The Boston City Council had a full agenda for their second-ever virtual council meeting. Much of the conversation focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on Boston residents and workers, as well as on housing and businesses. The Council spoke about resolutions that can be enacted now, and how the city can prepare for future recovery.
The Boston City Council voted to pass a resolution proposed by Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to place a moratorium on rent, mortgages, evictions, and foreclosures in Boston. A few councilors were concerned and offered added restrictions. Councilor Flaherty suggested requiring documentation that proved an inability to pay due to COVID-19 and a 90-day limit. Councilor Baker was also hesitant, stating that telling everyone they can stop paying rent indefinitely could be misleading and dangerous.
District 8 Councilor Kenzie Bok noted that the Council cannot actually enact a rent freeze, but can advocate for these changes. District 1 City Councilor Edwards supported the resolution, saying it was critical to protect residents and homeowners during this COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Edwards is proposing the use of Community Preservation Act funds allocated to city-run housing programs for emergency rental relief during this time.
Relief for Restaurants
Councilor Lydia Edwards along with At-Large Councilors Michelle Wu and Julia Mejia came out in strong support of Docket 0582 designed to offer relief for restaurant owners and workers. Edwards is proposing economic incentives and relief that could include fast-tracking and prioritizing restaurants that pay or will commit to pay the minimum wage or fifteen dollars an hour.
Equitable Recovery Strategies
Docket 0584 to discuss planning for an equitable recovery from COVID-19 drew a broad discussion among Council members. Not treating COVID-19 as an economic crisis as well as a public health pandemic was identified as being responsible for creating numerous systemic inequities, while causing both food insecurity and housing instability. Calling for action in the immediate term, Councilor Wu urged that the Council “make sure we’re right at the forefront of what comes next” to prevent disproportionate burdens being placed on communities already severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This observation echoed by Councilor Arroyo, who represents District 5.
Support for Veterans; Healthcare Workers
Councilor Ed Flynn presented current needs during the pandemic. He spoke about resources for veterans and military families, including financial assistance and access to housing and recovery services for homeless veterans. He wants to explore specific programs that are available to these groups, such as the Veterans Administration Health Care System. In addition, Flynn urged insurance carriers to provide continuous coverage to residents, stressing that even workers who have lost jobs and/or income need access to insurance that covers COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Flynn also encouraged support for nurses and healthcare workers, especially with regard to personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition, he reiterated the importance of eliminating discrimination and racism that is being driven by COVID-19.