October 22 Legislative & COVID-19 Update

News from the office of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante



October 22 Legislative & COVID-19 UpdateNews from the office of Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante


Today, the Commonwealth announced a $774 million comprehensive plan to stabilize and grow the Massachusetts economy. The plan focuses on getting people back to work, supporting small businesses, fostering innovation, revitalizing downtowns and ensuring housing stability. This plan begins today by directing $115 million in new funding to small businesses and Main Streets hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and for workforce training efforts. Additionally, the Commonwealth is aligning multiple funding sources, both existing and proposed, to appropriately respond to the crisis.
 
This plan supports five key recovery efforts: supporting small businesses, getting Massachusetts back to work, revitalizing downtowns, supporting housing equity and stability, and fostering innovation.
 
Small Business Grant Program Details
 
Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) is administering the Small Business Grants program, with $50.8 million available beginning today. Grant awards range between $25,000 and $75,000. Eligibility criteria and applications are available here.
 
As part of this grant program, preference is given to small businesses whose owners are women, minorities, veterans, members of other underrepresented groups, or focused on serving the Gateway Cities of Massachusetts, who have been unable to open and those most adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Preference is also given to applicants that have not been able to receive aid from other federal programs, including PPP and other relief related to COVID-19.
 
The program has two distinct funding “doors” based on business size, with different eligibility criteria, which is available online. Applicants must review the information to determine which program to proceed with applying.

Getting People Back to Work
 
In order to get people back to work, new investments are being made to build workforce skills, growing training programs and pathways, forging new partnerships between employers and workers, and supporting internet connectivity to facilitate remote work and online career advancement. The more than $25 million available now includes:$10.4 million to engage Massachusetts employers by expanding workforce partnerships with large employers in target sectors to create aligned statewide training-employment pathways;$9.2 million to subsidize internet for low-income populations, and to expand hot spots in unserved and underserved communities;$3.2 million to modernize MassHire virtual pathways to assess and connect UI claimants to appropriate services and supports;$2 million to bolster manufacturing training by purchasing a standardized virtual training program to increase workforce for the manufacturing sector; and$300,000 to supplement $8.4 million toward Career Technical Institutes in H.2 to help close the skills gap for skilled technician jobs and align training to industry needs.An additional $54 million is available to support workforce recovery efforts through existing programming such as the Skills Capital Grants program, the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, and the Workforce Training Trust Fund.
 
Direct Support to Small Business and Main Street
 
To generate economic growth amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and support Main Streets across Massachusetts, the Commonwealth is investing $322.8 million in direct support of small and diverse businesses and local communities. This funding includes grants to the hardest hit small businesses, especially small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans, or members of other underrepresented groups. These grant awards will allow small businesses to cover expenses such as rent, payroll, and utilities as they get back on their feet. Additional funding will support small businesses through hands-on and personalized technical assistance, including targeted support for women- and minority-owned businesses around digital and online technology as their business model pivots away from a brick-and-mortar location.
 
Many communities have seen their Main Streets and downtown districts hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and new funding aims to help cities and towns plan for short-term innovations and long-term recovery. A new $10 million round of the Shared Streets and Spaces Grant Program will continue to help cities and towns quickly implement or expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in their communities. Separately, local recovery planning grants will soon be available to cities and towns to assist with long-term planning for their business districts. A total of $10 million is available for this program.
 
To support the museums and other cultural facilities that have faced a particularly challenging reality this year, but remain a cornerstone of what Massachusetts offers to visitors, these institutions will be eligible for $10 million in Cultural Facilities Operating Grants. This funding will help these organizations to make safety improvements and other upgrades to allow them to continue to offer their unique attractions and exhibits.
 
Small Business and Main Street Highlights (new funding):$50.8 million in Small Business Grants to help the hardest hit businesses$10 million to continue funding the Shared Streets and Spaces Program$10 million for local recovery planning grants to support cities and towns$10 million to support cultural facilities such as museums$8.3 million in small business technical assistance to help businesses access grant programs and loans, as well as help build business management skills, resilience, and other support in navigating pandemic impactsIncluding $2.3 million to provide personalized technical assistance to woman- and minority-owned businessesAdditional Investments
 
In order to keep people safely in their homes during the pandemic and support small landlords with expenses, the Commonwealth recently announced $171 million in support of the Eviction Diversion Initiative. This comprehensive strategy includes funding to help to cover housing costs such as rent and mortgage payments, invest in new programs around mediation and legal representation, and provide repaid rehousing when a tenant is evicted. Additionally, the Commonwelath continues to invest in Massachusetts’ stock of affordable rental housing with $121 million in direct subsidies.
 
Massachusetts has long been a hotbed of innovation and creativity in science and technology, and sectors such as the life sciences and advanced manufacturing are not only critical to the innovation economy, but also continue to contribute to the response to COVID-19. To ensure we continue to lead in this space, $62 million in existing capital funding through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, and MassVentures is available to support recovery and growth.
 
Please read on below for new, updated, and important legislative updates and information surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and see our past newsletters if you haven’t had a chance to read them already for more relevant guidance and directives following Governor Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10th. Visit Mass.gov for complete information, check the municipal websites for GloucesterRockport, and Essex for local guidance, and text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 to receive COVID-19 text message alerts straight to your phone.Free COVID-19 Testing on SaturdayEarly Voting is Open NowEarly voting for the November 3rd general election has started! You can cast your ballot early through October 30th. If you didn’t request a ballot by mail, don’t miss the opportunity to cast your ballot ahead of time when it is convenient for you.

If you wish to see what will be on your ballot ahead of time to familiarize yourself with your options, please visit the Secretary of State’s website, enter the appropriate information, and click “My State Election Ballot” on the next page.

Early voting is taking place at the respective city or town halls of Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex. Please see the schedules below for upcoming early voting hours for your community. If you requested a ballot by mail and wish to drop it off in person, each community also has a secure ballot drop box at their city or town hall.

GloucesterFriday, October 23, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PMSaturday, October 24, 2:00 PM – 7:00 PMSunday, October 25, 8:15 AM – 1:15 PMMonday, October 26, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PMTuesday, October 27, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PMWednesday, October 28, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PMThursday, October 29, 8:30 AM – 6:30 PMFriday, October 30, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PMRockportFriday, October 23, 8:00 AM – 1:00 PMSaturday, October 24, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PMSunday, October 25, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PMMonday, October 26, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PMTuesday, October 27, 8:00 AM – 6:00 PMWednesday, October 28, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PMThursday, October 29, 8:00 AM – 4:00 PMFriday, October 30, 8:00 AM – 12:00 PMEssexSaturday, October 24, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PMSunday, October 25, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PMMonday, October 26, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PMTuesday, October 27, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PMWednesday, October 28, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PMThursday, October 29, 8:00 AM – 3:00 PMThursday, October 29, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PMFriday, October 30, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
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