BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legisture’s 2018 legislative session officially ended at 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning with legislators, including local legislators, having a brief chance to take a quick look back over the past few days.
For one thing, Representatives Jim Dwyer (D-Woburn), Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), and Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Lexington) note they took pride in the the passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) state budget.
The final budget features substantial investments in key areas related to public education, local aid, transportation, health and human services, housing and assistance for low income families. In addition, the budget includes several items of specific interest to the city of Woburn, they reported.
The delegation secured for the Woburn Coalition Against Substance Abuse $10,000 to aid in their efforts to work to raise substance abuse and addiction awareness and educate the public.
“I am very pleased with the funding our delegation was able to secure for Woburn in this year’s budget, specifically the funds for the Woburn Coalition Against Substance Abuse. As a former probation officer, I know better than anyone how much drugs affect our local communities and these funds are going to positively impact the issues that Woburn currently faces” said Representative Dwyer. “I am proud to be a part of a delegation that has worked tirelessly over the years to secure the much needed funding for our district”
Rep. Dwyer represents Wards 2-6 in Woburn, while Rep. Kaufman represents Wards 1 and 7 (i.e. South End and West Woburn areas).
“I am thankful that we can provide targeted funding for Woburn residents struggling with substance abuse and addiction through the Woburn Coalition Against Substance Abuse,” said Representative Kaufman. Speaking further, he stated, “I am also proud that in this year’s budget we have increased the match rate of the Earned Income Tax Credit, colloquially known as the EITC, to 30% of the federal credit. This refundable credit is specifically targeted for low-income families and the value of the credit is much greater than the money returned to hardworking families- it is generational change.”
The delegation also secured $100,000 to support English language instruction for immigrants and refugees at English at Large in Woburn.
English at Large is a non-profit that provides voluntary English language tutoring and instruction to adult learners, helping them to improve their English language skills, adapt to American life, and participate in their communities.
“Individuals that have immigrated to Massachusetts from another country often face English language barriers, which pose challenges to those individuals as they seek to integrate into American society, including difficulty gaining employment, communicating their needs to health professionals, and accessing community resources,” said Senator Friedman. “This funding would provide greater resources for English language learners, empowering them to contribute to and thrive in their communities.”
In addition, the FY19 budget includes $9,063,292 in Chapter 70 funds and $6,190,152 in Unrestricted General Government Aid.
On matters of statewide interest, the final FY19 budget also includes $2.5 million for continued support for early childhood mental health consultation services and $20 million to support high-quality Early Education and Care (EEC) programs; the budget also provides $10 million to create an EEC workforce development initiative to tie professional development and higher education opportunities more closely to our community colleges.
In recognition of the state’s strong support for education, the Legislature approved an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, which represents an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous fiscal year and increases funding for teacher health care costs by $39 million. Education funding also features $319.4 million to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, $90 million for Charter School Reimbursement, $68.9 million for Regional School Transportation and $5 million to fund the Preschool Partnership Initiative.
As part of an ongoing effort to ensure access to safe and affordable housing for the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents, the budget provides $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $32 million for the HomeBASE program, $20 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program and establishes a $5 million rapid homeless rehousing program.
To address the ongoing opioid epidemic, the budget includes $142 million for the Bureau of Substance Addition Services to create five recovery centers in Massachusetts. The budget features $5 million to support community-based treatment programs, $4.9 million for step-down recovery services and $1 million to provide increased access to Narcan to first responders.
The budget ensures that cities and towns, large and small, are empowered to effectively manage their regional transit systems to ensure reliable service and fiscal responsibility. Regional Transit Authorities across Massachusetts are allocated $88 million to assure that residents have access to reliable and affordable transportation, they concluded.