$ four billion in authorities support spreads windfall; Valley initiatives, businesses that profit

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The completion of the Black Box Theater for the Northampton Community Art Trust, a performing arts venue in Amherst, a partnership to support Latin American business development in Holyoke, and food distribution improvements at the Easthampton Community Center are part of the $ 4 billion project COVID. of the state -19 aid expenditure package.

You are among the hundreds of ear tags that have been put into the plan to spend funding for the federal bailout bill, a draft compromise between House and Senate leaders that goes to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk.

The overall package would go to $ 500 million in one-time bonuses for lower-income basic workers who stayed on in person during the state of emergency. It would also add $ 500 million to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to ease pressure on companies who had to tax the system and bear the cost of a wave of unemployment during the pandemic.

The billing functions also include:

■ $ 530 million for housing initiatives.

■ $ 400 million to expand access to mental and behavioral health support and community primary care.

■ $ 300 million for Medicaid home services.

■ $ 260 million to support financially troubled hospitals in areas particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

■ $ 200 million for local and regional public health systems.

State Rep. Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, called the plan, finalized this week by representatives from the House and Senate, a “game changer” that addresses nationwide aspirations, local challenges and basic needs for housing, health care and food .

“This budget reflects a responsible, transparent, and responsive process and outcome,” Domb wrote in an email. “It may have taken a little longer than we hoped, but the product is a really good budget.”

Senator Jo Comerford’s office said the Senator from Northampton was instrumental in getting the $ 200 million local and regional public health bill into the bill, with direct aid to communities in the least able to meet minimum public health standards, along with supporting the transformation of public health data systems.

Comerford also highlighted $ 7.5 million for regional storm disaster relief in partnership with Senator Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield. This will cover some of the damage from July storms in towns and cities in Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire. US $ 1.5 million will go to the University of Massachusetts for facility upgrades at its water and energy test facility, which investigates the contamination of wells and public drinking water systems from PFAS, sometimes known as chemicals forever.

A number of local and regional agencies and organizations will benefit directly from the law when it comes into force, e.g.

Comerford chief of staff Jared Freedman said Baker could either sign the law unchanged or veto it.

The long-awaited compromise on how to use ARPA and 2021 budget surpluses came together this week in a way that caused the bottom line of the final bill to grow by about $ 180 million above the spending originally proposed by the House and Senate.

One of the largest local commitments is $ 5 million for the new headquarters of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Chicopee, which is being built to replace his longstanding residence in Hatfield. The Hampshire County’s Children’s Advocacy Center is also proposing $ 100,000 to provide on-site mental health services to children and adolescents trauma from abuse and an additional $ 100,000 for the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District.

The bill’s growth was due in part to a decision by top Democrats to accept ear tags that were scattered throughout the House and Senate bills, respectively. Senior officials in both branches said all of the ear tags from both bills will be included in the final package.

“COVID has had a profound impact not just on every sector of our economy, but on every sector of the Commonwealth. Every city and town has been exposed to the dramatic effects of COVID, and while not every ear tag contains COVID or can be called a COVID relief, there are many things in this bill that will help rebuild recovery in these communities. The people who know this best in each of these communities are the people who represent them, ”said Aaron Michlewitz, chairman of House Ways and Means.

Michlewitz said in most cases the Finnish bill will reflect the higher value of the ear tags included in both bills, with the total value of the ear tags being estimated at $ 200 million to $ 300 million. He said many of the earmarkings were funded with government tax surpluses, not ARPA funds.

Other examples of earmarking include $ 150,000 to redesign the Lexington Depot historic community building to help public access to the 250 around Belmont City in the design of a new ice rink.

A number of arts and cultural projects are available for funding in the region, including $ 50,000 for the Emily Williston Library and Museum in Easthampton, $ 100,000 for the Black Box Theater on Hawley Street in Northampton, and US $ 50,000 – Dollars for The Drake, a business project “Improvement District” in downtown Amherst.

The housing would go to Independent Housing Solutions in Northampton $ 128,500, $ 25,000 to Craig’s Doors in Amherst and $ 100,000 to Mass Fair Housing in Holyoke. For food security, $ 100,000 goes to the South Hadley Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, $ 40,000 to Granby To-Go, $ 75,000 to the Amherst Mobile Food Market, and $ 25,000 to Nuestras Raices Garden in Holyoke and $ 100,000 to the Easthampton Community Center.

Public services are also funded, including $ 25,000 for Blueprint Easthampton, $ 10,000 to help Easthampton design safer outdoor areas, $ 50,000 for Belchertown signposts, $ 100,000 for Hadley to upgrade its public house trailer air filtration system and $ 50,000 for Hadley Public Safety Improvements, $ 50,000 for the Southampton Council on Aging, and $ 80,000 for translation services and support for underrepresented communities in Amherst.

Business support is $ 100,000 for the Holyoke Latino Chamber of Commerce and $ 50,000 for the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce for Latino Business Development.

In direct connection with the pandemic, $ 50,000 goes to Holyoke Community College for staff development; $ 50,000 for Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce to purchase rapid COVID-19 test kits; $ 100,000 for Amherst Public School Mental Health Services; and $ 25,000 to Tapestry in Holyoke to address opioid problems.

One of the larger endowments is $ 50 million for the MBTA to improve the economic development of the transit stations in Norfolk County, which also happens to be home to House Speaker Ron Mariano of Quincy.

Earlier this week, Mariano said the earmarking in the bill could be the reason the House and Senate were able to pass that final bill in an informal session instead of waiting until January to hold an appeal.

“One of the things we’ve done by combining the budget and ARPA money is that there are some goals that everyone wants to see. We don’t really expect anyone to fall on their sword. “

While the final earmarked amount was not immediately available, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation previously counted 415 Senate added funds of $ 122.9 million in new spending while the House of Representatives counted $ 154.4 million in new spending through its Bill distributed with 411 amendments. Although there was some overlap between the two bills, the taxpayers group said many are unique to each industry.

Some have questioned the appropriateness of spending COVID-19 recovery dollars on such local projects, particularly after cities and towns received their own direct ARPA aid. However, others argue that this is exactly how Congress intended to spend the ARPA money.

Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, described the earmarking as “an insult to taxpayers”.

“The legislature is basically treating the COVID-19 aid money only as an additional budget for its pig pet projects, which will be funded during an election year next year. The biggest missed opportunity in this ARPA bill is the corporate unemployment insurance fund, ”he said.

The final bill provides $ 500 million to bolster the fund that will be used to pay unemployment benefits, but employers may be ready to pay back billions more over the next 20 years to help offset the national debt accumulated during the height of the pandemic cover up. Baker suggested using $ 1 billion from the federal pot for unemployment benefits.

Craney said the $ 500 million investment was “nowhere near enough.” “The best way to revive the economy is to get small businesses to thrive and hire more people, but instead it’s about a pier in Hull and a turf field at Brad Jones High School,” he said.

Massachusetts Municipal Association President Geoff Beckwith said he was not concerned about the decision to allow earmarking in the bill.

“I think the scope of the earmarking seems pretty reasonable given the scope of the entire legislation,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith also said spending on local parks or pavilions doesn’t conflict with Congress’s desire to use some of the money to create outdoor areas where people could gather more safely as a community. He said that due to local budget constraints, many of these projects would never go ahead without federal funding.

“It’s not just about a specific structure. It’s about making sure the community has structures in place that reduce isolation during a public health crisis, ”Beckwith said. “What purpose limitation means is, ‘Hey, we want our community to be involved this way,’ that’s what makes it.”

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