Last week the House passed a $3.82 billion bill to address COVID-19 needs and recovery, using one-time federal dollars for the COVID-19 recovery, known as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and Fiscal Year 2021 surplus funds. This bill includes investments in public health, housing, climate mitigation, economic development, the workforce and education. I am thankful for the leadership of Speaker Ron Mariano, House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz, House Ways and Means Vice-Chair Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and Chair of the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight Dan Hunt on this legislation, which will be transformative for so many across our state. Below, you can find highlights of the funding that this bill includes:
As House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, I am thankful that this bill includes significant investments that will benefit our hospitals, nursing facilities & community health centers and makes significant investments in our behavioral health & public health systems. This funding will be transformative to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals and communities across the state:
- $250 million for financially strained hospitals & healthcare providers who during the peak of the pandemic quickly pivoted to providing COVID care with a $50 million carveout dedicated to hospitals that serve the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
- $70 million for nursing facilities, which were hit hard during the first wave of the COVID pandemic, to help mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic and allow the facilities to hire new staff, implement additional infection prevention measures & modernize their infrastructure.
- $250 million in behavioral health funds, including $100 million for workforce, will help to address the needs of communities across our state and help to ensure people have access to the behavioral health care they need and providers who understand them culturally and linguistically.
- This includes an amendment I filed for $1 million for the BIRCh Project and the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health to continue collaborating on the development of a school-based mental health technical assistance center, $1.5 million for pediatric behavioral health urgent care, $750,000 for families of kids with serious mental health needs, and language on innovation to address emergency department boarding.
- $20 million for improving technical infrastructure for community health centers,
- This includes an amendment I filed for $15 million to retain and recruit primary care providers in community health centers. This will bolster community-based, culturally sensitive care in health centers across the state.
- $150 million investment to make strides toward ensuring that every resident, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zip code, has access to a coordinated and equitable local public health system. I am thankful for the work that my colleagues Representative Denise Garlick and Representative Hannah Kane have done advocating for this issue.
- $15 million in prison reentry grants which prioritize individuals who returned home from a state prison or county correctional facility during the COVID state of emergency. This is an investment in the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities as a whole.
- $10 million for community-based gun violence prevention programs in high-risk areas. Supporting grassroots efforts that strengthen partnerships with local leaders is key to resolving violence and to creating lasting peace and justice by meeting community members where they are.
- $500 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund which will offset businesses’ contributions for unemployment programs.
- $200 million worth of tax relief for small businesses that paid personal income taxes on state or federal relief awards during the pandemic.
- $60 million for grants to support small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, with $35 million of it reserved for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses.
- $125 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants supporting cultural events, education or performances highlighting underrepresented voices.
- $40 million for youth summer and school-year jobs
- $50 million to close the digital divide
- $12 million to assist in the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Massachusetts.
- $500 million towards providing premium pay bonuses for low- and middle-income workers who worked in-person during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
- $150 million to enhance workforce opportunities through workforce skills training
- $100 million for vocational and career and technical schools.
Affordable Housing and Homeownership
- $150 million directed toward public housing maintenance
- $150 million to create permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, survivors of domestic violence, seniors, and veterans
- $100 million for homeownership assistance
- $100 million for production and preservation of affordable rental housing for residents of municipalities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
Environment and Climate Change Mitigation
- $100 million for port infrastructure development and revitalization to facilitate economic activity and support the offshore wind industry
- $100 million toward infrastructure for communities to adapt and become climate resilient
- $100 million for water and sewer projects, including those to remediate combined sewer overflow into waterways.
- More than $100 million for grants to public school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 to improve indoor air quality in schools and support healthy learning environments
- $75 million for capital and maintenance projects for higher education
- $25 million for the Endowment Incentive Program at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges,
- $20 million for special education, including $10 million for workforce development;
- $10 million for programs focused on recruiting and retaining educators of color.
Accountability and Public Engagement
- $5 million for the Inspector General’s office to create a public database and website to track total spending, including the percentage of funds spent in communities that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to track the number of projects awarded to minority-owned businesses and organizations.
Amendments I filed that were included in the bill:
I am thankful that the House included three of the amendments that I filed to this bill. These amendments will help to promote health equity and prioritize those in our Commonwealth who are most vulnerable:
- Cradles to Crayons: $600,000 for Cradles to Crayons to support children’s clothing security. This is a new allocation, and I have spent the last three years advocating for state support to clothing insecurity.
- Community Health Center Primary Care Provider Recruitment: $15 million to retain and recruit primary care providers in community health centers. This will bolster community-based, culturally sensitive care in health centers across the state.
- Behavioral health: A $3.25 million amendment of mine was included that allocates $1 million for the BIRCh Project and the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health to continue collaborating on the development of a school-based mental health technical assistance center, $1.5 million for pediatric behavioral health urgent care, $750,000 for families of kids with serious mental health needs, and language on innovation to address emergency department boarding.
This bill has now been sent to the Senate which will take up their version of ARPA legislation next week. If you have any questions about the funding that was included in the House’s legislation, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at Marjorie.Decker@mahouse.gov