Baker spending $186M in fed funds on health care, workforce

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker has decided how to spend nearly all of the $200 million of federal money the Legislature gave him sole discretion over, proposing to invest $186 million on a slate of health care and workforce development priorities.

The governor said Monday that he will put $50 million towards financially distressed hospitals, pay for 10 percent rate enhancements for some in the health care workforce through the end of the year with $55 million, invest $31 million in inpatient psychiatric acute facilities and use up to $50 million to train workers in the advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, and construction fields.

“Our administration is putting this $186 million to work now because many communities throughout Massachusetts — especially low-income families and communities of color — have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and cannot wait for assistance. More than 400,000 residents are due to lose enhanced unemployment benefits in the first week of September, making the workforce training funding particularly urgent,” Baker said. “We look forward to working quickly with our colleagues in the Legislature in allocating additional funding and providing residents and families with relief from the housing, economic, workforce, health care, and other challenges which continue to face the Commonwealth as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

When the Legislature shifted most of Massachusetts’ $5.3 billion American Rescue Plan Act award from the federal government into a segregated account it controls, it left Baker and his administration $200 million of the ARPA sum to allocate. Baker’s decision to earmark more than a quarter of what he had to dole out for workforce development was cheered Monday by the human services industry.

“After many months of discussion with the Baker Administration regarding the workforce crisis in our sector, we were thankful to see the Governor invest $55 million into the human services sector to help organizations recruit and retain high-quality workers to fill some of the sector’s 180,000 jobs,” officials from the Providers’ Council, Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, Association for Behavioral Healthcare and Children’s League of Massachusetts said in a joint statement. “We are excited that these funds will strengthen our sector’s ability to provide essential services to the one-in-ten Massachusetts residents who rely on this sector for vital support.”

On Tuesday, the Legislature will begin the series of hearings that will inform its ARPA spending decisions. Baker plans to testify — remotely from Colorado — about his bill (H 3922), which would spend about $2.9 billion of the ARPA funding quickly on housing and homeownership supports, job training, water and sewer infrastructure, addiction treatment and other areas.

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