Details Of Baker's COVID-19 Economic Relief Package

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Governor Baker has unveiled a $275 million COVID-19 economic recovery package, designed to generate equitable economic growth across Massachusetts amid the pandemic.

On Friday, Gov. Baker said the proposal, Partnerships for Growth, represents a targeted package of investments across three core areas: housing, community development, and business competitiveness.

“By funding more affordable housing, implementing critical zoning reform, stabilizing neighborhoods, and supporting minority-owned businesses with record levels of funding, these proposed changes will bring critical relief and promote equity across Massachusetts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gov. Baker. “We look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature to advance this legislation and give communities, especially those most in need, the tools and support they require to move forward.”

The $275 million relief package is an update to the administration’s economic development legislation, originally filed in early March.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said the updated legislation "will help to stabilize the neighborhoods and communities that were hardest hit" by the pandemic, and it will "bring new tools to bear to promote equity and drive economic growth."

On Friday afternoon, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy is scheduled to testify at a virtual hearing before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technology, to highlight the need for the legislation, and to explain the Administration’s proposed changes.

The package proposes to:

  • Amend the scope of several proposed programs to target funding towards specific communities, including those hardest hit by COVID-19
  • Reallocate funding among proposed authorizations, to better address the significant economic impacts of COVID-19 and to help provide a path for recovery, particularly for those most devastated by the pandemic
  • Establish new tools to promote equity and drive economic growth in communities and among businesses facing barriers to entry in areas like state contracting
  • To do so, the Administration is proposing allocating an additional $15 million for neighborhood stabilization (for a total of $40 million) to invest in blighted and distressed homes. This funding, paired with collaboration and engagement with community organizations and municipalities, will bring safe, affordable housing units back on the market.

"Women, minority, veteran, and immigrant small business owners face disproportionate challenges to accessing capital to grow their enterprises," said a statement from Baker's office. "During the COVID-19 pandemic, gaps worsened for businesses that have not been able to take advantage of federal programs."

To allow the state to invest in more small businesses overall, especially those owned by underrepresented populations, the Baker Administration is recommending increasing funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) by $25 million, for a total of $35 million, which would be a record increase in this program.

Baker's office said the grants to small business lenders "allow CDFIs to serve entrepreneurs in underserved populations with financial services, technical assistance, and credit building opportunities."

To help address the disproportionate challenges to accessing early stage business financing, the Administration is also asking the Legislature to triple funding for grants to support micro businesses from a total of $5 million to $15 million.

“We have an opportunity with this 5-year plan to focus even more of our housing, community development, and business competitiveness efforts on equity and recovery as Massachusetts continues to weather the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Kennealy. “This legislation and our recommended updates tackle the housing crisis through targeted reforms and funding, and invests in the people and places who need support the most, and we look forward to getting this done.”

The legislation also includes the language of An Act to Promote Housing Choices, the Administration’s bill to advance new housing production in Massachusetts, to promote equitable access to opportunity, and to support the administration’s goal to produce 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

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(Photo: Gov.Baker/Flickr)

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