The Massachusetts Legislature passed a $261.6 million supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) late last month that addresses time-sensitive deficiencies, extends expanded voting options, provides supports for the implementation of the 2020 landmark police reform law and makes investments to support the Commonwealth’s continued recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 29.
Within that bill was a great deal of work by Rep. Dan Ryan, who chairs the House Election Laws Committee, and conducted many hours of hearings to get a proposal that extended voting options for this year’s municipal elections.
“The voting provisions put forward in the supplemental budget will allow cities and towns to offer safe, accessible election options this fall while we continue to work on their permanency,” he said. “I thank Speaker Mariano for his commitment to expanded voting access. I congratulate Chairman Michlewitz and the Ways and Means Committee on a thoughtful supplemental budget.”
The voting legislation passed has been awaited by many cities and towns, and allows for the popular practice of voting early by mail to continue through December 15, 2021. It gives eligible voters the ability to exercise their right to cast a ballot while protecting their health and safety, he said. The bill further allows cities and towns the ability to offer early in-person voting for such elections. The extension of these additional voting options come as the Commonwealth continues to grapple with COVID-19 and its related variants and on the heels of elections in 2020 that saw record participation using these same methods.
In addition to the voting legislation coming out of Rep. Ryan’s committee, other notable components of the funding package include:
The supplemental budget passed establishes a new seven-member Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Board of Directors. The new oversight body, which takes the place of the Fiscal Management and Control Board, will comprise of seven members and consist of the Secretary of Transportation, serving as ex officio; five members appointed by the Governor; and one member appointed by the MBTA Advisory Board. The bill requires that one of the Governor appointees to the board be a rider that is a resident of an environmental justice population. Of the seven members, the bill also requires a board seat be given to a member of the labor community.
To support early educators who have been on the front lines throughout the pandemic, the supplemental budget invests $131 million of federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding for early educator stabilization grants, workforce supports and system-wide technology upgrades. Additionally, the bill directs $60 million from Early Education and Care (EEC) COVID-19 Stabilization and Workforce reserve established in the FY21 General Appropriations Act for direct grants to state-subsidized providers.
•Safety Net Supports
In addition to supporting early educators, the supplemental budget takes meaningful action to combat the lingering effects of the economic crises the Commonwealth has faced over the last 15 months and ensure families receive the economic supports they need to live, work and provide stability for their children. To that end, the budget passed today invests $27.9 million to provide for one-time payments to families that receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits, totaling $525 to $580 per child.
Additionally, the supplemental budget provides $12.5 million to cover costs related to the implementation of last session’s landmark police reform bill. These funds will be used to support bridge academies for reserve officers and special state police officers previously not subject to the same training requirements as the general law enforcement population, to support the first diverse state police cadet class, and to meet municipal police training requirements on mandatory training on de-escalation, use of force, and school resource officers. The bill also includes $5 million to stand up the Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Commission.
Other notable highlights of the FY 2021 supplemental budget include:
•$31.9 million for the Medical Assistance Trust Fund;
•$13 million for National Guard activations, including pandemic-related work;
•$11 million for the Department of State Police for pandemic-related costs;
•$9.9 million for increased COVID-19 costs at the Department of Public Health;
•$7.8 million for home health aide rate increases;
•$5.4 million for the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ Homes for pandemic-related costs.
•$1 million for the Supplier Diversity Office.