Community Developers Call for Immediate Action

March 24th, 2020 by


Economic Fall Out from Pandemic Requires Large Scale and Equitable Response

Investments Needed for Small Business, Housing and Non-Profit Sectors

March 24, 2020

CONTACT: Joseph Kriesberg, 617-721-7250 /

A statewide association of Community Development Corporations is calling upon state leaders to take immediate action to address growing and urgent needs for small businesses, tenants, homeowners and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) represents 88 community-based nonprofits across the state that work to advance economic opportunity, affordable housing and thriving neighborhoods across the state. MACDC is calling for the following actions:

  • $150 million investment in loans, grants, and technical assistance to help small businesses survive and recover from this economic crisis, especially those businesses owned by people of color, immigrants, women, and low- or moderate-income people;

  • Creation of a Massachusetts COVID-19 Small Business Response Task Force to guide the on-going response to this crisis and consider other initiatives to help small businesses through this crisis;

  • Expanded unemployment insurance criteria to cover currently ineligible business owners, such as sole proprietors, independent contractors and micro businesses;

  • Short-term eviction moratorium to keep people housed during this public health crisis;

  • At least $25 million in emergency funding to help tenants impacted by the COVID-19 crisis pay their rent;

  • Special initiatives to help nonprofit organizations, including community-based cultural organizations, youth programs, CDCs, and other critical local organizations.

(Read, MACDC's full Initial Policy Recommendations in Response to the Public Health and Economic Crisis)

“The economic fallout from the COVID-19 public health emergency is likely to hurt just about everyone, but it will have a particularly significant impact on lower-income communities, communities of color, Gateway Cities, and distressed rural areas,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC. “We need the state to step up immediately with significant and equitable investments to help our small businesses survive and recover from this unprecedented crisis.”

“We know this pandemic will have a particularly significant impact on the most vulnerable among us.  It will reveal and exacerbate the persistent racial and economic inequities in our society,” noted Kriesberg. “That is why we need a strategy based on equity that targets resources to the businesses, families and communities that most need assistance”.

MACDC recommends that much of the small business development assistance be deployed through the highly effective network of community-based organizations already working with the state through the Small Business Technical Assistance program.  These organizations are working with over 3,000 small businesses across the state, with 88% of the clients coming from underserved communities such as people of color, immigrants, or lower-income communities.  Additional support can be deployed by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) with a proven record of leveraging federal and private funding to deliver capital to small businesses.  MACDC is also urging an expansion of the Mass Growth Capital Corporation’s Small Business Recovery Loan fund which is already oversubscribed. Given the scale of this crisis, we recommend that businesses be able to access both loans and/or grants to ensure their long-term survival and to avoid new debt obligations that will burden their recovery.

MACDC’s policy statement calls on the legislature and the Governor to use the state’s Rainy Day Fund and General Obligation Bonds to help cover the costs of these emergency investments.

(Read, MACDC's full Initial Policy Recommendations in Response to the Public Health and Economic Crisis)

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A message from MACDC President, Joe Kriesberg, regarding Coronavirus

March 13th, 2020 by Joe Kriesberg
Dear friends,
As all of us come to terms with the scale and scope of the Coronavirus Pandemic, I wanted to let you know how MACDC is responding to both the public health crisis and the growing economic impact. This is our strategy as of now, but clearly could change as new information arises.
Our first priority is continue to do our work as best we can while fully protecting the safety of our staff members and all the people with whom we work. Toward that end, we will be switching all of our committee meetings and peer group sessions to an online format and canceling or postponing all public events for the next few weeks or until further notice. We are also allowing our staff to work from home and may institute a requirement to do so at some point. Thankfully, a few years ago we moved our information technology infrastructure to the cloud so our staff can work from home without any interruption and with full access to all of our files and systems.


