By Bob Katzen
The House approved and sent to the Senate a bill designed to help cities, towns, businesses and individuals solve some of the problems created by the Coronavirus. Provisions permit a moderator of a town meeting to declare a 30-day postponement due to a public health emergency after consulting with the Select Board; permit a Select Board to vote to extend the date of an annual town meeting beyond the existing statutory cut-off of June 30; allow towns that are unable to finalize a budget before the start of the new fiscal year to continue month-to-month spending on essential operations at the same levels as the current fiscal year; and modify local permitting processes, extending municipal tax deadlines and allowing municipalities to extend property tax exemptions and deferrals.
“The bill has several provisions that give towns and municipalities the flexibility they need to allow for extending time frames for town meetings and assessing some kind of temporary leniency with paying taxes and late fees,” said Rep. James O’Day (D-West Boylston), House chair of the Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. “I applaud the many adjustments that are addressed in this bill during these very trying times.”
“As the COVID-19 public health crisis continues to evolve, the House responded again today to the growing needs of our communities, our businesses and our residents by easing burdens related to local permitting … and giving restaurants more business opportunities,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
Another key section of the bill is designed to help restaurants cope with the ban on eating inside restaurants by allowing restaurants with liquor-licenses to sell beer, wine and liquor to customers 21 and older who order takeout or delivery food in the same transaction. That section of the bill was based on three similar bills filed by three legislators who explained why they support the measure.
“Across Massachusetts, we are seeing many small, local restaurants and pubs adversely impacted by COVID-19, with mom and pop establishments fearful that in addition to layoffs and lost revenue, they will not be able to reopen their doors once this shutdown is over,” said Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “This important measure regarding beer, wine and liquor sales would help alleviate the burden that restaurants in our communities are feeling. It is time for Massachusetts to step it up and help our small businesses and the many neighbors they employ to weather this storm.”
“[I filed] the bill to support restaurants in the commonwealth during this crisis,” said Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford). The bill … would apply to pick-up and delivery orders, but deliveries must be fulfilled by either employees of the restaurants or those of a licensed and certified restaurant delivery service.”
“Under the current circumstances, all of my colleagues and I are trying to think of ideas we could put into place that would help restaurant owners during this difficult time,” said Rep. Angelo D’Emilia (D-Bridgewater). “This legislation is very similar to the one filed by Gov. Baker and I am proud to see this idea getting so much bi-partisan support. We will continue to do everything we can to support our restaurants and local businesses.”