Governor Baker signs Holyoke Soldiers’ Home bond bill

Hampden County

BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Charlie Baker has signed the $400 million bond bill to support the reconstruction of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

The Governor made the announcement via Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

“Today I was proud to sign a $400 million bond bill to support the reconstruction of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” said Baker. “We are grateful to our legislative partners for their collaborative work with our administration to enact this important funding bill.”

The bill authorizes $400 million in bonds for the design and construction of a new facility for the Soldiers’ home in Holyoke. It also authorizes the issuance of $200 million in general obligation bonds to increase geographic equity and accessibility related to the continuum of long-term care services for those Massachusetts veterans not primarily served by the soldiers’ homes in Chelsea or Holyoke.

“There was awareness of issues at the Soldiers’ Home for a long time and policy makers decided to kick it off to another time to deal with it in another place and it had obviously disastrous consequences,” said Longmeadow Senator Eric Lesser.

The Baker-Polito Administration filed a bill in February to provide millions of dollars in capital for a major project to reconstruct the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The House passed their version of the bill on April 15th, with the Senate following on April 29.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home raised issues about the Home’s layout and the level of care that veterans were receiving there. The existing home was built in 1952 with many triple and quadruple bedrooms. That proved to be a serious problem last year, when COVID-19 quickly spread throughout the home, resulting in the deaths of over 70 veterans.

Chairwoman Linda Dean Campbell said that former superintendent Bennett Walsh remained in his position for years despite the fact that several red flags were brought to the attention of HHS Secretary Marylou Sudders and former Veterans’ Services Secretary Francisco Urena. Members of the committee are calling on Governor Baker and Secretary Sudders to address the report’s findings.

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