reopening Massachusetts

Gov. Baker Announces $275M Coronavirus Economic Recovery Package

The spending plan is aimed at promoting equity and economic growth across the state

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $275 million coronavirus recovery package on Friday.

The spending plan is an update to economic development legislation filed in March and includes a targeted package of investments across housing, community development and business competitiveness, issues brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package would amend the scope of several proposed programs to target funding to specific communities including those hardest hit by COVID-19, reallocate funding to better address the economic impacts of the pandemic and establish new tools to promote equity and drive economic growth.

It also calls for more funding to invest in blighted and distressed homes, for small business grants and to advance new housing production in Massachusetts.

“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,” Baker said.

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

"While we continue to battle COVID-19, we can't lose sight of our strengths and what makes Massachusetts a leader in so many industries," she said. "As we continue to grow our economy, we must help small businesses bridge the gap to reopening and reach higher levels of stabilization and opportunity."

Florida, Texas and California have seen an explosion in new cases over the past few days, breaking daily records in new cases reported by state. The first coronavirus task force briefing in nearly two months resumes this afternoon.

While other states around the country contend with new COVID-19 spikes, Baker said this week that the approach Massachusetts has taken to fighting the virus and starting to reopen the economy is continuing to get results.

"Massachusetts continues to see encouraging public health data to support our gradual and phased reopening," Baker said, adding that face coverings, social distancing and good hygiene have "obviously made a tremendous difference here in Massachusetts."

Public health officials later in the day added 226 new cases of the respiratory disease to the state's total caseload and announced the recent COVID-19 deaths of 25 additional people. Since Feb. 1, there have been 107,837 cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts and 7,963 people have died from the virus.

The highly-contagious coronavirus is expected to continue spreading for months, and state officials on Thursday detailed their plan to get kids back to school in the fall while protecting them from the virus.

Dr. Robbie Goldstein, an infectious disease doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that children are less likely to be infected by coronavirus and masks are effective in preventing the spread when schools reopen this fall.

Districts and schools are told to prepare for three possible scenarios: a return to classroom instruction, a mix of classroom and remote learning, and the continued reliance on remote learning. Students in second grade or higher would be required to wear a mask or face covering during the school day, though "mask breaks" will be built into the daily routine.

"Based on the combination of health and safety requirements and rigorous protocols that we are putting in place for the fall, we believe the risk of transmission in schools is likely lower than the risks of transmission in many other settings," Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley wrote in a memo to school leaders.

Eyeing the possibility of cold and flu season overlapping with ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19, the Baker administration is planning to work with schools and municipalities to get more people to get a flu shot this fall.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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