While retailers, restaurateurs, and renters realize Gov. Charlie Baker has tried to ease a financial crisis not of their making, it won’t be enough to avert continued economic pain.
It can only be assuaged by another significant infusion of federal aid.
That appeared to be the reaction to the governor’s release of an additional $115 million in funding for small businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
As with Baker’s announcement last week of $171 million to help stabilize the state’s housing industry as the ban on renter evictions expired, industry groups, while grateful, indicated it falls short of the kind of relief that can only come from the federal government.
“It’s probably not going to go very far but it’s a good start,” Massachusetts Retailers Association President Jon Hurst said of the $51 million in direct grants to small businesses.
The program will allow businesses with 50 or fewer employees to receive up to $75,000 while businesses with five or fewer employees may access up to $25,000 in grants.
“Businesses have debt. They have debt to their landlords, debt to their suppliers for inventory, and what they need is government-supplied grants to compensate them for the shutdowns and loss in customers that isn’t their fault … that’s COVID’s fault,” Hurst said.
Massachusetts Restaurant Association President Bob Luz said the businesses hardest hit have “already seen deep, deep losses and without further help, it will get even bleaker.” He noted that roughly a quarter of the state’s 16,000 restaurants have gone out of business.
But with Congress still unable to agree on the scope of a coronavirus-relief stimulus package, the Baker administration’s best efforts might be the extent of near-term assistance.
That’s not encouraging news for a state economy with an 11.3% jobless rate — well in excess of the 7.9% national average.