Our second priority is to help our members navigate these unchartered waters. We plan to provide online opportunities for information exchange and peer learning. CDCs must deal with so many complex issues from office operations, to property management, construction project schedules, small business lending, youth programs, senior services and more. Therefore, we are looking at how to support CDC professionals across these different work areas. We also want to serve as a conduit for information flow from public officials to our members and vice versa.


Our third priority will be to advocate for special public policy initiatives that protect low- and moderate-income people who are most vulnerable during a crisis like this. This will include policies and programs to protect tenants, homeowners, hourly workers and small business owners.  We will also be advocating with public and private funders to provide nonprofits with some leeway and flexibility regarding deliverables and deadlines that cannot be met due to the crisis.


Obviously the situation continues to evolve quickly and we will respond as new information and new circumstances dictate. Please contact us if you have any thoughts or ideas about how we can help our communities get through this crisis.


We hope everyone will take necessary precautions and stay safe. We look forward to seeing some of you online in the coming days and hopefully, before too long, in person as well.


At its heart, community development is based on the notion, as the late Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, that "we all do better when we all do better." Never has this been more true than during this pandemic. We are truly all in this together. Let us hope - and work to make it so - that while this crisis requires social distancing now, that it will ultimately bring us closer together as one Commonwealth, one Country and one World.


Joe Kriesberg
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Responding to Coronavirus in CDC Communities: Immediate and Long-Term Actions

March 13th, 2020 by Elana Brochin

The low- and moderate-income communities in which Massachusetts CDCs work are disproportionately affected by the current Coronavirus crisis. This disproportionate impact results from the same structural inequities to which economically disadvantaged communities are routinely subject. The current Coronavirus pandemic further highlights the ways in which structural inequity that impacts lower-income communities ends up negatively impacting all individuals and communities, regardless of income-level. While Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on population health and the economy, it also carries opportunities for CDCs to help keep our communities safe, and to advocate for economically progressive policies.

First, let’s establish the ways in which lower-income community residents are disproportionately impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus:

Poor Quality Housing

Poor quality housing quickens the spread of infectious disease when there is improper ventilation between units. Families who live in close quarters are at increased risk of spreading illness between family members.

Unstable Housing

Cuts to jobs and hours will put low-income tenants at increased risk for eviction and foreclosure as individuals and families fall behind on their rent or mortgage payments.

People Experiencing Homelessness

Individuals experiencing homelessness who are living in shelters are impacted by increased disease transmission due to overcrowding. Those living on the streets are at greater risk because of lack of access to clean water with which to wash their hands. Individuals living on the streets who fall ill due to the virus will suffer more because of exposure to extreme heat and cold, and they also don’t have an easy way to quarantine themselves.

Economic Impacts on Low-Wage Workers and Small Businesses

Low-wage workers without paid sick time have to make the impossible choice between going to work sick or losing wages needed for food and other necessities. Individuals who go to work sick are more likely to infect others, and healthy workers who are forced to work are more likely to be exposed. Individuals who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are not able to “stock up” on essential items, like medicine, food, and hygiene items that will be needed in case of illness or quarantine. If forced to wait to buy these items, individuals will have a greater likelihood of being exposed and exposing others as the pandemic worsens. Small business owners will disproportionately suffer from lost business while still needing to keep up with overhead costs.

Impacts of Quarantine

School closures disproportionately impact low-income families who have less access to affordable childcare options. Further many low-income children rely on schools for free or reduced-price meals.

Access to Health Care

Individuals who are underinsured or who lack access to health care will be less able to access quality and affordable health care as the demand on the health system inevitably increases. Undocumented immigrants may be afraid to access care or other services because of real or perceived concerns over repercussions resulting from their immigration status.

Prejudice and Discrimination

Our Asian and Asian-American community members and businesses are also subject to the racism faced by many of Asian descent resulting from prejudice, fear and misinformation.


In addition to highlighting the ways in which lower-income communities are impacted by infectious disease, the Coronavirus pandemic makes it clear that what impacts lower-income community residents also impacts the general population.


