Mass House Passes Balanced Budget Targeting Housing, Economic Development, & Vulnerable Populations
The following is a press release submitted to the digital news media outlet by State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis.
FRAMINGHAM – Representatives Jack Patrick Lewis, Maria Robinson, and Carmine Gentile joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week in passing a budget that invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth.
Funded at $46 billion, the House aimed to address the sweeping effects of the global pandemic by making targeted investments in housing, food security, substance use addiction services, and domestic violence and sexual assault treatment and prevention programs. The budget also invests
in programs that provide COVID-19-related supports for students and increases funding for developmental services.
“The Massachusetts House budget continues our solid commitment to public education pre-K-12 and higher education, unrestricted local aid, COVID-19 supports, and a protective safety net for our most vulnerable residents with housing support, food security, health care, and aid to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.” said Rep. Carmine Gentile (Sudbury). “We protected a woman’s access to safe legal abortion care and provided funding for family support and stabilization, emergency food assistance, early childhood mental health grants, and stabilized income supports for home care aides our seniors and persons with disabilities count on to allow them to continue living at home.”
“In a time of economic crisis across the country, Massachusetts is wisely using its savings to offset lost revenue to continue providing much-needed services while preventing increases to taxpayers,” said Rep. Maria Robinson (Framingham).
The House furthered its commitment to cities and towns by investing $1.1 billion in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and providing $5.3 billion in Chapter 70 education funding. The House budget education allocations include:
● $53 million in COVID-related student supports;
● $340 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
● $117 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
● $82 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.
Due to the pandemic, access to safe and affordable housing continues to be in jeopardy for many families across the Commonwealth. This year, therefore, the House budget has prioritized housing and homelessness funding, making targeted investments into rental and housing assistance to combat the eviction crisis by providing:
● $50 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT);
● $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
● $80 million for public housing subsidies;
● $56 million for homeless individual shelters;
● $13 million for homeless student transportation;
● $11 million for Department of Mental Health Rental Subsidy Program; and
● $8 million for unaccompanied homeless youth.
Keeping in mind the widespread economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House made specific investments in labor and economic development programs that provide opportunities for the Commonwealth’s workers and its businesses. The House maintained its support for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership with an investment of $2 million – funding which has helped many Massachusetts manufacturers retrofit their businesses into the PPE market. Other investments include:
● $50 million for economic development including;
○ $15 million for local Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
○ $15 million for community development financial institutions
○ $10 million for matching grants for capital investments by small businesses
○ $6 million for small business technical assistance grants
● $ 46 million for Adult Basic Education Services;
● $19 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth;
● $7 million Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund;
● $2.5 million in Urban Agenda Grants; and
● $1.4 million for small business development.
The House budget further emphasizes the importance of high-quality early education and care (EEC) and support for the EEC workforce. The budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. The House budget also includes the following EEC investments and initiatives:
● $15 million for Head Start grants;
● $10 million for sliding fee scale reserve for childcare subsidies;
● $10 million for EEC Workforce Higher Education Opportunities;
● $2.5 million in early childhood mental health grants;
● $11 million for child care resource and referral agencies; and
Establishes the Early Education and care Economic review commission to review childcare funding and make recommendations on policy changes to expand access. The House budget dedicates substantial resources toward public higher education and increases scholarship funding for students. These investments include:
● $284 million for state universities;
● $305 million for community colleges;
● $560 million for the University of Massachusetts system;
● $120 million in scholarship funding; and
● $4.8 million for the STEM Starter Academy, to support underrepresented students in STEM fields at community colleges.
Funded at $19 billion this fiscal year, MassHealth is the largest investment the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents including the working poor and the homeless. In response to the threats to reproductive rights on the national level, the House also voted to remove barriers
to reproductive health options and protect the concepts enshrined in Roe v. Wade. The budget also invests in critical health and human services agencies and providers including:
● $307 million for the Department of Children and Families for social workers, family support and stabilization, and foster care and adopted fee waivers;
● $30 million in emergency food assistance; and
● $13 million for the Healthy Incentives Program.
In recognition of the increased incidence of domestic violence brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the House budget establishes a grant program to provide domestic violence advocate services across the state to connect survivors with essential services.
In order to support programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the House budget increases funding for developmental services to $2.1 billion and includes $264 million for community day and work programs across the Commonwealth. The House budget also includes the following investments:
● $236 million for state-operated residential services
● $78 million for family respite services; and
● $39 million for autism omnibus services.
The House budget advances the fight against the opioid epidemic by providing increased support and assistance to those who are battling substance addiction. The budget increased funding for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services to $162 million while offering continued support for step-down recovery services, jail diversion programs, and expansion of access to life-saving medication.
The House budget also includes funding for the judiciary and ongoing criminal justice reform, including a $761 million investment in the trial court and $20 million for criminal justice reform implementation. The budget also includes:
● $24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals via the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation;
● $9.6 million for a new community-based re-entry program; and
● $4 million for a pre and post-release services grant program.
Finally, the House calls for $302 million in spending for environmental programs, which aim to protect the Commonwealth’s natural resources. These investments include:
● $50 million for state parks and recreation;
● $40 million for the Department of Environmental Protection;
● $16 million for fisheries and wildlife protection;
● $8.1 million for agricultural resources;
● $2.1 million for ecological restoration; and
● $500,000 for the Commonwealth’s endangered specials program.
“It was an honor to join my colleagues in supporting a budget that made necessary investments in our Commonwealth’s families and essential services in the midst of this global pandemic,” Rep. Jack Lewis noted. “Social and economic inequities have only been exacerbated over the last nine months, and we as legislators have a moral obligation to pass a budget that is truly reflective of our values and sets us on a path for a more equitable and just recovery.”