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This Week in Massachusetts – September 20

Posted on September 20, 2022

Tax Increase Could be Diverted

Eagle Tribune – Money from a proposed tax on the state’s top earners could be diverted for purposes other than education and transportation, according to a new report, further adding fuel to the fire for critics of the referendum.

Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot will ask Massachusetts voters to amend the state Constitution to set a 4 percenntage-point surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income above $1 million.

The report by Tufts University’s Center for State Policy Analysis concluded that while the ballot question clearly states that the money must be devoted to education and transportation, not all the surtax revenue is likely to be spent in those areas.

“The problem is fungibility, or the ease with which lawmakers can shift money between programs,” they wrote. “There is nothing illegal or untoward about this approach; it’s a common part of legislative horse-trading.”

The report estimates that for every dollar raised by the surtax, spending on the stated earmarks is likely to increase by 30 cents to 70 cents, with the remainder being “diverted to other areas of the budget,” they wrote.

It also noted that revenue from the tax would be “highly volatile” and is likely to rise or fall sharply, depending on the economic conditions. The number of people paying the tax will increase gradually over time, the report noted.

The reports authors didn’t take a position on whether voters should approve Question 1 but said the possibility that the money could be diverted isn’t necessarily a reason to oppose the “millionaires’ tax.”

“Even if earmarked money does ultimately leak into other areas of the budget, that doesn’t mean it will disappear or be wasted; it will simply support other programs the state deems worthy of funding: maybe health care, maybe climate resilience, maybe corporate tax reform,” they wrote.

Massachusetts Job Market Slowed Last Month

Boston Globe – The Massachusetts job market showed signs of cooling off in August.

Local employers added an estimated 6,400 jobs last month, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported on Friday. This is down from a revised 10,500 jobs added in July, but up from the 5,800 added in June.

The state unemployment rate now sits at 3.6 percent, one-tenth of a percentage point higher than last month and one-tenth of a percentage point lower than the national figure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most private sectors within the state saw job gains last month. Leisure and hospitality saw the biggest boost, adding 5,300 jobs in August, and trade, transportation, and utilities tacked on 2,300 jobs. The government sector saw the largest drop in August, shedding 3,400 jobs, after showing the highest growth in July with a reported increase of 12,800 jobs. Manufacturing lost 800 jobs last month.

The labor force of the state — meaning those who are either employed or looking for a job — dropped by an estimated 2,200 people to 3,763,300. The labor force participation rate, which is the portion of the 16-and-over population who are employed or actively searching for a job, held steady from July at 65.8 percent.

These figures come at a time when the Federal Reserve is expected to continue hiking up interest rates through the end of the year in an attempt to curb red-hot inflation. These rate increases, an effort from the central bank to tamp down consumer spending, could lead to higher unemployment rates as employers seek to manage costs.

New Boosters are Here. Will Weary Americans Bother?

Boston Globe – It was vaccination time at Ethel Brown’s long-term-care home in the Bronx. Again. Brown, 95, had already gotten four COVID shots, and while she was happy to submit to a fifth, this latest booster prompted a few questions.

“Why are we getting another one?” Brown asked as she and other residents waited for their shots Wednesday. “Will this be the last booster shot?”

With a jumble of confusion, eagerness, and vaccine fatigue, America embarked in earnest this past week on a sprawling new campaign to get Omicron-specific boosters into the arms of a pandemic-weary country.

The new boosters are one of the last remaining weapons in America’s arsenal against the coronavirus now that the country has scrapped most requirements to mask, quarantine, or distance, as the smoldering pandemic has faded into the background for many. The push for a new vaccine will test how the country responds at a time when the sense of crisis over COVID has abated.

Early numbers from states and several cities showed what health officials described as a robust early response in a moment when vaccine rates have stagnated. California administered about 397,000 doses. About 116,000 people in Texas got the new booster in a span of a few days. Illinois administered at least 137,900 shots.

The rollout felt methodical but muted compared with the frenzied urgency of earlier waves of vaccinations, when thousands of people jockeyed outside stadiums for scarce doses and politicians got their shots on live television.

This time, the campaign was so understated that some Americans willing to get boosted did not even realize a new shot was available.

Lawmakers Closer to Revisiting Economic-Development Bill

WWLP – Lawmakers moved closer to reviving a stalled economic development bill they shelved two and a half months ago now that Auditor Suzanne Bump has certified that Massachusetts must return nearly $3 billion to taxpayers.