CDCs can support their community residents in a variety of ways, including:

  1. Taking precautions to limit the spread of disease, such as frequently disinfecting common spaces in their apartment buildings;
  2. Checking in on residents with particular attention to those who are elderly and/or immuno-compromised;
  3. Encouraging residents to use recommended hygiene methods, including frequent handwashing, and, if exposed, letting management know and self-isolating or quarantining;
  4. Suspending evictions that are not essential to the protection of health or property;
  5. Canceling community events.

Immediate steps to care for our communities needs to be our first priority. Emergency funding can help prevent evictions and foreclosures and lessen the financial pain to workers and small businesses. In addition to necessitating emergency response, this international crisis underscores the need for better social and economic policies when our world is not in crisis, including:

  1. Expanding unemployment insurance;
  2. Creating protections to prevent evictions/foreclosures;
  3. Funding to support local businesses;
  4. Advocating for paid sick leave for all employees.

In addition to advocacy on the policy-level, it is crucial that we continue our racial equity work to undo the racist attitudes and institutions whose legacy we encounter in the current crisis, as well as in so many areas of our work. As information and advice changes by the hour, let’s not lose sight of the larger context in which we find ourselves. Let’s continue to think creatively about strategies and policies to improve population health and to expand economic opportunities – both in the short-term as well as in the long-term.

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Governor Baker Unveils Economic Development Proposal

March 12th, 2020 by David Bryant

On March 4, Governor Baker unveiled An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth (H. 4529). This comprehensive economic development package represents a solid step toward positioning Massachusetts and its Gateway Cities for strong, equitable, and sustainable growth. The Governor’s bill contains several provisions with the potential to play a particularly powerful role increasing the vitality of Gateway Cities across the state by building on their strengths.  

The Governor also called again for zoning reform and incorporated his Housing Choices bill into the package, which would enable cities and towns to adopt many smart growth policies by simple-majority rather than super-majority. Massachusetts is one of only a handful of states that requires a vote of 2/3 or more for local zoning changes. The Housing Choices bill was reported out of committee in December but has not advanced since, although pressure is building for the Legislature to act on zoning reform this year to address a historic housing crisis. 
The Governor’s proposal includes new dollars and better tools for Gateway Cities and regions outside of Metro Boston, including several that were recommended by MACDC.  The bill includes the following key elements:  

  • $25 million to strengthen Gateway City neighborhoods by revitalizing blighted and abandoned homes. Many Gateway Cities still have neighborhoods suffering from the ill-effects of the foreclosure crisis. By helping cities acquire and repair long-vacant one to four-family properties, this program will preserve vital housing stock, increase homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families, and prevent a few problem properties from pulling entire neighborhoods down.  This new program advances recommendations made by a group of Gateway City housing and community development leaders assembled by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations in 2019. 

  • $10 million to enable community development financial institutions to reach underserved populations, such as women- and minority-owned businesses, and leverage federal funding to support lending for small businesses;

  • $5 million for a matching grant program to provide capital for micro-businesses and low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs looking to start or expand a new business;

  • $50 million for transit-oriented housing for the production of high-density mixed-income affordable housing near transit nodes;

  • $10 million for a competitive grant program for small towns and rural areas for community development and infrastructure projects. 

  • $10 million for sustainable and climate-resilient construction in affordable, multifamily housing developments to better respond to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;

  • $40 million for redevelopment of underutilized, blighted or abandoned buildings, including those that need major work to comply with building codes and to become accessible for persons with disabilities; 

  • Potentially tripling from $10 million to $30 million the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) that promotes market rate housing in weak market areas, in addition to expanding the number of communities that may be eligible; and

  • the bill provides MassDevelopment with greater flexibility to support development projects through its successful Transformative Development Initiative (TDI). TDI is a multi-year effort to lend capacity to Gateway City efforts to strategically target areas for revitalization.

