DANVERS — It’s been a year defined by tragedy and sacrifice, but Attorney General Maura Healey said she’s hopeful about the North Shore’s post-pandemic social and financial future.
“I'm sure that you found yourself doing things that were completely unprecedented that you had no idea you'd ever have to deal with or work with, but you did it,” Healey said to a crowd of North Shore business leaders Wednesday morning. “And my hope is that as we build back and as we move forward, that we keep the stuff that is good. There's been a lot of disruption, and with disruption there's been this need for innovation.”
Healey was the guest speaker at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy Breakfast Wednesday at Danversport. She spoke about what lessons the business community can learn from the pandemic and what issues, business-related and otherwise, need to be addressed going forward.
“COVID has revealed the fragilities in our system,” Healey told the crowd. “We have a financial crisis that continues, and there are families still living paycheck-to-paycheck and without enough savings for rent, student loan payments, worries about mortgage payments, and certainly child care.”
Healey said while her office partnered and continues to partner with nonprofits like Project Bread and the Greater Boston Food Bank to help families facing eviction, hunger and other financial difficulties, there is still work to be done to ensure everyone in need of social and financial services receives them.
“We also have this roiling opioid crisis, and you know that has been a priority for me from the day I took office,” Healey said. “So the fact of the matter is there were more opioid deaths last year in our state and in our country than the year before. It fell off the front pages, I understand that, but you can imagine how the strain and anxiety has exacerbated substance use disorder.”
Healey said she is also concerned about the rise of hate, extremism and white supremacy.
“There's no place for that in our society, but, while there's a lot of work ahead there's a lot of opportunity,” she said. “And one of the great things about this chamber, this region, this state is the ability for people to harness their talents and skills and come together and make some things happen. When it comes to moving forward though, I don't think that we can move forward as a country unless we find ways to really reckon with and address the racial disparities that exist in society.”
Healey said the pandemic shed a light on the fact that communities of color were often disproportionately and negatively impacted by the social and financial repercussions of the pandemic.
Healey also touched upon the lack of affordable child care, the plight of small businesses over the course of the pandemic, and the workforce shortage.
Still, Healey said some positive change came out of the tragedy of the past year.
One example Healey gave was the rise of remote participation in public meetings.
"More people are able to participate," she said. "They don't have to. You can keep it open physically but also have the remote participation. So, there are new ways of new ways of doing things."
She said, "I think we should focus on maintaining what is good, what is working, as we look to move forward."