Lawmakers will likely miss Baker’s Holyoke Soldiers’ Home deadline

Hampden County

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker has said his $400 million proposal to build a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home would have to be passed by April 1 to take advantage of a favorable federal funding opportunity, but it does not appear that will happen.

The Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets has scheduled a virtual public hearing on the bill (H 96) on Monday, April 5. Baker filed his proposal on Feb. 11 and attached urgency to its passage in order to secure federal funding through a Veterans Administration grant program for up to 65 percent of the project costs.

On March 25, the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee, after holding its own virtual public hearing on the bill on March 9, reported the legislation favorably as a redraft of the governor’s original proposal (H 64). In his filing letter, Baker wrote that the bonding authorization in his bill would enable state agencies and the home to apply on April 15 to the Veterans Administration’s State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program for 65 percent in matching funds for the project.

Baker cited an accelerated timeline for the grant program that requires state agencies, including the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to “quickly move from the study phase to the design development phase, which must be completed by August 1, 2021 to be eligible for this cycle of the grant program.” “To meet that deadline, DCAMM must have this authorization available by April 1, 2021,” Baker wrote. “We understand this is a very short window and will make ourselves available to the legislature in whatever way would be most helpful, so we can reach an agreement on this bond bill by mid-March, with a terms bill filed and enacted soon afterwards. Missing these deadlines would delay the project until the next grant cycle, meaning our deserving veterans would wait longer for this crucial new facility.”

The House and Senate this session were slow to create the Joint Bonding Committee and completed that work last Thursday. The committee is co-chaired by Rep. Danielle Gregoire of Marlborough and Sen. Paul Feeney of Foxborough.

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