In the coming weeks, MACDC will be working with legislators to advance this legislation and make recommendations for additional provisions such as a spot blight eminent domain program and recapitalization of the Massachusetts Food Trust.






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Four R.E.M. Lyrics that help me in my work

February 4th, 2020 by John Fitterer

I grew up listening to R.E.M.  It was the song “Don’t Go Back to Rockville” that first grabbed my attention.  To me, Michael Stipe’s lyrics where bizarre, political, angry, poetic, and inspiring.  Peter Buck’s guitar playing had a whimsical spirit to it that carried a great melody.  Somehow it all came together beautifully.  Now as an adult, while I still listen to R.E.M., it’s often for the nostalgia, to bring back wonderful memories of hours spent with my friends when this music was both the central reason for hanging out, or just the background sound to a road trip.  On the surface, maybe it’s strange to write about how a song’s lyrics are applied to my job, but they’re stuck in my head.  They come back to me when some odd connection is made.  Somehow it just works.

Below are four R.E.M. lyrics that drift into my consciousness from time to time:

“If wishes were leaves, the trees would be fallen.  Listen to reason, the season is calling.”

The song “Stand” is corny, but it’s still stuck in my head.  It was on the radio so often that you couldn’t get away from it.  All of that aside, these lyrics come to mind when my colleagues or I start to go off on wish lists of new features, new projects, reports, or anything, I guess, that seems unrealistic, at least for the present.  To me, it’s mental shorthand.  When they come to mind, I know it’s time to come back to reality.


“Practice, practice makes perfect.  Perfect is a fault and fault lines change.”

The song “I believe” from Life’s Rich Pageant is a top five R.E.M. song for me.  This song held some magical powers that were unleashed each time I listened to it.  I hear these lyrics in my head a lot.  I can’t say that I understand them entirely and that in a way makes them even more powerful. That said, I think it’s mostly a way of saying, “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”  Like the lyrics from “Stand,” it’s a way of keeping me grounded and not getting stuck on every Oxford comma that is missing in our newsletter.  At a certain point, you need to move on to other work.


“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

This song continues to have a life long after its release in 1987 on the album Document.  It seems to make the wasteland of media and pop culture into a happy place with its fast-paced rant.  I’m far from alone in finding social media, the news, text messages, volumes of emails sometimes just blurring into one insane cacophony of senseless noise.  During a recent communications training in which I participated, I learned that it takes 11 engagements with someone for a message to be received.  That’s a lot of communicating.  When I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about successfully conveying a message, I’m fine…fine.


“When the world is a monster.  Bad to swallow you whole.”

“Can’t Get There from Here” from Fables of the Reconstruction works for me when big projects feel even bigger because I haven’t started them yet.  If I start on it, the scope becomes manageable and I can sink into the act of doing the work.  Again, I don’t pretend to understand what the lyrics meant, if anything, to R.E.M., but they just pop into my head.  Also depending on the size and scope of a project, sometimes the work is more like a marathon and not a sprint.  Taking small steps is a great way to a get started.

Music is fundamental to me and my understanding of our world.  I listen to music throughout the day.  Often, particularly at work, it’s Baroque or contemporary minimalism that’s playing in the background.  Even so, R.E.M.’s music introduced me to political discourse/discord, lyrics as poetry, and new ways of sharing with others.  It’s no surprise that they’re still with me after all these years, still winding their way into my day-to-day work routine, and not diminishing as powerful and wonderful memories of my youth.

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Could 2020 be the year we make Community Development Policy History?

