By Bob Katzen

The House 143-4, Senate 40-0, approved and sent to Gov. Baker a $626.5 million economic development package which did not include a House-backed plan to have Massachusetts join other New England states in legalizing sports betting.

Provisions include $50 million in funding for transit-oriented housing; $30 million for a program similar to the federal Paycheck Protection Program that loans money to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to pay employee payroll, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other debt obligations; $35 million for loans for community development lending institutions to extend capital to small businesses, with a focus on minority- and women-owned businesses; $50 million for neighborhood stabilization to help return blighted or vacant housing back to productive use; $6 million for a competitive grant program administered by the Massachusetts Cultural Council to promote artists in creating new mediums to showcase their art, and to promote local museums to showcase their exhibits remotely; $102.3 million for local economic development projects across the state; $20 million for a competitive grant program fund dedicated to supporting community development, infrastructure projects and climate resilience initiatives in rural communities and small towns; and the creation of the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights that would require student loan borrowers to be licensed at the state level, prohibit servicers from engaging in predatory, unfair and unlawful practices, and establish a Student Loan Ombudsman in the Attorney General’s office to resolve complaints and help borrowers navigate their repayment options.

“The economic development agreement reached is a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package that will provide desperately needed support to our restaurant sector, our small businesses, and especially those most disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Senate chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. “While no single piece of legislation on its own can repair the damage to our communities and our economy caused by COVID-19, the set of measures included in this report sends an unambiguous signal to the people of our commonwealth that help is on the way. In our time of greatest need, we must be there to support our families, our communities, and our small businesses, and this bill will bring important relief across a variety of sectors and communities.”

Opponents did not offer any arguments on the House or Senate floor during debate.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill. A “No” vote is against it.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Denise Provost Didn’t Vote Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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