The Baker-Polito Administration recently filed a Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) supplemental budget proposal that supports the Commonwealth’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and invests in other priority areas with immediate need, including child care, human services, housing, climate change preparedness and local infrastructure. The bill recommends $2.4 billion in supplemental appropriations, at a net state cost of $1.6 billion, relying on surplus revenues realized through the first half of FY22.
“Massachusetts remains in a strong fiscal position, which enables us to use surplus Fiscal Year 2022 revenues to sustain our efforts to respond to COVID-19 and invest in areas like early education, human services, housing and more,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Thanks to our careful management of state finances in partnership with the Legislature and the resilience of our economy, revenues continue to exceed projections, making Massachusetts well-positioned to make these investments.”
“This supplemental Fiscal Year 2022 spending plan expands on our efforts to support the Commonwealth’s families and communities, including resources for counseling, advocacy and intervention services to fill an important gap in federal funds for victims of crimes,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We look forward to partnering with the Legislature to make these and other critical investments through this spending plan.”
The spending bill proposes a significant investment to stabilize child care providers, special education schools and human service providers to ensure that the critical services that they provide remain available to all who need them, despite enrollment and utilization fluctuations caused by the pandemic. The legislation includes $450 million to extend Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) stabilization grants for child care providers through Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). It also includes $140 million for special education schools to continue support through FY23 that will help address direct care and clinical staffing needs and ensure that these schools are able to safely provide residential and day education services to approximately 7,000 people between the ages of three and 21. The bill further proposes $401 million to extend rate enhancements for human service providers and support other investments in Home & Community Based Services; $346 million of this spending is supported by federal funding provided through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), for a total of $55 million in net state cost.
The bill increases support for children and families, with a focus on those whose lives have been significantly disrupted by the pandemic. It recommends $100 million for matching grants to youth-focused nonprofits that will support the construction and renovation of new facilities for youngsters across the state. It provides $60 million to maintain access to rental assistance through the Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program as the federal Emergency Rental Assistance program begins to wind down. Additionally, the bill includes $8.4 million to continue additional short-term assistance to families fostering children during the pandemic, which will benefit approximately 4,500 foster families caring for 6,700 children.
The Administration’s supplemental budget also includes $700 million dedicated to the public health response to COVID-19, such as providing rapid tests and surveillance testing in congregate care settings, administering monoclonal antibody treatments, maintaining vaccination sites and ensuring sufficient staffing in health care facilities. After anticipated Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements, these initiatives are expected to have a net cost of $439 million. These funds will complement the $101 million supplemental budget signed into law last week to support COVID-19 response.
“The surplus we’ve realized in FY22 thus far reflects the continued strength of the Massachusetts economy and gives us the opportunity to address additional critical areas of need across the state,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “The Baker-Polito Administration is pleased to propose a spending plan that will redirect surplus revenues to high-impact investments in human services, childcare, education, local infrastructure and more that will continue the Commonwealth’s recovery from COVID-19.”
The Administration also recommends supporting a range of infrastructure and climate-related needs in local communities. It proposes $100 million for a supplemental Chapter 90 distribution, $100 million to help municipalities repair roads from winter damage and $150 million in supplemental grants to fund climate change resiliency initiatives, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program.
Several other initiatives are supported in the supplemental budget proposal, including:
- $60 million to stabilize and support counseling, advocacy and intervention services for victims of crime through FY25 until federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) resources are restored
- $50 million to support the guardian ad litem expansion proposal (described more fully below)
- $14 million to fully fund service improvements for men who are civilly committed for substance use treatment under Section 35
- $10 million to ensure Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) payments are uninterrupted through caseload volatility
- $5 million to expand STEM teacher professional development, materials and technology
- $5 million to support the implementation of the new 988 emergency call line
- $5 million for Department of Mental Health (DMH) housing repairs and additional housing vouchers
- $2 million to optimize government services for hybrid work models
- $1.8 million to support behavioral health services for Haitian and Afghan evacuees
- $1.1 million for Safe Water Initiative Massachusetts (SWIM) grants and other summer water safety investments.
The legislation also includes several policy proposals, including:
- A section that will mandate the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) in every alleged child abuse or neglect case through the Juvenile Court – these GALs would provide children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) an independent advocate responsible for considering only the child’s best interests; an accompanying appropriation is filed in the bill to support the recruitment, training and compensation of additional GALs
- A proposal that will exempt payments received through the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Essential Employee Premium Pay program from the Massachusetts income tax
- Sections that make corrections to previously signed legislation related to COVID-19 response that will improve implementation of spending priorities
- Sections to extend certain COVID-19 state of emergency provisions, including the eviction provision that is set to expire on April 1, 2022; it would be extended until January 1, 2023