To the Citizens of the 1st Suffolk District:
While 2020 was a year of great difficulty and challenge, we also saw extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity that reaffirm our commitment to shared progress and wellbeing. I am more proud than ever to represent you in the State Senate, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the things we have accomplished together during the 191st General Court of the Commonwealth and as 2021 begins.
Supporting Small Businesses and Job Creation
As this historic session came to a close, my colleagues and I authorized an unprecedented $1.295 billion in stimulus funding for our local economy, and especially our small businesses. More than $100 million was set aside for grant programs including loans and grants to small businesses like restaurants, gyms, barbers, and hair salons. In order to help keep our small businesses running, these grants can be used for payroll protection, job retention, mortgage insurance, rent, utilities, and debt.
After hearing from small business owners in the district, I was proud to work with my colleagues to remove a prohibitive licensure requirement for natural hair braiding. Hair braiding is safe, and extremely important in many communities of color. This commonsense reform will break down barriers to economic empowerment and allow more entrepreneurs in the city to pursue their passion and make a living.
I was also proud to secure $500,000 for capital improvements designed to support the reopening of small businesses throughout the City of Boston, as well as an amendment requiring the Department of Revenue (DOR) to create a pathway for tax relief for small business owners by exempting them from the IRS’ State and Local Tax (SALT) cap.
Earlier in the session, my colleagues and I successfully called on the federal government to authorize Massachusetts SNAP and EBT cards to be used for online grocery purchases, ensuring that low-income families have equal access to resources, and don’t have to choose between staying home and getting food and basic necessities. We passed legislation to allow restaurants, one of the Commonwealth’s largest employment industries, to sell beer, wine, and liquor to-go, offering relief from the crisis. We worked to postpone collection of utilities for small businesses, passed legislation to waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance, and expanded benefits to independent contractors and gig-economy workers like Uber and Lyft drivers.
The Economic Development Bond Bill also included $15 Million for Vocational Education schools like Madison Park, and another $15 Million for Community College Workforce Grants. High-quality jobs in all industries is key to the longterm success of our city, region, and our young people themselves.
As part of a $16.5 billion investment in transportation across the Commonwealth, I was proud to help secure much-needed investments right here in the First Suffolk district. We were successful in including over $230 million in transportation improvements in South Boston, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Hyde Park, including safe streets infrastructure, Red Line upgrades, South Boston Sustainable Waterfront Transportation implementation, Mattapan Square improvements, MBTA bus service enhancements, and Kosciusko Circle traffic calming measures. Taken together, these investments in our public transportation infrastructure will reduce congestion on the roads, improve air quality, and give residents more reliable options to get to work in the morning.
I was especially proud to deliver on one of our top transportation priorities this session- the Fairmount Line – by including $200 million for full electrification of the line. Electrification will improve service, reduce emissions, and promote environmental and economic justice in the heart of our city. 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.
Building Affordable Housing for All
The pandemic has exposed what we already knew to be true- Greater Boston has a regional housing crisis. Over the past 15 years. rents have shot up sharply, home ownership has become increasingly difficult, lower-income residents are being displaced, and families are struggling to keep up. Simply put, our housing market is on an unsustainable path. That’s why my colleagues and I were proud to pass several bills designed to mitigate the regional housing crisis.
First, we passed language that would require cities and towns in Greater Boston to build their fair share of housing by allowing approval of denser projects by a simple majority of the zoning board, rather than a supermajority. There is no reason that a minority of board members in a wealthy suburb should be able to block an affordable housing project that could bring relief to workers in Boston and throughout the region. This language also requires multifamily housing in towns that enjoy MBTA service. By incentivizing more construction at and near MBTA stations, we can reduce traffic congestion, create affordable units, and invest in a more sustainable region for our future generations.
Next, we passed legislation allowing the City of Boston to more easily adjust Linkage rates during economic booms in order to generate more funding for affordable housing, create opportunities for affordable home ownership, prevent displacement, and invest in workforce development across the city. We also codified the Inclusionary Development Program to protect one of the City’s best tools to build new affordable housing and support our working class. As income inequality continues to strain communities in Boston and across the State, it is imperative that we give cities the tools and flexibility to react, readjust, and reinforce investments in affordability.
As the session came to a close, my colleagues and I worked quickly to pass major environmental legislation, known as the Next-Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy. This omnibus package sets ambitious emissions reductions goals, codifies environmental justice provisions, invests in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and protects consumers. Massachusetts will continue to be a national leader in the fight against climate change and its disproportionate impacts because of this visionary legislation.
As I am sworn into my second full term representing you in the Massachusetts Senate, I could not be more honored to be doing this work. In the midst of a global pandemic, and a time of national unrest, faith in our state and local government is more important than ever, and I am doubling down on my commitment to make Boston and Massachusetts a better place to live, work, and thrive. Thank you for your continued support and partnership. If you have questions, input on legislative initiatives, or thoughts for new bills to be filed, please feel free to contact my office by email, or at 617-722-1150.
Yours in service,