By Jack Patrick Lewis & Tricia Farley-Bouvier
BOSTON – During a global pandemic, with jobs disappearing, residents struggling to make ends meet, and families in distress, the State Budget could have been a disaster – decimated by severe cuts to essential state services and disinvestment in our communities.
Instead, due to the outstanding work of budget leaders, we are proud to support the Conference Committee Report that protects and enhances the social safety net, protects our most vulnerable neighbors, and reflects our values.
We are grateful for the tireless work of Speaker Robert DeLeo, House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and their staff in preparing this budget under these most challenging circumstances and for their partnership in this process. We firmly believe that cuts should not be the answer to any budgetary shortfalls during an economic crisis, especially during a global pandemic. This budget meets that objective by making a significant draw from the Rainy-Day Fund while increasing crucial supportive services. It is also a responsible budget that leaves approximately half of the stabilization fund available for future years’ gaps, which is essential given the fiscal uncertainty ahead.
The House Progressive Caucus celebrates the full inclusion of 6 out of our 7 priority line items in the FY21 Budget. These include Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), Massachusetts Legal Aid Corporation (MLAC), and protecting Chapter 70. Also included are Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), Emergency Aid to the Elderly Disabled and Children (EAEDC), and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Moreover, this budget contains many provisions of one of the House Progressive Caucus’ top legislative priorities, the ROE Act, which expands and protects reproductive health care access by removing barriers to abortion care.
While there is still more to do, this budget also includes important eviction prevention measures, such as allowing continuances under certain circumstances and requiring information on rental assistance programs. Additionally, the Community Reinvestment grant program marks a tremendous victory for communities that have suffered the heaviest impacts of mass incarceration and decades of disinvestment. Funded at $15M, this will bring community-based workforce development to under-represented and historically marginalized neighborhoods in our Gateway Cities and is another step forward as we continue to work for justice and reform.
As we navigate the challenges of the coming months and years, the House Progressive Caucus will continue to support measures that avoid burdening those who are already most vulnerable, which would only exacerbate existing inequalities and slow our rate of recovery. We also look forward to further advocating for the inclusion of targeted, progressive revenue measures so that we can maintain the high-quality services here in Massachusetts that underpin our economy and ensure the well-being of our residents.
Stare Representatives Jack Patrick Lewis (D-Framingham) & Tricia Farley-Bouvier are Co-Chairs of the House Progressive Caucus.