Governor Charlie Baker provided an update on COVID-19 and announced new funding at a press conference on July 16. He said that face coverings continue to be the “best and most important thing we can all do here in the Commonwealth,” as well as distancing whenever possible, to be outdoors instead of indoors, practicing good hygiene, and disinfecting surfaces.
On July 1, a $20 million fund was launched for rental and mortgage assistance for low income households from a mix of federal funding from the Cares Act and federal reserves, Baker said. He said that the money “will invest in more access to emergency housing resources for families who need it.”
Additionally, another $20 million in rental assistance and support is currently in a supplemental before the legislature, he added.
On July 16, he said that an additional $20 million was added on top of the other money, and will be distributed across 181 communities in Massachusetts for food assistance, homelessness prevention, and for hard-hit small businesses through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Programs.
“This funding is for non-entitlement communities as defined by [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] as municipalities with less than 50,000 people and is an important part of how we’re leveraging state and federal assets to meet this moment,” Baker said.
“This new funding will also help micro-enterprises; very small businesses that have five or less employees with up to $10,000 in grants,” he added. Some communities will also be able to use the funds for job training in areas such as health care.
“Funding will help communities support households who have lost employment, households who are struggling to access food, homebound seniors who are unable to get to the grocery store, and much, much more,” Baker said.
He added that he is “pleased that in addition to the funding the state received, our 37 federally designated entitlement cities and towns and general communities that exceed 50,000 people in population that receive funding directly from HUD also received another $40 million. Those communities are using these resources in many of the same ways that today’s funding will be used to support small businesses, community services, and people in need.”
On July 22, Baker held a press conference at the the Salvation Army in Lynn, where he announced that the first round of grant applicants for the $36 million Food Insecurity Infrastructure Grant Program has been selected.
Nearly $3 million will be awarded to 26 organizations such as farms, school meal programs, food pantries, and organizations that work on food sourcing and distribution, the governor said.
The grant program is a part of $56 million in investments to implement recommendations of the state’s Food Security Task Force, which was announced this May.
Applications for the grant funds opened in June, and Baker said they will be “evaluated on a rolling basis through September 15.”
Baker said that “other investments include increased investments for the Healthy Incentives Program, $3 million in funding for immediate relief for food banks, and $12 million for the provision of 25,000 family food boxes per week through a regional food supply system.” Each of these food boxes contains between 30 and 35 meals.
“That work will continue throughout the summer as needed,” Baker said, and he said the state and its partners will continue to bring resources to where they are needed to help with the effects of COVID-19, “and at the same time do the work we need to do to help people who are dealing with food security issues.”