$1.7 billion bond bill includes investments to support racial equity, early education and remote learning opportunities
BOSTON (7/9/2020) – Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in passing a $1.7 billion General Government Bond Bill focused on capital improvements to improve government infrastructure, empower communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, support early education and care providers with safe reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and expand equitable access to remote learning opportunities for vulnerable populations across the Commonwealth.
Building on the Senate’s urgent efforts to address issues of racial equity and support communities of color, the bond bill authorizes $50M in new economic empowerment and community reinvestment capital grants to support communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system with access to economic and workforce development opportunities.
Friedman successfully secured a $2.5 million technology investment authorization to automate the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system for sealing criminal records. Under the current system, sealing a criminal record can take months – meanwhile employers, landlords, bankers and others turn people away from employment, housing and financing opportunities based on minor or old incidents that appear on CORIs.
“Our antiquated CORI system is just one example of how our system continues to disproportionally impact people of color,” said Senator Friedman. “Now more than ever, we should be investing in the things that strengthen our communities, support our most vulnerable residents and help people restart their lives rather than penalize them for life. I’m pleased that these funds were authorized in this bill, and am grateful for my Senate colleagues for moving this important piece of legislation forward.”
In addition to empowering economically disadvantaged communities, the Senate’s bond bill authorizes capital investments to ensure accountability in public safety and modernize criminal justice data collection by providing $20M for a body camera grant program for police departments and $10M for a statewide criminal justice data system modernization to help better track racial and ethnic disparities across the judicial and public safety systems.
To ensure equitable access to remote learning opportunities and safe access to early childcare opportunities, the Senate bond bill authorizes $50M to enhance and expand access to K-12 remote learning technology and provides $25M to assist licensed early education and care providers and after school programs with capital improvements to ensure safe reopening during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The bill also addresses growing food insecurity and food supply chain needs across the Commonwealth due to the COVID 19 pandemic, by authorizing $37M for a food security grant program to address infrastructure needs for farms, retailers, fisheries, food system businesses, and food distribution channels.
Additional components of the bond bill include:
- $140M for cybersecurity upgrades to improve the Commonwealth’s technology and telecommunications infrastructure
- $115M for municipal library improvements
- $100M for governmental performance and informational technology infrastructure upgrades
- $30M for public higher education public safety grants
- $25M for fire safety equipment grants
- $20M for municipal broadband access grants
- $5M for the development of a common application for MassHealth enrollees to more easily access the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- $2.9M for a public health data warehouse to track population health trends, such as COVID-19
- $2.5M for implementation of an automated electronic sealing process to seal certain criminal records
The bill returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where a similar bill has passed. The Senate expects differences between the two versions to be resolved quickly.