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Massachusetts Gov. Baker signs $4 Billion Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding Spending Bill – New Bedford Guide

Massachusetts Gov. Baker signs $4 Billion Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding Spending Bill – New Bedford Guide
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Today, Governor Charlie Baker signed a $4 billion spending plan to support continued recovery across key priority areas, making significant investments in housing, home ownership, health care, workforce development, excellent wages for essential workers and infrastructure. The funding, first proposed by the Baker Poleto administration in June of 2021, will run on a portion of direct federal assistance to the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on Massachusetts workers, families, communities and businesses for nearly two years, and today’s signature directs billions of dollars in relief to those most affected across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “While this package falls short of the investment I’ve requested to address the housing shortage, the significant investments included in this law will help accelerate Massachusetts’ economic recovery and provide long-term benefits to infrastructure, health care, education systems, and small businesses.”

“The funding allocated in this act addresses areas of critical need across the Commonwealth, from addiction services to housing availability to environmental infrastructure,” said Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito. “This relief will play an important role in the continued recovery of our residents and communities, especially those who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and we are keen to operationalize it.”

The bill authorizes up to $2.55 billion in spending from the $5.286 billion in ARPA coronavirus financial recovery funds provided to Massachusetts in May 2021. This direct federal assistance is intended to support urgent COVID-19 response efforts, and to replace lost revenue, supporting immediate economic stability for families and businesses, and addressing public health inequalities and economic challenges in Massachusetts cities and towns. After accounting for the spending in this bill and the previously announced commitments, approximately $2.3 billion from the state’s coronavirus financial recovery funds will still need to be allocated further.

The Minister for Administration and Finance, Michael J. Heffernan: “The Commonwealth has worked hard over the past two years to deploy billions of federal support to bolster our economic recovery, support those in disproportionately affected communities, and get people back to work.” “We appreciate our legislature colleagues’ collaboration on this bill to invest in Massachusetts healthcare, housing, and workforce and look forward to more significant investments in 2022 with the remaining ARPA funds.”

In addition to the authorized ARPA dollars, $1.45 billion of spending is earmarked from the Transitional Guarantee Fund, which consists of surplus funds for fiscal year 2021. The bill instructs the Minister of Administration and Finance with the responsibility of matching expenditures with the most appropriate source of funding, which provides important flexibility in recognizing the rules and important federal regulations associated with federal funds.

Highlights of the plan include:

housing

• $150 million to fund statewide housing production for various residents, including seniors and veterans.
• 150 million dollars for the maintenance of public housing.
• $115 million to produce rental housing and to provide increased housing options to residents of disproportionately affected communities.
• $115 million to support housing production in disproportionately affected communities through MassHousing’s Commonwealth Builder Program and similar efforts;
• $65 million to support expanded home ownership opportunities, with a focus on first-time home buyers who reside in disproportionately affected communities.

Health Care

• $400 million for addiction treatment, related behavioral health services, workforce, and infrastructure.
• $260 million for financially stressed hospitals in disproportionately affected municipalities.
• $200 million for local and regional public health, including local councils of health personnel, technology and training.
• $50 million for workforce retention and capital improvements in nursing facilities and $30 million to support loan repayment, retention, and employment programs for human services workers.
• $37.5 million in grants to reduce juvenile delinquency, youth homelessness, and summer jobs.

workforce development

• $500 million to support the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.
• $500 million in premiums for basic workers with low incomes.
• $107.5 million for manpower and vocational technical skills training.
• $24.5 million to develop the workforce and grant capital to the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Economic growth

• $135 million to support cultural facilities and tourism assets throughout Massachusetts.
• $75 million for small business grants, of which $50 million will go to businesses that reach disadvantaged markets, minorities, women, and veteran-owned businesses. $25 million will be allocated to small businesses that did not qualify for previous programs.

Investing in infrastructure

• $100 million in grant funding to improve water and sanitation infrastructure.
• $100 million to improve canals, dams and other environmental infrastructure.
• $90 million for the development of seaports.
• $50 million to bridge the digital divide and increase broadband Internet access.
• $44.8 million for food security.
• $25 million for greening gateway cities.

education

• $105 million for a variety of educational support, including recovery grants for public universities and community colleges, workforce support for special education schools, and support for the recruitment of teachers of color;
• $100 million for HVAC grants in the public school district.
• $100 million for capital grants for vocational high schools and functional technical education programs.

The governor objected to language in seven clauses containing requirements that would cause delays in the use of funds.

Of the 88 overseas sections included in the bill, the governor signed 86, including one that excludes Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, Economic Disaster Loan Advances (EIDL), indoor operator grants, Restaurant Revitalization Fund grants, and SBA loans of the taxable income of individual taxpayers for all applicable tax years, which creates parity with corporate taxpayers.

Governor Baker returned one outer division to the legislature with the proposed amendments and vetoed one outer division. Notably, while signing off on the external divisions that create and finance the $500 million COVID-19 Basic Employee Payments Fund for one-time payments to frontline workers, the governor vetoed a division that puts in place administrative obstacles that would interfere with the effective distribution of payments, Including the requirement to consult with 28 members of the advisory committee on program design. A veto in this section will allow management to act immediately on the process of distributing these funds.

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