9:30 | Gov. Healey announces $108M in federal funding awarded under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, along with Congressman Neal and several other officials. Springfield Union Station, 55 Frank B. Murray Street, Springfield
11 a.m. | U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts will welcome 100 new citizens during a naturalization ceremony in celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Magistrate Judge Robert Collings will preside, Congressman Seth Moulton will offer congratulatory remarks. Stage Fort Park, Tablet Rock, 24 Hough Ave., Gloucester
11 a.m. | Berkshire Housing and Food Insecurity Summit hosted by Rep. Pignatelli. "The summit will be assembling officials and organizations in the private and public sector, from across the state to enhance collaboration on our collective efforts to combat homelessness and food insecurity in the region. Anticipating a high turnout, the summit will also include remarks from legislators," according to organizers. Lenox Town Hall
1 p.m. | U.S. Rep. Pressley hosts a policy discussion on student debt cancellation at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference. Walter E. Convention Center, Room 201, 801 Mt. Vernon Plaza NW, Washington, D.C.
While the state’s financial outlook may seem shakier today than it did a year ago, Massachusetts is still sitting on a sizable pot of surplus funds from the revenue and federal grant boom of the early pandemic days.
The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, which tracks the state’s spending of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, estimates Massachusetts has about $300 million left of the federal relief money — and about a year left to decide how to spend it.
That’s about 6 percent of the total $5.3 billion the federal government originally steered towards Massachusetts. The other $5 billion has already been earmarked for future spending.
As of the most recent federal treasury report in April, Bay State cities and towns had an estimated $1.7 billion of unobligated ARPA dollars, according to MTF President Doug Howgate. Both municipalities and the state have until Dec. 21, 2024 to decide how they’re spending the federal funds, and until the end of 2026 to actually spend the money.
Plus, MTF estimates the state can still tap into $1.2 billion remaining from fiscal year 2022 — a year when coffers overflowed with an unexpected flood of revenue.
But given the option this summer to start tapping into those one-time funds to finance programs in the FY 24 budget, Gov. Maura Healey vetoed the attempted maneuver.
Lawmakers originally proposed using $205 million from the state’s transitional escrow account (made of ARPA and the FY22 surplus funds) as part of the $56 billion annual budget to close gaps in available revenue.
“We took this action because we felt like at this time, it was the right thing to do to not use one-time funding for programs that would have a longer shelf life,” Healey said at the time.
Not likely to leave money on the table, the question has become less whether the state, cities and towns will use the available dollars from D.C., but how?
We have a tax relief deal. But what is it?
This from legislative leaders last evening: “…We are thrilled to announce that an agreement has been reached in principle that reconciles the differences between the House and Senate tax relief packages. We look forward to filing and taking up the conference report next week, which responsibly implements our shared goal of making Massachusetts more affordable, equitable, and competitive.” So what the math looks like will be revealed soon enough, including the treatment of short-term capital gains. About $580 million in tax relief was set aside.
Legislators make case for unionizing their staffers
Several legislators, along with Auditor Diana DiZoglio, testified in favor of a bill that would allow legislative aides to unionize. The bill before the State Administration Committee would amend a state law to explicitly allow legislative branch staff the right to organize — a right which is already granted to executive and judicial branch staffers. State House News Service’s Sam Drysdale has more.
Communities putting brakes on Medicaid removals
Some 30 Massachusetts cities and towns are pausing the removal of individuals from Medicaid rolls after word emerged that the federal government had erroneously flagged 500,000 people in the U.S. for removal from the joint state-federal program that provides health care coverage for the poor (in Massachusetts the number is estimated at 4,800). The problem is that a federal computer system was failing to properly assign individuals to eligibility standards, the Globe’s Jessica Bartlett reports.
Should clerk get $6 million after being fired for refusing to get a Covid shot?
A former billing clerk at a Roslindale health center affiliated with Boston Medical Center has filed a suit in Suffolk Superior Court seeking $6 million for being dismissed in 2021 after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The clerk, Karen Mastro claims she was fired for her “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Read more in Universal Hub.
Yes, traffic in and around Boston is getting worse
The numbers back up the nagging frustration caused by Boston-area traffic. Traffic app-provider Waze reported that comparing August 2023 with August 2022, traffic increases include: 5.2 percent in Boston, 5.2 percent in Cambridge and 10.8 percent in Newton. Framingham traffic was up 15 percent. CBS Boston has a longer list.
Keeping public records secret is costing Mass. state and local agencies
State and local agencies have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle claims in recent years that they improperly withheld public records, Ally Jarmanning and Todd Wallack report via WBUR. Questions remain about whether the 2017 change to state law that allows recovery of legal fees in records disputes is actually resulting in more records seeing the light of day, however.
Blue Harvest bankruptcy rattles New Bedford business community
New Bedford area businesses that are owed money from the now-bankrupt Blue Harvest fishing conglomerate are being told they likely will have no chance to recover any losses after the private equity-backed operation amended its bankruptcy filing to say that “no property appears to be available to pay creditors.” Will Sennott of the Light reports as many as 1,000 small contractors may have unpaid bills.
Protesters hold vigil as time runs out on Leominster birth center
Still holding out hope for a last-minute reprieve from Gov. Healey, protesters held a vigil Thursday at the Leominster birthing center UMass Memorial Health plans to close for good on Saturday. MassLive’s Dave Thompson reports Healey promised to ensure access to maternity care for the region without directly saying if she’d act to stop the closure.
Memo warns police chiefs to sit on RMV records
Local police chiefs are being told not to release Registry of Motor Vehicles records without a court-issued warrant, Chris Van Buskirk of the Herald reports, as the state continues to fine-tune its approach to handling registry records now that undocumented immigrants can obtain licenses.
Feds deliver funding for Worcester-to-Springfield rail track work
The U.S. Department of Transportation will invest $108 million to improve railroad lines between Worcester and Springfield, a key building block for the expansion of East-West passenger rail in the state long sought by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.
As campuses age, UMass plans to catch up on deferred maintenance
The UMass board has approved a plan to help the system catch up on what is now $4.8 billion worth of deferred maintenance, Sam Drysdale of State House News Service reports. Nearly 60 percent of the 500-plus buildings run by UMass were built before 1990.
Boosted funding believed to be behind in Cambridge MCAS rebound
Cambridge schools have seen MCAS scores return to pre-pandemic levels and the city’s decision to spend nearly half of its American Rescue Plan funds on education may be one reason why the city has bucked the statewide trend.
Political talk shows this weekend
Keller at Large, Sunday, 8:30 a.m., WBZ-TV: Mass. Democratic Party Chair Steve Kerrigan discussing the tax cut debate, statewide ballot questions, and the Biden re-election campaign.
On the Record, Sunday, 11 a.m, WCVB.: Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell is the guest. Topics will include the preliminary approval of ballot questions, including the bid to audit the State Legislature, and ending the MCAS graduation requirement. Ed Harding and Sharman Sacchetti host. Democratic Political Analyst Mary Anne Marsh and Republican Political Analyst Rob Gray join the roundtable discussion.