Gov. Charlie Baker wants the outdoor dining season in Massachusetts to last as long as the weather holds out, and to do so, he's extending another lifeline to restaurant owners that want to expand outdoor seating into roadways.
The state's Shared Street and Spaces program, paid for with funds from the federal CARES Act and MassDOT, lets municipalities improve sidewalk and road infrastructure and gives money to eateries to serve diners outdoors.
"As it gets colder, funding can always go toward heaters and special lighting and other support services like that. We hope these additions will help restaurants extend their outdoor season and allow for more outdoor dining here in Massachusetts," Baker said Thursday, appearing with Transportaton Secretary Stephanie Pollack and local leaders at Bistro 5, a Tuscan restaurant in Medford.
The grant program will expand from $5 million to $10 million for restaurants to buy jersey barriers, planters, lights, and heaters for the chillier evenings to come.
Baker says the funds also allow cities and towns to renovate pedestrian paths and other infrastructure.
"The program basically awards grants to improve sidewalks, curbs, streets and on-site, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots to support public health and safe mobility," Baker said.
Baker is also extending the period municipalities have to permit outdoor seating, letting more businesses set up outdoors longer into the fall, and reopening indoor and outdoor arcades.
When asked, the governor didn't directly address recordings made by author Bob Woodward interviews with President Donald Trump where Trump admitted to playing down the threat of the coronavirus. Instead, Baker repeated his criticism that the federal government's response to the pandemic has been insufficient.
"I think the federal government's response overall on this, especially for state leaders and health care providers and others who are playing this game on the ground, has made it much harder for all of us," Baker said.
Pressed to respond to Trump's admission to Woodward, Baker left it to voters.
"There's an election coming up. That's when people make decisions about stuff like this," Baker said.