Investments focus on communities hard hit by COVID-19 and supporting the ongoing economic recovery
(BOSTON) On December 3, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature to advance a $4 billion bill to the governor’s desk that directs federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) surplus funding to assist the Commonwealth’s ongoing economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. With a focus on making equitable investments and prioritizing communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, the legislation delivers targeted supports to workers and businesses, and the critical sectors of housing, health care, mental and behavioral health, climate preparedness, education, and workforce development.
“This bill will bring much needed economic relief to residents and communities across Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The $4 billion in investments made at the state and local levels for initiatives like housing and food security, health care services, and aid for businesses and workers, will have an enormously beneficial impact on the many, many people that the pandemic has affected. I am especially proud of the $400 million in funding for our behavioral health system and the $2.7 million in direct aid to the communities in our 4th Middlesex district – both of which I fought hard to secure.”
The bill includes $2.7 million in direct funding to the 4th Middlesex district, including:
- $350,000 for Lexington public schools for electric school buses and charging infrastructure.
- $300,000 for the Burlington and Woburn public school systems to develop a pilot program, in partnership with local primary care practices, to deliver primary care health services to low-income children enrolled in public schools.
- $250,000 for Arlington for construction, upgrades, and improvements to its parks and recreational facilities.
- $200,000 for Arlington for construction, upgrades, and improvements to Mill brook.
- $200,000 for Lexington for a feasibility and initial design study for the construction of affordable housing units in the town center.
- $150,000 for the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce to support programming and membership for local businesses.
- $150,000 for the Lexington Historical Society for remodeling the historic Lexington depot community building.
- $125,000 for Woburn for the installation of accessible and inclusive equipment at public playgrounds.
- $125,000 for Woburn to support the economic recovery efforts of local small businesses.
- $110,000 for historic preservation enhancements for the Howe School renovation project in Billerica.
- $100,000 for Burlington for the creation of a pocket park in the town center.
- $100,000 for People Helping People, Inc. for the maintenance of a food pantry in Burlington.
- $100,000 for air quality improvements to the Burlington Fire Department headquarters.
- $100,000 for the Arlington Housing Authority for their housing domestic violence initiative.
- $90,000 for Billerica for the renovation of the town hall auditorium.
- $50,000 for the Billerica Historical Society for capital improvements for historic sites located in Billerica.
Other notable investments included in the bill are as follows:
Economic Recovery and Workforce Development
- $500 million for premium pay bonuses for essential workers, up to $2,000 per worker
- $500 million for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, providing necessary relief to business
- $100 million for vocational school infrastructure and capacity building needs
- $37.5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to support organizations working with people displaced from jobs during the pandemic, historically underserved populations, and individuals reentering their communities from the corrections system
- $50 million for equitable and affordable broadband access and infrastructure improvements to close the digital divide
- $135 million for Mass Cultural Council to support the cultural sector
- $75 million for small businesses, including $50 million for direct grants to historically underserved populations and minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned small businesses and $25 million for nascent businesses
- $15 million for regional high-demand workforce training at community colleges
- $25 million for the expansion of Career Technical Institutes
- $24.5 for workforce development and capital assistance grants to the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs, as well $4.5 million for the YWCAs
- $20 million for the resettlement of Afghan evacuees and Haitian evacuees
- $15 million to enhance and diversify the cybersecurity sector with partnerships between public higher education institutions and private businesses
- $14 million for agricultural economy supports
- $10 million for regional tourism councils
Affordable Housing and Homeownership
- $150 million for supportive housing, including $65 million for the chronically homeless population, and $20 million to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for veterans not primarily served by the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea or Holyoke
- $150 million for public housing authorities to maintain and upgrade existing infrastructure
- $115 million for the CommonWealth Builder Program to support housing production and promote homeownership among residents of disproportionately impacted communities
- $115 million for affordable rental housing production and preservation for the workforce and low- and moderate-income individuals
- $65 million for homeownership assistance tools, including down payment assistance, and mortgage interest subsidy supports
Mental and Behavioral Health, Public Health and Health Care
- $300 million for the Home and Community-Based Services Federal Investment Fund to address workforce needs for those caring for vulnerable populations
- $200.1 million to support the state’s local and regional public health infrastructure
- $260 million for acute hospitals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
- $44.8 million for food security infrastructure, including $17 million for the Greater Boston Food Bank for regional food security network improvements across the Commonwealth, $5 million for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, $2 million for the Massachusetts Food Trust Program to provide loans, grants and technical assistance in a regionally equitable manner to communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, $1.92 million for Project Bread to better connect eligible unenrolled residents with federal nutrition programs statewide and $1 million for the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation, Inc. for the operation of empowerment centers and to support the distribution of food to veterans in need
- $30 million to support a robust and diverse home health care and human service workforce through recruitment, retention, and loan forgiveness programming
- $50 million for nursing facilities, including $25 million for capital support to increase the quality of patient care and $25 million for workforce initiatives
- $25million for youth-at-risk supports and grant programs for community violence prevention and re-entry organizations, focused on communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
- $25million for youth summer and school-year jobs
- $5 million for Health Care For All to conduct a community-based MassHealth redetermination and vaccination outreach, education, and access campaign targeted in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
- $5 million for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to study and review the interrelationship between service-providing agencies for individuals with disabilities within the Commonwealth and to design and implement a system for an interconnected network that will provide a continuum of care for those individuals
- $2 million for unreimbursed COVID-19 costs for Early Intervention providers
- $500,000 to establish transportation services for participants in the Massachusetts Veterans’ Treatment Courts
- $100 million for water and sewer infrastructure investments through the Clean Water Trust
- $100 million for environmental infrastructure grants, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program
- $90 million for marine port infrastructure investments focused on the promotion of offshore wind development
- $25 million for Greening the Gateway Cities program to support tree planting
- $15 million for parks and recreational assets
- $7.5 million for community colleges to help train underserved populations for green jobs
- $6.5 million for clean energy retrofitting in affordable housing units
- $5 million for the advancement of geothermal technologies
- $100 million to improve indoor air-quality in schools and support healthy learning environments for grants to public school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
- $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
- $10 million for programs focused on recruiting and retaining educators of color
Accountability and Oversight
To support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and prioritize historically underserved populations, the bill establishes an equity and accountability review panel for federal funds to track in near real-time the amount and percentage of ARPA funds spent in these communities and awarded to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises. The bill also takes steps to ensure minority-owned and women-owned business have fair participation on procurements issued under the act.
Having passed the House and Senate, the compromise legislation now advances to the governor’s desk for consideration.