House Passes Jobs Bill to Spur Economy Amid Pandemic
Bold Bill Will Invest in Housing and Legalize Sports Betting
BOSTON, AUG. 3, 2020 – Faced with an economy buffeted by COVID-19 State Representative Bill Driscoll, Jr. (D - Milton) joined Speaker DeLeo and their colleagues in the House to pass a bill to give a shot in the arm to the state’s economy by legalizing sports gaming, facilitating housing development and providing more than $450 million in state funding to spur growth.
“During tough economic times, it’s vital that we turn to time-honored tactics, innovative tools and creative ideas to create and preserve jobs in Massachusetts,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I’m grateful to Chairs Ferrante, Michlewitz, Honan and my colleagues in the House for their work on this bill that will shore up and spur our economy.”
"With the passage of this bill, the Commonwealth stands ready to buttress important sectors of our economy such as the restaurant, arts, culture and tourism industries that have been most adversely affected by Covid-19; it gives many displaced workers an opportunity to rejoin the Massachusetts workforce,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies (D-Gloucester).
“This bill also takes an enormous step in providing housing choices for urban and rural areas of the state by amending zoning laws and making unprecedented monetary investments in housing as well as a major outlay in economic empowerment for minority communities. These expenditures relative to economic empowerment, at a time of decreasing revenues, is fuel by the legalization of sports betting which accomplishes other critical goals: bringing a black market activity into the light and, thereby, reducing ancillary crimes, and protecting the Commonwealth's investments in the gaming industry and the high technology software design innovation sector."
“This comprehensive piece of legislation includes a number of items that will offer some much needed relief to the Commonwealth’s economy from small businesses loans and grants, relief to our struggling restaurants, and reforms of our housing laws,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “The items contained in this bill represent a wide variety of priorities of the membership of the House and I want to thank my colleagues for their input and feedback. I look forward to continuing to work on this legislation and see it passed in a timely fashion.”
"This economic development bill makes smart and strategic investments in affordable housing production throughout the Commonwealth. During the era of COVID-19, the need for safe and stable housing has never been so important,” said Representative Kevin Honan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing (D-Boston). “The investments provided in this bill will create new affordable housing units through the low income housing tax credit, provide necessary funds to rehabilitate blighted buildings, invest in critically needed housing near transit, make it easier for communities who want to build new housing to do so, and so much more. Thank you to Speaker DeLeo, Chair Michlewitz, and Chair Ferrante for making housing a priority in this bill."
The bill pairs initiatives to improve the housing market for buyers while providing protections for tenants. It authorizes the Housing Choice concept, reducing the voting requirement for a range of housing-related zoning changes and special permits at the local level, from a two-thirds threshold to a simple majority. The legislation also creates a local option for the tenant right to purchase/first right of refusal to purchase buildings landlords put up for sale, increases the low- income housing tax credit from $20 million to $40 million, and requires DHCD to notify tenants they have a right to mediation with landlords prior to the eviction process.
The bill establishes the Rural Jobs Tax Credit for businesses that make a capital contribution to a rural growth fund, which will be established within the Office of Business Development. It allows for the creation of Tourism Destination Marketing Districts, which, following local approval, can add an additional 2% surcharge on room occupancy taxes to fund tourism marketing activities within these districts. The legislation also creates a Cultural Council Recovery Commission to review and develop recommendations for the recovery, promotion and continued growth and vitality of the cultural and creative sector in the commonwealth.
The bill initiates a system for legal sports gaming in Massachusetts enabling the independent Massachusetts Gaming Commission to grant in-person licenses to existing casinos and racing facilities. Mobile applications and casinos are also eligible to receive mobile gaming licenses. In addition to licensing fees, the state will receive 15% of all sports betting proceeds -- $50 million annually -- (with an additional 1% for games played in Massachusetts going to a fund to ensure the integrity of the game). The proceeds will be distributed in the following fashion:
40% to a workforce development fund for at-risk youth in low-income/minority communities
30% to a Distressed Restaurant Fund that would help over 1,000 restaurants pay for things like rent, payroll, and PPE for a period of two years
10% to Youth Development Initiatives (raised to 25% after January 2023), including scholarships and after-School programs
10% to Local Aid (raised to 25% after January 2023)
9% to Public Health, including Gaming Addiction
1% to a Player’s Benevolent fund to pay for local player connected charity foundations.
The bill provides for $459M in bond funding, including:
$35M for MGCC small business loans to underserved populations
$15M for MGCC for Microbusinesses
$10M Travel and Tourism capital improvements
$10M MA Tech Collaborative on Manufacturing grants
$45M MA Tech Collaborative for academic and research institutions grants for robotic, AI R&D
$15M Mass Development for planning activities to speed up developments
$10M Mass Development for rural development grants
$40M Mass Development for redevelopment of underutilized, blighted, or abandoned properties
$5M Mass Tech Collaborative for broadband grants to Western Mass
$5M to Economic Development for technical assistance to support locally driven development
$40M DHCD for Neighborhood stabilization and preservation
$10M for MA Housing Finance Agency for climate resilient housing construction
$50M to MA Housing Partnership to fund high-density mixed income transit oriented housing
$30M for a PPP loan type program run by MGCC
2/3rds ($20M) of funds would be dedicated for minority, women, and veteran owned businesses
Under certain conditions, these loans can become grants
Directs funds to businesses impacted by COVID-19 but didn’t receive federal assistance
$15M for Trial Courts to support improve Virtual Mediations in Housing related cases.
$10M UTEC for capital grants
$12.5M Zoo New England for capital improvements
$5M Economic Development for small business multi-lingual tech assistance and coaching
$6M MCC grants for capital/IT upgrades to improve remote access to materials
$5M MCC/DESE for school districts to provide remote access to MCC grantee facilities.
The bill is now in conference committee.