Charlie Baker signs extra budget, includes al fresco dining arrangements and take-out cocktails


Building on the state’s sizable surplus revenue that “continues to far exceed original expectations,” as Governor Charlie Baker wrote in a letter to the Legislative Assembly, Baker approved a $1 supplementary budget. .6 billion which includes provisions that build on changes to the restaurant industry in the era of the pandemic.

“Today I will sign legislation that will expand rules that will make it easier for cities and towns to allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining,” Baker tweeted Friday night. “We appreciate that the Legislature sent us this provision last night.”

One provision will allow municipalities to pursue an expedited permit process for outdoor dining and will extend outdoor dining until April 1, 2023. Another will allow restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails at takeout until April 1, 2023. These authorizations were previously set to expire on May 1 of this year.

Although alfresco dining remains a popular perk for diners and restaurateurs, restaurant owners in Boston’s North End have been locked in a bitter row with Mayor Michelle Wu over the $7,500 fee she imposed on these businesses to allow outdoor dining. She cited residents’ complaints about overcrowding on the neighborhood’s narrow streets as the reason for her fees.

Wu has softened its stance in recent days, allowing restaurants to apply for hardship exemption from the full fee and pay their fees in installments. Other new citywide rules also caused some consternation, and Wu said Boston needs to see what the final state rules look like.

Another notable COVID provision allows National Guard members who were activated during the pandemic after the state of emergency ended to qualify for veterans’ bonuses. Last year, members of the National Guard served as school bus drivers and correctional officers to help with staffing shortages, and also helped with hospital duties, including handing over hospital rooms and delivering meals to patients. National Guard members also helped administer COVID-19 tests to school staff and students.

The budget also includes $700 million for the state’s response to COVID-19, including funds for rapid testing and surveillance testing in congregate care settings, monoclonal antibody treatments, vaccination sites and health facility staff.

More than $400 million will go to improving human service provider rates, $140 million will go to special school staffing needs, $100 million per room will go to rent assistance and repairing winter road damage; and $10 million will go to resettling refugees and immigrants, including Ukrainian refugees.


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