The last few months have easily been the most disruptive anyone has experienced since the Second World War. Not only has the nation been forced to contend with a public health crisis, but the ensuing orders to shutter and shelter in place have wreaked havoc on our economy. Both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill have taken drastic action to face this duel challenge, and the Chamber has actively worked to ensure that the needs of North Central Massachusetts and our employers are addressed by these efforts.
When Governor Baker announced the establishment of a reopening taskforce in May, we were quick to submit recommendations encouraging them to ensure clarity in their guidance and prioritize the needs of small businesses. We have continued this advocacy since then, with Chamber staff serving on local reopening committees and participating in weekly calls with the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development- who cochairs the state’s taskforce. This approach has proven effective, allowing us to ensure businesses remain abreast of the latest developments while helping to improve communications between state and municipal officials as they navigate the reopening process.
As with many things, this crisis has also disrupted the state’s legislative calendar. A number of major bills – including transportation reform, climate change and health care – have been overtaken by COVID-19’s immediate urgency. Lawmakers anticipate the state will absorb billions of dollars in lost revenues and increased costs as it works to simultaneously contain the virus and address the ensuing economic fallout. This has been compounded by uncertainty regarding federal aid, creating a significant challenge for the Legislature as they work to develop a balanced budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2020.
Given this lack of clarity, the State House is expected to pass a series of one twelfth budgets for now, funding state operations from month to month. Unfortunately, though this allows lawmakers to adjust spending as revenue figures come into focus, it creates uncertainty for municipalities, which rely on state aid for their own budgets. In turn, this impacts school funding decisions and the availability of other services. It could also affect non-profits and state contractors were the Commonwealth to eliminate certain local programs or infrastructure projects. Of further concern are calls to increase taxes in an effort to bridge revenue shortfalls. This would exacerbate the current crisis, slowing investment, hiring, and – ultimately – recovery.
On the federal level, Congress recently passed an extension of the PPP stimulus program through August 8. There are also reports that Congress is planning to pass another stimulus package, which may also include a consensus on state financial aid. The Chamber staff has remained in close contact with national partners and the region’s Congressional Delegation on these issues.
The Chamber will continue to monitor issues important to our members and region at the local, state and federal levels. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to the Chamber’s public affairs manager- Christopher McDermott- at (978) 353-7600 ext. 224 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We want your voice to be heard.