Senate Passes $1.7 Billion Bond Bill Investing in Early Education, Remote Learning, and Racial Equity Initiatives

The following is a media release from the Massachusetts Senate President’s office submitted to SOURCE media.

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, July 2, passed 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.

“As we adjust to a world transformed by a global pandemic and address systemic racial inequities across our system, the Senate stands committed to supporting existing programs and finding new ways to invest in underserved and underrepresented populations,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Among other things, I am pleased to see this bill authorizes additional supports for childcare providers. I am equally proud to see it redirects resources to a flexible program aimed at supporting communities of color. I would like to thank Senator Michael Rodrigues and my colleagues for their input and hard work in advancing these priorities.”

“Among several important measures, the general government bond bill passed by the Senate today authorizes capital investments to empower economically disadvantaged communities, ensure early education providers can safely reopen, bolster food supply chain needs, update critical cyber-security infrastructure, and ensure equitable access to remote learning opportunities in this new normal,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I applaud Senate President Spilka for her steady and strong leadership through these unprecedented times and my colleagues in the Senate for working together to support capital investments that will help our residents and better our Commonwealth.”

Building on the Senate’s urgent efforts to address issues of racial equity and support communities of color, the bond bill authorizes $50 million 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.

In addition to empowering economically disadvantaged communities, the Senate’s bond bill also authorizes capital investments to ensure accountability in public safety and modernize criminal justice data collection by providing $20 million for a body camera grant program for police departments and $10 million for a statewide criminal justice data system modernization to help better track racial and ethnic disparities across the judicial and public safety systems.

“The passage of this bond bill will provide needed funding to the municipalities that I represent, as well as all of those in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury), chair of the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets. “As a result, these towns will be able to add technology or improve on existing equipment that will benefit both local security and enhance remote learning for public schools. I am pleased by the work of my colleagues to pass this legislation.”

“Bonding is an important tool to invest in major priorities, and that tool must be used carefully and with resolved actions,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce (R- Gloucester). “The bill adopted today identifies important issues and projects and sets the stage for investing in them.”

To ensure equitable access to remote learning opportunities and safe access to early childcare opportunities, the Senate bond bill authorizes $50 million to enhance and expand access to K-12 remote learning technology and provides $25 million 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:

  • $140 million for cybersecurity upgrades to improve the Commonwealth’s technology and telecommunications infrastructure
  • $115 million for municipal library improvements
  • $100 million for governmental performance and informational technology infrastructure upgrades
  • $30 million for public higher education public safety grants
  • $25 million for fire safety equipment grants
  • $20 million for municipal broadband access grants
  • $5 million for the development of a common application for MassHealth enrollees to more easily access the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • $2.9 million for a public health data warehouse to track population health trends, such as COVID-19
  • $2.5 million 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 passed.

The Senate expects differences between the two version to be resolved quickly

editor

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