Alcohol deliveries skyrocket during pandemic, says Massachusetts Treasurer Deb Goldberg

An increase in door-to-door deliveries of alcoholic beverages, disproportionate job losses for women during the pandemic, and long-requested clearance for cashless lottery sales are on the mind of Treasurer Deborah Goldberg as the Legislature begins its annual budget review.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created months of uncertainty over the state’s financial outlook, but Goldberg told the Joint Ways and Means Committee that the budget position “remains relatively strong” as Massachusetts nears its first anniversary. state of public health emergency.

A major change in the era of the pandemic has occurred in the distribution of alcohol sales. In an era when many in-person routines have changed, the Alcohol Control Commission has seen deliveries of alcohol directly to consumers increase by 300%, Goldberg said.

This market includes Drizly, a Boston-based company that transport and delivery service Uber bought for $ 1.1 billion last month.

“Investigating inspectors work tirelessly to monitor drop shipping companies, prevent illegal third party deliveries and collect excise duties,” Goldberg said. “Without increased enforcement and oversight in this area, the ABCC estimates that millions of dollars in excise taxes would not be collected.”

Jen Whitman, a spokesperson for Drizly, said Goldberg’s projections tracked the company’s numbers. Drizly has grown by more than 350% in 2020 from the previous year, while the number of retail partners using the platform has doubled since January 1, 2020, Whitman said.

Other delivery services such as DoorDash and GrubHub gained public attention during the pandemic. Many local restaurants face significant costs for using these platforms, but state lawmakers have chosen not to cap delivery charges when negotiating an economic development bill in January.

The ABCC remains on track to generate $ 5.1 million in direct revenue in fiscal 2021, Goldberg said, the same amount as in fiscal 2021.

A license fee payment plan implemented by ABCC for affected businesses seven months ago has been “successful” so far, Goldberg said, while noting that many local establishments will continue to be. facing tensions as the crisis continues.

About 13% of entities, including manufacturers and wholesalers, that hold ABCC licenses have not renewed for 2021, Goldberg said. For local restaurants and hotels, only around 3 to 5 percent of licensees failed to renew their contracts among the 90 percent of reporting municipalities, which Goldberg described as “a number much lower than we thought. originally”.

“Local, state and federal programs have helped provide much needed assistance to these licensees,” she said. “While encouraging, we won’t be able to truly measure the impact of the pandemic on the industry until next year, when these relief programs are likely to have ended.”

Goldberg also touted the success of the Massachusetts Lottery, another agency under his jurisdiction. On Monday, the Lottery increased its forecasted profits for fiscal 2021 by $ 45 million, exceeding previous expectations that it would be more affected during the pandemic.

The Massachusetts Lottery can still only pay cash, despite years of advocacy by Goldberg and other officials to expand sales into cashless formats.

Governor Charlie Baker’s $ 45.6 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, the subject of the Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday, would allow debit but not credit purchases of lottery products. It included a similar proposal in its previous annual budget, but the Legislature did not pass it.

Goldberg urged lawmakers to support an expansion of cashless payments this time around, warning that the lottery could fall behind without adopting new options.

“Although we have gained ground, we remain vulnerable to disruption,” she said. “The pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes in consumer behavior. More than half of Americans today use some form of contactless payment. More and more retailers are also switching to e-commerce. Now that consumers have experienced the ease and security offered by these types of transactions, for the most part there is no turning back. “

The treasurer also presented “staggering” figures on the economic crisis and its disproportionate impact on women, reflecting the widely reported trend of disparate gender impacts.

Across the United States, women as a demographic have lost 5.4 million jobs during the pandemic. In December, men as a group made employment gains, leaving women to account for virtually all of the net losses, Goldberg said.

“I can’t even say more about it,” she says. “It makes me dizzy.”

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