Gov. Charlie Baker held a State House press conference on Feb. 17, 2021 to announce that COVID-19 vaccine eligibility was expanding to include people age 65 and older. Photo by Sam Doran | State House News Service

Having taken his full 10 days to consider his options, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday took his pen and scissors to the $4 billion federal aid and surplus disbursement bill, signing off on the spending decisions but cutting out some of the “red tape” he said would make it harder to quickly get money out to people who need it.

The governor signed the bill that deploys $2.55 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money and $1.45 billion in fiscal 2021 surplus state tax revenue, while preserving a little more than $2.3 billion in federal ARPA funds for future use.

But Baker also vetoed a policy section that required a large commission be consulted before premium pay could be awarded to frontline employees who worked during the COVID-19 state of emergency and returned another similar outside section with proposed amendments.

“This bill directs funding to key areas in need of support as Massachusetts continues its recovery from the pandemic. It invests substantially in health care, housing and homeownership, workforce development, and other key priorities. Our Administration is eager to begin quickly deploying these resources to the individuals and communities that desperately need them,” Baker wrote in his filing letter, though he also noted the bill “falls far short of the investment I called for to address the housing shortage.”

The spending itself is mostly concentrated on health care ($964 million), housing ($624 million), infrastructure ($414 million), education ($389 million) and economic development ($267 million), as well as on specific workforce issues ($500 million allotments for both premium pay awards and the state’s unemployment insurance system), according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation’s analysis.

That analysis calculated that the housing fund break down as:

  • $65 million for first-time homebuyer assistance.
  • $115 million for the CommonWealth Builder program and other programs that fund the production moderately-priced for-sale units.
  • $115 million for rental housing production.
  • $150 million for the production of supportive housing for seniors and veterans.
  • $150 million for maintenance of existing public housing projects.
  • $87 million in various smaller earmarks related to housing or infrastructure projects.

Baker Signs ARPA Bill With $624M for Housing

by State House News Service time to read: 1 min