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MA Bill Expands Business Insurance to Cover Viruses

More than 25,000 workers from the food and accommodation sector filed unemployment claims last week in Massachusetts, the sector with the most unemployment claims in the Bay State. (Sam Nota, Paul Vakalis/Creative Commons)
More than 25,000 workers from the food and accommodation sector filed unemployment claims last week in Massachusetts, the sector with the most unemployment claims in the Bay State. (Sam Nota, Paul Vakalis/Creative Commons)
April 3, 2020

BOSTON - Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill to get business interruption insurance to cover the economic losses from COVID-19, particularly to help restaurants and other small businesses.

It's the second such bill in the country, with the first from New Jersey. Massachusetts State Sen. Jamie Eldridge - D-Acton - is sponsoring the legislation, and says he got the idea after going to a restaurant a few weeks ago - the last night people could dine out in the Bay State.

"I was at a restaurant and was speaking to the waitress," says Eldridge. "She said, 'Yep, tonight's my last day. I'm being laid off.' And the owner of the restaurant happened to be there and felt very upset about it, and was closing some of his other restaurants. And it just really hit home how quickly this was going to affect especially the restaurant industry."

Eldridge says he also spoke with an attorney and friend who had heard similar concerns from restaurant clients. Their business interruption insurance wouldn't cover them if they closed, because viruses were excluded starting in 2007.

The bill, SD 2888, is called, "An Act Concerning Business Interruption Insurance." So far, it has more than 30 cosponsors.

Eldridge explains what he hopes are the next steps for the bill, given the unusual reality of the Legislature.

"We're passing a lot of emergency legislation for COVID-19," says Eldridge. "So, if there was a bill around economic relief, supporting small businesses, it would be great to see this bill as part of a larger package. And that's what I'm advocating as a state senator."

A record number of Massachusetts residents filed unemployment claims last week, more than 180,000. Of those, the most claims came from the food and accommodations sector.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA