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Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito join Frank Pezzano at his North End Ristorante Saraceno and Mass Growth Capital Corp. President and CEO Larry Andrews to highlight the latest round of small-business grants.

Small Businesses Face Friday Deadline to Apply for State Grants

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON — State officials Thursday encouraged small businesses across the commonwealth to beat a Friday midnight deadline to apply for COVID-19 relief grants.
"Prospective applicants only have until midnight tomorrow, which is Friday, Jan. 15," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said. "So you have less than two days to submit your application for the current round. Like the first program, these grant awards will be up to $75,000 capped at three months of operating expenses. Grants can be used for things like payroll, employee benefit costs, mortgage interest, rent utilities and interest on other debt obligations.
"Visit to learn more. Or if you're listening to this today and you know someone in your community who can benefit, ask them if they've applied. Please get the word out. Really important."
Polito spoke as she, Gov. Charlie Baker and Larry Andrews of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp. announced this week's award of grants totaling $78.6 million to 1,595 small businesses.
They made the announcement at Ristorante Saraceno, where North End restaurateur Frank Pezzano was one of the recipients of the state grants.
"It's going to help me very much," Pezzano said. "Another couple of months is all I can stand. This is going to be a big help. After 35 years, seeing everything go away … This came just in time.
"It's my life. I'm here seven days a week."
But, like restaurants throughout the commonwealth, Ristorante Saraceno has struggled to make ends meet under public health restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The difficulties associated with many small businesses and especially those in the hospitality and entertainment industry have gone through because of the pandemic and everything that went with it is profound," Baker said in response to a reporter's question. "That's one of the reasons why we and the legislature worked so hard to scrape together enough funding to put together what is for all intents and purposes the largest program of its kind to support small business in the country. That's not on a per capita basis. That's just on a raw dollar basis.
"If you add up the first $50 [million] plus the $668, you're talking more than $700 million in funding for small businesses. And it's not loans. It's grants, stuff they can use for rent, for utilities, for mortgages, for staff, for stuff they can't use. For many of these small businesses, we do believe it will be what helps them get past the difficult times we're in now, past this curve and into the world we hope will come when we finally get the vaccine fully distributed."
State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, D-Boston, joined the Republican governor and lieutenant governor at the podium and said he would hug Pezzano, his constituent, if it was possible during the pandemic.
"We were very excited [to see Ristorante Saraceno on the list of grant recipients] because it shows real dollars going to real businesses and real people," said Michlewitz, chair of the legislature's Joint Committee on Ways and Means. "Small businesses have been crippled like no other industry, and the hospitality industry has been crippled like no other industry in the pandemic.
"Places like the North End, places like the South End, Chinatownare where the pandemic has had rippling effects throughout our economy."
State Sen. Joseph Boncore, D-Boston, agreed.
"When this pandemic hit, we heard the stories," Boncore said. "We heard how North End businesses were inordinately hit by this pandemic. We see the families behind the businesses, see the employees behind the businesses and see the rippling effect in the community.
"This is going to help the community get back to normal."
Andrews said the 1,595 grants awarded on Wednesday brings the total number of Massachusetts small businesses that have received economic support to 4,119 for a total of $195 million in state grants through his agency.
"Among those recipients, many are located in Gateway Cities, serving underserved markets," he said. "They're businesses that previously had not received any other financial support. And they're represented by female business owners and minority business owners and so much more. Included in the qualifying criteria for those grants was a focus on small businesses, principally those businesses with 50 or fewer employees and then also microenterprises with five or fewer employees."

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Williamstown Trust OKs Emergency Mortgage Program; O'Connor Won't Seek Re-Election

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The board of the town's Affordable Housing Trust on Wednesday decided to move ahead with an emergency mortgage assistance program for residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, approved a solution for a problem vexing a different town committee and learned that one of its members will be rotating off after May's town election.
The board member in question is Anne O'Connor, who made her colleagues on that panel the first to learn that she will not seek another three-year term on the Select Board this spring.
O'Connor, who occupies the trustee position designated for a member of the Select Board, noted that she brings a particular perspective to her work with the trust and all her town service: that of a resident who is a lifelong renter and who lives in Williamstown housing that was created to be affordable.
"Hopefully, I've also brought some reflections and useful comments as much as possible," O'Connor said.
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