Today the Massachusetts Legislature passed its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $43.1 billion, the budget makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $476 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $3 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services.
“I am proud of this fiscally responsible budget that supports the needs of individuals, families, and communities across the Commonwealth through thoughtful investments that increase local aid, strengthen our health care system and protect the environment,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This budget bolsters our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, invest in high-quality early education and care and makes another significant deposit into the state’s Stabilization Fund. These investments will have a long and lasting positive effect on the residents of Massachusetts. I want to thank Chair Michlewitz for his leadership and my colleagues in the House, especially those on the conference committee, who worked to put this package together.”
The budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by nearly $30 million and provides $5.17 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $268 million increase for investments in schools over Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, the budget includes a $10.5 million reserve for low-income students while the Joint Committee on Education continues its work on this issue. It also addresses the need for integrated student health and wellness supports, providing $2 million to establish the Supporting Health Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program to address non-academic barriers to school success. The budget expands the role of the Office of the Child Advocate to oversee integrated coordination of education and health programming. Additional education allocations include:
$345 million for Special Education reimbursement;
$115 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
$75.8 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.
The budget builds on the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC). The budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. The conference report provides $7.5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access across the Commonwealth. The budget also includes additional investments into Head Start grants and quality improvement measures in core EEC programming.
The budget represents some of the biggest increases seen in a generation when it comes to housing and homelessness funding. Access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential and provides the foundation from which families and individuals can lead successful lives. This year, the budget continues these efforts by providing:
$116 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
$72 million for Public Housing Subsidies;
$8 million for Alternative Housing Voucher Program; and
$53.4 million for Homeless individual shelters.
The budget continues make investments in the Commonwealth’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic – a public health crisis that has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth. To help those in need, the budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to discounted naloxone, making it more available for use in the field. In addition, the budget includes:
$150.2 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts and support substance use disorder workforce initiatives; and
$5.5M for a comprehensive statewide strategy for community-based harm reduction services.
The budget includes funding for public safety and the judiciary, including investments to implement last session’s criminal justice reform law. The budget includes:
$4.5million for a new community-based re-entry program;
$24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals; and
$11 million for Shannon Grants, a competitive grant program to individual municipalities to address heightened levels of gang violence.
The budget calls for more than $283 million in spending for environmental programs. These funding levels will ensure that state keeps up with the needs of its parks and environmental protections programs. These investments include:
$47.25 million for State Parks and Recreation;
$61 million for the Department of Environmental Protection; and
$1.5 million for Watershed Protection.
In the area of labor and economic development, the budget invests in programs that provide job opportunities for residents to participate in the Commonwealth’s thriving economy. These investments include:
$90.5 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs);
$41 million for Adult Basic Education Services;
$7 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund;
$2 million to establish a program to promote and support the Massachusetts restaurant industry;
$500,000 to establish a specialized prevailing wage and construction investigatory and enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office;
$16 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth; and
$4.8 million for the STEM Starter Academy, to support underperforming students at community colleges interested in pursuing STEM subjects.
MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its residents. This program provides health insurance for our most vulnerable populations: the homeless, the recovering, mothers with children, and the working poor. In addition to funding this key safety net program, the budget also ensures funding for crucial health and human services agencies and providers including:
$109.8 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
$50 million increase in the supplemental rates for nursing homes across the Commonwealth and an emergency task force aimed at helping to bring stability to the industry;
$10 million for a new behavioral health trust fund to support mental health worker loan forgiveness, public awareness campaigns and other initiatives;
$19 million towards the Councils on Aging to help senior citizens; and
Fully funds the Lift the Cap on Kids initiative that removes barriers that prevent families from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits for certain children.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will increase the Commonwealth’s contribution into the Community Preservation Act, which will ensure that over $36 million more will be distributed to projects all across the Commonwealth and help raise the state’s match up to 30 percent for investments in open space, affordable housing and historic preservation.
Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.