Boston Mayor Marty Walsh recently announced three new relief funds intended to help small businesses reeling from economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic. One will provide commercial rent relief for the period between April 1 and December 31, with priority given to small businesses in industry sectors in Phase 3, Step 2, and Phase 4 of the state’s Reopening Massachusetts plan; a second will provide direct grants for small businesses currently certified with the City of Boston as women-, minority-, or veteran-owned small businesses; and the third will provide rent and payroll relief specifically to restaurants. Applications are due next week.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been listening closely to the needs of our small business community,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement. “These conversations are crucial to ensuring a safe and equitable recovery for our city. The new funds we are announcing today will address those needs to better support the small businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Each fund will provide up to $15,000 in assistance. Taken together, the relief effort totals $6.3 million and is funded by a mix of CARES Act funding and philanthropic giving. Businesses may only apply for one of the three funds.
The restaurant relief fund, which is a partnership between the city, One Fair Wage, High Roads Kitchen, and City Councilor Lydia Edwards’ office, also aims to commit the industry to paying restaurant workers a $20 per hour minimum wage by 2026.
“It’s important that we don’t forget about restaurant workers when we talk about the struggles of the industry,” said Edwards. “Without restaurant workers there would be no restaurant industry. I’m proud to have partnered with the administration, One Fair Wage, and High Road Kitchens on the development of this program that will provide relief to restaurants that commit to good labor practices.”
According to a statement released by the city, the fund “will directly provide wage reimbursements to restaurants to retain or rehire their employees or other food service employees who have lost employment or been underemployed due to COVID-19. Use of funds may include both rent and payroll. Priority will be given to independently owned small and local restaurants, as well as restaurants owned by immigrants, women, and people of color.”
The funds will be dispersed to as many as 25 sit-down restaurants that offer full table service and employee 25 or fewer workers. Restaurants must commit to achieving full wage parity between all tipped and non-tipped employees by January 2026 in order to be considered eligible for the relief funds.
Small business owners have until 9 a.m. on Monday, November 23, to apply for relief funds.