Mayor Martin Walsh provides an update for the City of Boston on the COVID-19 pandemic. (Mayor’s Office photo by John Wilcox)
Mayor Martin Walsh announced $6 million in funds for small businesses on Tuesday. Applications for the grant fund will open this Thursday at 5 p.m. and will be provided in multiple languages.
“I hear from small business owners all the time about their struggles and their needs, and we’ve heard it from day 1 of this crisis,” Walsh said during Tuesday’s press conference. “We know how tough the situation is and how many businesses have their futures hanging in the balance.”
Walsh said that many business owners voiced concerns about governmental restrictions. Stay-at-home mandates have hindered commerce and left many business owners with financial burdens. Over 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, when workplaces began shutting down.
Walsh said that business owners can use the reopening fund for personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of employees. The money can also go to managing or expanding store capacity.
“The funds will be released in three rounds corresponding to the phases of the state’s reopening phase and reopening plan,” said Walsh. The fund will help businesses must meet state health requirements before reopening.
“We’re also aiming to create more opportunities for local and minority- and women-owned contractors to provide and install safety materials,” said Walsh.
He emphasized that although business owners can begin reopening, others may choose not to. Those that decide against reopening will still have access to certain resources that the city provides.
The City of Boston has already allocated $7.5 million for small business relief, said Walsh. So far, $4 million has been distributed to over 1,100 small businesses.
The city’s website has resources for businesses regarding where and how to get PPE for workers. Walsh said that 4,500 people have visited the PPE for Small Businesses page since Friday.
Walsh recognized that workers have been under “tremendous economic pressure,” and acknowledged the eagerness to reopen. Nevertheless, he warned that the pandemic is far from over.
“We’re not on the other side of the virus yet,” he said. “We’re still very much in the middle of the battle against the virus.” Walsh said that it is incumbent upon everyone to continue following safety guidelines such as social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings.
“As the state plan continues on reopening, we have to do our part to minimize the risk of another surge,” he said. “Knowledge is power in this situation more than ever.”
Walsh also reminded residents that sometimes there’s a two-week incubation period before symptoms are visible. Those that were initially exposed to COVID-19 two weeks ago might show signs now. Thousands of others across the commonwealth are asymptomatic.
“As we restart the economy, inevitably we’re potentially going to see a spike in cases,” said Walsh. “The way that we prevent that spike in cases is continuing to do the precautions we’ve taken for the last two and a half months.”
As of Tuesday, Massachusetts had 93,271 confirmed cases and 6,416 deaths. Boston has 12,521 cases and 622 deaths.
Over 6,000 Boston residents have recovered, however. Walsh said that the Boston Hope Medical Center will soon close its doors. The emergency center was set up in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in April and aimed to prevent overcrowding in hospitals. It’s no longer taking new patients but will remain open until the last person is discharged, said Walsh.
“The numbers have been declining at Boston Hope for several weeks,” he said. “The capacity of our hospitals are close to back to normal.”
Walsh said that Boston Hope was the most significant event ever held at the Boston Convention Center. It was built in less than a week. As of over the weekend, over 700 COVID-19 patients have found rest and relief at the center, Walsh added.
Research from leading health experts suggests that a second surge may hit the United States. Walsh said that residents have the ability to prevent the second surge by following safety procedures.
“I certainly understand that none of this is easy. It hasn’t been easy for the last three months,” he said. “But it’s not the time to let up. It’s the time for us to continue to be very vigilant in making sure that we take care of our own health and the people around us.”