Op-Ed: Economic equity is key in Boston’s efforts to recover from the pandemic

By Acting Mayor Kim Janey

Throughout the pandemic, our city has remained resilient through uncertainty and hardship. Together, we are making real progress in our public health recovery. Cases of COVID-19 continue to decline, as vaccination rates climb steadily across the city. Now,, we must focus on an economic recovery, reopening and renewal that includes all of our communities. That starts with bold measures that encourage equity in our city and open opportunities for those who have been shut out.

Boston’s recovery and reopening is a chance to renew our city, making it stronger and more equitable. The racial wealth gap among Boston residents made headlines even before the pandemic. I know we can do better.  My administration is implementing concrete changes to help working families earn living wages and build wealth of their own. I have announced two new measures to promote economic equity and opportunity for working families in Boston.  

The first initiative put homeownership within reach for first-time homebuyers. I used a first-time buyer program to purchase my own home, so I know how important homeownership is economic stability and breaking the cycle of poverty. That is why I am excited to triple down payment assistance for the Boston Home Center’s first-time Homebuyer Program. 

With a $2.4 million commitment to this program in my FY22 budget proposal, we will be able to provide up to $40,000 in assistance to income-eligible residents seeking to purchase a home for the first time. Residents can also receive assistance with down payments and closing costs. This change more than triples the average amount of assistance previously offered by the City. 

Owning a home is part of the American Dream, and I am proud of the work our City is doing to make this a reality. As we work to close the racial wealth gap, it is programs like these that can help us achieve equity in Boston. 

Closing the wealth gap means we also have to address the wage gap. That is why I have also signed an executive order establishing a prevailing wage standard for key city service contractors. 

Starting July 1, Boston will guarantee rates for city contractors of $14.85 to $20 per hour for services such as cleaning and security, with an additional $6.26 to $6.70 per hour in health and pension benefits.

This executive order recognizes the importance of sustainable wages and benefits. It is time that the City of Boston sets a standard for other employers to follow that supports the wellbeing of Boston’s working families, while also encouraging other employers to join us in the effort.

These new steps help ensure an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts will work together with other programs I have introduced since being sworn-in as Mayor, including the ONE+Boston Homebuyer Program, $50 million in new rental relief to help residents stay in their homes and a $50 million emergency package to support an equitable recovery and reopening for our City’s residents, workers and small businesses. 

I will continue fighting for a stronger, more equitable Boston. It takes persistence to make a difference, and I promise that economic equity for residents will be at the forefront of Boston’s agenda to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Janey is the Acting Mayor for the City of Boston

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