BOSTON, MA -- April 26th -- On Wednesday, the MA House of Representatives passed the budget for fiscal year 2024 including Representative Vargas’ priorities for Haverhill. The House FY’24 budget includes funding for local projects in Haverhill. This budget also passes a landmark priority of Vargas’ - permanent universal school meals. Massachusetts becomes only the 5th state to achieve this. Haverhill schools are set to see an $8.7 million increase in state support.
The budget includes Vargas led amendments, providing Haverhill with:
$50,000 for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce for inclusive small business growth and workforce development
$50,000 for an Accessory Dwelling Unit Incentive Program – to help boost supply of low-cost housing units in the city, by incentivizing homeowners via grants
$50,000 for Beyond Walls for their Haverhill public art project – to help beautify the city via public art in partnership with Creative Haverhill
$50,000 for Haverhill Promise – to help expand their efforts to ensure grade-level reading for Haverhill students, particularly those most impacted via pandemic accelerated learning loss
$25,000 for the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center to support their efforts to provide services to veterans in the city of Haverhill.
$30,000 for Riverside Park to help repair the park’s basketball court
$25,000 for 12th Avenue Park to make repairs to the park
In addition to local projects, the House budget includes a key initiative Rep. Vargas has championed, permanently establishing free school meals. Representative Vargas is the House sponsor of the universal school meals bill in the legislature and advocated for the extension of school meals last session. At the onset of the pandemic, the federal government funded universal school meals until June of 2022. After the program lapsed, Rep. Vargas successfully advocated for the state to extend school meals for another year during last year’s budget debates. The House now has voted to make the program permanent. The House Budget also creates a commission to determine recommendations for improving nutritional standards and reducing food waste.
In addition to funding for local projects, Haverhill is set to receive $82,633,811 in Chapter 70 funding for schools, an increase of $8,727,501 from last fiscal year. The budget also addresses workforce shortages by creating scholarships for workers pursuing high-demand jobs. This budget also allocates $100 million to increase pay for childcare providers, $180 million in emergency rental assistance, $100 million for a Greenworks program to assist schools with investing in climate-friendly infrastructure, and $70 million for regional transit authorities.
“This balanced budget represents the needs of families and of Haverhill. The funding secured for local projects will help our community’s veterans, assist in restoring our parks, support public art, and boost accessible housing. I am also thrilled to see an additional $8.7 million coming into Haverhill Public Schools, alongside the key investments this budget has made in housing, workforce development, and childcare. Above all, I am proud that the House has led the way in making universal free school meals permanent in our state. After working for two sessions to make this into a reality, I am deeply grateful to the movement of advocates, teachers, and students who helped us take this monumental step towards ensuring all students are fed and that hunger will never be a barrier to learning in our schools.” - Representative Andy X. Vargas (D-Haverhill.)
The budget will now go through the Senate for debate.