On Aug. 7, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $1.8 billion capital bond bill that provides funding for information technology purchases and a variety of other state and local capital programs.

The bond act includes $660 million for information technology programs for a range of state and local projects and programs administered by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.

One of the four new capital accounts requires the office, in consultation with the rural policy advisory commission and others, to study the state of cell phone service coverage in rural counties (population density of less than 500 persons per square mile) and use $10 million to improve service.

The bond act also provides $20 million for a competitive, matching grant program administered by the Executive Office for Administration and Finance to help cities and towns pay for the construction of fiber broadband infrastructure and related projects and expenditures, with priority for grants to completely unserved premises located in a municipality.

The Board of Library Commissioners’ public library construction grant program was increased by $115 million to cover projects on the current wait list. The governor’s capital plan from June includes $20 million for library construction grants in fiscal 2021. Future plans will draw from the new authorization.

In order to be spent, the authorizations in the bond act (Chapter 151 of the Acts of 2020) will have to be included in multiyear state capital spending plans that are prepared annually by the governor. The most recent plan, starting in the current fiscal year, was released in June and is based mainly on prior bond authorizations.

Chapter 151 adds $5 million for the Community Compact information technology grant program administered by the Division of Local Services. The program typically provides grants of up to $200,000 to support implementation of local IT projects by helping to pay for one-time capital needs such as technology infrastructure, purchases of equipment or software. Some costs related to the grants, such as implementation and training, are eligible.

Chapter 151 includes $100 million for grants to cities, towns and certain regional organizations to fund capital projects associated with improving the accessibility of municipal facilities. A separate account administered by the Massachusetts Office on Disability will provide $10 million in grants to cities and towns for modifications to governmental infrastructure to enhance accessibility.

Included in the several Executive Office of Public Safety and Security bond act items is $25 million for a competitive grant program for fire departments to purchase firefighter safety equipment, including washer and dryer cleaning equipment for firefighter gear and safety equipment. Firefighting vehicles are not included.

The bond act includes $20 million for competitive grants to help cities and towns purchase body-worn cameras for police departments as well as for capital costs necessary to use body-worn cameras, such as storage of camera footage.

State agencies that administer the various grant programs will provide information on availability of grants and how to apply.

Written by