FY'22 State Budget Finalized with Haverhill Priorities and Economic Recovery Initiatives
Representative Andy X. Vargas joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY’22) budget. This fiscally responsible budget reflects the needs of residents and makes investments that set the state on a path toward economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded at $50.061 billion, the Commonwealth's FY22 budget continues its strong commitment to cities and towns and includes significant investments in education, supportive services for elderly and vulnerable populations, and workforce and economic development, among other priorities.
The state FY22 budget does not cut services nor does it raise taxes, and is made possible due to strong revenue collections, increased federal reimbursement, and leveraging funds from the state’s Stabilization Fund. The budget does not appropriate anticipated American Rescue Plan funds.
“This is a prudent budget that makes smart investments in a time when residents need their government to work most. I thank Chair Michlewitz and Speaker Mariano for their commitment to local aid and the Haverhill requests we made in the budget. These investments provide a strong foundation for the city and state to create jobs and chart a path towards a strong economic recovery,” said Representative Vargas.
The budget includes Vargas led amendments, providing Haverhill with:
$125,000 towards payment of the Hale Hospital Debt. Haverhill was home to the last municipally-owned hospital in the Commonwealth, which was sold in 2001. The City is still paying off debt incurred during the ownership of Hale Hospital. Vargas has now secured over $750,000 for the city to alleviate the Hale debt, since joining the legislature.
$50,000 for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has played a key role in efforts such as the One Haverhill Fund and the Gift-Card matching program that were established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
$25,000 to the Haverhill High School organization Violence Intervention & Prevention (VIP) to empower youth through mental health programming and leadership development.
$25,000 for establishing an Entrepreneurship for All site in Haverhill. EforAll accelerates economic and social impact in communities nationwide through inclusive entrepreneurship and would help create jobs in the wake of the loss of 400 Brooks Brothers jobs.
$25,000 for Creative Haverhill to work on city beautification and public art projects to attract greater economic development.
Vice-Chair Vargas also successfully supported a $50,000 earmark for the Haverhill-based Cogswell Art Space, filed by Representative Campbell of Methuen. Cogswell Art Space is a repurposed old school that was repurposed as an art teaching center and cultural center. These funds will address fire safety and infrastructure hazards in the building.
NEIGHBORHOOD-BASED GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROGRAM
The finalized state budget included $2.7 million dollars in funding for the Neighborhood-based Gun Violence Prevention Program. This Department of Public Health Administered program is the first gun violence prevention program in Massachusetts entirely focused on gun violence through a public health lens.
Communities in Massachusetts face new challenges as they begin recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic; a lack of jobs, mental health issues, and family destabilization have boosted an escalation of violence across neighborhoods. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, shootings have increased by 35% in Brockton, 53% in Worcester, 60% in Springfield, and a staggering 237% in New Bedford. In Boston alone, fatal shootings are up 58%.
Representative Vargas led on the creation of the Neighborhood-based Gun Violence Prevention Program in 2018. He filed the amendment to add $2.7 million dollars to the program in the FY'22 budget during the House budget process.
VICE-CHAIR VARGAS PUSHED SCHOOL FUNDING AND LOCAL AID
Haverhill is set to receive $63,349,956 in Chapter 70 school funding. The budget also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund to help school districts whose fall enrollment is negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Haverhill should benefit from this fund as more students re-enroll into Haverhill Public Schools in the fall. Haverhill will also see $10,436,481 in Unrestricted Local Aid.
FIREFIGHTERS IN BUDGET
The budget saw the passage of a grant created for cities and towns to screen firefighters for cancer to help catch abnormalities early. According to the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.
“We know how important the Haverhill Fire Department is to our City, and we value the sacrifice and dedication that our firefighters put in every day to keep our communities and families safe. The Haverhill Delegation continues to take a collaborative approach in supporting our constituents and public safety programs like this one,” said Rep. Vargas.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES & EARLY EDUCATION & CARE
Many of the House FY22 budget’s most significant increases represent essential services and programs that serve Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, including $771.1 million for the Department of Transitional Assistance to maintain support to families, at-risk parents, victims of intergenerational trauma, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Other notable health and human services investments include $30 million for Emergency Food Assistance, $13 million for Healthy Incentives Program, and $500,000 for a public awareness campaign on the contraceptive ACCESS Law.
Rep. Vargas also successfully advocated for funding for the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission to hire staff to dedicate full-time effort to review how childcare programming is funded in the commonwealth and to make recommendations for potential legislative changes in funding and related policies. Under the leadership of Chair Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), this was adopted. This is part of the Representative's dedication to establishing a universal early education system in the Commonwealth. He is the Vice-Chair of this commission.
The Representative also successfully co-sponsored statewide amendments. An amendment filed by Representative Natalie Higgins (D – Leominster), will mandate that all previously untested sexual assault evidence kits must be submitted to law enforcement and tested by the crime lab within 180 days. This amendment was filed in response to a recent shocking discovery that 14,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits exist within State possession, and 6,300 of these untested kits were deemed priority by the State Crime Laboratory.
“It is disheartening that so many sexual assault evidence kits remain untested when we have the means and capabilities to fix this severe backlog. We must do right by the survivors who already face so much hurt and trauma. By getting these evidence kits properly tested, we can bring some accountability and arrive at greater justice for sexual assault survivors deserve.” added Vargas.