December 28th Information &
Resource Update
New Small Business Relief Grant Program Details Now Available; Applications Open Thursday

The Governor last week announced a new $668 million program to provide financial assistance to Massachusetts small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Detailed eligibility and application information are now available. The application period will open this Thursday, December 31st.

A summary of the program's eligibility and application requirements, as well information on the size of awards and how they may be used, is included below. Click here to access complete program details as well as the online application portal.

The program, titled the "Sector-Specific Relief Grant Program for Massachusetts Businesses," is being administered through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).


In order to be eligible for this program, a business must:
  • Have a physical establishment in Massachusetts
  • Be a for-profit entity (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, cooperative or LLC)
  • Be able to document a loss of income equal to or greater than requested assistance due to COVID-19 pandemic
  • Be currently in operation, or if not in operation must have an intent to reopen
  • Have been established prior to June 30th, 2019
  • Be in good standing with the state and its city/town (current on all taxes due through March 1st, 2020, and have active and valid state licenses/registrations, if applicable)

The following businesses and organizations are NOT eligible for this program:
  • Real estate rentals/sales businesses
  • Businesses owned by persons under age 18
  • Businesses that are chains (chains are defined as businesses not headquartered in Massachusetts with multiple locations)
  • Franchisees
  • Liquor stores
  • Weapons/firearms dealers
  • Lobbyists
  • Cannabis-related businesses
  • Non-profit organizations

Preference will be given to the following sectors:
  • Restaurants, bars, caterers, and food trucks that collect and remit meals tax
  • Indoor Recreation or Entertainment Establishments (e.g. movie theaters, comedy clubs, performing arts venues/organizations, arcades, bowling centers, pool/billiard halls, escape-the-rooms, trampoline parks, roller-skating rinks, other indoor spectator sports venues)
  • Gyms or Fitness Centers (gyms, athletic clubs, exercise centers, health clubs, sports facilities, and fitness instruction centers such as aerobics, dance, yoga, karate, etc.)
  • Personal Services (nail salons, barber shops, etc.) 
  • Event Support Companies where the primary source (more than 50%) of revenue is event-related (photography studios, videography studios, florists, limo services, event planning companies, event rentals, performers, convention and trade show organizations)
  • Independent Retailers (businesses with brick and mortar locations that collect and remit sales tax)

This fund is intended to target the hardest hit small businesses that have an exceptional need of cash relief. MGCC discourages applications from businesses that:
  • Are not showing an operating loss due to the coronavirus pandemic
  • Have access to other sources of relief
  • Have been able to continue to operate without significant financial distress
  • Have adequate available reserves
Additionally, larger companies that are better positioned to endure this economic downturn and COVID-19 related restrictions should not apply.

An excessive number of applications submitted by businesses with lesser need will delay the awarding of grants to businesses facing extraordinary circumstances. An application review for a company without a truly exceptional need delays assistance for a business at risk of permanent closure.

Application Information

The application period will open on December 31st at 12:00 noon, and close at 11:59 PM on January 15th. Applications must be completed electronically through MGCC's online application portal, and submitted along with specified required documentation. Materials or applications submitted in any other manner will not be considered. Please visit the program's website to access more detailed application requirements.

Required documentation will include:
  • Certificate of Good Standing from the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office
  • Complete 2019 Federal Business Tax Return
  • Complete 2019 Federal Personal Tax Returns for each business owner with 20% or greater ownership

Award Information

Businesses can receive up to $75,000, capped at up to 3 months of operating expenses, as evidenced by 2019 Federal Tax Returns. Grant amounts will be considered for actual expenses for 2020 during the pandemic. Expenses can be considered since March 10th, 2020, given that it does not exceed 3 months of operating expenses evidenced by 2019 Federal Tax Returns.

Eligible use of the funds will include:
  • Employee payroll and benefit costs
  • Mortgage interest
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Interest on other debt obligations

Funds may NOT be utilized for:
  • Major equipment purchases
  • Purchase of real property
  • Construction activities
  • Business expansion
  • Lobbying 

Recipients may not apply funds awarded through this program to any expense that has been or will be covered by another source of federal or state funding, including but not limited to the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

Businesses will be required to retain certain documentation to demonstrate that funds were properly utilized.

Legislature Passes Major Health Care Bill: Summary

Both the state House and Senate voted last week to pass a reconciled version of S. 2984, "An Act promoting a resilient health care system that puts patients first," major health care legislation that is now before the Governor for his signature or veto.

Below please find a partial summary of the legislation. The bill is intended to remove financial and insurance barriers to telehealth services, expand the healthcare workforce by eliminating certain practice restrictions for qualified nurses and other health professionals, provide financial assistance to community hospitals, improve coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment, and enhance patient notification requirements to help avoid surprise medical bills, among other items.

