Thursday, November 11, 2021

Senate Prioritizes Veterans’ Services in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding

Senate Prioritizes Veterans' Services in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding

Financial support for veterans' services expanded during Senate debate

 The Massachusetts State Senate on Wednesday (11/10/2021) passed a $3.82 billion blueprint to invest funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to meet the urgent needs of the Commonwealth's ongoing recovery. The bill includes increased investments for veteran services and supports that target housing security, transportation, and mental and behavioral health care, among other areas.

"For too many veterans, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented physical, mental and financial challenges," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "Reaffirming our commitment to veterans is an important piece of this legislation's broader goal of ensuring an equitable COVID-19 recovery and reimagining our future. I am truly grateful to the many veterans who have given so much for the security of our nation, including Senators Velis, Rush, and Cronin, and I am proud to live in a state where so many of us have worked to build the best veterans' services in the nation, including with these investments. I'd like to thank Senator Rodrigues for his leadership of the ARPA process, as well as Senators Velis, Rush, and Moore for their contributions to this legislation and their steadfast commitment to serving veterans in our Commonwealth." 

"As we continue to build our post-pandemic future, we must recognize our veterans who made sure that future was possible," said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "I am proud that our Senate ARPA spending plan includes measures to strengthen housing security, transportation services, and food distribution for veterans, while also ensuring proper recognition for Massachusetts service men and women who died in the line of duty. Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership and Senators Moore, Rush, and Velis for their diligent work to support our cherished veterans."

Many of the provisions strengthening veterans' services were passed as amendments on An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs (S. 2564). The Senate's ARPA plan would invest $150 million in supportive housing, including $75 million for the chronically homeless population. Priority for permanent supportive housing would be given to veterans, along with individuals and families who are chronically homeless, experiencing behavioral health or substance misuse needs, survivors of domestic violence, involved in the foster care system, or seniors. An amendment proposed by Senator Rush and adopted directs $20 million be invested in supportive housing for veterans located across the state in areas not primarily served by either the Chelsea or Holyoke Soldiers' Homes.

"Veterans who have served this nation and have been willing to give their life for our freedom deserve a place to call home," said Senator Michael F. Rush (D-Boston), Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. "Thank you to the Senate President and Ways and Means Chair for their leadership to ensure all our Veterans have that home."

Senator Velis, Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, contributed two additional amendments relevant to veterans. The first of these allocates $500,000 to newly created transportation services for participants in the Massachusetts Veterans' Treatment Courts in order to reduce regional inequities and provide services to veterans across the state. The second explicitly ensures that the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty can be awarded to service men and women who have died as a result of training accidents while in the line of duty. 

"As we approach Veterans Day, we are reminded of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Veterans throughout our communities and the importance of recognizing those who have served our nation," said Senator John C. Velis (D-Westfield), Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. "Extending the Medal of Liberty to those who died as a result of a training accident will ensure that we are properly honoring the sacrifices that those service members and their families have endured. Additionally, the critical funding allocated to our Commonwealth's Veteran Treatment Courts will resolve the transportation barriers that keep Veterans from participating in this valuable program and getting the help they need. I am grateful to the Senate President and the Chairman of Ways and Means for their leadership and commitment to ensuring that Massachusetts is the premiere state for our Veterans and their families. These important amendments are a continued step in that direction."

An amendment offered by Senator Michael O. Moore extends $1 million of state financial support to the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation, Inc. for 'empowerment centers' which distribute food services to veterans in need in Worcester County.

"The brave men and women who have served in our armed forces are true heroes, and we should be doing everything in our power to make their transition back to civilian life as easy as possible," said Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury). "Through their programs, events and other resources the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation has become a leader when it comes to providing services for our veterans. Because of this I am both grateful and proud that we were able to allocate funding for them so that they can continue to provide exceptional service for our service members." 

With both the House and Senate having passed their own versions of ARPA spending plans, the two bills must now be reconciled before heading to the Governor's desk.

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