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Sen. Lewis joins bipartisan vote to pass ARPA spending bill

Rep. Jason Lewis
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  On November 10, State Senator Jason Lewis joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to unanimously pass An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs – a $3.82 billion spending bill that directs federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to assist the Commonwealth’s ongoing recovery, with a focus on making equitable investments and ensuring that communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are prioritized. Senator Lewis played a leadership role in the development and passage of this important legislation.

  “Thanks to President Biden and Congressional Democrats, Massachusetts is seizing this historic opportunity to invest in a strong and equitable pandemic recovery for our communities and Commonwealth,” said Senator Lewis, who is assistant vice-chair of the Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education. “I’m very grateful for the extensive and constructive input we received from stakeholder groups, advocates, and members of the public, which enabled the Senate to craft legislation that clearly reflects the urgent needs and priorities of residents and communities across the Commonwealth.”

  Investments included in this bill (S.2564) are listed below.

 

Health care and public health

  The Senate’s ARPA spending plan helps families, vulnerable populations and historically underserved communities by investing more than $1 billion to support the state’s healthcare system and confront the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. S.2564 invests $400 million (M) in mental and behavioral health supports, including over $122M to expand loan repayment programs for behavioral health professionals, including substance use disorder professionals. This investment is expected to help recruit and retain nearly 2,000 mental health professionals across the continuum of care.

  The Senate’s plan also revolutionizes the state’s local and regional public health infrastructure and makes a historic investment of $250M to ensure the Commonwealth can protect the public health of residents, workers and businesses for years to come. This funding includes $118M for public health infrastructure and data sharing upgrades and $95M for direct grants to local boards of health to be prepared to respond to future public health threats. Other health care investments include:

  • $300M for the Home and Community-Based Services Federal Investment Fund to address workforce needs for those caring for vulnerable populations
  • $200M for acute care hospitals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $60M to address food insecurity
  • $55M to support a robust and diverse home health care and human service workforce through recruitment, retention and loan forgiveness programming
  • $50M for nursing facilities, including $25M for capital support to increase the quality of patient care and $25M for workforce initiatives
  • $25M for a grant program for community violence prevention and reentry organizations – focused on communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • $5M for Health Care For All to conduct a community-based MassHealth redetermination and vaccination outreach, education and access campaign targeted in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
  • $5M for the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to study and review the interrelationship between service-providing agencies for individuals with disabilities within the Commonwealth and to design and implement a system for an interconnected network that will provide a continuum of care for them
  • $5M to support grants to higher education institutions to address student behavioral and mental health needs
  • $2M for unreimbursed COVID-19 costs for Early Intervention providers
  • $500,000 to establish transportation services for participants in the Massachusetts Veterans’ Treatment Courts

 

Economic recovery and workforce development

  The Senate’s bill invests $1.7 billion to robustly support an equitable economic recovery for all by supporting workers, businesses and communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill dedicates $500M towards premium pay bonuses for essential workers – up to $2,000 per worker – providing much-needed relief to the workforce who served on the front lines during the pandemic. Other economic recovery and workforce development investments include:

  • $500M for the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, providing necessary relief to employers
  • $200M in tax relief for small-business owners who otherwise would be required to pay personal income taxes on state or federal pandemic relief money
  • $100M for vocational school infrastructure and capacity building needs
  • $75M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to support organizations working with people displaced from jobs during the pandemic, historically underserved populations and individuals reentering their communities from the corrections system
  • $75M for equitable and affordable broadband access and infrastructure improvements to close the digital divide
  • $75M for Mass Cultural Council grants to support the arts and cultural sector
  • $50M for direct grants to minority-owned small businesses
  • $30M for regional high-demand workforce training at community colleges
  • $25M for the expansion of Career Technical Institutes
  • $24.5M for workforce development and capital assistance grants to the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs and the Alliance of Massachusetts YWCAs
  • $15M to enhance and diversify the cybersecurity sector with partnerships between public higher education institutions and private businesses
  • $20M for the resettlement of Afghan and Haitian refugees
  • $10M for regional tourism councils
  • $14M for agricultural economy supports

 

Housing

  The Senate’s bill acknowledges the critical role that housing plays in economic recovery. Over a year and a half into the pandemic, access to stable and affordable housing remains at the forefront of the state’s strategy to ensure economic security for all. Investments in affordable, accessible housing, as well as supportive housing, include:

  • $150M for supportive housing, including $75M for the chronically homeless population and $20M to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for veterans not primarily served by the Soldiers’ Homes in Chelsea or Holyoke
  • $150M for public housing authorities to maintain and upgrade existing infrastructure
  • $125M for the Commonwealth Builders Program to support housing production and promote homeownership among residents of disproportionately impacted communities
  • $125M for affordable rental housing production and preservation for the workforce and low- and moderate-income individuals
  • $50M for homeownership assistance tools, including down payment assistance and mortgage interest subsidy supports

 

Environment and climate

  The Senate’s bill prioritizes building a more resilient Commonwealth and ensuring a healthier environment for all. The bill seeks to combat climate change through mitigation initiatives, strengthen environmental infrastructure, fix aging water and sewer infrastructure and modernize marine port infrastructure to support the state’s emerging offshore wind industry. Environment and climate investments include:

  • $175M for water and sewer infrastructure investments through the Clean Water Trust
  • $125M for environmental infrastructure grants, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program
  • $100M for marine port infrastructure investments focused on the promotion of offshore wind development
  • $25M for the Greening the Gateway Cities program to support tree planting
  • $15M for parks and recreational assets
  • $10M for clean energy retrofitting in affordable housing units
  • $7.5M for community colleges to help train underserved populations for green jobs
  • $5M for the advancement of geothermal technologies

 

Transparency and oversight

  To support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and prioritize historically underserved or marginalized populations, the ARPA bill establishes an equity and accountability review panel for federal funds to track in near real-time the amount and percentage of ARPA funds spent in these communities and awarded to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises. The ARPA bill also takes steps to ensure those businesses have fair participation on procurements issued under the act.

  On November 2, 2021, the Massachusetts House had unanimously passed its version of An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs. On November 15 the Senate and the House appointed Conference Committees to reconcile the differences between their versions of the bill, and the final bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Baker before the end of the year.

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