10.5 min readBy Published On: June 19th, 2020Categories: News0 Comments

Please see below for updates from Mayor Walsh’s COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday, June 18, 2020.

Statement on the Supreme Court decision on DACA:

  • This morning, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from ending the DACA program, which protects people brought to the United States as children by shielding them from deportation and letting them work.

  • Mayor Walsh said, “This is a good ruling for our city and country. Nearly 4,500 DACA recipients are in the Boston area. They are our neighbors, friends, and coworkers. Many are on the front lines as essential workers responding to COVID-19. Our city has embraced DACA recipients and supported efforts to expand DACA under President Obama. We signed onto an amicus brief that urged the Supreme Court to do the right thing. I am encouraged by today’s decision, but this is a temporary solution. We need to pass the DREAM and Promise Act at the federal level, which will provide lasting immigration status to many people who have been part of our community and our country for decades.”

Case numbers:

  • As of today in Massachusetts: 106,442 cases and 7,770 deaths.

  • Also as of today in Boston: 13,261 cases, 689 deaths, and 8,952 recoveries.

Updates on testing:

  • The Mayor announced that the City has reached an important benchmark: the cumulative positive rate among people who have been tested for COVID-19 since the outbreak began is 19.6%. This is the first time it has fallen below 20%, which is a key recovery metric. The positive rate for last week was just 2.7%.

  • Last week, the City created a pop-up testing site in Roxbury, and invited anyone who has participated in large events or demonstrations to get tested. Nearly 1,300 people got tested, and they came back with just a 1% positive rate for the virus. The Mayor cautioned that the testing sites were open to anyone, so it is not possible to draw definitive conclusions about the impact of the protests. However, he remarked that the vast majority of people at recent demonstrations have been wearing masks, which has very likely contributed to the low positive rates. He also thanked the Boston Public Health Commission for handing out masks and sanitizer at the events.

  • The State is also supporting more testing this week for people who have been to large gatherings, including at Brookside Community Health Center in Jamaica Plain.

  • For information about testing sites in the City of Boston, visit boston.gov/covid19-testing. For information about testing sites available throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, visit mass.gov/covidtestmap.

Increasing the Boston Public Health Commission Budget:

  • The Mayor’s proposed budget for FY2021 adds $13 million to the Boston Public Health Commission, which brings the total City of Boston contribution to the BPHC budget to over $106 million. That increase in funding will support the ongoing battle against COVID, resources for people with substance use disorder, and the City’s continued work to address health inequities. This work will be bolstered by the City’s declaration that racism is a public health crisis.

Updates on summer programming and other City resources:

  • Massachusetts is in Phase 2, step 1 of its reopening plan. The Mayor stressed the importance of remaining vigilant to prevent new surges in cases, and discussed some of the updates to City programs that will support a healthy, safe, and equitable reopening.

  • The Boston Public Schools are moving forward with summer learning programs on a remote basis, and they will keep meal distribution sites, and meal deliveries, going through the summer. For more information, visit bostonpublicschools.org/summer.

  • The Boston Centers for Youth and Families have a range of virtual programs for young people ages 9-18. You can register at boston.gov/bcyf.

  • The Success Link program is still taking applications and placing teens in safe summer jobs.

  • The Boston Public Library is moving forward with a new program called BPL to Go. Starting on Monday, patrons will be able to order books and other items, using the library website, phone line, or a new iPhone app called BPL to Go. Residents can safely pick up the items or return them using bins outside the library. The program will launch at the Central Library in Copley Square, the Mattapan branch, the East Boston branch, the Codman Square branch in Dorchester, and the Jamaica Plain branch. It will then roll out at the other branches. You can find out more at bpl.org.

  • The Mayor discussed another program that highlights the role libraries play in the lives of Boston residents: The BPL’s Career Online High School allows adults to earn a high school diploma and a career certificate in one of 10 high-demand fields. It is entirely online, so it gives students flexibility while allowing them to remain safe and healthy. The first students graduated this month. The Mayor announced that the BPL is making 25 scholarships available to qualified applications. Visit BPL.org/COHS to learn more or to apply.

Updates on small business supports:

  • The Mayor remarked that supporting Boston’s diverse small business sector is a key strategy for an equitable recovery. He provided some updates on some of the City’s programs and resources.

  • So far, the City has made $13.5 million available to small businesses for financial relief and safe reopening needs.

  • The Small Business Relief Fund has distributed $5.9 million to over 1600 small businesses across every neighborhood in the city. More than 50% of those businesses are owned by people of color. They include restaurants, stores, hair and nail salons, gyms, childcare providers, home health aides, and more.

  • The City’s Reopen Boston Fund is supporting local businesses to secure personal protective equipment (PPE), partitions, cleaning supplies, and implement other safety measures. This week the City is distributing grants to 473 small businesses totalling $846,000. The fund is still accepting new applications.

  • The City also has a number of online guides and resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including a platform for PPE and cleaning supplies, and directories of open businesses and restaurants. There is also a new directory of Black and Brown owned businesses, to make it easier to support businesses owned by people of color and help increase equity in Boston’s economy. All of these resources are available at boston.gov/reopening.