January 6th, 2020 by Joe Kriesberg

As we enter a new year and a new decade, MACDC is preparing for one of the busiest and hopefully most impactful policy years in recent memory.  The Massachusetts state legislature has seven months before the session ends on July 31 and a wide array of housing and community development priorities are on the docket. MACDC and its members will be focused on these nine priorities:

  1. Major new revenue for housing and climate investments: MACDC is a founding member of the HERO Coalition – Housing and Environmental Revenue Opportunities – which is comprised of housing, climate, faith-based, labor, and social justice groups working together to secure a major new revenue stream to support investments in affordable housing, and climate resiliency and mitigation. Our proposal is to double the deeds excise tax and dedicate 50% (approx. $150 million/yr.) to housing and 50% to climate. This could be the biggest new investment in housing in decades and lay the foundation for more collaboration among housing, climate, and social justice advocates.  MACDC is also actively supporting state legislation that would empower cities and towns to adopt their own, local transfer tax to generate new revenue for affordable housing.
  2. Neighborhood Stabilization: MACDC continues to work with MassINC, the Gateway Cities Caucus, and others to enact legislation to accelerate the renovation of vacant and blighted homes in weaker market areas of the state. This effort also includes launching the new Neighborhood Stabilization Hub at MassHousing thanks to funding we secured in the FY 20 budget.
  3. Land Use and Zoning: MACDC is actively working with many others to help secure passage of Housing Choice legislation that would lower the threshold for cities and towns seeking to enact smart zoning and land use practices.
  4. Economic Development: MACDC will be advocating for:
  • An increase in funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program from $3 million to $4 million per year.  This program now funds 47 CDCs, CDFIs and other community-based organizations all of whom are helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and grow small businesses;
  • Funds to provide capital grants to CDFIs that offer small business loans, a program we helped launch a few years ago. 
  • New capital funding to support the Mass Food Trust, a program administered on behalf of the state by Franklin County CDC and LEAF, which provides grants and loans to expand access to healthy foods in lower-income communities.
  1. Lead Poisoning Prevention: We are making a major effort this year to recapitalize the highly successful Get the Lead Out program administered by MassHousing and the Department of Housing and Community Development. The program has helped thousands of families and children since its inception 25 years ago, but it is now dangerously close to running out of money. The state recently adopted new regulations that recognize that lead poisoning is even more dangerous than previously understood, so we must fully fund this vital public health program.
  2. City of Boston Home Rule Petition on Linkage and Inclusionary Development: We are working closely with Mayor Marty Walsh to secure legislative passage of the City’s home rule petition that would allow it to make modifications to these two successful programs, without seeking prior approval from the state legislature. 
  3. Tenant protections: MACDC is supporting legislation to create a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction as well as legislation that would enable tenants to band together to buy their own buildings when they are put on the market.
  4. Closing the Racial Homeownership Gap: We will be working closely this year with MassHousing and DHCD to roll out new initiatives to help expand homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in general and people of color specifically. These efforts include the new $60 million homeownership development funding initiative announced by Governor Baker last year, as well as a new down payment assistance program and potentially other initiatives.
  5. Rural Policy: In October 2019, the MA Rural Policy Advisory Commission (RPAC) released its Rural Policy Plan for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This Plan suggests policy recommendations related to the unique issues and challenges faced by rural communities across the Commonwealth and addresses 14 focus areas that were identified through listening sessions held across the state in late 2018. MACDC will work with the members of the RPAC and rural Regional Planning Agencies in its efforts to engage legislative and administration stakeholders to fulfill and implement the Plan recommendations, in particular the creation of an Office of Rural Policy.

MACDC cannot make progress on such a robust and diverse agenda without many partners. We are grateful for our allies and partners in the legislature; the Baker-Polito Administration who share many of these goals; our coalition partners at other advocacy organizations; and of course, our members who take the time to join us in advocating for these proposals. Our 2020 policy campaigns will include our annual “Doughnuts with your Delegation” campaign in February and March when our members will meet with their legislators in their home districts and our Annual Lobby Day on April 28, 2020 at the State House.  It will also include countless meetings, phone calls, letters, and other communications over the next seven months.

2020 offers the opportunity to make community development history here in Massachusetts.  Let’s make it happen!

