Baker releases $109m to 4 hard-hit communities
Ends brief legislative dispute over process
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Friday released $109 million in federal money for four communities hard-hit by COVID-19, ending a brief spat with the Legislature over the process of appropriating the money.
Baker in March announced that he would give $100 million to Chelsea, Methuen, Everett, and Randolph to compensate for a shortfall in federal funding formulas. The American Rescue Plan distributed relief money to municipalities based on a mix of per capita funding and federal Community Development Block Grant formula funding. As a result of the use of both of these methods, those four cities were short-changed compared to other similar communities.
The Baker administration plans to use other American Rescue Plan funding, which the state has discretion to distribute, to compensate for the shortfalls by giving Chelsea $28.5 million, Everett $33.3 million, Methuen $26.3 million, and Randolph $21 million.
The funding announcement came after a brief dispute between Baker and the Legislature about the ARP money. The state received a total of nearly $5.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan money May 19. This past Tuesday, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka announced their intention to place the money into a segregated account, which means it would require legislative approval to be spent. Without that, the Baker administration would have authority to unilaterally spend the money.
Baker officials raised concerns that moving the money to another account would delay the distribution to the four hard-hit communities. The administration said it had been on the verge of distributing the money, but held back once Spilka and Mariano announced their intent to take legislative control of the money.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation then weighed in, urging the money’s quick distribution. Mariano and Spilka on Wednesday said they too supported distributing the money – and questioned why Baker had not already done it.
On Friday, Baker said his administration will distribute the money to the communities immediately. That means the distribution can go ahead before the Legislature finalizes its plan to move the rest of the money out of Baker’s control – a bill that the House already approved, but the Senate plans to vote on next week.US Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who had urged the distribution of the money, issued a statement praising the decision to release it. “The cities of Chelsea, Everett, Methuen, and Randolph have borne a disproportionate brunt of the public health and economic crisis over the past year, and today, they finally received the help they need and deserve,” the members of Congress said.
Spokespeople for the House and Senate said in a joint statement, “The House and the Senate are glad that Chelsea, Randolph, Everett and Methuen are now receiving the additional funds promised to them as they continue their recovery efforts. The Senate and House look forward to working with the Administration and the public in an open and transparent process to equitably distribute federal funds.”