Municipal Health Operations $250 Million US Rescue Plan Act Funding

Municipal Health Operations $250 Million US Rescue Plan Act Funding

Supporters, who frequently chanted during Wednesday’s rally that they want to see “no more Band-Aids” deployed toward local health, said the $250 million funding request represents only a small portion of the roughly $5.3 billion in ARPA funding Massachusetts received. Craig Andrade, the associate dean for practice at Boston University’s School of Public Health and a member of Brockton’s board of health, said residents of his city are forced to contend with services that are “under par of what every single resident in Massachusetts should be expecting.” That request consists entirely of one-time spending over the five-year period, and the MPHA said it would cost the state $34.5 million annually to sustain infrastructure and capacity once boosted.

Advocates and some lawmakers have argued during the COVID-19 pandemic that the crisis exposed deep flaws in the state’s public health landscape. Because cities and towns typically must fund their own health departments, they say, disparities are widespread. “For years, we have struggled with the assumption that resources and political will needed for the transformational change that we’re talking about were unavailable, and we would need incremental change over years to achieve our goal,” said Massachusetts Public Health Association Executive Director Carlene Pavlos. “We now know that’s not true, nor is it right, and there’s a lot at stake here.”

“Like police and fire, public health’s legal authority is embedded in the power to protect public health, safety and welfare of the residents of the commonwealth,” said Cheryl Sabara, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards. “But unlike police and fire, funding for local public health comes only from what a city or town decides to spend on it.” Public health advocates are hopeful that, with billions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds soon to be allocated, Massachusetts lawmakers will spring into action and direct a portion of the pot toward long-sought reforms.

Chris Van Buskirk contributed reporting. Source “There are so many needs that are so important, but there are more than 6 million people in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” state Rep. Denise Garlick, D-Needham, told advocates. “Public health touches all 6 million people. There is no more important work, no more valuable work and no work that has more of a profound impact on every resident.”

Lawmakers who attended Wednesday’s rally said they hope to see “momentum” toward health reforms continue in the current two-year session, particularly after COVID-19 revealed existing disparities. Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill last year requiring the state Department of Public Health to develop minimum standards to provide public health services in Massachusetts. Local departments were poised to receive funding through a competitive grant program.

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