Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Jerald A. Parisella, House Chair
The Honorable Eric Lesser, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Parisella, Chair Lesser, and Members of the Committee,
We are writing today on behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth to offer comments on H. 4720, An Act investing in future opportunities for resiliency, workforce, and revitalized downtowns, which will be heard in your committee on Monday, May 9.
First, we want to thank you for your ongoing support for cities and towns. Your support for the $4 billion COVID Recovery legislation signed into law in December 2021, which included $2.55 billion of the Commonwealth’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, provided critical investments in several areas of municipal infrastructure. These investments are allowing municipalities to leverage their own ARPA Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds and have empowered cities and towns to address projects that otherwise would continue to lack necessary funding.
As you know, while H. 4720 is partially a traditional bond bill, the measure also includes plans to spend the balance of the state’s ARPA reserve fund. The MMA has been working tirelessly with our national partners to prevent a growing effort by many lawmakers on Capitol Hill to claw back unobligated ARPA funds to finance new and ongoing federal spending initiatives. One clawback threat was narrowly averted just weeks ago, when a provision to claw back billions in State Fiscal Recover Funds was laid aside at the last minute. Given the very narrow margin of support for ARPA funding in Congress, we are deeply concerned that these efforts will ultimately succeed. The only way to make certain that clawbacks don’t happen, and to protect all of the state’s remaining $2.3 billion in federal ARPA aid, is to accelerate the appropriation and obligation of these funds as quickly as possible.
Due to this and the overwhelming magnitude of need across Massachusetts, we respectfully urge you to appropriate the remaining state ARPA funds this legislative session. This would both catalyze regional and local economic development, as well as invest in cities and towns through shovel-ready projects. There are several priority areas of interest to municipalities in the FORWARD legislation, and we respectfully ask for your consideration and support.
We support the nearly $550 million for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure projects, including $147 million in ARPA funds to support 94 local projects and $400 million in capital reauthorization. Every municipality in the Commonwealth can identify critical infrastructure projects that are ready to go, and this additional funding for MassWorks grants and capital reauthorizations will provide much-needed assistance to move these projects into the action phase.
Downtown Recovery Grants
We support the $108 million allocated for downtown recovery grants to 246 municipalities, as well as the $50 million allocated for the Revitalizing Underused Properties program. This needed funding will help reinvigorate downtowns and boost local economies, which were hit hard by the pandemic and are only now beginning to recover.
Community OneStop for Growth
We support the $32 million allocation to the Community OneStop for Growth program. Municipalities benefit from Community OneStop’s streamlined approach to grant applications, which now includes 12 different state grant programs. The program’s holistic approach to project design and funding leverages multiple programs, maximizes efficiency, and minimizes the time to completion.
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 fund, 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 48 to formally establish the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Center (MassCyberCenter) within the Massachusetts 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 48 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. Additionally, we support the $12 million in authorization for “middle mile” program grants, knowing how crucial this is to reducing the cost of broadband internet.
We support the $270 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.
Municipal Training and Workforce Development
We support the $20 million included to provide local workforce training grants. These grants would support the recruitment and training of municipal employees who deliver important public services across Massachusetts. This program helps implement part of the vision of the state’s recent working group on the subject, which identified key areas of focus and investment to support the growing needs of the essential municipal workforce.
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. The Commonwealth has a unique opportunity to leverage federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to make historic investments in infrastructure, downtown revitalization projects, municipal workforce development, housing, and environmental protection. All of 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
The Honorable Ronald Mariano, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Karen Spilka, Senate President
The Honorable Aaron Michlewitz, Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means
The Honorable Michael Rodrigues, Chair, Senate Committee on Ways and Means