Today the Senate Committee on Ways and Means announced a plan for spending $3.67 billion drawn from two revenue sources: the state’s multi-billion dollar fiscal 2021 surplus and its allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The Senate’s “COVID recovery” proposal (S. 2564) includes several priorities that were in the bill (H. 4234) passed by the House last week, including investments in housing, the environment and climate change mitigation, economic development, and workforce programs.

The Senate bill also included $400 million for mental and behavioral health services, $250 million for local and regional boards of public health, and $15 million for cybersecurity initiatives.

The bill does not, however, include additional funding for municipal roads and bridges, which the MMA has identified as a priority because cities and towns face a significant funding gap in order to maintain local roads in a state of good repair.

The deadline for Senate members to file amendments is expected to be set for this Friday, at the earliest. Debate on the proposal is scheduled to begin next Wednesday. After the Senate approves its proposal, the House and Senate will need to settle any differences between the two bills before a final bill can be sent to the governor.

The following are the highlights of S. 2564:

The Senate is proposing $600 million for housing programs, including targeted investments in supportive housing production, public housing capital improvements, homeownership assistance, the CommonWealth Building Program, and workforce rental housing production.

Environment and climate
The Senate bill includes $450 million for environmental infrastructure and development spending. Targeted investments include Marine Port Development and Offshore Wind, environmental infrastructure projects aimed at bolstering communities’ climate resiliency, water and sewer infrastructure improvements, tree plantings, upgrades to state parks and recreational facilities, retrofitting affordable housing units for sustainable energy initiatives and a geothermal technology pilot program.

Of the $450 million, $125 million would support environmental infrastructure programs, including the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program, and $20 million would be used for tree planting with a focus on underserved communities.

The Senate’s $175 million for water and sewer infrastructure projects, is $75 million more than in the House bill.

Workforce and economic development
House and Senate leadership agreed to two major workforce investments prior to the release of their spending plans: $500 million for premium pay bonuses for essential workers who worked in-person during the state of emergency, and $500 million for the state’s unemployment trust fund, intended to relieve pressure on small businesses.

Health and human services
The Senate bill prioritizes investments in workforce initiatives for human services providers, including recruitment, retention and loan forgiveness programs.

The $250 million for local and regional boards of public health would include a focus on expansion of shared public health services among one or more municipalities. Of the $250 million, $118.4 million would be used for standardizing and improving data collection, $37.5 million for training local boards and health department staff, and $95 million for a five-year program of direct funding and technical assistance to local boards of health.

The Senate bill does not include the $100 million proposed by the House for heating ventilation and cooling system grants to be distributed through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, but would instead focus education investments on vocational school buildings, at $100 million.

In June, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed his plan to spend roughly half of the Commonwealth’s State and Local Coronavirus Relief Funds, and in August, the governor filed a separate supplemental budget bill to spend a large portion of the fiscal 2021 state surplus. The Legislature passed a scaled-back supplemental budget — signed by the governor on Oct. 21 — that delayed decisions on how to spend much of the state surplus.

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