Gov. Charlie Baker announced a series of new efforts Wednesday aimed at supporting small business recovery in underserved communities across Massachusetts.
He made the announcement at Springfield's White Lion Brewing Company, which scored a $75,000 grant through the $700 million small business grant program the governor and Legislature created last year.
Massachusetts' State of Emergency officially ended on Tuesday, about two weeks after Baker lifted the remaining COVID-19 restrictions. But many businesses are still struggling.
Baker announced Wednesday that the state is making $4 million in grants available to 45 organizations that provide technical assistance or training for small businesses in underserved communities, $14.5 million available to community development financial institutions and $11 million available through two different grant programs that aim help businesses with digital tools and crowdfunding.
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"These are the kinds of programs that can help small businesses like White Lion access the kind of funding necessary to succeed by partnering and supporting non-profits like Common Capital with dollars to provide training and experience," Baker said. "Most of our small business technical assistance providers are also community development financial institutions, like Common Capital, or community development corporations [and] are incredibly important players in supporting our small business ecosystem in Massachusetts."
The governor also signed legislation Wednesday to restore the lapsed authorization for to-go cocktail sales, among other pandemic policies, which should benefit restaurants. Special permits for expanded outdoor dining, which would otherwise expire in 60 days, would be valid until April 21, 2022 under the bill.
On the vaccination front, the governor announced Tuesday that more than 4 million Massachusetts residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Bay State is home to about 7 million people, and those under the age of 12 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. More than 80% of the state's adults have received at least one dose, the governor said.
The Baker administration, which lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, pivoted in recent weeks from a mass vaccination campaign to a more targeted approach featuring incentives and expanded local outreach. Gillette Stadium administered its final doses on Monday, becoming the first of the state's seven mass vaccination sites to go offline.
Sizable gaps remain in vaccination rates by race and ethnicity. Through June 8, about 62.3 percent of the state's white population and 64.5 percent of the state's Asian population had received at least one dose, compared to only 46.9 percent of Black residents and 44.9 percent of Hispanic residents, according to the Department of Public Health.
Officials said the administration will continue contracts in 20 hard-hit communities with sizable populations of color through the summer for additional vaccine outreach and canvassing efforts.
"We are really working very, very locally, sort of referred to as hyper-focused on those communities where we need to continue to address vaccine hesitancy and bring vaccines as close as possible," said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. "What was the homebound program is now the in-home program, so we will literally bring vaccines to your home, as well as the temporary pop-up sites and the like."
The Baker administration has long targeted 4.1 million full vaccinations as its baseline goal. Asked Tuesday if he has a new goal in mind, Baker replied, "More. The new number is more."
Highly infectious variants of COVID-19 continue to spread, which Baker said "make this the kind of thing where we should do everything we can to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can and not stop."
"From our point of view, we shouldn't stop," he said. "We should just do everything we possibly can."