The months-long Beacon Hill kerfuffle over tax relief and economic development lurched into a new phase with publication of Bump’s report, which confirmed the Baker administration’s projection that surging state tax revenues blew about $2.94 billion past the amount allowed under a 1986 voter-approved law.

The spotlight now shifts back to the executive branch, which hasn’t said how and when it plans to distribute the mandatory relief, and to top House and Senate Democrats, whose froze their tax relief and spending plans after learning that Massachusetts was on track to trigger the tax cap law for the first time in 35 years.

Legislative leaders signaled Thursday that they will work to pluck some form of the $4 billion economic development and tax relief bill from limbo and advance a $1.6 billion fiscal year 2022 closeout budget that sets aside money for the Chapter 62F relief. They offered few details on the scope or timeline for action, however, and both branches gaveled out for the weekend without taking any new steps.

“We will be moving forward on something now that we have the finite knowledge of how much money we have,” Senate Ways and Means Committee Co-chair Michael Rodrigues, who co-chairs a conference committee tasked with negotiating a final bill, told the News Service.

The roughly $1 billion in tax relief lawmakers wove into the original House and Senate bills, including $500 million in one-time rebates and $500 million in targeted tax law changes, “are all in conversation,” Rodrigues said, stressing that the final contours are “still to be determined.”

MIT Workers Rally for Pay Raise, New Contract

Baystate Banner – Dozens of Massachusetts Institute of Technology custodians, carpenters, tradespeople and their supporters rallied on the university’s campus last Wednesday, calling for a new contract in the wake of pandemic-induced economic hardship facing workers across the country.

Represented by local 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the group says nearly 600 workers are calling on MIT to provide better wages without a proposed drug testing policy they believe penalizes employees who continued to show up throughout COVID shutdowns despite health risks and uncertainty.

“Today we’re fighting for fair wages and a strong contract without punitive drug testing,” said Tony Anzalone, a custodial foreman who’s worked at MIT for 26 years. “You should not have that — especially for the essential people that came in, like so many fellow 32BJ members at MIT. I came into work every day during the shutdown, like everybody else did and worked hard. We deserve this contract.”

Union representatives have been in negotiations with MIT for months. With a contract originally set to expire June 30, the deadline to reach a new agreement has already been extended twice. In at least one proposal set forth by MIT officials, workers were offered a 1.5% raise if they agreed to an additional term of changing the university’s drug testing policy from its current stipulation. Presently, MIT tests for drugs if there is an accident involving a vehicle, and the change would test people “on suspicion,” according to 32BJ SEIU.

Employees said Wednesday that they want more.

Lawrence Paraprofessionals Rally for Living Wages

Eagle Tribune – Clad in bright red T-shirts, unionized Lawrence Public School workers pointed to rising food, utility and rental costs as they try to negotiate a new contract with higher wages.

“We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for a living wage,” said Vivian Bonet, a 23-year administrative and support staff worker and president of her local union.

Workers in her union make between $21 and $28 hourly but are hoping for an increase to more than $30 hourly, she said.

Administrative and support staff and paraprofessionals joined forces Wednesday night for a rally outside the Lawrence Alliance for Education meeting at the South Lawrence East School. The Alliance serves as the state-appointed school committee. There is also an elected school committee, but it has no power.

The workers have been negotiating for months with the school district, hoping to make a living wage.

Music was played on a loudspeaker and the 200 or so workers who gathered chanted and cheered. Then, they walked together into the meeting.

The school district has received “tens of millions of dollars,” including $84 million in federal COVID relief money and more than $36 million from the statewide Student Opportunity Act fund increases, union members said.

Many paraprofessionals live in Lawrence and are struggling with rent increases and even evictions, said Suzanne Suliveras, president of the paraprofessionals union.

She works at the School for Exceptional Studies on Haverhill Street.

The 360 members of her union make far less than their counterparts in nearby towns of Andover, North Andover, Tewksbury and more, Suliveras said.

Orange and Green Lines Resume Service

WGBH – Regular service resumed on the Orange Line and Green Line Union Square extension on Monday at 5 a.m. following a 30-day shutdown to address safety, track and infrastructure issues.

“We know this was inconvenient,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said at a press conference Sunday, thanking commuters for their patience during the shutdown. “I have ridden so many shuttles that I truly have a sense of the additional time that it took, but we are very excited as an organization to welcome our riders back to a faster, safer, more reliable Orange Line.”