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MACDC Notebook Archive

December 2nd, 2019 by John Fitterer
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Are CDCs Racially Diverse?

November 4th, 2019 by

A critical question when it comes to addressing racial equity is the diversity of the board, senior staff and staff of an organization.  To help provide some insight into whether Certified CDCs in Massachusetts are led by and comprised of diverse boards and staff, MACDC, as a part of the annual state of the sector survey we conduct, the GOALs Report, asks about board and staff diversity.  Below are the results from this year’s survey, which was conducted in early 2019 and captures data from calendar year 2018. We plan to collect this data every year so we can track progress. 


CDC Organizational Diversity 


Geographical Area 

AVG. POC Board Members 

AVG. POC Senior Staff 

AVG. POC Staff - * 













Greater Boston Suburban Communities 




Greater Boston Urban Communities 









*  Average People of Color (POC) Staff data is rough percentage as MACDC asks for the number of FTEs on staff to the tenth, whereas the POC staff question does not allow any decimalization. 



  • 59 state-Certified CDCs reporting out of 61 organizations 

  • Reporting period: 2018 

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Promoting Racial and Economic Equity through Economic Development: Boston Pilot Program and Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) Program

October 30th, 2019 by David Bryant

Nuestra Comunidad's now completed Bartlett B Project was a part of the Boston Pilot Program. (Photo courtesy of Nuestra Comunidad) 

MACDC has been committed to the movement for racial and economic equity since its inception. To solidify this commitment, MACDC has pledged, in its 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, to contribute to the movement by working in four areas of economic development.

“We will continue our long-standing commitment to expanding small business development as a means of building wealth and community assets. To further reduce geographic inequity, we will help to build thriving neighborhoods and rural communities with stores, services, jobs, amenities, transportation and other assets and opportunities. We intend to help our members deliver effective financial empowerment programs to reduce income and wealth inequality. Finally, we will advocate for public policies that promote greater racial and geographic equity. To advance this vision, CDCs, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other community-based groups will need enhanced capacity, access to resources, and stronger public policies.”

Boston Pilot Program

A key initiative in this effort is the Boston Pilot program. In 2012, MACDC and the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association (MMCA) launched a pilot initiative to achieve higher rates of minority- and women-business participation in CDC-sponsored construction projects in the city of Boston.  Four years later, we expanded the partnership (Phase II) to include four more CDCs and to extend the program to Greater Boston.

The original program included six Boston-based CDCs (Madison Park Development Corporation, Dorchester Bay EDC, Jamaica Plain NDC, Codman Square NDC, Nuestra Comunidad, and Urban Edge) that originally enrolled 12 projects in the program and generated collectively more than $61 million in business opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs).  Four additional CDCs – Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA), and Asian CDC – have now joined the partnership and, collectively, have identified 25 projects with total development cost of $634 million, expected to be completed by 2021.

CDCs participating in the program commit to (1) best faith efforts to achieve 30% MBE and 10% WBE utilization on these construction projects, (2) meaningful opportunities for MBEs and WBEs to serve as general contractors, (3) meaningful opportunities to provide professional services to the project (i.e. legal, architecture, consulting, engineering) and (4)  to participate in regular meetings that offer peer-learning, trouble-shooting, and networking events with the broader M/WBE business communities to advance the goals of each CDC and the program overall.

While the focus of this program remains on M/WBE participation – projects reporting as of March 2019 reflect rates of 32% MBE and 9% WBE Contractor Procurement percentages – there is consistent evidence that achieving these goals also will result in the hiring of more people of color on these projects, thereby achieving additional value in our efforts to increase the diversity of the workforce and for expanding economic opportunity across our communities.

Small Business Technical Assistance

Another key initiative promoting racial and economic equity is the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program.

The Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) grant program has been successfully serving businesses for over a decade, and MACDC has been the principal statewide advocacy organization promoting increased funding for this program.  The program is also supported by the Black and Latino Advisory Commissions both of which embraced the program in 2019 in their first set of priorities and recommendations.

