Baker proposes $275M coronavirus economic recovery package

Baker proposes $275M coronavirus economic recovery package

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday proposed spending $275 million on a coronavirus economic relief package with emphasis on investment in small businesses, particularly those that are minority-owned and in low-income communities.

The legislation is an update to an economic development plan filed before the pandemic fully hit, but it has been amended in response to the economic impact of the outbreak, the Republican governor said at a news conference.

The plan also included money to spur development to address the state’s housing crisis, which he said was “laid bare” by the virus.

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“By funding more affordable housing, implementing critical zoning reform, stabilizing neighborhoods, and supporting minority-owned businesses with record levels of funding, these proposed changes will bring critical relief and promote equity across Massachusetts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Baker said.

The pandemic has exposed the state's housing crisis, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy said. People forced to live in crowded apartments to make rent have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, he said.

Baker's plan includes an additional $15 million, for a total of $40 million, to develop blighted and abandoned properties.

Baker also proposes enabling cities and towns to approve housing development with a simple majority vote rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.

The administration's goal is to create 135,000 new housing units by 2025.

The proposal needs legislative approval.

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