While closures and shutdowns “of this size and scope” are unlikely, Poftak said, commuters can expect more diversions — meaning line shutdowns and shuttle bus replacements — in the future, including three nine-day closures of the Green Line D branch and an evening shutdown of the Red Line Braintree branch later this fall. “We are going to continue to use diversions as a tool,” Poftak said.

Concentrating the work into 30 days enabled the MBTA to complete the fixes in a much quicker timeline, Gov. Charlie Baker said at the news conference Sunday.

“Without the 24-hour access,” Baker said, “the T would have faced five years of weekend and evening diversions to get to the same place.”

Sustainability, Climate and Energy

‘Crippling’ Energy Bills Force Europe’s Factories to Go Dark

New York Times – The furnace, heated to 1,500 degrees Celsius, was glowing red. Workers at the Arc International glass factory loaded it with sand that slowly pooled into a molten mass. Nearby on the factory floor, machines transformed the shapeless liquid with a blast of hot air into thousands of delicate wine glasses, destined for sale to restaurants and homes worldwide.

Nicholas Hodler, the chief executive, surveyed the assembly line, shimmering blue with natural gas flames. For years, Arc had been powered by cheap energy that helped turn the company into the world’s largest producer of glass tableware — and a vital employer in this working-class region of northern France.

But the impact of Russia’s abrupt cutoff of gas to Europe has doused the business with new risks. Energy prices have climbed so fast that Mr. Hodler has had to rewrite business forecasts six times in two months. Recently, he put a third of Arc’s 4,500 employees on partial furlough to save money. Four of the factory’s nine furnaces will be idled; the others will be switched from natural gas to diesel, a cheaper but more polluting fuel.

“It’s the most dramatic situation we have ever encountered,” Mr. Hodler said, shouting to be heard over the din of clinking glasses. “For energy-intensive businesses like ours, it’s crippling.”

Arc is not alone. High energy prices are lashing European industry, forcing factories to cut production quickly and put tens of thousands of employees on furlough. The cutbacks, though expected to be temporary, are raising the risks of a painful recession in Europe. Industrial production in the euro area fell 2.3 percent in July from a year ago, the biggest drop in more than two years.

Makers of metal, paper, fertilizer and other products that depend on gas and electricity to transform raw materials into products from car doors to cardboard boxes have announced belt-tightening. Half of Europe’s aluminum and zinc production has been taken offline, according to Eurometaux, Europe’s metals trade association.

Among them is Arcelor Mittal, Europe’s largest steel maker, which is idling blast furnaces in Germany. Alcoa, a global aluminum products producer, is cutting a third of production at its smelter in Norway. In the Netherlands, Nyrstar, the world’s biggest zinc producer, is pausing output until further notice.

Even toilet paper is not immune: In Germany, Hakle, one of the largest manufacturers, announced that it had tumbled into insolvency because of a “historic energy crisis.”

The whirlwind has unnerved the inhabitants of Arques, a town whose fortunes have been tied to glassmaking for more than a century. The modern-day Arc was founded in 1825 as the Verrerie Cristallerie d’Arques, then a small local maker of fine crystal goblets.

Today, Arc’s operations are enormous, spanning an area nearly half the size of New York’s Central Park. Its mass is such that Arc indirectly generates another 15,000 or so jobs in the region, from cardboard factories that package its glass to transport companies ferrying its products. Arc’s other factories are in China, Dubai and New Jersey.

“The shutdown of the furnaces is bad news,” said one worker, a 28-year veteran of the factory, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of compromising his job. “Sure, high energy prices are having an impact,” he added, “but it’s scary how fast it’s happening.”

To some extent, the crisis is a blowback from European sanctions that were intended to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. The pain has undermined confidence at European companies and their ability to plan.

This past week, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed offsetting the hit by capping revenue from low-cost electricity generators and forcing fossil fuel firms to share the profit they make from soaring energy prices.

But the solutions may not be fast enough. Costs have already soared beyond what many manufacturers can afford. Thousands of European companies are near the end of fixed energy contracts signed when prices were cheaper, and must renew them in October at current prices. Year-ahead electricity prices, which are tied to the cost of gas, are around 1,000 euros per megawatt-hour in Germany and France, while natural gas is at record highs of around €230 per megawatt-hour.

Eschenbach Porcelain survived Germany’s transition from communism to capitalism after 1989. But when its energy contracts run out at the end of this year, the company will face annual energy bills of 5.5 million euros, or roughly six times what it is paying now, said Rolf Frowein, its director.

