Income inequality along racial and ethnic lines in our city is as clear as ever. My office is committed to creating economic opportunity by listening and taking actions to address the most pressing concerns facing our communities. To correct issues of economic inequality, I have filed and continue to champion legislation which will include funding for critical job training and workforce development programs in addition to reliable public transit.
In a recent technology infrastructure bonding bill, my office secured $250,000 for broadband internet access for Boston Public Schools families who face barriers to access, and another $250,000 for a Small Business Tech Equity Fund, working with the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts to provide small, minority and women owned businesses with technical assistance and technology upgrades to keep their businesses running.
In our end of the year Supplemental Budget, I worked hard to make sure every community in the First Suffolk District was prioritized. I secured $125,000 for the Boston Public Health Commission for for violence prevention, intervention, recovery, and public health programming in Boston. I also secured $125,000 for summer and out-of-school academic enrichment grants, to ensure that young people have an opportunity to continue their learning and development through productive summer programming.
One of our signature legislative efforts this term has been increased service on the Fairmount Line, an issue at the core of economic, environmental, social, and racial justice. I am glad that our advocacy and partnership with key community leaders and colleagues has led to a pilot program implementation, and will continue to push for full electrification on the line. Our residents cannot access the job centers in town without reliable access to rapid transportation, and clean air that doesn’t contribute to deadly health disparities.
I’ve also filed legislation to hold businesses who receive state tax credits accountable for the diversity of their teams (S.1612). This bill would require any person, group, business, or entity applying for any tax credits from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to submit a plan for diversity and inclusion to the Supplier Diversity Office and the Office of Access and Opportunity as a requirement for application for the credits. As a state we need to make sure our financial assistance is reaching all communities, and those corporations looking for state tax breaks are reflecting our commitment to economic opportunity for all.
S.1383 is a bill I’ve filed which would simultaneously diversify our local public safety agencies and create job opportunities for young people from the City by requiring public safety agencies at Massport, State Colleges, and State Universities to send recruits directly to the State Academies, rather than require prior training. As it stands, the requirement for prior training gives an unfair advantage to rural applicants who have less barriers to accessing their local departments. This limits diversity and puts up barriers to employment for residents of the very cities where these agencies operate (ie. Logan Airport, UMass Boston etc. ) We must break down barriers to employment, especially in instances where it prevents these public safety agencies from reflecting the diversity of the communities which they serve.
For years I have been calling for diverse marketing programs on all state owned construction projects. Just like in the Convention Center Expansion bill I championed with former Senator Linda Dorcena Forry in 2014, this bill takes existing participation goals, and makes them a requirement of any state assisted building project, including diverse participation in not only construction, design, development, and operation, but also financing and ownership of the project. This model was recently successfully demonstrated with Massport’s bidding process for the Omni Hotel Development, which resulted in a more competitive bidding process, and ultimately, a team with minority leadership in every step. See more here: https://www.baystatebanner.com/2017/04/19/black-firms-tackle-fourth-largest-hotel-project-in-boston-2/
Often, local firms and businesses that are owned by women and people of color have been largely shut out from sharing in the development in our city. As income inequality and the racial wealth gap are as egregiously prevalent as ever, it is important that the Legislature implement policies that give everyone an opportunity to participate in our economic success. This legislation would be a statement that Massachusetts is serious about diversity and inclusion from the construction to the ownership. Read more about my commitment to inclusion in Boston here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/12/29/making-seaport-accessible-all/mgUTiv2GmNaTJQ3CQVuRaM/story.html
This term, I am the leader sponsor of S.553, a bill that would set a limit on the rates charged to cash a check, knowing that 16% of Bostonians don’t have a checking account, and low-income communities disproportionately rely on check cashing. I’ve also filed legislation to ensure full participation of men and women of color in the growing cannabis industry by funding social equity programs (S.1123) and breaking down barriers to forming collectives (S.1124).
But legislation isn’t the only tool to address the disparities we see in economic opportunity. The annual state budget is an opportunity to fund meaningful economic empowerment programs. Here are some I have helped secure funding for:
- Boston Private Industry Council: The School-to-Career Connecting Activities programs generate private sector jobs and internships for high school students throughout Massachusetts. Students develop skills to prepare them for careers in STEM fields, and employers benefit from having a skilled workforce to meet their needs in this growing sector of our local economy. As science and technology make up an increasing share of our state economy, we must invest in programs to help our youth thrive in this emerging sector.
- Black Economic Council of MA: The mission of BECMA is to advance the economic wellbeing of Black businesses, organizations that support the Black community, and Black residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They convene important conversations that seek solutions to persistent racial and economic issues, advocate on behalf of our business members at the state and local levels for policies that help grow and sustain the Black economy, and connect members to growth opportunities through technical assistance and training.
- NECAT: who is working to impact poverty, opioid addiction, homelessness and recidivism in our community by helping chronically unemployed and underemployed adults develop the skills and confidence to secure full-time, stable employment in Boston’s thriving food services industry. NECAT’s Culinary Arts Job Training Program is offered free of cost to students and provides training, case management and employment services. This past year, graduates earned an average of $16.49 per hour, plus benefits.
- Scholar Athletes: BSA is a non-profit organization which fosters youth development and academic achievement through athletics. The program helps high school athletes succeed in the classroom by providing academic coaching, mentoring and tutoring services. BSA also helps students prepare for college by organizing college fairs and providing SAT preparation courses, post-secondary guidance and workshops on financial aid and college applications. With help from these programs, over 90% of students successfully graduate from high school and 80% of students who take advantage of BSA programs are accepted into high school. As post-secondary education becomes an increasingly important component in today’s economy, we must invest in our youth by supporting and creating pathways to college.
- Haitian American Business Expo: The Mission of the U.S. Haitian Chamber of Commerce, Inc. / Haitian American Business Expo, Inc. is to promote and empower Haitian American businesses by creating a platform where they can showcase their services to the communities in the United States of America. They serve the statewide Haitian community through a business directory database.
- Technical Assistance for Black and Latino Businesses: Provided through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. Areas of assistance include, but are not limited to, business plan development, cash flow analysis, personnel and organizational issues, conventional and non-conventional financing, marketing, international trade, SBIR and government procurement.
- Targeted Business Development Outreach: Provided through the Massachusetts Office of Business Development The idea is to ensure that businesses are aware of the tools and resources made available by the state. All the while, making strides to increase competitiveness and opportunities Black- and Latino-owned businesses.
Together we can begin to dismantle systematic inequalities by advancing policies which emphasize intentional inclusion, prioritize diversity, and give everyone a chance at economic mobility. Thank you for your support in this cause.