters,” he wrote. “We have been working closely with the commonwealth, including calls today with officials from the Executive Office for Administration and Finance and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. We have also been engaged with our federal congressional delegation and are grateful for their willingness to explore various financial relief options and potential opportunities. We are also thankful to Governor Baker, and all of those in his administration, for their attention to our unique issue, and look forward to more productive discussions to come as the full impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.” 

Meanwhile, confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Island held at 16.

As of Monday, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has tested 365 patients for COVID-19. Of those, 348 are negative and 1 is pending results. 

The hospital reported on Friday that it had one patient who was hospitalized. Hospital communications director Katrina Delgadillo told The Times the patient had been discharged on Saturday in “stable condition.”

Delgadillo confirmed there was a typo in Sunday’s number of tests performed and the correct is 365.

At least two “quite sick” COVID-19 patients have been transported to Boston by helicopter and a third maternity patient was taken off-Island by ferry in a private vehicle.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard boards of health, of the 16 confirmed cases, nine are female and seven are male. Seven of the cases are aged 50-59 years old, four cases are 60-69 years old, two are 30-39 years old, two are 20-29 years old, and one is 20 years old or younger.

On Monday, the total number of tests performed by the state Department of Public Health was 244,887. DPH has reported there were more 56,462 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide. There were 104 new deaths for a total of 3,003. The bulk of the state’s deaths, nearly two-thirds, have been patients 80 or older and the average age of a hospitalized COVID-19 patient is 69. According to the state data, 7 percent of the confirmed cases are hospitalized.

Updated to add SSA meeting information and information from Jim Malkin, Katrina Delgadillo, Sean Driscoll, as well as state numbers for Monday.  — Ed.