“That would mean we have to more than double our prices, and nobody will pay that for our cups and plates,” he said. Eschenbach, a 130-year-old company in the eastern state of Thuringia, is in talks with local politicians about a potential solution. It is one of dozens of small and midsize firms in Germany fearing they will have to close for good.

An hour north of the Arc factory, Aluminium Dunkerque, France’s biggest aluminum producer, will furlough part of its 620-person work force and cut production by more than 20 percent as it faces a potential fourfold jump in its energy costs.

“The time we spend dealing with energy issues been multiplied by 10,” said Guillaume de Goÿs, the chief executive. “We hope the crisis will be short-lived, but if it lasts, European industry will be in very big trouble.”

Mr. Hodler is laboring to steer Arc away from trouble, following years of financial difficulties linked to overexpansion and, more recently, pandemic lockdowns. In December, shortly after Mr. Hodler took over in a management shake-up, Arc received an emergency 45 million euro loan backed by the French state and is now asking the government for additional relief from high energy bills.

The site, which consumes as much energy as 200,000 homes, makes “arts de table,” including Luminarc dinner plates and Cristal d’Arques-branded table and barware. All told, Arc produces four million glasses a day, as well as items like candle holders for Bath & Body Works and promotional glasses for Heineken and McDonald’s.

Doing so requires intense heat to melt sand into glass in furnaces that must stay lit 24 hours a day. In summer, Europe’s power crunch propelled Arc’s energy bill to $75 million, from 19 million euros a year ago. On top of that, consumers suddenly stopped buying items like candleholders and washing machines, for which Arc makes glass windows, sending orders plunging.

“People are worried about their winter energy bills, and are saying, ‘I’ll wait to buy that nonessential item,’” Mr. Hodler said.

The double-whammy sent Arc’s management team scrambling for solutions — all of them less than desirable.

This month, 1,600 workers were asked to stay home two days a week to cut costs. And for the first time, Arc’s furnaces will switch to diesel power instead of natural gas, which is fed directly to the factory through a pipeline. The diesel will raise Arc’s carbon footprint by 30 percent, and must be delivered in huge quantities by tanker trucks.

Even more daunting was the prospect of idling Arcs furnaces. “You can’t just shut down a glass furnace, it would destroy it,” Mr. Hodler said. “If they are powered down gently, they will survive, but then they take more than one month to be reheated.”

Two furnaces that were planned for scheduled maintenance may now remain offline for the foreseeable future, Mr. Hodler said. Another two will be temporarily mothballed to make up for the fall in demand.

“We don’t want to stop operations completely,” Mr. Hodler said. “But we are not going to produce if we lose money.”

All of which has locals in Arques very worried. At Le Cristal, a cafe that is a hangout for Arc factory workers, the fate of the furnaces was all anybody talked about on a recent afternoon.

“Arc is the lifeblood of this region,” said Valerie Harle, the owner of the cafe, which opened in 1939 and is named in honor of Georges Durand, who built the Cristallerie d’Arques from a small-time factory into an empire. “If the furnaces don’t work, neither do the employees.”

Veronique Cognoti, a longtime resident, said locals were bracing for a domino effect. “A lot of other businesses depend on it,” she said of the factory. “Transport companies, cardboard box makers — they will all feel the blow.”

At a nearby table, a man who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was furloughed from his job earlier this month at a nearby cardboard factory that makes boxes and packaging for Arc, after the glassmaker cut production.

“With the price of energy as it is, the factory isn’t working as much as it used to, and it is already creating a chain reaction,” he said.

He was being paid 80 percent of his salary to stay home while his factory was idled, but that has added up to €130 in lost pay. At the same time, he said, the gasoline bill to fill his small car had jumped to nearly €100, from about €50 at the beginning of the year.

“This is going to become a much bigger problem,” he said.

As Boston Votes on Fossil-Fuel Ban, Worcester is Getting its ‘Ducks in a Row’

Worcester Telegram & Gazette – With an expected vote Wednesday by the Boston City Council to  potentially ban fossil fuel systems in some buildings, environmental activists in Worcester said they must get their “ducks in a row” before they ask the City Council to support a similar move.

One activist thinks the matter could be brought before the council within a month.

“We expect it’s going to be several weeks, maybe a month. That’s just me talking,” said Paul Popinchalk, a member of 350 Central Mass, a grassroots climate-action organization.

Up to 10 cities and towns in Massachusetts can establish a local ordinance to ban fossil fuels in new construction and major renovation projects.

