Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Danielle Gregoire, House Chair
The Honorable Nick Collins, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Gregoire, Chair Collins, and Members of the Committee,
We are writing today on behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth to offer comments on H. 4864, An Act investing in future opportunities for resiliency, workforce, and revitalized downtowns, which will be heard in your committee on Friday, June 24th.
First, we want to thank you for your ongoing support for cities and towns. The authorizations in critical infrastructure and projects in the economic development legislation reflect a commitment to a strong partnership with municipalities throughout the Commonwealth. This partnership is essential as cities and towns continue their economic recovery efforts through much needed infrastructure and housing projects.
There are several priority areas of interest to municipalities in the legislation, and we respectfully ask for your consideration and support.
We support the $400 million for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure projects. Every municipality in the Commonwealth can identify critical infrastructure projects that are ready to go, and this additional funding for MassWorks grants will provide much-needed and flexible assistance to move these projects into the action phase.
Clean Water Trust Fund Grants
We support the $104 million for Clean Water Trust Fund grants. The Clean Water Trust Fund helps communities build or replace water infrastructure, ensures the safety of drinking water, protects public health, and develops resilient communities. Through the Trust, municipalities can finance significant, complex and urgently needed water projects. Our municipalities are struggling to deal with aging infrastructure and at the same time, the number of communities identifying PFAS contaminants in their public drinking water supplies is increasing. Funds for water treatment will be put to quick and beneficial use.
We strongly support the language in Section 32 to formally establish the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Center (MassCyberCenter) within the Mass. Technology Park Corporation (MassTech). This agency is an extraordinary partner with cities and towns to advance municipal cybersecurity and resiliency, providing invaluable technical assistance, training, grants, and expertise. Section 32 would ensure that the MassCyberCenter has a permanent role in forging a stronger and safer cyber future for public entities at every level, and in cultivating a stronger public-private ecosystem to make sure that Massachusetts is a leader in attracting and scaling cybersecurity talent. Further, we ask you to support the Federal Funds Matching Program to provide MassTech with a reserve to match federal technology and innovation grants, including grants for cybersecurity.
To help close the digital divide, investment in broadband infrastructure is essential. We support the $50 million authorized for broadband matching grant funds at the state level in anticipation of competitive programs at the federal level. This funding in unserved and underserved communities will be essential to helping create digital equity.
We support the $268 million in authorizations to support housing production, including affordable rental housing production, rehabilitation, climate resilient housing and transit-oriented development. We look forward to more conversations about starter home zoning, and ways to make starter home development effective and compliant with local regulations. The Commonwealth is experiencing a severe affordable housing shortage, and these programs will help us maintain our region’s competitiveness, and provide economic stability.
Finally, and critically, we applaud active discussions and legislative engagement on the use of federal funds to enhance the scope of this and other legislation, and we strongly support action to appropriate the $2.3 balance of state American Rescue Plan Act funds this session. Cities and towns across the Commonwealth are prepared to act swiftly to put these funds to immediate use on shovel-ready projects that address long-term economic development and community improvements, and we have heard from our members that they fully support the framework and targeted investments in the original economic development bill filed by the Administration.
Our support for passage of the ARPA components this session is based on three significant considerations: potential clawbacks, time, and inflation.
First, in consultation with our municipal colleagues at the National League of Cities and in other states, we firmly believe that there is a growing risk to the $2.3 billion dollars that remain in the Massachusetts state ARPA reserve fund. Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill – from other states – have been mobilizing to clawback unobligated state and local ARPA funds as a condition of passing ongoing and new federal spending initiatives. Such an effort was narrowly defeated a short time ago in President Biden’s still-pending supplemental COVID spending bill, and there is a very real concern that the narrow majority in support of preserving ARPA commitments may not remain after congressional elections this fall. Acting in July 2022, before the next Congress convenes in January 2023, would greatly reduce the clawback risk.
Second, supply chain disruptions and private sector workforce shortages are taking their toll, and are already presenting challenges for the state and municipalities. With so much ARPA funding to process, the December 2024 deadline to obligate the funds is already aggressive. The U.S. Treasury’s ruling is that “obligated” is a much higher standard than “appropriated.” Infrastructure projects must be developed, bid, awarded, negotiated, and contracted. Grant programs must have rules and criteria established, grant notifications and application periods must be established, grant submissions must be received, grant awards must be determined, and the recipients must then issue their own RFPs for contractors, vendors, service agencies, and other partners, and those details must be completed. As you can see, time is a precious resource to maximize so that all this work can be completed by the end of 2024.
Finally, with inflation at the highest level in decades, acting now will prevent a further erosion in the state’s buying power, and will maximize the scope of the work and impact that these unprecedented federal funds can have here in Massachusetts.
For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to continue the Legislature’s outstanding work in allocating COVID recovery funding last year by appropriating the remaining state ARPA funds before formal sessions end in July.
This is a critical time for cities and towns. We know that you and your colleagues in the House and Senate continue to be outstanding partners for communities across the Commonwealth, and we look forward to working with you to ensure a robust economic recovery. These initiatives will move our economy forward in every region of the state, and we offer our full support.
We thank you very much for your dedication, commitment, and support for the cities and towns of Massachusetts.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
MMA Executive Director & CEO
cc: The Honorable Ronald Mariano, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen Spilka, Senate President
The Honorable Aaron Michlewitz, Chair, House Committee on Ways & Means
The Honorable Michael Rodrigues, Chair, Senate Committee on Ways & Means