Common Ground
January 2021
A Newsletter for Community Planning in the Berkshire Region
Invite others to read Common Ground! Share this link with your colleagues.
Grant Opportunities
Due January 5, January 29, and February 26Shared Winter Streets and Spaces


Due February 1 - MassTrails Grants

Applications accepted on a rolling basis until May 7Conservation Assistance for Small Communities

Applications accepted on a rolling basis while funds are available - Community Development Block Grant Microenterprise Assistance
Community & Economic Development
Microenterprise Grant Programs Available in North & South Berkshires

BRPC is helping to administer two CDBG-CV Grant Programs to provide assistance to income-qualifying small business owners in northern and southern Berkshire County. The purpose of each Program is to help low-to-moderate income microenterprise (5 employees or fewer) owners prepare for, prevent and/or respond to the impacts of COVID-19. Eligible applicants will receive up to $10,000 to cover business costs such as rent, staffing and utilities. These grants have been made available by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (MA DHCD) utilizing funds received from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Community Planning
Eviction Diversion Initiative: Free Legal Services 

Through the COVID-19 Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP), there is a substantial expansion of free legal help for low-income tenants as well as low-income owner-occupants of 2-3 family properties navigating the eviction process. These services can be used before the eviction process begins, as well as once a notice has been received, and can be used in coordination with community mediation services ( For the legal services income eligibility is capped at 200% of federal poverty level.

Legal services will be available in every region and can be found on a new website built for this initiative: Households can also call 2-1-1, and learn more at the Dept. of Housing and Community Development’s website,  

Please post and share information about expanded legal services with your community. Resources such as a new video in English and Spanish, social media posts and new flyers in seven languages can be found here.
Data & Information Services
2015-2019 ACS Release

The US Census Bureau has released the 2015-2019 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. The survey provides insight into our region's social, economic, housing, and demographic information. The data is available at the national, state, county, municipal, census tract, and census block group levels and is accessed online at For the first time, we can compare three non-overlapping ACS releases: 2005-2009, 2010-2014, 2015-2019. This year's release includes a significant change in Household Type, which now includes same-sex relationships. For more information, contact Mark Maloy.
Environmental & Energy
Clean Energy Programs

Massachusetts has made notable progress in developing a robust set of residential clean energy and energy efficiency programs. However, there have been obstacles in bringing these benefits to low-and-moderate-income households. BRPC has been funded by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to connect local organizations and municipalities serving low-to-moderate-income Berkshire County residents with resources and information to help make these programs more accessible. 

As a first step, BRPC has launched a web resource detailing the clean energy programs available to Massachusetts residents that make clean technologies more affordable. Information includes key program highlights, eligibility requirements, and first steps for customers to take advantage of the programs. Webpages can be found HERE. For more information, contact Emily Lange.
Position Opening - Senior Environmental Planner

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is seeking a dynamic and motivated individual to serve as Senior Environmental Planner. This position is directed towards assisting communities, conservation organizations and local committees to create a more sustainable and resilient Berkshire region. 

The selected candidate will be responsible for providing support to a wide range of environmental planning activities at both the local and regional level. Primary areas of focus are climate change and sustainability, natural hazard mitigation, nonpoint source pollution and storm water, and protection of the natural environment.

The Senior Planner serves as a lead staff person for multiple complex planning projects. Responsibilities include program/project development, grant writing, development of scopes of work and budgets, project implementation, project and contract management, leadership of project teams, and supervision of project staff. Read More...
Regional Services
PILOT Programs Undermined by Lack of Funding and Tax Rulings, Report Finds

A recent report by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump pointed out that the Commonwealth’s payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for state-owned lands (SOL) is underfunded and disproportionately disadvantages smaller, rural communities in favor of larger, wealthier communities. Additionally, the report finds that state laws governing taxes paid to cities and towns by solar power generators are outdated, confusing for both municipalities and the solar operators, and may slow the adoption of solar technologies. Read More...
Public Health
COVID-19 Vaccine

Two safe and effective COVID vaccines have been given emergency use authorization by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, have already been given to more than 2,000 COVID-facing health-care workers in Berkshire County, as well as more than 35,000 in the Commonwealth, more than 2 million across the United States and more than 4.4 million worldwide. By the time you read these words those numbers will have increased. To date, there have been a few (roughly six) accounts of serious allergic reactions, mostly in those with a history of anaphylaxis, and all were treated quickly at the scene and recovered fully. Otherwise, side effects have been minor – mostly sore arms and mild flu like symptoms lasting about 24 hours. All those already vaccinated will need a second injection in 21 (Pfizer) or 28 (Moderna) days. Both vaccines were shown to be roughly 95% effective in preventing COVID in clinical trials of more than 30,000 individuals each.

The chart below shows the prioritization of populations for COVID vaccine distribution in Massachusetts. The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, as fiscal host for Berkshire County Boards of Health Association (BCBOHA) and the Berkshire Public Health Alliance are coordinating COVID vaccination for the First Responders (Fire, Police and EMS) for the 32 municipalities in Berkshire County. Emergency Dispensing Site (EDS) planning that has occurred over the past 15 years under the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding will be utilized to plan and execute the clinics. Vaccine is expected to be delivered the week of January 4, for vaccination clinics the week of January 11. Up to seven clinics for each round are expected to be held in south, central & north county to ensure all first responders have an opportunity to be vaccinated. Partners in this effort include Berkshire Medical Center, Fairview Hospital, Northern Berkshire EMS, County Ambulance and the City of Pittsfield, as well as other local Boards of Health, Fire and Police throughout the county. We also thank Berkshire Community College, W.E.B.DuBois Middle School and the Berkshire Hills School District and St. Elizabeth’s Church in North Adams for providing space for the vaccination clinics.  Please contact Laura Kittross for more information. 
Berkshire MPO - FFY 2022-2026 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

We are beginning the process of preparing the FFY 2022 – 2026 TIP for Berkshire County. The TIP is a prioritized, financially constrained list of transportation projects that are expected to be built over the next several years in the Berkshires. The TIP implements the region’s long-range transportation plan by programming federal-aid funds for transit, highways, bridges, transportation enhancement, bike paths, safety, and air quality improvements.

The TIP is a five-year program, which is updated annually. In January of every year, the Berkshire MPO solicits new transportation projects and updated information about active projects that are in the current TIP submitted by local communities. The projects received are then evaluated and prioritized for the up-coming TIP cycle. On January 4, 2021, the BMPO staff will send out the transportation projects solicitation email and data forms for the FFY 2022 -2026 TIP. The project submission deadline is January 29, 2021. For more information, please contact Anuja Koirala.