To accomplish it, each community must submit a home rule petition to state lawmakers for approval. The provision is included in a climate energy bill that Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law last month.

Buildings that house health care and life science operations are exempt from a ban.

Also, a city or town must meet a state law that at least 10% of its housing stock is classified as affordable in order to be eligible to be one of the 10 communities selected.

As of 2020, 13.5% of Worcester’s housing stock qualified as affordable, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s Subsidized Housing Inventory.

Massachusetts Reports 20 Percent Jump in COVID Cases

Boston Herald – State health officials on Thursday reported 7,936 confirmed COVID cases from the last week, a 20% jump following the recent rise in the Boston-area COVID wastewater data.

The COVID wastewater tracker throughout the pandemic has been the first indication of cases at the community level, and the data has helped predict surges.

The state’s daily average of 1,134 COVID cases from the last week is up from the daily rate of 946 infections during the previous week. Infection counts had been trending down in previous weeks.

The positive test average had been climbing as the omicron BA.5 subvariant took over, but the positive test rate went down in recent weeks. The seven-day positive test rate is now 7.32%, up from 7.13% last week.

The BA.5 variant is now responsible for 88.6% of new cases in New England, according to this week’s update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The omicron BA.4.6 variant appears to be on the rise, accounting for 8.6% of new cases.

Taxation and Budget

Ballot spending on millionaires’ tax hits $20M

Salem News – The proposed millionaires’ tax referendum is shaping up to be the most expensive question on November’s ballot, with groups on either side of the issue pouring nearly $20 million into campaigns, according to new filings.

The referendum, which is backed by a coalition of labor unions and community groups, will ask voters Nov. 8 to amend the state Constitution to set a new 4 percentage-point surtax on the portion of an individual’s annual income over $1 million. The money would be earmarked for transportation and education projects.

But the battle to sway public opinion on the referendum is also becoming a multi-million dollar slugfest, with both sides raising and spending huge sums of money.

The group Fair Share Massachusetts and two other ballot committees backing the proposed surtax reported raising more than $10.7 million since Jan. 1, according to new filings with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Labor unions contributed a majority of contributions to the Yes on 1 campaign, pumping more than $9 million into the ballot committee. The National Education Association contributed $4 million, while the Massachusetts Teachers Association gave $4 million to the campaign.

SEIU Local 1199, which represents health care workers, chipped in $400,000, while the Boston Carmen’s Union, which represents MBTA workers, contributed $20,000, according to filings. The AFL-CIO of Massachusetts has contributed $800,000 to date.

Taxpayers to Get Nearly $3 Billion Back from State. Here’s What We Know. – It seems that Massachusetts taxpayers will be getting $2.94 billion back from the state thanks to an obscure 1986 law that limits how much money can be held in the state’s coffers, The Boston Globe reported.

State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump said Thursday that her office certified that the state is required to return the money to taxpayers.

The voter-passed measure is meant to limit state tax revenue growth to the growth of wages.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s office said Friday that those eligible will receive refunds automatically as a check sent through the mail or through direct deposit, the Associated Press reported. Distribution of refunds is expected to begin in November.

In general, eligible taxpayers will receive a credit in the form of a refund that is approximately 13% of their Massachusetts Tax Year 2021 personal income tax liability, officials said.

The state also rolled out an online estimator taxpayers can use to calculate their estimated refund.

To be eligible, individuals must have filed a 2021 state tax return on or before October 17, 2022. An individual’s credit may be reduced due to unpaid taxes, unpaid child support, and certain other debts.

“Given the difficulties associated with inflation, which continues to rage, we would like to get that money back to people sooner rather than later,” Baker said.

The state reached a nearly $5 billion surplus this year when the fiscal year ended in June after receiving nearly over 20% more tax revenue than it did the prior year.

Baker’s aides confirmed to the Globe that even with the revenue return, the state would have about $2 billion in surplus dollars in its bank account.

The 1986 law was triggered once before in 1987 when state coffers exceeded the allowed amount by $29.2 million, according to a previous report from Bump’s office.

In response, the state added a line to the 1987 individual income tax return form where taxpayers could “insert his or her individually calculated share.” The state ended up allocating $16.8 million of the revenue in credits and leaving nearly $12.4 million unclaimed.

MBTA Could Face $421 Million Budget Deficit in 2024

Boston Herald – The MBTA plans to lean on federal relief funds to balance its budget this year, but is facing a deficit that could grow to more than $400 million in fiscal year 2024 when that aid runs out, the T’s chief financial officer said.

