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Mass. governor announces stimulus package as virus cases rise

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker announced a $774 million plan Thursday that he said will help stabilize the economy as Massachusetts grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The plan includes $115 million for businesses that have been hit particularly hard by virus restrictions, especially in the early days of the pandemic.

The plan also includes money to help stabilize housing, including preserving affordable housing; expand workforce training programs; expand broadband access, particularly in the western part of the state; and generate economic development.

About $175 million of the package needs legislative approval, Baker said.

The goal is to stabilize economic growth that has already started in parts of the state and help kickstart it in other areas that are still struggling to recover, the Republican said.

Baker also expressed frustration with the failure of Congress to pass another economic stimulus package, saying they have access to vastly greater sums of money.

“The feds play on a very different level than we do,” he said.

Baker said his proposal is “no substitute for a federal aid package,” but said that doesn’t seem to be in the offing, given the ongoing wrangling among the U.S. Senate, House and White House over a new aid package.

The state’s unemployment rate has eased from a highest-in-the-nation of 17.7% in June, but remains far higher at 9.6% in September than it was before the pandemic hit.

Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said small business grants included in Baker's package are welcome news.

“The last seven months have been painful for small business owners in hard-hit industries who have hung on by a thread after running through loan proceeds and spending their savings,” Carlozzi said.

Baker said the state has seen shoppers returning to many downtowns. He said the new state funding is aimed at helping businesses “keep the wheels on the bus” as the business climate continues to improve.

VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The state’s coronavirus numbers continue to slide in the wrong direction.

On Thursday, Massachusetts reported 30 newly confirmed coronavirus deaths and more than 980 newly confirmed cases, pushing the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 9,589 and its confirmed caseload to nearly 144,000.

Adding in presumed deaths, the state’s total COVID-19-related death toll now stands at 9,810.

The seven-day weighted average of positive tests ticked up 1.4% — up from 0.8% a month ago. The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were more than 520 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of COVID-19, and more than 100 in intensive care units.

The three-day average of the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients stood at 519, up from 366 about a month ago.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 6,314.

 

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