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Representative Bud Williams & Senator Nick Collins introduce Reparations Bill

Massachusetts must lead on reparations

Sen. Nick Collins

Last week, legislators from opposite ends of the state filed a bill establishing the Commonwealth Health, Economic, Education and Equity Recovery and Reconstruction Fund or “CHEEERRS”.  Even before we learned of the economic and health inequities suffered by the Commonwealth’s Black and Latino residents exposed by COVID-19, we had ample evidence of the impact of years of systemic racial disparities that have been endured for far too long. This national and local reckoning presents a unique time for a reset. We begin the process with the filing of this bill.

State Representative Bud Williams (D-Springfield) and State Senator Nick Collins (D-Boston), have joined together to file this most bold piece of legislation. This bill supports close to $1 billion, identifies the source of funding, and establishes a separate independent bureau to oversee a comprehensive collection of services and programming directed to the targeted communities.

“Even before the pandemic, our children, families, and businesses were struggling in what most would describe as a strong economy for everyone else. It’s hard to imagine it could be worse when you’re already hanging on by a thread. Yet, the pandemic has stretched the pain even further; our children are falling so far behind in school, we’re on pace to lose permanently much more than the projected 40% of Black and Latino business and we’ve represented more than 60% of the COVID-19 cases.” stated Rep. Bud Williams. “If there ever was a case to be made for a reset, for reparations, the time is now.”

Among the highlights of the bill creates an independent bureau, support for families and children; a small business stabilization fund; support for returning citizens; a first in the nation resiliency service corps; and a process to review all the policies in the Executive Branch through a racial and social justice lens with an eye towards leveling the playing field.

“After numerous conversations and listening sessions, I bear witness for those suffering due to the results of systemic racism, said Senator Nick Collins. “It is impossible to miss and it is frightening to think as the dust eventually settles on the pandemic, it will likely be worse. It is clear, we must be intentional and bold in our efforts to tackle racial and economic injustice. This bill presents a real opportunity to address longstanding injustices, while providing assistance to communities who have been impacted the most by this pandemic.” Stated Sen. Collins.

“We’ve seen corporate, spiritual and government leaders across the state posting Black Lives Matter signs on websites and issuing public statements of commitment to dismantle systemic racism, “ stated Horace Small, Founder and Director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “This bill is a huge step to making those words real.”

“It’s no mystery to us that whether you’re standing in Nubian Square in Roxbury or Mason Square in Springfield, the story is the same, our communities suffer the worse in nearly every health category, our children continue to learn in understaffed and under resourced school and our businesses are struggling” stated Bishop Talbert Swan, President of the Springfield NAACP. “It’s unbelievable to think, as we begin to think about post pandemic life, that it could be worse. It’s time to make the promise real.”

There are also plans and activities happening across the state to create an external, sustained fund to complement and support the work of this bill. “We’re committed to a sustained effort” stated Priscilla Flint Banks, Convenor of the Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition, a group of more than 70 organizations, businesses and individuals who’ve waged a fierce battle to ensure that resources are committed to Black and Latino neighborhoods, including contracting opportunities to for Black and Latino businesses. “We spent 8 weeks to get mobile COVID-19 testing done in one neighborhood even after the state identified it as a hotspot!  Black and Latino businesses got less than 2% of Boston’s contracts and even less of the state’s contracts over the last 3 months. An extraordinary failure given that all bidding processes have been suspended since the Governor declared the health emergency in March! We’ve earned a reset. The time is now. The CHEEERRS bill is a real first step!”

Rep. Williams and Sen. Collins hope to move this bill on an expedited schedule.