The following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media.
BOSTON – Faced with an economy harmed by COVID-19, local State Representatives Jack Patrick Lewis, Maria Robinson, and Carmine Gentile joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts House in passing a bill intended to give an encouraging stimulus to the state’s economy.
The bill will do this by legalizing sports gaming, facilitating housing development, and providing more than $450 million in state funding to spur growth.
“This comprehensive piece of legislation includes a number of items that will offer some much needed relief to the Commonwealth’s economy from small businesses loans and grants, relief to our struggling restaurants, and reforms of our housing laws,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (Boston). “The items contained in this bill represent a wide variety of priorities of the membership of the House and I want to thank my colleagues for their input and feedback. I look forward to continuing to work on this legislation and see it passed in a timely fashion.”
“This bill will provide significant funding to micro-businesses and minority-owned businesses, which are the backbone of our communities,” said Framingham State Rep. Maria Robinson, a Democrat. “Although I still remain concerned about the housing components of the bill, we needed to pass this broad-based bill to ensure our small business community can thrive beyond the pandemic.”
“This pandemic is having an unimaginable impact on every aspect of our lives and our economy,” added Rep. Jack Lewis. “This legislation is a vital step in assisting local businesses on the journey to recovery.”
The bill establishes the Rural Jobs Tax Credit for businesses that make a capital contribution to a rural growth fund, which will be established within the Office of Business Development. It allows for the creation of Tourism Destination Marketing Districts, which, following local approval, can add an additional 2% surcharge on room occupancy taxes to fund tourism marketing activities within these districts.
The legislation also creates a Cultural Council Recovery Commission to review and develop recommendations for the recovery, promotion and continued growth and vitality of the cultural and creative sector in the commonwealth.
“In partnership with local housing efforts, this bill supplies funds for local housing authorities and trusts. It provides much needed small business loans and grants and a shot in the arm for tourism venues,” said Representative Carmine Gentile, a Democrat from Sudbury. “Funds made available for planning efforts will spur needed development creating jobs as we survive and exit the recession.”
The bill pairs initiatives to improve the housing market for buyers while providing protections for tenants. It authorizes the Housing Choice concept, reducing the voting requirement for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, from a two-thirds threshold to a simple majority.
The legislation also creates a local option for the tenant right to purchase/first right of refusal to purchase buildings landlords put up for sale, increases the low-income housing tax credit from $20 million to $40 million, and requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to notify tenants they have a right to mediation with
landlords prior to the eviction process.
“This economic development bill makes smart and strategic investments in affordable housing production throughout the Commonwealth. During the era of COVID-19, the need for safe and stable housing has never been so important,” said Representative Kevin Honan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing (Boston). “The investments provided in this bill will create new affordable housing units through the low-income housing tax credit, provide necessary funds to rehabilitate blighted buildings, invest in critically needed housing near transit, make it easier for communities who want to build new housing to do so, and so much more.”
The bill is now in conference committee.
The bill initiates a system for legal sports gaming in Massachusetts enabling the independent Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant in-person licenses to existing casinos and racing facilities. Mobile applications and casinos are also eligible to receive mobile gaming licenses. In addition to licensing fees, the state will receive 15% of all sports betting proceeds — $50 million annually — with an additional 1% for games played in Massachusetts going to a fund to ensure the integrity of the game.
The proceeds will be distributed in the following fashion:
· 40% to a workforce development fund for at-risk youth in low-income/minority communities
· 30% to a Distressed Restaurant Fund that would help over 1,000 restaurants pay for things like rent, payroll, and PPE for a period of two years
· 10% to Youth Development Initiatives (raised to 25% after January 2023), including scholarships and after-School programs
· 10% to Local Aid (raised to 25% after January 2023)
· 9% to Public Health, including Gaming Addiction
· 1% to a Player’s Benevolent fund to pay for local player connected charity
The bill provides for $459 million in bond funding, including:
· $35M for Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) small business loans to underserved populations
· $15M for MGCC for Microbusinesses
· $10M Travel and Tourism capital improvements
· $10M MA Tech Collaborative on Manufacturing grants
· $45M MA Tech Collaborative for academic and research institutions grants for robotic, AI R&D
· $15M Mass Development for planning activities to speed up developments
· $10M Mass Development for rural development grants
· $40M Mass Development for redevelopment of underutilized, blighted, or abandoned properties
· $5M Mass Tech Collaborative for broadband grants to Western Mass
· $5M to Economic Development for technical assistance to support locally driven development
· $40M DHCD for Neighborhood stabilization and preservation
· $10M for MA Housing Finance Agency for climate resilient housing construction
· $50M to MA Housing Partnership to fund high-density mixed income transit oriented housing
· $30M for a PPP loan type program run by MGCC
o 2/3rds ($20M) of funds would be dedicated for minority, women, and veteran
o Under certain conditions, these loans can become grants
o Directs funds to businesses impacted by COVID-19 but didn’t receive federal
· $15M for Trial Courts to support improved Virtual Mediations in Housing related cases.
· $10M UTEC for capital grants
· $12.5M Zoo New England for capital improvements
· $5M Economic Development for small business multi-lingual tech assistance and coaching
· $6M MCC grants for capital/IT upgrades to improve remote access to materials
· $5M MCC/DESE for school districts to provide remote access to MCC grantee facilities.