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The office of state Sen. Cindy Friedman of Arlington provided this update Tuesday, Jan. 12:
End-of-Session Transportation and Economic Development Bills
While so much has happened in the past week, I want to bring your attention to two big victories in the Massachusetts Legislature. After a marathon 16-hour formal session – the last of the 2019-2020 session – transportation and economic development conference committee reports were accepted, passed by the Legislature, and put before Governor Baker for his signature.
The $627,181,000 economic development bill provides the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will deliver desperately needed support to our restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and communities that have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Notably, the bill includes:
Over $100 million for local economic development projects across the Commonwealth;
$50 million for the production of high-density, mixed-income affordable housing near transit stations;
$50 million for neighborhood stabilization to help return blighted or vacant housing back to productive use;
$35 million for community development lending institutions to extend capital to small businesses, with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses that have historically had trouble accessing financing and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic;
$30 million for a loan program similar to the federal Paycheck Protection Program for businesses hurt by COVID-19;
$25 million for grants to provide capital for micro-businesses and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a new business;
$20 million to provide financial and capital assistance to restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic;
Several enhanced student loan protections, including a new Student Loan Ombudsperson within the Attorney General’s Office for the purpose of receiving, reviewing, and assisting in the resolution of student loan borrower complaints from student loan borrowers and to assist with repayment options, applying for federal loan forgiveness programs, ending wage and tax refund garnishments, resolving billing disputes, and obtaining loan details;
More low-income housing tax credits to encourage the construction of new low-income housing units across the state;
Caps the fees that third-party delivery services can charge restaurants for their services at 15% of the price of the online order for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency; and
Provisions that seal all no-fault eviction records.
To learn more about the bill, you can read a factsheet on lead Senate negotiator, Senator Eric Lesser’s, website here.
H.5248An Act authorizing and accelerating transportation investment
The transportation bill includes $16.5 billion in bond authorizations for highway and bridge maintenance, train modernization, and major capital projects such as a Red Line-Blue Line Connector, the extension of commuter rail service to the South Coast, and improved access to the two Cape Cod bridges.
Notably, the bill also:
Requires the MBTA to implement a low-income fare program;
Creates violations for drivers who park their vehicles in designated bus lanes;
Increases the nominal flat per-ride fees charged on app-based services such as Uber and Lyft and splits the additional revenue between (1) municipalities, to address the impact of transportation network services on municipal roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure, and (2) the Commonwealth Transportation Fund to fund transportation-related expenses of the executive office of transportation; and
Creates a commission to study congestion pricing.
Both bills are now laid before the Governor, who has 10 days to sign them into law, veto the bills, or come back to the Legislature with revisions in the form of amendments.
To stay up to date on all that I'm doing on behalf of the 4th Middlesex and the Commonwealth, please visit my website and check out my legislative profile on the Massachusetts Legislature website. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.