Today (05/11/21), the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a $47.6 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). The Committee’s budget is a forward-looking plan that maintains fiscal responsibility and recommends targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguard the health and wellness of our most vulnerable populations and ensure our residents can benefit equitably as we recover from the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more inclusive and resilient Commonwealth.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftershocks have frayed the fabric of our Commonwealth, this budget takes on the important, if sometimes invisible, work of stitching that fabric back together,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “The investments made in this budget–in our children and families, students and communities, and in housing, public health, veterans, older adults and friends and neighbors with disabilities, and especially in mental and behavioral health–are like threads of gold, acting to strengthen and reinforce the fabric of our Commonwealth, making it stronger and more resilient for the years to come. I’d like to Senate Ways & Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for his tremendous work on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, as well as all of the members of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, especially Vice Chair Senator Cindy Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Senator Jason Lewis, and Ranking Minority Member Senator Patrick O’Connor. This is an extraordinarily hopeful budget, designed to get us ‘back to better.’”
“As we work to recover from this pandemic stronger and more resilient, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2022 budget is a forward-looking, fiscally responsible plan that doubles down on our commitment to building an equitable recovery; shifting our focus from surviving to thriving; and from not just getting back to a new normal, but getting back to better,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Charting a path forward for our post-pandemic future, I am extremely proud of this budget that makes targeted investments – in areas like education, mental health, public health and much more - while working to combat poverty and expand opportunity. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate, especially my colleagues on the Committee, whose continued advocacy and dedication helped to inform the overall direction of this budget plan, and Senate President Spilka for her continued leadership as we work to ensure our residents can benefit equitably and recover from the impacts of the pandemic while building a more inclusive and better Commonwealth for all.”
“Just months after finalizing the FY21 budget, the Senate Ways and Means FY22 budget once again represents the Senate’s strong and ongoing commitment to ensuring that the fundamental needs of our residents are met,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget also reflects the major lessons learned from the pandemic, including funding for public health initiatives, addressing the critical lack of children and adolescent mental health services, and getting our schools ready to support returning students.”
“This budget represents an essential step forward as our Commonwealth looks ahead to recovering from the pandemic and rebuilding a strong and equitable economy for Massachusetts families, businesses and communities,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “I’m especially proud that this budget invests substantially in Massachusetts K-12 public schools and in early education and child care, which form a key pillar of economic opportunity for millions of working parents and families across the state.”
The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $47.6 billion in spending, a $1.2 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $30.12 billion for FY 2022, representing 3.5 per cent growth, as previously agreed upon during the consensus revenue process in January. With tax revenue collections exceeding expectations, the Committee’s FY 2022 budget employs a sensible approach to maintain long-term fiscal health by including $1.55 billion from the Stabilization Fund, ensuring that our Commonwealth maintains healthy reserves for years beyond the pandemic, and taking advantage of changes at the federal level to maximize revenue opportunities. It also excludes the use of federal American Rescue Plan funds as we await further federal guidance that will help to inform the development of a responsive and thoughtful plan to support the needs of our Commonwealth.
As a cornerstone of our Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the Committee’s budget maintains access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, and educators. This budget continues the Senate’s strong commitment to students and builds off the more than $2.6 billion in available federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds through the inclusion of a number of meaningful investments in education. As the Senate remains committed to fully implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, this budget fully funds the first year of the SOA consistent with the local aid funding agreement reached in March with the House Committee on Ways and Means by $5.503 billion, an increase of $220 million over FY21.
Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, this increased level of investment represents a 1/6th implementation of SOA rates and ensures that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide high quality educational opportunities for all students. The budget also includes $387.9 million for the Special Education (SPED) Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75 per cent reimbursement rate. In addition, recognizing that school districts across the state have experienced fluctuations in student enrollment related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee’s budget creates a $40 million reserve consistent with the March local aid agreement to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020.
Education investments include:
• $5.503 billion for Chapter 70 education funding
• $387.9 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker
• $149.1 million to reimburse public school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
• $78.6 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing a 90% reimbursement rate
• $571.2 million for the University of Massachusetts, $321.7 million for the fifteen community colleges, and $298.1 million for the nine state universities
• $40 million reserve to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020
• $15 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
• $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas
• $9 million for a reserve to cover parent fees for families receiving subsidized childcare through the end of calendar year 2021
• $6 million for Dual Enrollment and $5 million for Early College Programs, more than doubling our commitment to these programs that provide high school students with better opportunities for post-graduate success
• $5 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million for a new pilot program to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
• $3 million for rural school assistance
• $2 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities
The Committee’s budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of COVID-19 and sustains support for the state’s safety net, while protecting and safeguarding the health and wellness of vulnerable residents. The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion to provide over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. Understanding that the pandemic has strained our health care safety net, the Committee’s budget also targets investments in mental and behavioral health while supporting children and families across the continuum of services that our Commonwealth provides.
