By Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and safety of the people of Boston has been my top priority. As our city and our state begin a gradual reopening process, based on clear health benchmarks, peoples’ health and safety remains my top priority.
Reopening does not mean ‘back to normal,’ it means bringing a serious commitment to stopping the spread of the virus into our workplaces and community spaces. I am committed to making sure that every small business in Boston understands what steps they need to take in order to keep their employees, their customers, and the community safe. I am equally committed to making sure that none of them have trouble reopening due to a lack of access to resources. That’s why we created the Reopen Boston Fund.
The Boston Reopen Fund is a grant program to help small businesses put safety measures in place, including buying personal protective equipment (PPE); installing safety partitions for customers and employees; and managing outdoor space approved for business use. These are grants, not loans, so they don’t create debt. The grants will be distributed to brick-and-mortar businesses, with fewer than 15 employees, where people work close to each other or to customers. These include businesses in sectors like personal care, retail, food service, arts and entertainment, fitness, and event spaces and bars. The grants will also create more opportunities for local, and minority- and women- owned contractors to provide and install safety materials.
The funds will be released in three rounds, corresponding to the phases of the state’s reopening plan. Applications for funding opened on May 28, and grants are being distributed on a rolling basis. For more information, visit Boston.gov/ReopenFund.
This new fund builds on the support we’ve offered to our small businesses since this crisis began. So far, the City has dedicated more than $13.5 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. That includes $5.3 million in grants which we’ve distributed to 1,470 small businesses through our Small Business Relief Fund. This fund focuses on businesses in the most-affected industries, including: hospitality, personal care, arts and recreation, retail, and healthcare and social assistance. Businesses that have received grants represent every neighborhood in Boston.
We also created a new online resource dedicated to safety guidelines and resources for purchasing the necessary supplies. It’s the responsibility of every business owner to keep their employees safe, but we created this website to help them meet that responsibility. For more information, visit Boston.gov/BusinessPPE.
We continue to hold weekly conference calls for small business owners, offer technical assistance, and provide small businesses with the flexibility they need to continue connecting with customers— like allowing all restaurants to offer takeout and delivery. Information about these resources and more are available at Boston.gov/Small-Business.
Our small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities. They hire locally, they circulate a lot of economic vitality back into the neighborhood, they are important to the historic and cultural character of our communities. Many residents rely on them for their own well being. A large percentage of small businesses in Boston are also owned by women, people of color, and immigrants. That’s why supporting them is not only important to our economic recovery; it’s also one way we are working to achieve equity throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
We know how hard the last few months have been to our small businesses, and that they face a difficult economy in the months and years to come; but we will continue to support them in every way we can. I encourage everyone who thinks that they can benefit from these resources to visit Boston.gov/Small-Business. Information about other topics like food access, testing, emergency childcare, senior supports, and more are available at Boston.gov/Coronavirus.
Martin J. Walsh is the Mayor of Boston.