Walsh Discusses Schools, Small Businesses, Census in Latest Updates

Mayor Marty Walsh continues to provide updates to the community regarding COVID-19 and new information for Boston Public Schools (BPS), small businesses, and the Census.

On July 23, Walsh announced that BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and her team presented a draft plan for schools at the Boston Public School Committee meeting that combines in-person with remote learning.

“A great deal of research, dialogue, thought, and care went into this draft,” Walsh said. “But it is a draft, and the process of getting input and feedback will continue.”

He said that while he understands that “families want to see a concrete plan” for the fall, the decisions being made in the City and state are based on public health data which is monitored on both a daily and a weekly basis.

He said that ensuring the “health  and safety of children, teachers, and staff” is important, and “equity is a major concern.”

Walsh said that come September, kids will have been out of school buildings for almost six months.

“We have worked to get food, technology, and mental health supports to every student and family who needs it,” he said. “We have to consider what remote learning means for low income students and students of color who have fewer resources at home.”

He said that the City is “committed to meeting all of the needs,” and asks for “continued input and patience from families.”

Walsh said that if the proposed hybrid model is implemented in the fall, parents will have the choice to opt out of the in person portion and have their children learn completely remotely.

“We’ll talk more about this as we move forward,” Walsh said. “There’s about seven weeks until opening day of school, and that’s a lot of time as we’ve seen with COVID-19.”

Colleges and Universities

Walsh on Tuesday expressed his concern about the “thousands of young people” coming back to Boston for the fall semester, especially from areas that have experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases.

He said that the city has been “working closely with institutions” on a plan to create safe housing for students, especially should anyone become COVID positive.

The Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) are working on reviewing applications for spaces like hotels to be used for temporary student housing,” Walsh said.

He also said that there will be plans for the surrounding community to communicate with universities if issues arise with this temporary housing.

Walsh also said that he is meeting this week with college presidents to continue their discussion regarding reopening plans, and said that the City is prepared to assist colleges and universities in any ways that they need.

Street Sweeping to Resume

Walsh also announced on July 23 that street sweeping will resume on August 10. Cars will once again be ticketed if they are not moved out of the way, but the City will not be towing “until further notice,” he said.

“As summer progresses, we don’t want to see dirt and trash build up on our streets and we received several complaints from that,” he said. Flyers will be placed on cars starting on July 27 for a full two weeks to remind people who are “out of the habit of moving their cars.”

Walsh advised residents to sign up for the street cleaning cell phone alert so they can be reminded when street cleaning will happen in their area.

Small Business Update

Walsh provided an update on small business assistance, and said that the moratorium on evictions that has been extended by Governor Baker until October 17 also applies to small businesses.

“We have dedicated over $13.5 million to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19,” Walsh said, and the Small Business Relief Fund has distributed almost $6.5 million to nearly 1900 small businesses, 50 percent of which are owned by people of color, and 47 percent immigrant-owned.

Additionally, the Reopen Boston Fund has distributed more than $1.7 million to over 1000 businesses for things like PPE, outdoor spaces, and partitions to help keep people safe.

Walsh said that last week, more businesses will be able to receive funds, as they were previously limited to businesses with 15 or fewer employees. Now, businesses with up to 25 employees, as well as those who do not have brick and mortar locations “but still have direct contact with customers and clients who do business here in the City of Boston” are also eligible.

“We’re also continuing our work to increase visibility for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis,” Walsh said, including updating directories of open businesses on boston.gov, providing free posters for small businesses in both print and digital formats, and hosting workshops to “help businesses understand the [Request for Proposal] and bidding process in the City of Boston,” he said.

Census

Walsh has spoken several times now about the importance of filling out this year’s US Census. He stressed that filling out the Census ensures that the City will “get our fair share of federal resources.” He also pointed out that filling it out is required by the US Constitution.

“This week, the president released a memo seeking to cut some immigrants out of the census population numbers for redistricting purposes,” Walsh said, adding that the US Constitution requires “every person in the US to be counted. This proposal is unlikely to hold up in court.”

He continued, “All of us in Boston want everyone living in the City of Boston to be counted because it makes a difference. There’s no exceptions for immigration status.”

Walsh said that “Boston is a city of immigrants,” and 28 percent of residents were born in another country.

He called the president’s move a “political move to undercount and undermine communities that have large amounts of immigrants and also hurting urban areas like Boston.”

The past three Censuses have resulted in a member of Congress lost each time, which puts Boston down three members in the past 30 years, Walsh said.

“If we count our population and get every single person it will help us get our fair share of federal dollars here to Boston to help us with whatever we need it for,” Walsh said.

Walsh added that since unemployment benefits from the Federal CARES act will expire at the end of this week, “we’re going to see a struggle in Boston as people reach out for help.” He said that it is necessary to “continue to advocate on behalf of Boston.”

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