Senate passes $1.7 billion bill to support racial equity, early education and remote learning opportunities

Massachusetts

BOSTON (WWLP) – The Massachusetts State Senate passed a $1.7 billion General Government Bond Bill Thursday which focuses on capital improvements.

According to a news release sent to 22News from the Office of Senate President Karen E. Spilka, the bill will focus on the following:

  • To improve government infrastructure
  • Empower communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
  • Support early education and care providers with safe reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Expand equitable access to remote learning opportunities for vulnerable populations across the Commonwealth

“As we adjust to a world transformed by a global pandemic and address systemic racial
inequities across our system, the Senate stands committed to supporting existing programs and
finding new ways to invest in underserved and underrepresented populations. Among other things, I am pleased to see this bill authorizes additional supports for childcare providers. I am equally proud to see it redirects resources to a flexible program aimed at supporting communities of color. I would like to thank Senator Michael Rodrigues and my colleagues for their input and hard work in advancing these priorities,” Senate President Karen E. Spilka said.

According to the release, the bond bill authorizes $50M in new economic empowerment and
community reinvestment capital grants to support communities disproportionately impacted by
the criminal justice system with access to economic and workforce development opportunities.

The bill also authorizes capital investments to ensure accountability in public safety and modernize criminal justice data collection by providing $20M for a body camera grant program for police
departments and $10M for a statewide criminal justice data system modernization to help better
track racial and ethnic disparities across the judicial and public safety systems.

To ensure access to remote learning opportunities and safe access to early childcare opportunities, the bill authorizes $50M to enhance and expand access to K-12 remote learning technology, provides $25M to assist licensed early education and care providers and after school programs with capital improvements to ensure safe reopening.

The bill also addresses growing food insecurity and food supply chain needs across the
Commonwealth due to the COVID 19 pandemic, with $37M for a food security grant program to address infrastructure needs for farms, retailers, fisheries, food system businesses, and food distribution channels.

Additional components of the bond bill include:

  • $140M for cybersecurity upgrades to improve the Commonwealth’s technology and telecommunications infrastructure
  • $115M for municipal library improvements
  • $100M for governmental performance and informational technology infrastructure upgrades
  • $30M for public higher education public safety grants
  • $25M for fire safety equipment grants
  • $20M for municipal broadband access grants
  • $5M for the development of a common application for MassHealth enrollees to more easily access the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • $2.9M for a public health data warehouse to track population health trends, such as COVID-19
  • $2.5M for implementation of an automated electronic sealing process to seal certain criminal records

The bill returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives where a similar bill passed. The Senate expects differences between the two versions to be resolved quickly.

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