Last week, I voted along with my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass a Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $46 billion, the House budget aims to address the sweeping effects of the global pandemic by making targeted investments in housing, food security, substance use addiction services, and domestic violence, sexual assault treatment and prevention programs. The budget also invests in programs that provide COVID-related supports for students and increases funding for developmental services.
Several items in the budget that I supported or filed as amendments have impacts locally here on Cape Ann, including:
- $75,000 for the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute to develop a strategic plan with UMass Amherst and Tufts University to study applications of genomics to mitigate the effects of climate change on land and marine food resources;
- $25,000 for the First R Foundation and Pathways for Children to provide books to Cape Ann’s children through the Imagination Library;
- $75,000 to increase workforce development training opportunities and technical education in secondary and post-secondary schools for careers in the marine trades; and
- $62,000 for the Essex county court-appointed special advocates program.
The House continues to further its commitment to cities and towns by investing $1.1 billion Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and providing $5.3 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, including over $16 million for Cape Ann’s schools and municipalities. 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 for many families across the Commonwealth is threatened. The House budget represents its ongoing commitment to housing and homelessness funding. This year, the House makes 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 makes specific investments in labor and economic development programs that provide opportunities for the Commonwealth’s workers and its businesses. The House maintains 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 continues its ongoing commitment to high-quality early education and care (EEC) and supporting 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 continues to dedicate substantial resources toward supporting 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.
This fiscal year funded at $19 billion, 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 for women on the national level, the House voted to remove medically unnecessary barriers to women’s reproductive care across the Commonwealth. 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.
Keeping in mind those affected by domestic violence, 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 budget furthers the House’s ongoing commitment to fight the opioid epidemic. To provide 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 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:
- $29 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.
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 species program.
The budget is now with the Senate.