Access to Telehealth:
  • This Act makes telehealth services permanently available for Massachusetts patients after the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended by requiring insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover telehealth services in any case where the same in-person service would be covered and the use of telehealth is appropriate.
  • The bill extends payment rate parity beyond the current COVID-19 state of emergency by requiring that behavioral health services delivered via telehealth be permanently reimbursed by insurers at the same level as in-person services.
  • Access to primary care and chronic disease management services via telehealth must also be reimbursed by insurers at the same rate as in-person services over the next two years.
  • Equal payment rates for telehealth and in-person care for all other health care services, which have been temporarily mandated by an Executive Order, will also remain in place for 90 days beyond the end of the COVD-19 state of emergency.

Healthcare Workforce Reforms:
  • The bill enables nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and psychiatric nurse mental health clinical specialists to practice independently, provided that they meet certain education and training standards and practice under physician supervision for at least two years.
  • The Act allows Massachusetts optometrists to treat glaucoma.
  • For administrative efficiency purposes, this bill extends the effective term of a licensed professional's Massachusetts Controlled Substance Registration beyond one year to equal the effective term of their professional license.
  • This bill takes steps to recognize pharmacists as health care providers, enabling them to integrate more fully into coordinated care teams and work with patients to review medications to identify areas for care improvement.

Assistance for Eligible Community Hospitals:
  • This bill authorizes two years of enhanced monthly Medicaid payments for community hospitals that serve a high percentage of low-income patients and meet financial eligibility criteria.

Access to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment:
  • This Act requires insurance carriers, including MassHealth, to cover, without any out-of-pocket costs to patients, all COVID-19-related emergency, inpatient and cognitive rehabilitation services, including all professional, diagnostic and laboratory services, at both in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • This bill also requires coverage for medically necessary outpatient COVID-19 testing, including testing for asymptomatic individuals under circumstances to be defined by guidelines established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services within 30 days of the effective date of the bill.

Increased Cost Transparency to Help Avoid Surprise Medical Bills:
  • In the short term, this bill immediately institutes requirements for health care providers and insurance carriers to notify patients of a health care provider’s network status before a non-emergency procedure occurs so the patient can make an informed decision about where to seek care and avoid receiving a surprise medical bill.
  • In the long-term, and in light of potential changes to federal law, this bill tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Health Policy Commission, the Center for Health Information and Analysis and the Division of Insurance, to develop a report and make recommendations on the process for establishing a fair and sustainable out-of-network rate no later than September 1st, 2021.

Support for Children with PANDAS/PANS:
  • Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) and pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndromes (PANS) are conditions that are often triggered by an infection such as strep throat that occurs suddenly in previously healthy children between the ages of two and twelve. This bill requires insurance carriers to cover PANDAS/PANS.
  • The bill also establishes a PANDAS/PANS Advisory Council within the Department of Public Health (DPH) to advise the DPH commissioner on ongoing research, diagnosis, treatment, and education related to PANDAS/PANS.

Analyzing Health System Impacts of COVID-19:
  • The bill directs the Health Policy Commission and the Center for Health Information and Analysis to analyze and report on the state of the Commonwealth’s health care delivery system, the effect of COVID-19 on health care accessibility, quality and fiscal sustainability in the short-term and the implications of those effects on long-term policy considerations.

Access to Cancer Clinical Trials:
  • This bill allows reimbursement for a cancer patient’s reasonable travel and accommodation expenses associated with participating in a cancer clinical trial.

Eliminating Barriers for MassHealth Patients at Urgent Care Facilities:
  • This bill eliminates the requirement that MassHealth patients first obtain a referral from their primary care provider before seeking treatment at an urgent care facility.
  • The bill also requires urgent care facilities to notify MassHealth when a MassHealth patient receives urgent care services in order to improve care coordination. It also requires the urgent care facility to let MassHealth know if the MassHealth patient who visited the urgent care facility does not have a designated primary care provider, thereby allowing MassHealth to follow-up with the patient and provide information and guidance on how to choose a primary care provider.

Rare Disease Advisory Council:
  • This Act establishes a Rare Disease Advisory Council to advise the Governor, the Legislature and the Department of Public Health on the incidence of rare disease in the Commonwealth and the status of the rare disease community.

Health Policy Commission Board Make-Up:
  • This Act ensures that a registered nurse with demonstrated expertise in the development and utilization of innovative treatments for patient care is a member of the Health Policy Commission’s board.

CMRPC to Host Trail Use and Engagement Discussion

The Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) will host a virtual discussion on trail use and engagement on Monday, January 4th from 11:00 AM 12:30 PM.

At the meeting, youth and healthy aging advocates will present on the importance of trails to their respective communities, and CMRPC will discuss its 2021 MassTrails Grant proposal that seeks to meet these needs.

Participants are invited and encouraged to provide feedback on the project and what CMRPC can do to further engagement of trails in CMRPC's region. Click here to register for the discussion. CMRPC communities that overlap with the 495/MetroWest Partnership's service area are Berlin, Grafton, Hopedale, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Upton, and Westborough.   
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you. You may reach me directly via email at

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership