Mayor Martin Walsh held a press conference on March 15, where he discussed some updates regarding COVID in the city, and Rep. Stephen Lynch provided some details about the newly passed federal American Rescue Act.
Walsh said that as of Sunday, there were 137 new cases of COVID-19 in Boston and two new deaths. The seven day positive test rate was 3.6 percent.
“Case numbers have stayed below the thresholds,” Walsh said, but told residents to continue to take all precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, and washing hands.
He also said that this past weekend before St. Patrick’s Day did not result in the need for an emergency License Board hearing on Monday, as there were no violations.
Walsh also reminded residents that the state’s online system to pre-register for vaccines is now open, and that “anybody” can pre-register and will be notified when it’s their turn to schedule an appointment.
The mayor announced the outdoor dining, which was previously set to start on April 1, will now begin on March 22 instead. The program allows for dining “on some roadways and public spaces,” and Walsh said that the city’s Disabilities Commission will once again provide ramps to restaurants who need them.
He said that restaurants in the North End will not offer outdoor dining until April 1, as more planning and set-up is required for streets in the North End, but the process will begin onMarch 29.
Walsh said the city has been “putting a big emphasis” on outreach to businesses owned by people of color.
American Rescue Act
Rep. Stephen Lynch then spoke about the American Rescue Act, which was signed by President Biden last week. Boston will receive $435 million as part of the plan.
“This bill is meant to address a problem of such enormous scope that is unprecedented that the bill itself had to be of equal scope and equal impact,” Lynch said.
“We looked at the loss of revenue,” he sad, to determine what “cities, towns, and states” were bringing in before the pandemic, and reimburse them “for part of what they would have earned had the pandemic not occurred.”
Lynch said that the “main short term areas” covered in the bill include the “research, rollout, development, and delivery” of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that there is $130 billion “in that trench of money.”
He said that much of the money in the Act was delegated based on population, he said that the delegation “took a very hard look at areas that had been more heavily impacted, either because of high minority populations or poorer neighborhoods that did not have the existing infrastructure from a health care standpoint.”
For money related to housing, he said that they “looked at areas that have extremely high rents—such as Boston—for rental relief money.
“We looked at the chronology and the sequencing of putting America back to work,” Lynch said. He said that overall, $7.6 billion was allocated for community health centers. He said there is a “very vibrant community health center community” and as many of them ramp up to distribute vaccines, legislators “made sure they got “direct funding.”
Lynch also said that by the end of March, it is expected that there will be an “extra 20 million doses” of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will “help us respond in a more meaningful way. We’re moving in the right direction at an accelerated pace.”
Lynch also spoke about money allocated for relief for homeowners, schools—including parochial and private schools—and higher education.
There is also a “targeted increase for the MBTA,” Lynch said. “We’re providing taxpayer money to the MBTA to provide services to the taxpayer,” and said that Congress is “in opposition” to the furloughing or laying off of MBTA employees.
He said that “it is incongruous with our intent—speaking for the delegation— that an agency would take federal support from the taxpayer and then cut services to those same taxpayers. That doesn’t work for us.”
He said that they will be “having some hard discussions with the MBTA and with the governor,” and “we hope that more thoughtful ideas would emerge from those discussions and that there would be a pullback on the reductions of service to the public and also an elimination of any proposed furloughs or layoffs for those transportation employees.”
Lynch continued, “This is a big bill. Every aspect of our society is trying to be addressed.”