Where is the $1.1b in federal funds going?
The Legislature may control the purse strings – but Gov. Charlie Baker holds the purse.
That Beacon Hill truism was on display clearly in a report Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan wrote to the chairs of the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees on Wednesday.
The report, required by statute, detailed how the administration has been spending the federal money authorized by a $1.1 billion supplemental budget bill that state lawmakers passed in July. The bill authorized spending for both fiscal 2020, which ended June 30, and fiscal 2021.
It was basically authorization to spend money to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with the expectation that the expenditures would be reimbursed by FEMA, the CARES Act, and other federal funding sources. Lawmakers alsopacked the bill full of local earmarks.
More 2020 money could still be spent, since the state has not yet closed the books on the last fiscal year, and Baker just introduced on Wednesday a final 2020 supplemental budget bill.
The report shows how exactly the Baker administration has spent the money so far, and what has not been funded.
For example, as both the administration and lawmakers have pledged to investigate and try to remediate thedisproportionate effects COVID-19 is having on minority communities, the Baker administration has not yet released $20 million earmarked for “statewide efforts to address racial disparities in health during the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.”
In some cases, the cost of the services may be different than what was predicted in the bill, and the bill gave the administration flexibility to reallocate money. For example, the administration spent $47 million on field hospitals – far less than the $85 million envisioned in the budget bill. It spent $29 million on a statewide contract tracing program, compared to $44 million authorized by the budget. Incentive pay for state employees working at residential facilities was budgeted at $93 million, but the administration spent $54 million.
Other projected costs – like $350 million for personal protective equipment – were on target (actual spending: $356 million).
The report does not specify why the Baker administration has not yet funded things like the racial disparities program, or a $111 million allocation related to hospital, health provider, and nursing home payments.
Many, though not all, of the local earmarks have been funded. The Baker administration established a municipal coronavirus relief program and used it to fund $6.6 million worth of local earmarks that legislators tacked onto the bill. Some larger earmarks include $250,000 apiece to Revere and Winthrop, in the district of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, for monitoring, treatment, and prevention of coronavirus; $500,000 for personal protective equipment in the metrowest region that Senate President Karen Spilka represents; $600,000 for housing stabilization in hard-hit Lawrence; $250,000 for shelter and food programs in hard-hit Chelsea; $300,000 for changes to public meetings in Andover; and $450,000 for remote learning in Medford.
There were several other programs that were awarded money in the bill, for which Baker has not yet released the funding. Many of those are local earmarks that benefit particular community organizations and nonprofits.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Imari Paris Jeffries, Segun Idowu, and Rahsaan Hall urge the Legislature to adopt comprehensive police reform, including the Senate’s more far-reaching changes to the issue of qualified immunity. (Boston Globe)
A new report finds up to 129,000 Massachusetts residents may shy away from applying for MassHealth or food stamp benefits because of the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which is leading to fears that accepting public benefits will affect immigration status. (MassLive)
The Massachusetts Lottery is starting to rebound, reporting strong sales in August. (State House News Service
Despite COVID-19, Salem is still expecting a crowd around Halloween and city officials are trying to figure out how to do crowd control. (The Salem News)
Attleboro ventures into the red high-risk zone for COVID-19 as an outbreak is reported at a fire station. (WBUR)
A Quincy police investigation released Wednesday has cleared a Randolph police officer of any wrongdoing after he hit and badly injured a pedestrian en route to a domestic violence call in August. (Patriot Ledger)
Lawrence General Hospital is looking into a “data security” incident. (Eagle-Tribune)
Holyoke Soldiers’ Home is continuing to move forward with planning for a major renovation project. (MassLive)
Local public health officials and advocates are backing a new bill that would require the state to improve local public health infrastructure by setting minimum standards that each city and town’s board of health has to meet. (MassLive)
Millions of Americans are at risk of having water and electricity service shut off as utility bills pile up for those who have lost jobs due to the pandemic. (Washington Post)
Republicans are fretting about President Trump’s comments on white supremacy and baseless charges of voter fraud during Tuesday’s debate, which they worry could alienate undecided voters even Trump allies say they have helped energize his base. (Washington Post) Trump’s attacks on Hunter Biden are also drawing criticism. (The Atlantic)
The mess of a presidential debate on Tuesday did not change any minds among a sample of voters in Maine’s Second Congressional District, the only swing territory at stake in New England. (Boston Globe)
Following a chaotic debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the independent, nonpartisan sponsor of the event, says it is considering changes to the format of the presidential debate before the next matchup. (NPR)
Hampden Papers, a 140-year-old company in Holyoke, is closing. (MassLive)
Plainridge Park Casino became the first gambling facility in the state to win a license renewal, getting approved for a five-year extension by the state gambling commision. (Boston Globe)
Lawrence rolls out a $400,000 fund to help low-income families pay for daycare. (Eagle-Tribune)
Amherst abruptly cancels plans to start in-person schooling for kindergarteners and first graders, a day before the kids were scheduled to go back, after more COVID cases are reported in town. (MassLive)
Natick school officials are threatening $300 fines against students who lie on health forms needed to return for in-person learning. (MetroWest Daily News)
Cape Cod Academy headmaster Jeffrey Thompson said Wednesday that three fourth-graders at the private school have tested positive for COVID-19. (Cape Cod Times)
Nativity Preparatory School and Our Sisters’ School in New Bedford both have new learning spaces in outside tents on campus. (Standard-Times)
The Telegram & Gazette looks at how the EcoTarium science museum, which is remaining closed through the end of the year, continues to care for its animals during the pandemic.
A new American Family survey finds that nearly half of respondents say the pandemic strengthened their family relationships. (Telegram & Gazette)
A new car rental service in Boston will deliver the wheels to your door. (Boston Globe)
US Rep. Steve Lynch is urging the federal government to revoke the permit for a controversial Weymouth gas compressor station after the facility reported a second gas leak in almost as many weeks. (Boston Herald)
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said she’s frustrated by Boston police officials’ foot-dragging after she requested information on officers who have been found by the department’s internal affairs division to have lied or broken the law. (Boston Globe)
The Governor’s Council said State Police are now vetting an anonymous allegation directed at Robert Harnais, a Baker administration judicial nominee whose hearing this week was already put on hold the day after the Boston Herald reported on an assault and battery charge he faced in 2002. (Boston Herald)
A federal grand jury has subpoenaed information from the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Gaming Authority, the body overseeing the Wampanoag’s plan to build a casino, part of an ongoing federal investigation into the tribe. (MassLive)MEDIA
Debate moderator Chris Wallace calls presidential debate a “terrible missed opportunity.” (New York Times)