Berkshire legislative delegation discusses $ 4 billion plan for federal aid

The bill represents the majority of the funding the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“The federal government has provided direct support to municipalities and direct support to important programs, but it has also provided money directly to the states,” said State Senator Adam Hinds. “And so Massachusetts got about $ 5 billion.”

Massachusetts municipalities and counties received an additional $ 3.4 billion in federal funding on top of the $ 5.3 billion received by the state.

“We hiked about half of it and then added another amount of excess state funds,” Hinds said. “And that’s what we did earlier last month. And then it was finalized last week in terms of meeting the House and Senate and their agreement on what would be sent to the governor for signature. C is therefore a large number. And it is an exciting opportunity to make major investments in things like housing, our health infrastructure, economic development and workforce, education, climate and climate. So that’s a big problem.

2sd Berkshire District State Representative Paul Mark said the assignments of the two bodies were retained in the House-Senate compromise bill.

“Pretty much everything that was accepted on the House side and everything that was accepted on the Senate side went into the final version, which is great because it means the local voice has been heard at- beyond what would normally happen, ”he said. WAMC.

Mark is running for the state Senate next year as Hinds campaigns for lieutenant governor.

$ 1.5 billion will be devoted to economic development and the workforce.

“I can’t walk into a room right now without hearing people talk about the challenges of the workforce and filling vacancies,” Hinds said. “And so we’ve invested around $ 100 million in workforce support, including various technical service institutes and career development. initiatives. We’ve spent $ 7.5 million on the green jobs initiative, so it’s exciting to see that kind of opportunity to say, hey, we really want to invest in a changing economy too and make sure we have money to support our small businesses and the like. So that’s another, it’s $ 75 million for small businesses, including $ 50 million for minority-owned businesses.

Mark says he’s happy to see $ 500 million being used to replenish the state’s unemployment trust fund.

“This is something no one saw coming, the addiction and expanding unemployment that hit when the pandemic first started,” he told WAMC. “It’s not that you can say that whoever was, could ever be prepared – I think we were as prepared as possible. But nobody expected the magnitude that was going to hit, and so we were able to get a lot. money from the federal government to try to help solve this problem. ”

One of the biggest slices of the $ 4 billion plan will go to housing.

“We know, both across the Commonwealth, and here in County Berkshire, that we are in a housing crisis, and we need to provide a full range of housing options – And there are 600 million dollars for that, “said 3e Berkshire District State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier. “We will have the opportunity to apply for a subsidy for workforce housing. And something really important to me is permanent supportive housing, so that we can kind of extend the … We have to go beyond the shelter, right? Housing is therefore important, but we need to provide opportunities other than housing, and permanent supportive housing would be the next step in moving people towards long-term stable housing.

Farley-Bouvier represents a large part of Pittsfield and says she has worked closely with Mayor Linda Tyer on the issue.

“Understanding the needs of the city through her and her team has helped me know where I have placed my priorities in my advocacy for what is in the bill,” she told WAMC.

Farley-Bouvier identified at least one downside to the bill.

“I get nervous when too much money is given to the administration,” said the state official. “And I think the money, that the legislature should have more control over how well the money is spent locally. And so that’s something I’ll look forward to in the next installment that we disperse. “

Mark says he’s upset that a $ 50 million amendment he tabled to increase spending on road projects in small towns was not included, but that upcoming federal infrastructure funds will fix probably the problem.

“I was told early enough in the process that this was not going to pass,” he told WAMC. “And I think that was in light of the potential of this future funding. And so, you know, we’ll come back to that when the next opportunity arises. And some of the comments I’ve heard, even on this amendment, from the share of small towns are not only the pot has to be bigger, the total statewide pool, but there has to be some kind of addition maybe for the very small towns, towns of less than 2,000, 3,000 people, that even with high mileage the population in the formula is kind of killing them and they don’t get all the money they possibly need.

The bill is now on Governor Baker’s desk. Hinds, Farley-Bouvier and Mark – all Democrats – don’t expect the Republican to veto elements of the plan.

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