House Passes Jobs Bill to Spur Economy Amid Pandemic
(BOSTON) – Faced with an economy buffeted by COVID-19 Representative Steven Ultrino (D-Malden) joined Speaker DeLeo and his colleagues in the House to pass a bill to give a shot in the arm to the state’s economy by legalizing sports gaming, facilitating housing development and providing more than $450 million in state funding to spur growth.
“During tough economic times, it’s vital that we turn to time-honored tactics, innovative tools and creative ideas to create and preserve jobs in Massachusetts,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m grateful to Chairs Ferrante, Michlewitz, Honan and my colleagues in the House for their work on this bill that will shore up and spur our economy.”
"With the passage of this bill, the Commonwealth stands ready to buttress important sectors of our economy such as the restaurant, arts, culture and tourism industries that have been most adversely affected by Covid-19; it gives many displaced workers an opportunity to rejoin the Massachusetts workforce,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D-Gloucester). “This bill also takes an enormous step in providing housing choices for urban and rural areas of the state by amending zoning laws and making unprecedented monetary investments in housing as well as a major outlay in economic empowerment for minority communities. These expenditures relative to economic empowerment, at a time of decreasing revenues, is fuel by the legalization of sports betting which accomplishes other critical goals: bringing a black market activity into the light and, thereby, reducing ancillary crimes, and protecting the Commonwealth's investments in the gaming industry and the high technology software design innovation sector."
“I was proud to join my colleagues to pass this legislation which will create thousands of new jobs throughout the Commonwealth and stimulate the economy during these uncertain times,” said Representative Ultrino. “This bill makes a significant investment in affordable housing through production, low income housing tax credits, and rehabilitation of old buildings. This legislation makes a necessary commitment to ensuring that our most vulnerable populations are protected.”
The bill pairs initiatives to improve the housing market for buyers while providing protections for tenants. It authorizes the Housing Choice concept, reducing the voting requirement for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, from a two-thirds threshold to a simple majority. The legislation also creates a local option for the tenant right to purchase/first right of refusal to purchase buildings landlords put up for sale, increases the low-income housing tax credit from $20 million to $40 million, and requires DHCD to notify tenants they have a right to mediation with landlords prior to the eviction process.
The bill establishes the Rural Jobs Tax Credit for businesses that make a capital contribution to a rural growth fund, which will be established within the Office of Business Development. It allows for the creation of Tourism Destination Marketing Districts, which, following local approval, can add an additional 2% surcharge on room occupancy taxes to fund tourism marketing activities within these districts. The legislation also creates a Cultural Council Recovery Commission to review and develop recommendations for the recovery, promotion and continued growth and vitality of the cultural and creative sector in the commonwealth.
The bill initiates a system for legal sports gaming in Massachusetts enabling the independent Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant in-person licenses to existing casinos and racing facilities. Mobile applications and casinos are also eligible to receive mobile gaming licenses. In addition to licensing fees, the state will receive 15% of all sports betting proceeds -- $50 million annually -- (with an additional 1% for games played in Massachusetts going to a fund to ensure the integrity of the game.) The proceeds will be distributed in the following fashion:
· 40% to a workforce development fund for at-risk youth in low-income/minority communities
· 30% to a Distressed Restaurant Fund that would help over 1,000 restaurants pay for things like rent, payroll, and PPE for a period of two years
· 10% to Youth Development Initiatives (raised to 25% after January 2023), including scholarships and after-School programs
· 10% to Local Aid (raised to 25% after January 2023)
· 9% to Public Health, including Gaming Addiction
· 1% to a Player’s Benevolent fund to pay for local player connected charity foundations.
The bill provides for $459M in bond funding, including:
· $35M for MGCC small business loans to underserved populations
· $15M for MGCC for Microbusinesses
· $10M Travel and Tourism capital improvements
· $10M MA Tech Collaborative on Manufacturing grants
· $45M MA Tech Collaborative for academic and research institutions grants for robotic, AI R&D
· $15M Mass Development for planning activities to speed up developments
· $10M Mass Development for rural development grants
· $40M Mass Development for redevelopment of underutilized, blighted, or abandoned properties
· $5M Mass Tech Collaborative for broadband grants to Western Mass
· $5M to Economic Development for technical assistance to support locally driven development
· $40M DHCD for Neighborhood stabilization and preservation
· $10M for MA Housing Finance Agency for climate resilient housing construction
· $50M to MA Housing Partnership to fund high-density mixed income transit oriented housing
· $30M for a PPP loan type program run by MGCC
o 2/3rds ($20M) of funds would be dedicated for minority, women, and veteran owned businesses
o Under certain conditions, these loans can become grants
o Directs funds to businesses impacted by COVID-19 but didn’t receive federal assistance
· $15M for Trial Courts to support improve Virtual Mediations in Housing related cases.
· $10M UTEC for capital grants
· $12.5M Zoo New England for capital improvements
· $5M Economic Development for small business multi-lingual tech assistance and coaching
· $6M MCC grants for capital/IT upgrades to improve remote access to materials
· $5M MCC/DESE for school districts to provide remote access to MCC grantee facilities.
The bill is now in conference committee.