STATE REP RACE Q&A: Robertson & DiFruscia Discuss How They’ll Help The Local Economy Recover From COVID-19

Leading up to the November 4 election, Wilmington Apple will be submitting questions each week to both candidates for the 19th Middlesex State Representative seat — incumbent Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury) and challenger Alec DiFruscia (R-Tewksbury). Have a question for them? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.

Question: How will you help the local economies of Wilmington and Tewksbury as they recover from the impact of COVID-19? Has the State House done enough to help our business community get back on its feet?

Dave Robertson

When the COVID-19 virus arrived in Massachusetts the motto was: stabilize, stabilize, stabilize. We needed to stabilize our hospitals with adequate PPE so they could withstand the surge. We needed to stabilize businesses by instituting plans that ensured essential commerce or industry was safe for employees and public alike. Finally we we needed to stabilize households by implement public health ordinances and distributing federal funds to ensure that families could survive while also limiting any viral spread. 

When the federal government revealed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) my office assisted (and closed) dozens of cases each day. The total value of the PPP loans, PUA, and unemployment we helped businesses attain can be tallied into the millions

When the initial COVID surge passed, my office began to advocate on behalf of local businesses, from manufacturing to daycare, from entertainment complexes to restaurants. When the FY21 annual bond bill emerged, I authored amendments to provide $150,000 directly to each town’s economic development committees, as a way to aid and speed recovery. We voted on legalizing sports betting with specific emphasis on using revenues for restaurant recovery. Also, I am a cosponsor of a bill, proposed in March, that exempted restaurants from the state portion of the meals tax, giving them some much needed breathing room.

Going forward, the emphasis must be a mix of COVID recovery and continuing my work to fix the issues that plagued our businesses before this pandemic. Route 38 is cited as a top reason consumers do not shop more within our towns, this according to the Wilmington economic survey presented in 2019. This is unacceptable and it is a serious issue that I have worked hard on, alongside leaders from Tewksbury and Wilmington; we will continue to improve our main road and economic lifeline. With the release of the earmarked funding for the local economic development committees, each town can develop their own strategies and market local properties to pull in breweries, entertainment centers, and respective retail that were requested in the local polls conducted to ensure best use of empty properties. I have great experience in dealing with MassWORKS grants, a critical state program that leverages public and private dollars to promote smart development or rehabilitation by upgrading public infrastructure. As for revenue adjustment, I believe in temporary tax relief hinging on the actions of the federal government, our infection rate ahead, and the Governor’s decisions regarding his phased re-opening. I will continue advocating for our local businesses and industries to Governor Baker’s office, and  look forward to continuing to assist in developing safeguards to help reopen the Commonwealth.

Alec DiFruscia

My first priority is to ensure no cuts to local aid in the annual budget. That money funds essential services and is critical to keep our communities functioning. I would also push for the full re-opening of our economy. 

Small businesses are the anchor of our community and should be given the opportunity to lead the way in our recovery. Massachusetts is facing the highest unemployment rate in the country, and with each passing day, businesses become even more uncertain they will ever be able to reopen their doors. Small businesses make up 99% of all businesses here in Massachusetts. Economic recovery begins with placing priority on the core of our economy – the working families and businesses that make up our communities.

The State House has not done enough to get our businesses community back on its feet. State House leaders still haven’t passed an annual budget – a delay we haven’t seen in decades. There has been little pushback on the burdensome regulations now imposed on businesses. Instead, we’re seeing talk of all sorts of tax hikes – including new and higher taxes on home heating and electricity, and gas and diesel. I would oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes, so  consumers and businesses get to keep more money in their pocket. 

I hear stories from business owners and employees every day – they feel forgotten, regulated out of their chance at success, and are doing their best to just keep their doors open. Our recovery will truly begin when state leaders empower all businesses to open their doors in the way that works best for them and their customers.

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