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BY GAYLA CAWLEY| January 18, 2021

BOSTON — Lynn legislators are praising the state’s newly passed economic development bill, which will provide $627 million of coronavirus relief for small businesses, workers and housing development.

The economic recovery and development legislation, “An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth,” was passed by the state legislature on Jan. 6 and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last Thursday.

State lawmakers say the bill will provide “much-needed support” to small businesses, foster the creation of new jobs and lead to investments in infrastructure.

The bill will provide relief to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses and other industries that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development throughout the state, according to state Sen. Brendan Crighton’s office.

“For the past year, our legislative delegation has been focused on both the public health and economic crises created by COVID-19,” said Crighton. “This will provide much-needed tools for our communities and small businesses during these unprecedented times.”

“This economic recovery and investment package will go a long way in providing relief to small businesses and working families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic,” added state Rep. Peter Capano (D-Lynn). “I am especially pleased that the bill includes long overdue housing stability measures that will allow for more equitable production, and will expand the Commonwealth’s housing supply through zoning changes.”

The legislation authorizes $105 million worth of bonding for housing investments, which is geared toward the redevelopment of blighted buildings, and the development of transit-oriented and climate-resilient housing projects, according to Crighton’s office.

Zoning reforms that will be implemented through the bill are focused on helping cities and towns increase their affordable-housing stocks by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, according to Crighton’s office.

The bill also allows for $50 million in bonding authorizations for COVID-19 relief for small businesses though the state’s payroll protection program and by providing restaurant-recovery grants. Another $106.7 million in bonding is authorized for employee protections, business growth and equity, according to Crighton’s office.

And $82 million in bonding was authorized through the legislation for technology and innovation investments. Other bonding investments total $184.5 million, which includes $102.3 million for local economic development projects, according to Crighton’s office.

“We have heard from many small businesses from Lynn the need for economic support,” said state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn). “This bill provides hundreds of millions of dollars to support our small businesses and to invest in our community.”

“This comprehensive bill, containing much-needed relief for small businesses and housing development reforms, also includes the local journalism commission, a bill I filed with Sen. Crighton,” added state Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead).

“Local news outlets have been devastated in recent years. At a time when trust in news and shared facts are more essential to our democracy than ever, I am proud to see this commission become law. The consequences of inaction are potentially devastating,” she said.

State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) noted that the “$627 million economic development bill that was signed into law by the governor will help the whole Commonwealth with desperately needed funding to help boost the economy.

“Significant aid will be made available to municipalities for development and neighborhood improvements, and it was encouraging to see the inclusion of multi-family housing in zones near MBTA stations,” he said.

The bill 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.
Policy Changes

Limits fees charged by third-party delivery services for restaurants to 15% during the COVID-19 state of emergency; prohibits third-party delivery service companies from reducing rates for delivery drivers or garnishing gratuities as result of the limitation.
Creates a commission to examine and make recommendations on addressing the recovery of the cultural and creative sector, including the arts, humanities and sciences, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.
Policy Changes

Implements zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority.
Requires designated MBTA communities to be zoned for at least one district of reasonable size, in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and requires such housing to be suitable for families with children.
Increases the state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20 million to $40 million.
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.
$14 million for travel and tourism grants.
$10 million for regional and community assistance planning grants.
Policy Changes

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.
Establishes a commission of experts, industry members, academics, and elected officials to research and propose policy solutions that ensure the future and sustainability of local journalism in Massachusetts.
Student protections

Establishes a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights regulating the licensing and operation of student loan servicers by the Commissioner of Banks.
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.
Technology and innovation

Bonding Authorizations

$52 million for the Technology Research and Development and Innovation Fund.
$15 million for lottery IT infrastructure.
$10 million for the expansion of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2).
$5 million for the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund.
Policy Changes

Creates a special commission on the future of work to conduct a comprehensive study relative to the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, global trade, access to new forms of data and the internet of things on the workforce, businesses and economy.
Clarifies that car-sharing platforms may obtain insurance coverage from non-admitted carrier and that car-sharing platforms do not need their own insurance-producer or broker licenses to offer or maintain insurance policies for carsharing vehicles or drivers.
Other bonding authorizations include:

$102,304,000 for local economic development projects.
$12.5 million for the Commonwealth Zoological Corporation.
$15 million for trial court virtual mediation services.
$6 million for Massachusetts Cultural Council grants.
$5 million for Mass Cultural Council public school grants.
$20 million for Mass Cultural Council cultural facilities grants.
$15 million for vocational technical school expansion grants
$15 million for higher education workforce grants.