Massachusetts Lawmakers Advance COVID-19 Relief Package | News

Massachusetts Lawmakers Advance COVID-19 Relief Package |  News

The spending plan, if approved by Gov. Charlie Baker, would add to billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief that has flowed into the state in the past two years. “Teachers, hospital staff, other front-line professionals, artists and cultural institutions should not be expected to pay out of their own pockets for masks,” the Ashland Democrat said. “Such basic protections are essential to doing one’s job and providing them will give a small but vital relief.” In December, Baker signed a $4 billion spending package that included money for the state’s health care system, housing, workforce development, transportation upgrades and environmental protection.

“We’re not out of this thing yet,” said Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem. “These dollars will go a long way to providing help where it’s desperately needed.” Backers of the legislation say its passage is crucial to address the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and the latest surge of infections that have pushed the state’s health care system to the brink.

Senate President Karen Spilka said the spending would ensure that the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts reach vulnerable populations and front-line workers. The House of Representatives previously approved a similar measure that would spend $55 million on pandemic relief efforts.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, proposed an amendment to the bill that would extend state funding to regional vaccine clinics like those in his district he says have been helpful in efforts to reach unvaccinated populations. The amendment was unanimously adopted. “In our region, we have two clinics operating which have been vaccinating impressive numbers of people,” Tarr said in remarks. “This is a recognition of that additional modality of providing important vaccine availability.” Senators added an additional $20 million to the spending bill during Wednesday’s debate of measure.

Legislative leaders say much of the funding in the latest relief bill will be reimbursable to the state through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money comes from the state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funding and surplus revenue from better-than-anticipated tax collections this year.

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