Sweeping Economic Development Bill Authorizing $627 Million for COVID-19 Recovery Signed into Law

Prioritizes small business relief, support for workers, and housing development

BOSTON (1/15/2021) – On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature in passing $627 million in funding for a sweeping economic recovery and development bill which will provide much-needed support to businesses, investments in infrastructure, and creation of new jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill was signed into law on January 14, 2021.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth ensures the residents of Massachusetts a COVID-19 relief and recovery package that will provide support to the restaurant and tourism sectors, small businesses, and those who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, while also creating a Future of Work Commission, establishing protections for student loan borrowers, and ushering in zoning reforms that will encourage housing development in our communities.

“The economic downturn caused by the pandemic is presenting serious challenges for working families and small businesses, exacerbating our housing crisis, and impacting sectors of our economy that our communities depend on,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Means. “This law provides immediate relief to the hardest hit sectors of our economy, putting our Commonwealth on a pathway toward a more equitable and sustainable economic future. I’d like to thank the Senate President as well as Conference Committee members Senators Lesser and Rodrigues for their steadfast leadership in moving this bill through the legislative process with a sense of urgency as our state continues to reopen and recover.” 

Senator Friedman secured authorizations to directly support communities across the 4th Middlesex district, which the Governor may fund at his discretion. These authorizations include:

  • $1 million for the town of Arlington for the redesign of the Arlington Heights Commercial Corridor;
  • $500,000 for the town of Arlington for improvements to Arlington center and Whittemore park;
  • $500,000 for the town of Arlington for the Arlington workforce training program;
  • $56,000 for the Arlington Historical Society;
  • $1 million to assist Bedford and Burlington in developing pre-permitted commercial space for the life science industry;
  • $250,000 for Northeastern University’s Burlington Campus to support its small manufacturing research center; and
  • $250,000 to create a pilot Sibling Cities Youth Work Initiative for the town of Lexington to collaborate with Boston and Haverhill on a pilot in pairing and matching employers with underprivileged youth and young adults.

The bill also includes the following bonding authorizations and policy changes.


Bonding Authorizations

  • $30 million for the state’s COVID-19 Payroll Protection Program
  • $20 million for restaurant COVID-19 recovery grants

Policy Changes

  • Limits fees charged by third-party delivery services for restaurants to 15% during the COVID-19 state of emergency and prohibits third-party delivery service companies from reducing rates for delivery drivers or garnishing gratuities as result of the limitation
  • Creates a commission to examine and make recommendations on addressing the recovery of the cultural and creative sector, including the arts, humanities, and sciences, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic


Bonding Authorizations

  • $50 million for transit-oriented housing developments
  • $40 million for a program to redevelop blighted buildings
  • $10 million for climate-resilient affordable housing developments
  • $5 million for a Gateway Cities housing program

Policy Changes

  • Implements a zoning reform to help cities and towns approve smart growth zoning and affordable housing by lowering the required vote threshold for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level from a two-thirds supermajority to a simple majority
  • Requires designated MBTA communities to be zoned for at least one district of reasonable size, in which multi-family housing is permitted as of right and requires such housing to be suitable for families with children
  • Increases the state low-income housing tax credit program cap from $20 million to $40 million


Bonding Authorizations

  • $35 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation matching grant program to community development financial institutions for small business loans and grants
  • $27.7 million for a new Employment Social Enterprise Capital Grant Program
  • $20 million for a Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation small business grant program
  • $14 million for travel and tourism grants
  • $10 million for regional and community assistance planning grants

Policy Changes

  • Enables, via local option, the creation of tourism destination marketing districts (“TDMDs”), made up of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, for the purpose of generating local revenue dedicated solely for the promotion and marketing of specific regions of the Commonwealth
  • Amends the statutory definition of wait staff employee to include a person in a quick service restaurant who prepares or serves food or beverages as part of a team of counter staff
  • Provides that the taking of family or medical leave shall not affect an employee’s right to accrue vacation time, sick leave, bonuses, advancement, seniority, length-of-service credit or other employment benefits, plans or programs
  • Exempts natural hair braiding from the definition of hairdressing, and exempts natural hair braiding from rules and regulations pertaining to aesthetics, barbering, cosmetology, electrolysis, hairdressing, and manicuring
  • Encourages the PRIM Board to use minority investment managers to manage PRIT Fund assets, where appropriate, and to increase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of Fund investments
  • Establishes a commission of experts, industry members, academics, and elected officials to research and propose policy solutions that ensure the future and sustainability of local journalism in Massachusetts


  • Establishes a Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights regulating the licensing and operation of student loan servicers by the Commissioner of Banks
  • Creates a Student Loan Ombudsman within the Office of the Attorney General for the purpose of receiving, reviewing, and assisting in the resolution of complaints from student loan borrowers and authorizes the Ombudsman to assist with repayment options, applying for federal loan forgiveness programs, ending wage and tax refund garnishments, resolving billing disputes, and obtaining loan details


Bonding Authorizations

  • $20 million for rural community development and infrastructure grants
  • $2 million for an urban agriculture grant program

Policy Changes

  • Expands the Food Policy Council to include an expert in healthy soil practices and codifies the definition of ‘healthy soils’
  • Gives the Commission for Conservation of Soil and Water the ability to establish a Massachusetts Healthy Soils Program and Fund


Bonding Authorizations

  • $52 million for the Technology Research and Development and Innovation Fund
  • $15 million for lottery IT infrastructure
  • $10 million for the expansion of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative (M2I2)
  • $5 million for the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund

Policy Changes

  • Creates a special commission on the future of work to conduct a comprehensive study relative to the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, global trade, access to new forms of data and the internet of things on the workforce, businesses, and economy
  • Clarifies that carsharing platforms may obtain insurance coverage from non-admitted carrier and that carsharing platforms do not need their own insurance-producer or broker licenses to offer or maintain insurance policies for carsharing vehicles or drivers

Other bonding authorizations include:

  • $102.3 million for local economic development projects;
  • $20 million for Mass Cultural Council cultural facilities grants;
  • $15 million for vocational technical school expansion grants;
  • $15 million for higher education workforce grants
  • $15 million for trial court virtual mediation services;
  • $12.5 million for the Commonwealth Zoological Corporation;
  • $6 million for Massachusetts Cultural Council grants; and
  • $5 million for Mass Cultural Council public school grants.