Bill funds essential services relied on by vulnerable populations, extends COVID-era measures, authorizes public works bonding to support cities and towns
"This supplemental budget ensures that our Commonwealth continues to support the most vulnerable among us while also building on the lessons we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I'm proud to say that this body has proven once again that it has the courage to chart a course that leaves no place or person in the Commonwealth behind. As I have said since the start of the pandemic, we must go 'back to better,' not 'back to normal.' With today's supplemental budget, I am pleased to see the Senate take one more step toward this goal. I would like to thank my colleagues, especially Chair Rodrigues and his dedicated team at Senate Ways and Means, for their hard work and contributions to this supplemental budget."
"As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, the Legislature has taken the necessary steps to keep the economy of the Commonwealth on a firm footing. The passage of this supplemental budget today utilizes robust tax revenues to its fullest effect, making substantial investments in economic development, housing, education, and the social service safety net. Those investments, along with a forward-thinking long-term bond authorization, will keep Massachusetts as a leader in the key economic sectors for decades to come," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "Thanks to the strong leadership of Senate President Spilka, and the commitment of my colleagues in the Senate, we sent a clear message to the people that we will always look to protect our marginalized communities, support our education and health care workforce, and invest in local infrastructure as the Commonwealth continues to recover from the impact of the pandemic."
The bill invests $368.7 million to address several time sensitive needs for an array of programs relied on by some of the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, including $130 million for SNAP food assistance benefits to provide a glide path for families who were receiving enhanced SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, $68 million for the Early Education C3 stabilization grant program, $65 million for the continuation of free school meals, $45 million for emergency shelter assistance, and over $40 million to support affordable housing for immigrants and refugees. Other measures funded in the bill include:
- $8.3 million for judgments, settlements, and legal fees
- $7 million for coordinated wraparound services for incoming immigrants and refugees
- $2 million for the reimbursement of SNAP benefits for victims of benefit theft
- $2 million for the preparation and execution of the 114th National NAACP conference, which is taking place in Massachusetts in 2023, which was adopted via an amendment from Senator Liz Miranda
- $1 million for a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the misleading tactics of so-called crisis pregnancy centers and their lack of medical services
- $250,000 for Reproductive Equity Now's free abortion-related legal hotline
The bill also authorizes $814.3 billion in capital expenditures to support economic development projects. Notably, these include $400 million for the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, which provides grants to cities, towns, and other public entities for infrastructure projects, and $200 million for state matching funds to compete for federal grant opportunities, including those funded through the CHIPS and Science Act, which encourage innovation in Massachusetts. Other bonding items authorized by the bill include:
- $104 million for the Clean Water Trust Fund
- $34 million for a program to revitalize underutilized properties
- $30 million for state matching funds to compete for federal broadband expansion grants and improve state broadband infrastructure
- $15 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Innovation Initiative, which supports innovation within the state's manufacturing industry, including by offering technical assistance to manufacturers and attracting talent from outside of the state
- $14 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Accelerate Program
- $9.3 million for broadband middle mile supports
- $8 million for the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund
Reorganizing the societal shifts that have taken place during the pandemic, the bill also addresses several pandemic-era related measures, including:
- Permanently allowing public corporations and nonprofits to hold meetings by means of remote communication
- Permanently allowing notaries public to conduct remote online notarization using communication technology
- Extending the ability of graduates and students in their last semester of nursing education programs to practice nursing in accordance with guidance from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing
- Extending the ability of municipalities to allow outdoor dining services
- Extending the ability of public bodies to allow remote participation by members in public meetings
- Extending flexibilities given to cities and towns that allow for town meetings to be held in hybrid or fully remote capacities and that ease the threshold for a quorum
- Extending the ability of nurses employed by assisted living residences to provide skilled nursing care in accordance with valid medical orders, provided the nurse holds a valid license to provide such care
Senator Liz Miranda (D-Boston) and Senator Robyn K. Kennedy (D-Worcester) both gave their inaugural Senate speeches during consideration of the supplemental budget. Senator Miranda spoke on behalf of her amendment for $2 million to support the NAACP's 114th national conference, which will be taking place in Massachusetts in 2023. The amendment was subsequently unanimously adopted. Senator Kennedy highlighted how the supplemental budget's $68 million investment in C3 early education grants will provide crucial stability to the early education sector.
As a previous version of this legislation has passed the House of Representatives, the two branches will now reconcile the differences between the bills.