(The Center Square) – American Rescue Plan Act spending bills in the Massachusetts legislature need to be reconciled before heading to the desk of Gov. Charlie Baker.
The House passed H. 4219 in October and the Senate ratified its spending plan last week. Each bill calls for investments in infrastructure, health care and mental health services, housing and workforce development.
The Senate bill directs $3.82 billion of ARPA funding to assist with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Massachusetts State Senate has acted decisively to support our state's recovery and ensure we do not go back to normal but 'back to better'," Senate President Karen E. Spilka, D-Ashland, said in a news release. “The Senate's proposal provides a path towards an equitable recovery that benefits residents, businesses, and communities through transformational investments in public health, housing, and climate change.”
The Senate bill would provide a $1 billion investment in mental and behavioral health, public health and general health care. The bill would put $400 million in mental and behavioral health, with more than $122 million to expand loan repayment programs for professionals, including substance abuse professionals, and would recruit and retain more than 2,000 mental health professionals.
According to the release, the plan will invest nearly $251 million for protecting the public health of residents, workers, and businesses. Included are a $118.4 million investment in public health infrastructure and data sharing upgrades, $95 million for grants to local health boards, and improving greater collaboration of public health systems.
The House version of the bill calls for $3.65 billion in spending to invest in workforce development, schools, hospitals, and housing, while also using a combination of a budget surplus and half of its ARPA funding to aid workers, communities and businesses affected by the pandemic.
The bill also includes development of a website to track ARPA spending.
Aaron Michlewitz, D-3rd Suffolk District, said in a tweet, “this bill adds an accountable, public website that will, in real-time, track the spending of ARPA funds and keep track of the number of projects awarded to minority-owned businesses and organizations.”
The bill calls for placing $500 million into the Unemployment Trust Fund, and would call for an additional $500 million in bonuses for low- and middle-income essential workers.
In the Senate’s bill, a $1.7 billion investment would be made for economic recovery and workforce development, including $500 million toward premium pay bonuses, up to $2,000 per worker, and $200 million in tax relief for small business owners.
The House bill calls for spending $600 million on housing, $350 million in environment and climate change prevention, $777 million for economic development, and an additional $750 million investment in the workforce. The bill also calls for $765 million in health and human services, and $265 million in education.