Sweeping Covid-19 recovery bill signed

Senator Sal DiDomenico and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature passed $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill, providing critical support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth is a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that provides support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. The bill also creates a Future of Work Commission, establishes protections for student loan borrowers, and ushers in zoning reforms to encourage affordable housing development in our communities.

Included in this economic development law is critical language limiting the fees charged by third-party delivery services, like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and GrubHub. From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator DiDomenico began advocating for a cap on delivery fees to protect local restaurants during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

The new law limits fees charged by third-party delivery services for restaurants to 15% during the COVID-19 state of emergency and prohibits third-party delivery service companies from reducing rates for delivery drivers or garnishing gratuities as result of the limitation.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth also includes the following bonding authorizations and policy changes:

COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery

Bonding Authorizations

• $30 million for the state’s COVID-19 Payroll Protection Program

• $20 million for restaurant COVID-19 recovery grants

Housing

Bonding Authorizations

• $40 million for a program to redevelop blighted buildings

• $50 million for transit-oriented housing developments

• $10 million for climate-resilient affordable housing developments

• $5 million for a Gateway Cities housing program

• Increases the state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000

Employee protections, business growth, and equity

Bonding Authorizations

• $35 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation matching grant program to community development financial institutions for small business loans and grants

• $27.7 million for a new Employment Social Enterprise Capital Grant Program

• $20 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation small business grant program

• $14M million for travel and tourism grants

• $10 million for regional and community assistance planning grants

• Enables, via local option, the creation of tourism destination marketing districts (“TDMDs”), made up of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, for the purpose of generating local revenue dedicated solely for the promotion and marketing of specific regions of the Commonwealth

• Amends the statutory definition of wait staff employee to include a person in a quick service restaurant who prepares or serves food or beverages as part of a team of counter staff

• Provides that the taking of family or medical leave shall not affect an employee’s right to accrue vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length-of-service credit or other employment benefits, plans or programs

• Exempts natural hair braiding from the definition of hairdressing, and exempts natural hair braiding from rules and regulations pertaining to aesthetics, barbering, cosmetology, electrolysis, hairdressing and manicuring

• Encourages the PRIM Board to use minority investment managers to manage PRIT Fund assets, where appropriate, and to increase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of Fund investments

• Creates a Student Loan Ombudsman within the Office of the Attorney General for the purpose of receiving, reviewing and assisting in the resolution of complaints from student loan borrowers; authorizes the Ombudsman to assist with repayment options, applying for federal loan forgiveness programs, ending wage and tax refund garnishments, resolving billing disputes, and obtaining loan details.

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