This afternoon, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a $4 billion COVID recovery bill that the Legislature had sent to him on Dec. 3.

The spending package (H. 4269) is funded by two revenue sources: nearly $1.5 billion from the fiscal 2021 state budget surplus and close to $2.5 billion from the state’s allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The new law includes major investments in municipal priorities, including water and sewer infrastructure, environmental infrastructure, HVAC improvements for public school facilities, broadband access, and cybersecurity initiatives.

Local and regional boards of public health
The law includes $200 million for local and regional boards of public health, focused on standardizing data systems, increased training, software upgrades and technical assistance. The MMA views this as an important step to build and strengthen the capacity of municipal public health departments.

Water and sewer infrastructure
To assist municipalities with critical shovel-ready projects, the law includes $100 million for water and sewer infrastructure investments. Municipalities have been struggling to maintain, rebuild and replace aging infrastructure, a problem made worse by increasingly severe weather events that bring more stormwater, flooding and drought. And as more and more communities identify PFAS contaminants in their public drinking water supplies, and PFAS is detected in other sources such as rivers and turf fields, funds for water and environmental treatment are expected to be put to quick use.

Environmental infrastructure
The law provides $100 million for environmental infrastructure investments, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program.

More than 90% of Massachusetts municipalities are enrolled in the MVP program, and more than $20 million was distributed through planning and action grants in the most recent funding round this past fall. With such a high engagement rate and thousands of priority projects identified through the planning process in communities across the Commonwealth, requests for action grants have far exceeded the available funding in the Global Warming Solutions Trust Fund.

Additional funding for the MVP program will enable more projects to be approved in each grant round and provide a stable source of long-term funding as the program expands its reach.

HVAC improvements for public school facilities
The law includes $100 million for heating, ventilation and air conditioning investments to improve indoor air quality and support healthy learning environments in districts with schools with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately affected by the public health emergency.

Broadband access
To help close the digital divide, the law includes $50 million intended to facilitate broadband and internet access with investments to the Broadband Innovation Fund.

The COVID recovery package includes $15 million for cybersecurity initiatives to protect against and mitigate cyberattacks. Cities and towns appear to be prime targets for cyberattacks, likely due to two central factors: the essential role of local government and the challenge of maintaining modern IT systems.

Housing, workforce and economic development
The law includes major investments in housing, workforce and economic development, including $600 million for housing initiatives such as homeownership assistance, the CommonWealth Builders Program, rental housing production, supportive housing, and maintenance for public housing.

The funding will support municipal efforts to address housing affordability, workforce training and skill development, and economic growth in every region of the state.

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