Boston City Council meeting March 25, 2020

Jordan Erb, Reporter

All councilors were present for the Boston City Council meeting on March 25, 2020, which was held virtually through the video-conferencing app, Zoom. The video was live streamed on the City Council’s website, as well as on its YouTube channel, and can be viewed here.

The meeting’s dockets were entirely focused on the coronavirus outbreak. During the meeting, the following dockets were presented and discussed:

Docket 0559

Councilor Ricardo Arroyo offered a resolution requesting a moratorium on rent, mortgages, evictions and foreclosures in Boston to provide housing security in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

After Councilor Ricardo Arroyo had his first public hearing this week, he moved to create a resolution that would prompt either the federal, state or city government to place a suspension on rent and mortgage payments for residents in Boston. 

According to the filed documents, the Boston Housing Authority has already suspended all non-essential evictions for the duration of Governor Baker’s State of Emergency. Others, however, including small landlords and real estate companies, have not yet done so. 

“This is an incredibly important step for us to be pushing for at the city level,” said Councilor Michelle Wu. “Absent any government help, or absent any interventions, we know that the devastation will continue. Even after the public health impacts have quieted down, the economic impacts will continue and disproportionately be borne by residents of color and businesses owned by people of color.”

Councilor Frank Baker requested that this docket be referred to a committee, rather than passed as a resolution, stating it was too complex and too multifaceted to decide in one meeting. Without unanimous approval, the docket was referred to the Committee on Housing.

Docket #0560

Councilor Liz Breadon offered an order for a hearing on the social impact of COVID-19 measures on issues including domestic violence, social isolation and mental health.

“In this extraordinary moment, our population in the city is under extreme stress,” Breadon said. “Many people are confined to their homes and unable to get out and about and connect to their usual social networks. The context of the pandemic isolating people in their homes is a very prudent and highly recommended strategy, but the downfall is that many folks are finding their home is not a safe place to be. For folks in situations of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse, the home situation is not always safe.”

The docket was assigned to the Committee on Public Health.

Docket #0561

Councilor Julia Mejia offered a resolution urging the federal government to alleviate the cost of COVID-19 testing for uninsured, undocumented communities.

Councilor Mejia said that coronavirus-related health care would involve more than just testing, but also additional hospital visits and other emergency care. This resolution was aimed at helping Boston’s uninsured and undocumented residents afford health care during the outbreak, should they need it.

This resolution was passed. 

Docket #0562

Councilor Mejia offered a resolution urging immediate action to provide financial security to small businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Increasing relief funding and suspending commercial rent payments and evictions, were just two measures suggested to council.

“There are over 40,000 small businesses in Boston alone, generating about $15 billion in revenue a year,” Mejia said. “As someone who has started a small business, I know how it can feel, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your own ends meet, but you could be responsible for one or even 10 employees who depend on you to make sure they live and thrive.”

This resolution was adopted. 

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Docket #0563

Councilor Mejia offered a resolution recommending greater protections for workers facing unemployment due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Councilor Mejia’s resolution was aimed at helping workers ineligible for unemployment insurance and those who would not be able to survive on federal relief, including contract workers, new employees, freelancers, and those who rely heavily on tips. 

“We need to do everything in our power to make sure we protect those made most financially vulnerable by this public health crisis,” she said.

This resolution was adopted.