(BOSTON) – On Monday, December 13, 2021, Governor Baker signed An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs (H.4269,) which allocates $2.55 billion in federal funding granted to the Commonwealth for COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and $1.45 billion in surplus tax dollars from fiscal year 2021. Advanced by the Massachusetts legislature in early December, the bill allocates $4 billion in critical investments to sectors including housing, health care, mental and behavioral health, climate preparedness, education, and workforce development.
“A once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in communities, this legislation serves to uplift the residents by strengthening existing programs and services,” said Representative Meschino (D-Hull). “I am eager to see the positive impact that these relief dollars will have in our district and across the Commonwealth in support of our main street economies.”
The legislation includes several initiatives from Representative Meschino’s legislative agenda.
- An Unemployment Insurance Overpayment Waiver Public Information Campaign: Scores of workers who are either currently unemployed or experienced unemployment during the pandemic have received notices from the Department of Unemployment Assistance about recouping large sums of money as a result of overpayments. Recipients of these notices were often issued overpayments by no fault of their own, and though they are able to request waivers for the requirement to repay benefits, many are unaware that they possess this right. This section of the legislation requires the Department of Unemployment Assistance to run a public information campaign, specifically targeting many of these beneficiaries, about the overpayment waiver program. This language stems from a bill filed this fall by Representative Meschino, 4202. An Act relative to waivers for non-fault overpayments expands and shapes the current criteria to evaluate a repayment waiver application by:
- Providing easily ascertainable scenarios where recovery of overpayments made through no fault of the worker would be against equity and good conscience;
- Requiring DUA to provide adequate notice of the waiver application process to claimants;
- Ensuring that DUA assist claimants—including those with limited English proficiency and those who face barriers accessing technology—with the waiver application process;
- Requiring DUA to reconsider previously denied waiver applications under the new standards of this Act; and
- Prohibiting DUA from improperly establishing overpayments based on redeterminations made beyond the one-year deadline provided in state law.
- Funding for Supportive Housing: The legislation includes a $150 million allocation to build new permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, families, youth and young adults, survivors of domestic violence, seniors and veterans. Initially, this language did not include families, youth and young adults as potential beneficiaries of this flexible housing fund. An amendment filed by Representative Meschino brought about this important addition.
- Funding for Community College Hunger Pilot: $2.7 million is included in the bill to establish a state community college campus hunger pilot program to address student hunger and food insecurity as an obstacle to degree attainment. The program will be administered by the Department of Higher Education and will aim to improve outcomes linked to student food security, including attendance rates, GPAs, persistence through college, and graduation rates. This language originates from a bill filed by Representative Meschino (1350) and Senator Joan Lovely (D-Salem) (S.847).
Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) and Representative Meschino were also able to secure funding for Hingham, Hull and Cohasset, including:
- $25,000 to Maddie’s Promise, Inc. in the town of Hingham;
- $25,000 to the Hingham Historical Society;
- $50,000 for the town of Cohasset for a zoning study of the Cohasset Village for economic growth and housing creation;
- $250,000 to the town of Hull for immediate improvements and emergency repairs to the Nantasket beach boardwalk area;
- $150,000 to rebuild the public boat ramp at A street pier in Hull; and
- $25,000 to the Hull Nantasket Chamber of Commerce in the town of Hull for the continuance of the Hull-O Trolley.
To check for updates on this and to follow other legislation, simply create an account on malegislature.gov.