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A day after announcing new business restrictions aimed at preventing a post-Christmas boom of COVID-19 cases, Gov. Charlie Baker said restaurants, retailers and other small businesses hurt by the pandemic will be eligible for grants through a new $668 million small business relief fund operated by the state.
Baker said qualifying businesses will be eligible for grants of up to $75,000 or three-months of operating expenses to help pay for salaries, utilities, rent, debt or other expenses.
The money to pay for the program will come, in part, from the flexibility the new federal stimulus bill passed this week by Congress will give the state to reallocate existing resources. The governor urged President Donald Trump to sign the stimulus bill.
Baker on Tuesday announced that beginning on Saturday businesses would have to limit their capacity to 25%, further restricting the volume of customers they are able to accommodate at any given time. The rollback on capacity limits, Baker said, will last for at least two weeks and will hopefully be temporary to prevent Christmas gatherings from contributing to an acceleration in the spread of COVID-19 the way Thanksgiving drove new cases.
"We get that these decisions have consequences," Baker said.
The grants will be administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, and businesses who have already applied for a smaller $50 million grant program will not have to reapply. The first grants will be awarded to those who could not be funded in the first round of funding, and a second two-week application window will open on Dec. 31.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said eligible businesses will include restaurants, bars, caterers, indoor recreation and entertainment venues, gyms and fitness center, event support professionals like photographers, nail salons, barbershops and retailers.
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