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House OKs using $3.8B in surplus, ARPA for Covid needs, recovery

Dave RogersRogers

sgarballey 19 4519Garballey

The state House of Representatives has unanimously passed its spending proposal using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and fiscal 2021 surplus funds. Funded at $3.82 billion, the bill addresses disparities exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, aiming to facilitate recovery through one-time investments in housing, environment and climate mitigation, economic development, workforce, health and human services, and education.

Reps. Sean Garballey (D- Arlington/West Medford) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge), representing Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge, supported the Oct. 29 vote and reported Nov. 5 about these impacts on Arlington:

  • $250,000 for the construction, upgrades and improvements to Arlington’s playgrounds;
  • $100,000 for the Arlington Housing Authority’s domestic-violence initiative; and
  • $200,000 for the Mill Brook climate-resilience initiative.

“These funds are hugely important to the Commonwealth and will go a long way with our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Garballey in a news release. “As the chair of the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, I was proud to work on and help secure $100 million toward infrastructure for communities to adapt and become climate resilient, $100 million for water-and-=sewer projects including resources to address combined sewer water flow into our waterways, and investments in housing, health and human services, and education.”

“The American Rescue Plan funds create a rare and remarkable opportunity for the Legislature to invest in important priorities,” said state Rogers in the release. “We took full advantage of that opportunity and crafted an approach that will improve the lives of so many across the state. Thank you to everyone in the district who reached out about prioritizing funding for food insecurity programs, local climate resilience, arts and tourism, and workforce training and development.”

Earlier this year, the state Legislature voted to transfer the state’s $5.3 billion allocation from ARPA, which must be allocated by 2024, into a separate fund to ensure stakeholder and resident engagement in a public process. Following six public hearings and more than 1,000 pieces of testimony received, the House Ways & Means Committee released its proposal, which the House approved, 159-0, on Oct. 29.

Economic development

The House bill includes $500 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund which will offset businesses’ contributions for unemployment programs. The bill includes $200 million worth of tax relief for small businesses that paid personal income taxes on state or federal relief awards during the pandemic. It also includes $60 million for grants to support small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, with $35 million of it reserved for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.

To assist recovering cultural organizations and artists, the bill appropriates $125 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants supporting cultural events, education or performances highlighting underrepresented voices. Other economic development investments include $40 million for youth summer and school-year jobs; $50 million to close the digital divide; and $12 million to assist in the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Massachusetts.

Health, human services

Building on the House’s longstanding commitment to support and protect community hospitals, the bill allocates $250 million for financially strained hospitals and $20 million for community health centers. This bill includes more than $250 million for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services, including $100 million for workforce initiatives with $15 million specifically for community health centers. The bill also includes over $150 million for local and regional public health systems.

Other investments include more than $78 million to address food insecurity; $15 million for prison re-entry grants; $10 million for community-based gun violence prevention programs, $6.5 million for coordination teams for triage treatment and service supports and post-treatment supportive housing in Boston; and $5 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to bolster access to legal services for the most vulnerable.

Workforce development

The bill includes $500 million towards providing premium pay bonuses for low- and middle-income workers who worked in-person during the Covid-19 State of Emergency. To promote employment, the bill also includes $150 million to enhance workforce opportunities through workforce skills training, as well as $100 million for vocational and career and technical schools.

Affordable housing, home ownership

The bill appropriates funds for affordable housing, with $150 million directed toward public housing maintenance and $150 million to create permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, survivors of domestic violence, seniors, and veterans. The bill also includes $100 million for homeownership assistance and $100 million for production and preservation of affordable rental housing for residents of municipalities disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Environment, climate-change mitigation

Building on the House’s commitment to the environment and clean energy, the bill includes investments for environmental infrastructure and development spending, with a focus on environmental justice communities, climate change resiliency and clean energy. This bill includes $100 million for port infrastructure development and revitalization to facilitate economic activity and support the offshore wind industry.

Other investments include $100 million toward infrastructure for communities to adapt and become climate resilient; and $100 million for water and sewer projects, including those to remediate combined sewer overflow into waterways.

Education

To improve indoor air-quality in schools and support healthy learning environments, this bill includes more than $100 million for grants to public school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. This bill also includes $75 million for capital and maintenance projects for higher education; $25 million for the Endowment Incentive Program at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges, $20 million for special education, including $10 million for workforce development; and $10 million for programs focused on recruiting and retaining educators of color.

Accountability, public engagement

As a tool to inform future ARPA spending, the House’s bill allocates $5 million for the Inspector General’s office to create a public database and website to track total spending, including the percentage of funds spent in communities that were disproportionally impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and to track the number of projects awarded to minority-owned businesses and organizations.

Speaker Mariano and the House Ways & Means Committee introduced their spending proposal on October 25, 2021, following a review of the Governor’s proposal and six public hearings.

The bill went to the Senate, which unveiled its version Nov. 3.


June 13, 2020: Garballey, Rogers votes back expanded mail-in, early voting 


This news announcement was published Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

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