BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is wrapping up a COVID-19 business relief program that provided more than $687 million in direct cash grants, many targeted to minority and women business owners, Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday.
More than 15,100 businesses across the state received funds through the grant program. The final round of grants was announced on Thursday, with an additional 108 businesses receiving about $4.8 million in COVID relief funds.
Baker said the money has provided a needed economic lifeline for many small businesses struggling to survive the limitations and shutdowns of the past year caused by the pandemic.
“These relief grants were designed to help the hardest hit businesses, specifically targeted to certain groups and sectors that were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and in many cases couldn’t access some of the federally available business support programs,” Baker said during a press conference at Panela Restaurant in Lowell.
The family- and minority-owned business was among those awarded a grant through the program.
“Throughout the application and awarding process we kept the priorities top of mind, which was to support minority- and women-owned business as they were being hit harder than most,” the Republican said.
Other businesses targeted by the program included those located in the state’s “gateway cities,” businesses that received no other aid, restaurants and bars, retail businesses, personal fitness and businesses providing personal services like hair and nail salons.
Overall, 43% of the grants went to minority-owned businesses and 46% went to women-owned business, Baker said.
The governor also said that the state continues to make progress in its fight against the coronavirus.
For the first time since October, the number of hospitalized patients fell below 500 statewide on Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of very positive stuff going on here," Baker said.
VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 1,000 Thursday while the number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 5.
The new numbers pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 17,311 since the start of the pandemic, while its confirmed caseload rose to about 651,000.
The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.
There were about 470 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with about 130 in intensive care units.
The average age of those hospitalized was 60. There were an estimated 20,000 people with current active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
More than 6.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Massachusetts, including more than 3.7 million first doses and more than 2.5 million second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
There have been about 216,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered.
More than 2.7 million people have been fully immunized.