Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
The Legislature recently passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2021. The package includes important investments in sectors impacted by COVID-19, including public health, education and childcare, food security and housing supports.
Locally, the budget includes $200,000 toward the establishment of a first-ever Methuen Youth and Community Center, bringing us one step closer to making the dream of this project a reality. The package also includes important funds toward our chambers of commerce, who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to assist local small businesses who have faced one challenge after another.
During budget debate, I spent much of my focus fighting for amendments I sponsored that I believe are essential to easing the pandemic’s toll on our restaurants, pubs, and other small businesses.
During the shutdown, people have been flocking online for many of their purchases.
As a result, online giants like Amazon have reaped heavy rewards from online traffic and are thriving more than ever, while our local retailers slowly creep back to simple survival mode. During a time when much of our small business community was prohibited from making in-person sales, retail giants like Walmart continued to make both in-person and online sales, further contributing to the power gap between them and our neighbors on Main Street.
Action is long overdue to ensure our small businesses get the technological assistance they need to cope with the times. That is why I filed to the budget an amendment establishing a one-stop shop web portal and interactive database for small business assistance. The legislation creates a network of Massachusetts manufacturers and suppliers to help promote local business and economic growth and also establishes a MassMade designation for products manufactured right here in the Commonwealth.
The portal would help connect local small businesses with local consumers by providing a “Supply Mass, Buy Mass” interactive searchable database for shoppers to find what they need locally, instead of having to rely on the giants like Amazon and Walmart to purchase what they need.
This is a tool for small businesses that would be of tremendous help in this COVID-19 age of virtual communication. As we witness shortages of personal protective equipment, it is clear that having online accessibility to producers who make those items or who could pivot their capabilities toward making those items is critical.
I also filed legislation to the budget expanding Small Business Saturday to Small Business Saturday and Sunday in 2021 to encourage shopping local and bolster economic growth, as well as legislation creating a $1 million relief fund for newer small businesses who are struggling but haven’t been able to qualify for grants up to this point. Many new small businesses have been unable to qualify for financial assistance because they lack the “operational and income history” to qualify for certain grant opportunities. This is crushing to those business owners and we should not penalize them simply because they opened their business close to the start of the pandemic.
While these measures were included in the Senate Budget, they unfortunately did not make it across the finish line when a compromise was struck between the Senate and House versions of the budget. I am hardly, however, done fighting for them.
There remains significant work to be done in supporting our small businesses and economy. Our mom and pop shops have waited long enough for relief and it is time the Legislature steps it up.
As always please feel free to reach out to me at 978-984-7747 or Diana.DiZoglio@masenate.gov – Yours in service. ◊