LOWELL — Today, Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, legislators and key partners celebrated the success of the Baker-Polito Administration’s COVID-19 business relief program administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC). Gathering in person at the family- and minority-owned Panela Restaurant in Lowell, a program grantee, the Administration announced the end of the program, which has provided over $687.2 million in direct cash grants to 15,112 businesses across the Commonwealth. Among the awardees included in the final round were 108 additional businesses that received a total of approximately $4.8 million in COVID relief grants.
First launched in October 2020 as part of the Administration’s Partnerships for Recovery initiative to stabilize and grow the Massachusetts economy, this program became the biggest state-sponsored business relief program in the nation after being infused with an additional $668 million in December. Established to provide direct financial support for businesses, the Administration has tapped numerous partners to ensure specific economic sectors and priority demographics known to be the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic applied to the program and were prioritized for aid.
Over the duration of the program, 43 percent of MGCC grants were awarded to minority-owned businesses, and 46 percent of grants went to women-owned businesses. Businesses owned by veterans, individuals with disabilities, or that identify as LGBTQ, as well as those operating in Gateway Cities and not previously awarded aid, also received substantial grant support. Additionally, one-third of the total program funding (about $224 million) has benefited the hard-hit restaurant and bar industry, with personal services like hair and nail salons ($91 million), and independent retailers ($62 million) rounding out the top sectors.
“Thanks to the work of Mass. Growth Capital, more than $680 million in direct financial assistance has been deployed to over 15,000 businesses across Massachusetts, many of which are located in the communities that have had the greatest need during this pandemic,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Recognizing that our small business community employed close to half the Commonwealth’s workforce prior to the pandemic, this program has been instrumental in helping to keep these enterprises going while supporting a substantial percentage of our workforce as we approach what we hope are the final months of this public health crisis.”
“This program, which was designed to provide vital support to small businesses in need, is one component of our larger strategy to help the Commonwealth’s economic recovery from this unprecedented public health emergency,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “I want to applaud MGCC for their success with this program and thank their partners for helping to spread the word, which allowed us to provide direct support to those businesses that have been hit the hardest, including minority- and woman-owned businesses, restaurants and downtown retailers.”
The 15th and final round of awards totaled approximately $4.8 million in grants to 108 additional businesses. Among the final round of recipients, grants were awarded to 25 minority-owned, and 26 women-owned businesses; 24 recipients were located in Gateway Cities, and 28 businesses had not received any prior aid.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to Larry Andrews and his team at MGCC for going above and beyond in their efforts to ensure that this important aid went to businesses located in Gateway Cities, met a demographic priority such as being minority- or women-owned, or were operating in sectors among the hardest hit during this pandemic,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “In addition, I’d like to thank MGCC’s partner organizations, which include Amplify Latinx and locally the Entrepreneurship Center @CTI with us today, who truly made this program successful because of their extensive outreach to the communities that are traditionally underrepresented.”
To increase applications from underrepresented groups and achieve equitable access to funding, MGCC worked with a statewide network of local non-profits, small business technical assistance providers, and other organizations that support minority enterprises to reach businesses and entrepreneurs that would match the program’s priorities. These partners include the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Amplify Latinx, the Business Equity Initiative, the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC), LISC, LEAF, the African Community Economic Development of New England (ACEDONE), and the statewide Coalition for an Equitable Economy.
“The success of this program was a direct result of the leadership of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary Kennealy; and the team at MGCC, who rose to the occasion to stand up a new program and deliver an unprecedented amount of relief to small businesses across Massachusetts that have been impacted by the pandemic,” said MGCC President and CEO Larry Andrews. “Also critical to this program’s success was the extensive network of partner organizations, including Amplify Latinx, for their work to reach out to businesses that serve communities of color, groups that have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, or who are traditionally at a disadvantage, and provided the necessary technical assistance through the application process.”
MGCC will soon be announcing two new funding opportunities focused on small businesses. A program called Biz-M-Power will assist low-income and moderate-income entrepreneurs acquire or improve their brick-and-mortar location, purchase new equipment, and other capital needs. Businesses will crowdfund through local residents, neighborhoods, community members, and other stakeholders and become eligible for matching grants. Another new program will help small businesses access tools and services to develop their digital capabilities, including social media, website development, and team collaboration.
These awards have been part of a steady deployment of grants and capital funding to support economic recovery throughout Massachusetts and are a key part of the Administration’s larger strategy to assist small businesses and support an equitable economic recovery across the Commonwealth.
“It is essential to recognize the significance of culturally and linguistically responsive outreach to minority and underrepresented groups, which was a major contributor to the program’s success,”said Amplify Latinx Executive Director Rosario Ubiera-Minaya. “These partner organizations are all well positioned and trusted by minority communities to effectively and quickly respond to the challenges faced by these businesses. The collaborative approach centered on the partner organizations has helped ensure that the collective work going forward is as intentional and impactful as possible. Keeping direction will position minority-owned businesses for stability and growth.”
In addition to this business relief program, recovery efforts consist of MGCC Small Business Technical Assistance grants and matching grants for Community Development Financial Institutions and Community Development Corporations; the Regional Pilot Project Grant Program, which is a $5 million initiative designed to activate vacant storefronts, support regional supply chain resiliency, and create small business support networks; the $1.6 million Travel and Tourism Recovery Grant Pilot Program to promote recovery in the tourism industry; the ongoing My Local MA marketing initiative to encourage residents to support their local economies by shopping at Massachusetts businesses and attractions; and a $9.5 million effort underway to help 125 communities pursue locally-driven, actionable strategies to support downtown and commercial districts through the Local Rapid Recovery Planning program.