Governor unveils plan to spend $2.8B in federal relief funds

Gov Baker May 4th

HAVERHILL, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he plans to use nearly $3 billion in federal pandemic-relief funds to support homeownership, economic development, job training, health care and infrastructure with a focus on populations and areas that suffered the most from COVID-19.

“Our proposal will immediately invest $2.8 billion toward key priorities that will help jump-start our economic recovery, with a particular focus on those hit hardest by COVID-19, such as communities of color,” the Republican governor said in a statement.

The announcement was made at the Mount Washington Homes in Haverhill, a project supported by a state program that promotes homeownership in low- and moderate-income communities, particularly communities of color.

The plan is being filed as an amendment to a spending bill on Baker’s desk that is being returned to the Democratic-majority Legislature for its approval.

The plan devotes most of the money — $1 billion — to funding homeownership and housing priorities, to spur home building and reduce barriers to homeownership, the administration said. The money is on top of $1.6 billion in federal funding that has already been allocated for housing purposes since the start of the pandemic.

The plan also calls for a $450 million investment to spark economic development in downtown areas disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and to support cultural facilities and sites popular with tourists.

More than $400 would go to job training programs. The plan also assigns $50 million for financially stressed hospitals located in hard-hit cities, and $175 million for treatment of addiction, which has increased during the pandemic.

Another $900 million would fund water and sewer infrastructure and the modernization of state park facilities and close the digital divide by increasing broadband internet access.

The $2.8 billion is part of a total of approximately $5.3 billion in direct aid to the state from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Baker said he would let the Legislature decide what to do with the rest.

Categories: Massachusetts, News