The Massachusetts Senate has voted to approve its version of the state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1st. The Senate plan preserves and expands access to essential funding, including public health initiatives, at a time when the state continues to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Of local interest, Mike Barrett, Bedford’s State Senator, secured funding to mitigate the costs Bedford incurs for educating children of families living on Hanscom Air Force Base. More than one hundred Hanscom Air Force Base students attend high school at local expense. The town has opened its doors to these children for more than fifty years through an agreement with the Department of Defense.
“Town officials have stressed the importance of the funding,” said Barrett. “I’m pleased we were able to come through.”
To fight global warming, Senator Barrett offered a successful amendment to fund two new full-time employees at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to assist with the implementation of the new climate law in Massachusetts. He also successfully advocated for funds for two new employees at three additional agencies under EEA — the Dept. of Energy Resources, the Dept. of Public Utilities, and the Dept. of Environmental Protection — for a total of eight new employees focused on the fight against climate change.
“The 2021 Climate Act directs several state agencies to act much more decisively to reduce emissions,” said Barrett, chief architect of the law. “Given their new responsibilities, we want to make sure these agencies — key players in the fight against global warming in Massachusetts — are staffed up and able to do the work by the deadlines the Legislature has set.”
Barrett added a budget amendment for $100,000 to support the efforts of a new climate-focused local non-profit: MassEnergize. The organization focuses its efforts on the municipal level to promote effective ways for families and businesses to go green.
Barrett also offered successful amendments to provide funds for several statewide human services programs.
A measure offered by Barrett will provide $400,000 to support two programs for infants and their families. Project NESST assists new mothers in early recovery from opioid abuse. The program also facilitates education and training services for clinicians. The other program, Fragile Beginnings, provides supports for parents of premature infants. Both programs are run by Jewish Family & Children Services.
Thanks to a Barrett initiative, the Senate bill includes $500,000 for the Detention Diversion Advocacy Program. The funding will sustain an initiative that helps high-risk young people who are awaiting trial. The mentoring program diverts teens from pre-trial detention, providing services and supervision instead.
“The program’s community-based support includes 24/7 case management coordination with probation staff, face-to-face communication and curfew checks and weekly family check-ins,” Barrett said.
Barrett says that the budget also includes funding to support Children’s Autism Medicaid Waiver services, a priority of his. The funds will help 300 children with autism from low-income families receive services necessary to remain in their homes and communities during the pandemic and recovery.
The Senate budget now must be reconciled with the version passed by the House of Representatives.