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Massachusetts Announces $668 Million in Relief for Small Businesses, Including Restaurants

Restaurants can apply for up to $75,000 in aid to cover payroll, rent, debt, and other operating costs

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $668 million relief fund for small businesses, but will it be enough for restaurants?
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker rolled out a $668 million relief program on Dec. 23 targeted at helping small businesses, giving priority to those that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, including restaurants and bars. Half of the funds are expected to go to businesses that were unable to access the state’s previous small business aid efforts, which were heavily oversubscribed. Businesses that applied previously but were unable to access state aid will not be forced to re-apply this time around, Gov. Baker said.

The program, which will be administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp., and paid for in most part by the recently passed $900 billion federal stimulus bill, will provide small businesses with up to $75,000 or three months of their operating expenses. The funds, which will be paid out as grants (and will therefore not need to be repaid), can be used to cover payroll, mortgages, debt, and other operating costs. The state will begin accepting new applications on Dec. 31, and will do so for two weeks thereafter.

During his announcement, Gov. Baker recognized that the state’s COVID-19 guidelines have placed restrictions on small businesses that have made it difficult to operate, and that those restrictions “have consequences and the impact has serious implications on people’s lives.”

“For us, the most important thing is to recognize and understand we have a lot of small businesses that have been struggling through this,” Gov. Baker said.

Massachusetts Restaurant Association president and CEO Bob Luz told Eater via email that Gov. Baker’s announcement “could not [have] come at a more critical time with the darkest recesses of winter staring restaurants in the face.” Still, Luz fears this new relief effort may also become quickly oversubscribed despite its significant size.

“This has to be looked at as a down payment, and more assistance is needed for restaurants to get to the other side,” said Luz. “We will continue to need assistance from both the state and federal governments moving forward, and we still lack any plan addressing the needs of new immigrants who we employ.”

Undocumented workers make up a significant portion of the nation’s restaurant workforce and have been previously locked out of government assistance during the pandemic. The newest COVID-19 relief package includes undocumented Americans indirectly by providing stimulus checks to mixed-status households with undocumented family members.

The state aid will help restaurants and bars (and by extension, their workers) that continue to struggle as the pandemic rages through winter. It’s especially crucial given that the new federal stimulus package is woefully inadequate in terms of the relief it provides to the millions of individuals who remain unemployed, and did not include the RESTAURANTS Act, which would have injected $120 billion worth of grants into the embattled industry.

Baker Unveils $668 Million Relief Plan to Help Small Businesses [BG]
Baker’s $50 Million Effort to Help Small Businesses Is Wildly Oversubscribed [BG]
Massachusetts Shrinks Restaurant Capacity to 25% for at Least Two Weeks [EBOS]
Expedited Unemployment Processing Doesn’t Help Undocumented Food-Service Workers in Massachusetts [EBOS]
US Citizen Spouses and Children of Undocumented Immigrants Will Finally Get Stimulus Checks [VOX]
How the $900 Billion Stimulus Helps — But Mostly Fails — Restaurants and Workers [ENY]
What the New Iteration of the HEROES Act Would Mean for Restaurants [E]