Health investments include:
• $507.5 million for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
• $175.3 million for a complete range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families
• $97.1 million for children’s mental health services
• $50.3 million for domestic violence prevention services
• $38 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, including funds to support health equity initiatives.
• $23 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
• $10 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives, including $5 million for loan forgiveness for mental health clinicians, $3 million of which is for child and adolescent psychiatrists, $1 million for public awareness campaigns, $3.5 million for student access to telebehavioral health services in schools, and $500,000 to enhance the mental health workforce pipeline
• $10 million for new grants to create Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) in each of the six executive office of health and human services regions of the Commonwealth to provide intensive community-based wraparound services to children and adolescents with serious mental and behavioral health needs
• $10 million for grants to support local boards of health, including funds to build upon the State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program
• $3.9 million for the Office of the Child Advocate, including $1 million for the establishment and operation of a state center on child wellness and trauma
• $2.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused
• $2 million for veterans’ mental and behavioral health supports through Mass General’s Home Base Program
In addition to these health care investments, the Committee’s budget recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected children and youth while exacerbating a growing behavioral health crisis. As such, the Committee’s budget engages the existing Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council, established in 2008, and charges the Council to evaluate the impacts of the pandemic on the behavioral health continuum of care for children in the Commonwealth and submit an interim report to the Legislature by November 15, 2021, and a final report by March 15, 2022.
As we work to emerge from this pandemic stronger, the Senate remains committed to an equitable recovery, combating poverty, expanding opportunity and building a more inclusive Commonwealth. To that end, the Committee’s budget takes a number of critical steps to strengthen supports for workers and lift up working families with economic opportunities.
Opportunity investments include:
• $50 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce
• $30 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program
• $23 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
• $18 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to ensure vulnerable households have continued access to food options during the pandemic
• $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment grant program to provide economic supports to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
• $10 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
• $8.5 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities.
• $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in every region
• $5 million for Community Foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations
• $4 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
• $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million for new regional security operation centers which will partner with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses
• $2 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
• $1 million for employment programs for young adults with disabilities
In addition to investments that support an equitable recovery for all, the Senate recognizes that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on families experiencing barriers to economic opportunity. To confront this, the Committee’s budget addresses the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting existing tax deductions for children under 12, dependent adults and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the Committee’s child tax credit will help to lift 85,000 families out of poverty and support low-income working parents.
Additionally, the Committee’s budget builds on the success of last year’s efforts to tackle ‘deep poverty’ with a 20 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits over December 2020 levels, ensuring families receive the economic supports they need to live, work and provide stability for their children. The Committee’s budget also expands eligibility for these programs by eliminating the asset limits for both the TAFDC and EAEDC. This will allow families in need to receive economic assistance without having to spend down their savings accounts. With these steps, the Senate is supporting an equitable recovery that opens doors of opportunity, provides relief, and builds a more inclusive and resilient Commonwealth.
Over a year into the pandemic, the role that access to affordable housing will play in our economic recovery is clear. Stable and affordable housing is linked to economic security and should be a right and not a privilege for all who call the Commonwealth home. Recognizing this, the Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s strong commitment to affordable housing and housing stability by investing $572 million in housing and homelessness services. In addition to the more than $800 million in federal resources made available to support housing stability efforts, the state investment will help to keep families in their homes and support tenants and property owners during this challenging time.
Housing investments include:
• $195.9 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, including funds to create an independent ombudsman’s office to act as a mediator and advocate for households applying to or residing in family shelters
• $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2021, and recommended changes to the program to cap the share of a household’s income paid towards rent at 30 per cent
• $85 million for assistance to local housing authorities
• $16.3 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), in addition to $350 million in federal emergency rental assistance, and including emergency changes to the RAFT program to increase the maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive from $4,000 to $10,000 and allow eligible households facing a housing crisis to access both RAFT and HomeBASE
• $56.4 million for assistance for homeless individuals
• $14.2 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) providing rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.5 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2021, and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
• $8 million for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs).
• $8 million for assistance for unaccompanied homeless youth
• $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQQ youth
The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns, and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can continue to provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.168 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), consistent with the March local aid agreement, to support local level investments and provide predictability for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $35 million. PILOT funding is a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic.
Local investments include:
• $94 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation system as a public good necessary to helping commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities and supporting economic mobility
• $36 million for libraries, including $13.5 million for regional library local aid, $13 million for municipal libraries
• $20 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations until Friday, May 14, at 2 p.m. The full Senate will then debate the FY22 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 25. The FY22 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.