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Cambridge City Council Passes Measures to Mitigate Effects of Coronavirus

Cambridge's city council passed measures aimed at combatting the effects of the coronavirus epidemic at a Monday meeting.
Cambridge's city council passed measures aimed at combatting the effects of the coronavirus epidemic at a Monday meeting. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Maria G. Gonzalez, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council passed several measures Monday evening intended to give financial support to small businesses in Cambridge, identify potential emergency shelters, and halt in-person real estate showings during the coronavirus outbreak.

The City of Cambridge and the Cambridge Department of Public Health declared a public health emergency over COVID-19 Thursday evening, following the closure of Cambridge Public Schools and cancellation of all “non-essential” city meetings on Mar. 13. There are currently twenty recorded cases of coronavirus in Cambridge.

At the state level, Massachusetts Governor Charlie D. Baker ’79 ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down and issued a stay-at-home advisory on Monday. Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10 after the number of recorded coronavirus cases in Massachusetts doubled overnight.

According to the policy order — which was filed by Councilor Quinton Y. Zondervan and Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler — “emergency appropriations” will provide financial relief to organizations whose operations have been limited by social distancing recommendations and requirements.

The measure passed by the City Council during their weekly meeting will allow the City Manager’s office to direct funds toward arts and culture institutions, nonprofits, food service establishments, and other businesses.

The policy order also states that loss of revenue associated with COVID-19 will be an “impossible hurdle to overcome without assistance.”

During Monday’s meeting, Zondervan said the measure would help “ensure [the] survival” of arts and non-profit organizations that “may not be eligible for some of the financial relief that may be forthcoming from the state government.”

The policy order also states that “the positive, uplifting power of art and music will be an important component of our healing process in the months to come.”

The City Council passed a measure asking the City Manager and directors of Cambridge’s assessment and inspection services to “compile an up-to-date list of housing units and buildings currently vacant in Cambridge” that may be used to house homeless individuals in the city while meeting the requirements of social distancing.

The policy order states homeless individuals are “especially vulnerable to the transmission and severe health risks of COVID-19, as many are older, struggle with compounding disabilities, and have little to no access to healthcare.”

There were 408 homeless people in Cambridge in 2018, according to an estimate from the Cambridge Department of Human Services.

Following the lead of Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh, the City Council also passed a measure that will prevent brokers, landlords, and real estate agents from conducting in-person apartment showings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure is intended to curb the transmission of coronavirus.

The City Council also passed separate measures to support senior citizens in Cambridge and make city council meetings more accessible during the coronavirus outbreak by promoting social distancing.

Cambridge residents can now use Zoom — an online teleconferencing platform — to participate in the public comments section of city council meetings.

Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and Councilor Timothy J. Toomey Jr. attended Monday’s meeting in-person at city hall while Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon, Councilor Dennis J. Carlone, Councilor Marc C. McGovern, Councilor Patricia M. Nolan ’80, Councilor E. Denise Simmons, Sobrinho-Wheeler, and Zondervan participated remotely.

—Staff Writer Maria G. Gonzalez can be reached at maria.gonzalez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariaagrace1.

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