Boston is setting up a $6 million fund to help the city's small businesses reopen safely, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday afternoon.
The Reopen Boston Fund will be for Boston business with fewer than 15 employees who work in close proximity, like barber shops and hair salons.
"These are grants that you can use to buy PPE (personal protective equipment) to install safety partitions … or to manage outdoor spaces that's approved for business use," Walsh said.
The city has had 12,521 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 622 deaths, Walsh said.
Massachusetts is allowing some businesses to reopen amid Phase 1 of Gov. Charlie Baker's plan to restart the economy. Under that plan, workers will be allowed to return to some Boston offices on June 1. On Monday, some businesses, including hair salons, were allowed to reopen.
Money in the Reopen Boston Fund will be dispersed in three phases, Walsh said, that correspond to the three that Baker has outlined before Massachusetts reaches its new normal. Applications for the first phase can be submitted starting Thursday at 5 p.m. -- details here.
Boston has already designated more than $7 million for small businesses in other funding, Walsh said, but the city created the new fund to help address business owners' concerns about following the state's reopening safety guidelines.
The mayor also emphasized to small business owners that, "you're allowed to open under the plan. That doesn't mean you have to."
He spoke after Baker announced that Boston Hope, the field hospital in the city's convention center, would not longer be accepting patients. Walsh noted that it's cared for more than 700 coronavirus patients and that it will remain available in case the city needs it again -- a second surge may arrive in Boston if people let their guards down and stop social distancing.
"I hope we don't have to go back there," he said.
Walsh on Sunday said he had no immediate plan to lift the city's stay-at-home advisory and warned residents that strict social distancing would be the norm for at least the next several months.
In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Walsh said the stay-at-home advisory would need stay in effect "for the foreseeable future," adding that residents would be asked to continue practicing social distancing.
"Now's not the time to ease restrictions on individuals, meaning individuals shouldn't be easing restrictions on themselves for the foreseeable future, for the next six, eight months," he said.
"Wearing masks, physical distancing, social distancing, not being in large gatherings -- all of that is so important to stopping the spread of this virus."
He added: "If we don’t pay attention and stay disciplined, we’re going to see a second surge and that may be worst than the first one."
Walsh also addressed the restaurant industry, which he said would not return to 100% capacity any time soon. The city in recent weeks has announced measures to help businesses apply for outdoor dining areas, which could allow restaurants that rely on in-person dining to expand their seating.
This regulation change builds on earlier attempts to help restaurants, Walsh said, including allowing takeout for all establishments, aiding them in providing delivery options and expanding availability for selling alcohol and groceries.
“I’m definitely concerned with a lot of restaurants in the cities in Boston and the Commonwealth that might not be able to get out of this," Walsh said. "We’ve already seen several close or say they’re not coming back.”