After leading a statewide campaign, MACDC was grateful in July when the Baker administration and the Legislature agreed to increase funding for this program to $3.1 million in FY 2020 – a 50% increase from the prior year – that will empower an outstanding network of “Grantees,” – CDCs, CDFIs, and other community-based groups – to continue to help small businesses grow and thrive in every community. These grants range from $10,000 to $120,000 and allow CDCs and other community-based organizations to provide customized management and operational assistance, financial training, and lending services to small businesses. These resources are targeted to serving low- and moderate-income communities.

MACDC also has advocated for a related Microlending and Community Development Capital Program, which was reauthorized through the 2018 economic development bond bill at $1.25 million.  The Microlending program enables program partners to leverage more federal and private funding. For example, the national CDFI program requires a dollar-for-dollar match, and the Small Business Administration Micro Loan Program requires a 15% local match. This program helps Massachusetts leverage more of these funds. This year, the Baker Administration is making $250,000 available through this program and we will be advocating to increase that number next year.  

Massachusetts needs a strong network of community-based small business programs in order to address decades of structural and systemic racism that has led to the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts and across this country.  By advocating for the Small Business Technical Assistance and Micro Lending programs, we hope to contribute to closing that gap and helping more people of color and immigrants build their business, create wealth and expand opportunities for communities of color across the state.


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The Mel King Institute’s Public Housing Training Program is taking steps to ensure racial equity is intertwined in its trainings/activities

October 30th, 2019 by

After two years of trainings, the Public Housing Training Program is updating its Resident Leader Training curriculumA group of residents, trainers and partners has come together to make the curriculum more interactive and more grounded in resident experiences, and to add a stronger racial equity lens.

The Mel King Institute for Community Building launched the Public Housing Tenant Training Program in 2016 with the purpose of increasing the voice of residents as stakeholders in decision-making in public housing management and administration. Trainings are conducted by Sarah Byrnes, Manager of the MKI Public Housing Training Program, along with co-trainers and residents. Since its first training in 2017, across the Commonwealth, the Public Housing Training Program (PHTP) has trained more than 250 residents, equipping them with the knowledge they need to fully participate in the oversight of their housing authorities. 

The current Resident Leader curriculum focuses on skills such as outreach, conflict resolution, and running meetings in order to help tenants start or sustain tenant groups. “After two years of conducting trainings, it became clear that we needed to be more explicit about our values around racial inclusion,” says Sarah. “Public housing communities are often wonderfully diverse, and many residents are looking for tools to make sure that their tenant groups include everyone. This will impact the way they do everything from outreach to running meetings.”

The first step in the process was a Racial Equity Train-the-Trainer session, so that the curriculum committee could seek shared understanding around race and racism in the United States. With participants from a variety of cultures, races and nationalities, the conversation was spirited, informative, and sometimes challenging. The group learned about racism as a manifestation of both prejudice and power, about the four levels of racism, and about the history of white supremacy. The two-day session included time for race-based affinity groups, which the residents enjoyed so much that they decided to keep meeting monthly in online affinity groups!

While the group is still defining what a “racial equity lens” means to them, these conversations laid the groundwork for a shared definition. Sarah believes that in addition to centering inclusion, as mentioned above, “A goal for the curriculum is that it will also empower facilitators to confront implicit biases when they show up, and to convey our lessons about race, racism and white supremacy as needed.” More residents will also be invited to participate in the online affinity groups as follow up to the trainings.

Currently, the team is making plans to offer a training based on the “spiral” framework. This framework centers resident experiences and helps residents see common patterns in those experiences as a basis for building inclusive networks. After testing out this framework, the group will return to the conversation about racial equity in order to adapt the spiral framework and other materials into a cohesive whole. They expect to start using the new curriculum early in 2020.

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