“Given the current expense structure and the T’s core mission, solving for the future budget gap is difficult at best,” CFO Mary Ann O’Hara told the Audit & Finance subcommittee Thursday.

Federal funds also bailed the T out this past fiscal year, according to O’Hara, who said that without the $948 million in pandemic aid, it would have been left with a nearly $132 million budget deficit in 2022.

Instead the MBTA saw higher-than-budgeted revenue and lower-than-expected expenses in FY22, which she attributed to higher fare revenues, and lower wages and fringe benefits due to job vacancies and difficulties with hiring.

The budget’s overall net revenue was $816 million, which was transferred to its operating deficiency fund, leaving $500 million in available funds to fill gaps in FY23 and ‘24, according to a budget presentation.

Health Care

Will the CVS Deal to Buy Signify Mark the Return of House Calls?

Boston Globe – Jessica Tassan’s grandmother hadn’t seen a primary care physician in a decade when the nurse from health-care provider Signify Health made a home visit at the end of July. Sensitive and personable, the nurse alternated between making jokes and asking about loneliness and depression. Her comprehensive review included teaching Tassan’s grandmother how to better use her inhaler for asthma.

Two weeks later, her grandmother’s insurance company followed up and put her in touch with a primary care doctor.

“Honestly I was blown away by how great of an experience it was,” said Tassan, a health-care research analyst who observed the visit.

Tassan works for investment bank Piper Sandler Companies and follows Signify, Teladoc Health, Amwell, and other public health-Care services companies. The nurse visit gave Tassan unique insight into how Signify works, one month before the company announced last week that it would be bought by CVS Health for $8 billion.

What comes next may position CVS to enter a new phase of delivering health care, as CVS executives said in a call with investors after the announcement that the deal would lay a foundation to expand into home health care.

CVS declined to specify what that might entail. However, experts said such a vision could include adding home visits to the menu of primary and urgent care services currently delivered in CVS stores and through its telemedicine program.

“This transaction is a significant step forward in our strategy to enhance our care delivery for consumers and to be able to meet their needs when and where they want care. And the home is increasingly part of that choice,” said CVS chief executive Karen Lych.

Crispr Therapeutics Becomes the Latest Biotech to Open in the Seaport

Boston Globe – The gene editing company Crispr Therapeutics has departed Cambridge for a shiny seven-story building of its own on the edge of the Seaport District, making it the latest biotech firm to move from Kendall Square in search of more space and lower rent.

The company’s new research and development headquarters at 105 West First St. is just minutes from the Broadway Red Line station. It will accommodate the majority of the company’s more than 400 employees in Massachusetts, with room to grow the headcount to 1,000. The company’s employees gathered Thursday to celebrate the opening of the 263,500-square-foot building.

Chief executive Dr. Samarth Kulkarni said his employees were previously spread out across three locations in Cambridge, and he is excited to finally have everyone under one roof. “We had the ability to control and occupy the whole building, which is very difficult to do in Cambridge,” he said.

The move comes at a crucial time for the nearly nine-year-old company, which is on the cusp of asking regulators to approve its first therapy for two genetic blood conditions. Crispr is a pioneer in developing therapies based on the experimental CRISPR gene editing technology, which can make precise changes to DNA. The company, which is valued at more than $5.5 billion, also has earlier-stage programs in treatments for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and neurological conditions.


State Leaders Must Close Education Gaps Post-Pandemic, Advocates Say

Boston Globe – With new evidence showing the pandemic erased years of academic progress and widened existing achievement gaps, education advocates from across Massachusetts on Wednesday called on the state’s political leadership to focus harder on education.

It’s a crucial moment for public schools, several dozen advocacy organizations said Wednesday: Elections in November will deliver a new roster of state leaders, and the federal government has sent billions to states to help close achievement gaps exacerbated by the pandemic.

Yet education has gotten very little attention thus far in state races for governor and other offices, they said.

“Given the kind of intractability of the disparities that we have, given how hard it is to tackle those disparities, that’s frankly been really worrisome,” said Natasha Ushomirsky, the Massachusetts director of Education Trust, one of the members of the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership.

A spokesperson for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey said the campaign is reviewing the report and directed the Globe to the candidate’s education platform, which includes some of the recommendations of the report, such as recruiting educators of color and expanding early college programs. Republican candidate Geoff Diehl’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.