  • The City is also advancing its plan to permanently increase the availability of liquor licenses, an important tool for restaurants to add revenue and expand their customer reach. The City Council passed the Mayor’s Home Rule Petition, which would bring 184 new liquor licenses to restaurants across Boston’s neighborhoods. Those include 15 set aside exclusively for businesses owned by people of color. The Mayor said that the City will be working with the State Legislature to move that forward. He also said he looks forward to seeing the Restaurant Relief bill move through the State Senate and get signed into law.

Updates on housing supports:

  • So far, the City has distributed nearly $900,000 to cover rent for households that cannot get unemployment benefits, out of $8 million allocated to the Rental Relief Fund.

  • The Boston Housing Authority is working with hundreds of families of school children to provide permanent rental vouchers that lift them out of homelessness.

  • Since the construction ban was lifted, 3,000 affordable homes are back in construction.

  • Last week, the City launched its new ONE+Boston mortgage program. This is a first-time home buyer program created using funds from the Community Preservation Act. It has very low interest rates as well as down-payment and closing-cost help. It helps families buy their first home and start to build wealth and is part of the Mayor’s goal of creating 1,000 new homeowners in the City of Boston. To learn more, visit HomeCenter.Boston.gov.

  • The Mayor reminded anyone struggling with mortgage payments to contact their lender to see what they offer. The City has an agreement with lenders to prevent foreclosures, but residents have to reach out to their lender to let them know they need help.

Investments in arts and culture:

  • The Mayor provided some updates on the City’s ongoing investments in arts and culture, which continue through the recovery process. He said that the City has been activating public space in a number of safe ways, and that public art is essential to that work.

  • 24 new projects have received grants through the Transformative Public Art program, and 61 artists will be painting utility boxes as part of the City’s PaintBox program.

  • 2 new murals are going up this summer: one in Newmarket and one at Madison Park High School.

  • The Mayor made a public appeal for residents to be respectful of artists working in public spaces and maintain physical distancing at all times. The Mayor thanked the artists for their work and their contributions.

New round of grants administered through the Boston Resiliency Fund:

  • The Mayor announced that this week, grants totaling more than $500,000 from the Boston Resiliency Fund are going out to 17 organizations. Recipients include youth summer programs and community-based organizations like Hyde Park Pantry and the African Bridge Network.

  • The Mayor also shared some new data on the Fund’s impact.

    • The Fund has raised over $32 million and released over $20 million into the community.

    • Those funds have gone to 247 nonprofit organizations. 46% of these organizations are led by a person of color and 57% are led by women.

    • Their work has helped 225,000 Boston families in every neighborhood of Boston, with a heavy concentration in the communities harmed the most by historic and systemic racism.

    • So far, the Fund has resulted in:

      • COVID testing expansion at 18 community health centers and telehealth services at 21 health centers.

      • Over 1.8 million meals through organizations like the Greater Boston Food Bank and Lovin Spoonfuls.

      • 130,000 bags of groceries given to families and 7,200 gift cards for families to use at grocery stores.

      • $1 million in direct financial help to families who were left out of the federal assistance program.

      • 55 unemployed workers hired for food distribution and 20 minority-owned restaurants paid to cook meals.

      • A month’s supply of diapers and formula for 1,000 families.

      • 8,000 Chromebooks for BPS students.

      • Nearly 1,000 childcare seats for essential workers.

    • The Boston Resiliency Fund continues to grow. To learn more, donate, or request grant funding, go to Boston.gov.ResiliencyFund.

Recognizing holidays and important anniversaries:

  • The Mayor closed by acknowledging some important annual events, saying that even though the community is not able to have in-person celebrations, it is still important to reflect on their meaning.

  • Yesterday, June 17, was Bunker Hill Day and the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill in Charlestown. It is an important day for the neighborhood of Charlestown and for the United States of America. It helped turn the tide of the Revolution and helped establish Boston as a hub of American history. The Mayor said that he looks forward to the return of the traditional events, especially the parade.

  • Yesterday was also the 48th anniversary of the Hotel Vendome fire in the Back Bay, which claimed the lives of 9 firefighters. There is a memorial on Commonwealth Avenue that the Mayor encouraged everyone to visit at some point. This past Sunday was the Fire Memorial Service at Forest Hills and Fairview cemeteries. It was an opportunity for the City to pay its respects to all firefighters who have passed and thank the firefighters who protect the city today.

  • Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the 155th anniversary of the end of slavery in the United States. The Mayor offered this reflection:

“[Juneteenth] is a monumental day for our nation and our city. It’s a day when we commemorate the end of slavery and we honor the Black community’s role fighting for their rights and making us a better nation.

Tomorrow we’ll be raising the Juneteenth flag at City Hall, to honor this history and our Black community. And we have a web page up at boston.gov/juneteenth to share information and resources.

Normally I would be joining community celebrations at Franklin Park and elsewhere. This year is different. But Juneteenth is as important as ever, because the legacy of injustice, and the fight for freedom, continue today.

We’ve come a long way in Boston, but there’s so much more work to be done.  We started taking some more steps last week, and there will be more to come.

But I want to urge everyone, from every race and background, to reflect on what this holiday means; reflect on the suffering and injustice that Black people experienced and continue to experience; and reflect on the history behind the issues we face today.

In 2020, we acknowledge the role we all have to play in breaking down systemic racism once and for all. This is a time to make history and move forward.”

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