A Conversation with Senators Joan Lovely and Adam Hinds 

May 4, 2022 11:27 am

One of the roles of the North Shore Alliance is to stay on top of what’s going on economically within our state and region. To do this, it is helpful for us to connect with state and local leaders to get a better sense of where we stand as a state and region, in regards to community and economic development. 

In a recent North Shore Conversation, a weekly radio show produced by the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development and hosted by Laura Swanson, we had the opportunity to speak with two Massachusetts State Senators: ​​State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield) and State Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem)

Our conversation focused on the work that these senators participated in as a part of the Reimaging Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency Commission. Here are a few of the takeaways from this six month study including five remote hearings and tours across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 


What is the Reimaging MA Post-Pandemic Resiliency Commission? 

At the start of the senate session in 2021, the President of the Senate tasked the legislature to closely examine the main issues that came to light during the pandemic including: the digital divide, lack of affordable housing, shortages in childcare options, transportation challenges, and new economic shifts due to remote work. 

The commission was led by Senator Adam Hinds who represents 52 of Massachusetts’ western municipalities. On that commission and for our interview, he was joined by Senator Joan Lovely who represents five communities on the North Shore of the state including: Danvers, Salem, Beverly, Peabody, and Topsfield. Together they discussed some of the major findings of the commission along with initiatives and actions that will be taken in the short and long term due to this report, which was released in October 2021. 

Major Findings 

According to Senator Hinds, the commission listened to people of various backgrounds and socioeconomic levels from all over the state to highlight the major issues that rose to the surface due to the pandemic. This report laid bare many of the inequities that exist in our society that were heightened due to the strain of the global health crisis. 

Digital Divide 

The main issue that came to light included the Digital Divide which showed quite clearly that not all Bay Staters have access to affordable broadband access in their homes. This became extremely important as school-aged children and the workforce shifted to in-home school and work. 

For example, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts alone, 1,800 families were identified as not having internet access in their home. That meant a lack of access to remote work and school at a time when whole communities were shut down. 

Affordable Childcare & Intergenerational Care 

Another major issue that came to light was the lack of affordable childcare for families that needed to go to work including healthcare workers and essential personnel. The commission also looked at Intergenerational Issues of care for adults caring for their older parents. 

Housing & Transportation 

Housing and transportation were also major issues that the commission examined. In the report they outlined some of their discoveries including the inequities that exist in homeownership in our state with 65% of homeownership occurring in white families. 

The real estate market showed to be out-of-reach for many minority and BIPOC families and that opportunities for homeownership need to be increased. 

In terms of transportation, the commission examined whether ridership of buses, commuter rails and subways was returning to pre-pandemic numbers and why the cost of riding public transit was competitive with buying a car. 

Initiatives & Actions 

While the full report can be read here, there are initiatives that have moved forward to counteract many of the findings of the commission. 

For instance, here are some of the recommendations of the commission: 

  • $250-$400 million to close the digital divide, including $50-100 million to guarantee low-cost broadband options for all residents who qualify for existing programs (MassHealth, SNAP, etc.); $150-$200 million in grants to towns pursuing infrastructure projects; and a $50-$100 million digital equity fund to support regional initiatives that provide equipment and training. 
  • Emergency aid for early education and the care economy in the form of hiring bonus- es, loan forgiveness, training incentives, bonus pay, scholarships, expanded use of homecare models, and support for strug- gling centers. Some of this funding should come from the $314 million in ARPA’s Child Care Stabilization Grants, but additional ARPA dollars may be needed for other parts of the care economy. 
  • $50 million to develop new in-person and online resources for intergenerational care that is proximate and accessible as well as affordable.  

For more on the actions and initiatives from this report please click for the full Reimaging Massachusetts Post-Pandemic Resiliency Report.