By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Dec. 2021
After months of public input, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a major $3.82 billion funding bill to address the most pressing challenges of our COVID-19 recovery. This bill prioritizes individuals and businesses that were most impacted by the pandemic and invests in areas of immediate need – such as workforce development, small business support, education, health facilities, housing, food security, and environmental protection.
The bill draws from a combination of federal relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and state surplus dollars from the previous fiscal year. Additional ARPA funds remain to be allocated at a later time. Allocating the funds in stages will allow the Legislature to reassess how these dollars can make the greatest impact as our economy recovers. It will also allow for continued public input to guide these major investments.
This bill includes significant funding for Methuen, Haverhill, and the Merrimack Valley. With the support of our Merrimack Valley delegation, I was proud to secure $500,000 for major wastewater infrastructure projects in Methuen to prevent combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Merrimack River. The bill includes an additional $100 million for water and sewer projects that will be distributed to communities as grants.
I was also proud to support successful amendments for UTEC’s food distribution efforts in the Merrimack Valley (filed by Rep. Frank Moran); Groundwork Lawrence’s tree planting initiative in Lawrence and Methuen (filed by Rep. Marcos Devers); and local projects in Haverhill, including food pantry assistance, violence prevention, emergency aid, and Winnekenni Park improvements (filed by Rep. Andy Vargas).
Additional highlights of the House bill include:
• $500 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund
• $500 million to provide bonuses to essential workers who worked in-person during the COVID-19 State of Emergency
• $500 million for housing supports and affordable housing production
• $260 million in tax relief and grants for small businesses
• $250 million to support financially strained hospitals
• $250 million for behavioral health and addiction treatment services
• $150 million to promote employment through workforce skills training
• $100 million for public school districts to create safe learning environments
• $78 million to address food insecurity
• $50 million to expand secure Internet access statewide
• Funding to create a public database and website to track spending, ensuring accountable, equitable, and responsible investments
The House and Senate are currently undergoing negotiations to send a final version of the bill to Governor Baker’s desk.
Additionally, more than $9 billion in funding for infrastructure will soon be on its way to Massachusetts from the federal infrastructure bill that President Biden has signed into law. This funding will go toward highway improvements, public transportation, combined sewer overflow mitigation, broadband access, and much more. We will continue to partner with our federal delegation to ensure that this funding addresses critical needs in the Merrimack Valley. Through smart investments, we can ensure a strong recovery.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced IT, the Internet and Cybersecurity and as Chair of the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 Outbreak. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380. ◊