Spring 2022 Government Affairs Update

After being closed to the public for more than 700 days, the Massachusetts State House reopened to the public in February. As local communities also rescind or revise their mask ordinances, the reopening of the State House certainly represents a major shift in the pandemic. While COVID-19 continues to remain present, communities across the Commonwealth are adapting and learning to conduct business in this new environment. As the Chamber continues our advocacy efforts, we look forward to the opportunity for staff and Chamber members to interact with legislators on important issues in the people’s house.

Election season is also heating up, with contested races for all of the major constitutional offices, some of which will be decided in the state primary on September 6th. The Chamber once again looks forward to playing an informative role throughout the process, and we have launched a new election series as part of our Inside North Central Massachusetts Podcast focusing on candidates for these statewide seats. Episodes will continue to be posted in the coming weeks and will remain up through the election. The Chamber is also monitoring races in the House and Senate. 1st Middlesex District Representative Sheila Harrington was recently appointed to be clerk-magistrate of Gardner District Court while 1st Worcester District Senator and former senate president, Harriette Chandler, announced she would not seek reelection leaving at least two open seats in North Central Massachusetts. We are working to engage candidates in regards to our members’ priorities and our initiatives.

We are continuing to monitor the State’s COVID-19 response. In February, Governor Baker signed a $101 million COVID-19 spending bill that included $76 million in direct state spending aimed at boosting access to masks, vaccines and rapid tests, particularly for schools, congregate care facilities and homeless shelters, along with another $25 million in available federal funds to be directed to the state’s COVID emergency paid sick leave program. At the end of February, the Baker Administration also announced a new $75 million dollar grant program to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program comes as part of the $4 billion ARPA spending plan signed into law in December. These funds will be administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation through two different grant programs, the New Applicant Grant Program and the Inclusive Grant Program. Applications for the programs are open until April 4, 2022.

Following the announcement of Governor Baker’s final proposed budget of $45 billion, the Chamber met with the region’s delegation virtually for our annual Legislative Briefing. The briefing provided an important opportunity to thank the delegation for their ongoing support of Chamber priorities, while advocating for a number of items in the upcoming budget and legislative session. The Chamber is focused on securing support for a number of crucial areas that will help advance North Central Massachusetts including economic development, workforce development, education and tourism.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Travis Condon, the Chamber’s public affairs manager, at 978.353.7600, ext. 224; or via email at tcondon@northcentralmass.com.