In April 2022, the MA House of Representatives passed an extraordinary budget. Morfe on this budget and the budget process here.
Here’s some of what was included in the FY23 Budget:
- $41 million for the Department of Environmental Protection (23% increase)
- $4.7 million to implement climate adaptation and preparedness strategies, providing a 112% increase.
- $78 million for the Department of Conservation to provide staffing support in state parks, a 56% increase in funding compared to the previous year.
- $1.3 million to support environmental justice communities.
The House continued to further its commitment to cities and towns by providing the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.199 billion and providing $5.988 billion in Chapter 70 education funding. This includes fully funding the second year of a six-year implementation plan of the Student Opportunity Act (i.e. keeping our financial commitment on schedule despite the pandemic), which provides funds for our most vulnerable students.
The budget also provides:
- $110 million for a year-long extension of universal school meals,
- $440 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker, providing an 18% increase.
- $243 million for charter school aid, fully funding charter school reimbursement (an estimated 58% increase compared to last year)
- $500,000 for the Genocide Education Fund
The Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission provided recommendations to the budget, which the House included. Additional funding initiatives include:
- $16.5 million for Head Start grants, boosting the funding by 10% from the previous year.
- $15 million for childcare resource and referral agencies, providing a much-needed 25% increase in funding.
- $3 million for early childhood mental health grants,
- $1 million to provide bilingual workforce training, instructional coaching, and COVID-19 testing.
This budget includes $40M for MassHealth nursing home supplemental rates; $2.5M for Elder Mental Health outreach teams; $22M for councils on aging, $1M for the Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (SHINE) Program to ensure seniors have knowledge and resources to understand their health insurance options, and $750,000 for Meals on Wheels program
The budget collectively allocated over a 10% increase to the three public higher education segments (community colleges, state universities and the UMass system) including: $653 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $337 million for community colleges, and $326 million for state universities.
Scholarship funding (the MASSGrant program) received a 20% increase to $156 million, estimated to support over 100,000 students. PLUS:
- a Student Loan Forgiveness program within the Department of Mental Health: $20 million
- a Student Loan Repayment for people who work in homeless shelters: $10 million
When it comes to housing and homelessness funding, the budget provided:
- $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, boosting the program’s funding by 15%.
- $140 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, providing approximately over a 500% increase for this program that has been in high demand throughout the pandemic.
- $100 million for homeless individuals, a 73% increase from the previous budget cycle.
- $92 million for housing authority subsidies,
- $59.4 million for HomeBASE.
The budget includes innovative investments to reform our criminal justice system, notably it includes a fund to ensure no-cost calls for individuals who are incarcerated. Right now families in Massachusetts pay approximately $14.4M annually to communicate with loved ones who are incarcerated. We know that community connectedness is essential to prevent recidivism, phone calls and communication with family is a big piece of this.
In addition, the House eliminated probation and parole fees. (Currently, individuals pay $50 per month for administrative supervised probation fees, $65 per month for probation supervision fees, and $80 per month in parole fees.) Other investments include:
- $41 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, a 17% increase,
- $24 million for re-entry and recidivism reduction programs,
- $2 million for a new pilot program to provide rent subsidies to formerly incarcerated individuals returning to the community.
- $11.2 million for residential reentry programs.
- $6 million for the Emerging Adults Recidivism Reduction Grant Program.
Additionally, the House banned child marriage for people under the age of 18, which is considered a human rights abuse by the U.S. State Department. Under 18 year olds have no rights in courts to seek divorce or safety.
The House Budget substantially increases MassHealth (Medicaid) to better support our most vulnerable neighbors. The budget allocates $18.40 billion to fund their operations fully. Also included is another $37 million to expand eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program.
The budget also establishes and advances a Common Application to help streamline and improve the efficiency of the application process for critical public health and safety net programs. Means tested programs in Massachusetts, such as SNAP, MassHealth, LIHEAP, and Unemployment, all have individual separate applications. Completing multiple applications can often be an exhausting, challenging, and discouraging experience. Applicants for one are typically eligible for multiple programs, without their knowledge. This provision authorizes the creation of one common application for all public benefit programs in Massachusetts to allow those in need to submit one application and receive benefits for all programs they are eligible for. By making the process easier, the hope is we will get more available assistance to people who need it (and are eligible for it), reducing their insecurity and maximizing the advantages of these programs, as well as potentially better understanding the extent of need that exists in the commonwealth. This is a huge win.
The FY23 budget also addresses the needs of the human services workforce, providing:
- $343 million to fully fund the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, providing a 24% increase compared to last year’s budget!
- $137 million for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children, which gives the state a 34% increase from the previous budget.
- $40 million to continue higher rate add-ons and ensure a smaller wage cliff between FY22 and FY23 for home health aides, a 43% increase.
- $1 million for the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development program.
- $500,000 was also included for improving reproductive health care access, infrastructure, and security for the Jane Fund of Central Massachusetts, the Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts, and the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund.
- $500,000 to ensure a public information campaign on MA residents ability to get 12 months of prescription birth control with one prescription. Background on why this is important here.
This budget also codified HIV Prevention Access for Young Adults: Expands access to life-saving HIV prevention medication for young adults.
Arts and Culture
- $22.5 million for Mass Cultural Council
The budget invests in youth engagement programs, job training, and workforce development, including:
- $60 million for adult education to support English Language Learners and adults working towards their GED,
- $25.7 million for workforce support for K-12 schools,
- $15 million for One-Stop Career Centers to connect individuals with training and employers,
- $1 million for the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.