Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a balanced fiscal year 2019 Budget and the House Economic Development Bill which contain funds to support our fishermen, create new opportunities for those seeking a decent living, help protect the most vulnerable members of the Cape Ann community, and celebrate Cape Ann’s history as it moves into the future.
“As Cape Ann faces economic challenges both locally and nationally, investment in our people is a top priority to ensure that we grow good, well-paying jobs on Cape Ann for a healthy economy and community,” Ferrante said. “The Budget and Economic Development Bill passed by the House invest in Cape Ann’s workforce by supporting programs that continue to provide new opportunities to those seeking new skills.”
Continuing a commitment to Gloucester’s burgeoning marine genomics industry, the budget allocates $150,000 for the development and implementation of a state marine genomics program to be run by the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute (GMGI) in coordination with UMass and the state Department of Marine Fisheries. In the economic development bill, $1.3 million is to be expended to upgrade infrastructure and technology to help GMGI unlock the power of the marine genomics data being harvested in Gloucester.
“GMGI has already begun to make an impact on Cape Ann as their new building on the harbor undergoes construction and as the Gloucester Biotechnology Academy welcomes its third class of lab-ready students. This program will further grow local opportunities in the marine biotechnology field,” Ferrante said. “Combined with investments in our technological infrastructure, this will help to establish Cape Ann as a beacon of marine genomics research, and provide new data on marine resources in order to help both our fishermen and the environment.”
To support Cape Ann’s historic industry, the Economic Development Bill provides for an increase in funding for the operation of the Fishing Partnership, which delivers health care coverage, safety training, and legal and financial services to over 7,000 fishing families in Massachusetts. Over 700 households in Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex take advantage of services provided by the Fishing Partnership.
“As the daughter of a fisherman and an attorney who represented those in the fishing industry, I understand the challenges that fishermen and their families face in getting affordable health care coverage and navigating through legalese instead of the ocean,” Ferrante said. “The Fishing Partnership provides a critical service to members of this industry that are often overlooked.”
Funding for Wellspring House’s “Ability to Benefit” program operated in cooperation with North Shore Community College, which was first secured by Ferrante in the FY18 budget, is continued in the FY19 budget. This program provides a pathway for adult students with work experience, but without a high school diploma or GED, to enter NSCC. A successful pilot will open up possibilities for federal financial aid for future programming.
“Too often, we’ve seen people limited not by the ability or willingness to achieve, but due to a lack of resources and adequate support. Wellspring House has been providing those resources to help people succeed on Cape Ann for over thirty years,” Ferrante said. “The first class of Ability to Benefit students graduated from the program on July 12th. With this program, partnering with North Shore Community College, Wellspring is once again creating opportunities for people to make a living wage where there have previously been barriers to success.”
In addition to investing in programs to lift up Cape Ann residents, the budget also directs funds to local programs that help those in need. The Open Door will receive $25,000 for a food rescue and composting program to help continue to better serve Cape Ann residents that are experiencing food insecurity. The Grace Center will receive $75,000 to continue their day programs that assist the homeless and those with mental health and substance abuse issues.
“Cape Ann is lucky to have such robust services for those in our community who are in need, run by dedicated and caring individuals,” Ferrante said. “The Open Door and the Grace Center of Gloucester are two such organizations that continue to provide valuable services to our residents with dignity and compassion.”
With Gloucester’s 400th anniversary approaching, the budget allocates $125,000 to help prepare for the celebration of America’s oldest seaport and the first colonial settlement in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The funds require a $125,000 match on the part of Gloucester Celebration Corporation, the organization in charge of planning the festivities of Gloucester’s 400th anniversary.
“Gloucester’s heritage is the heritage of Massachusetts. The first settlers in Massachusetts Bay Colony came from Gloucester and it was the maritime tradition of Gloucester and Cape Ann that sustained the early colony,” Ferrante said. “While this anniversary will commemorate 400 years since the founding of Gloucester, it will also celebrate those traditions and values that represent Massachusetts and endure to this day throughout the Commonwealth.”
The budget also contains $75,000 to upgrade Gloucester’s public safety communication infrastructure, $4.8 million in unrestricted government aid to Gloucester, Rockport, and Essex, and over $11 million in Chapter 70 aid to the Gloucester Public Schools, Rockport Public Schools, and Manchester Essex Regional School District.