Author: jscutler

Massachusetts Legislature Passes FY22 Budget

BOSTON – Friday, July 9, 2021 – The Massachusetts State Legislature on Friday unanimously passed a $48.07 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). This budget maintains fiscal responsibility, does not cut services, and makes targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguard the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations and ensure residents will benefit equitably as the state recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taking into consideration strong tax revenue performance in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021), the final FY22 conference report increases revenue assumptions by $4.2 billion over the December consensus revenue projection for a new tax revenue projection of $34.35 billion. The FY22 budget does not make a withdrawal and instead transfers funds into the Stabilization Fund, projecting an estimated balance of approximately $5.8 billion for this crucial ‘rainy day’ fund at the end of the fiscal year.

Notably, the Legislature provides substantial funds in the FY22 budget to invest in the Commonwealth’s long-term obligations. Prioritizing funding for education, the new Student Opportunity Act Investment fund was funded at $350 million to be utilized in the coming years for the implementation of the state’s landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Additionally, a supplemental payment of $250 million was transferred to the Pension Liability Fund to reduce the Commonwealth’s pension liability.

As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the FY22 budget protects access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, educators, and institutions. The budget maintains the Legislature’s commitment to implementing the Student Opportunity Act by FY 2027. The conference report proposal fully funds the first year of the SOA consistent with the $5.503 billion local aid agreement reached in March, amounting to an increase of $220 million over FY21.

Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, this increased level of investment represents a 1/6th implementation of SOA rates and ensures that school districts across the Commonwealth have adequate and equitable resources to provide high quality educational opportunities for all students. The FY22 budget also includes a $40 million reserve consistent with the March local aid agreement to provide additional aid to districts experiencing increases in student enrollment compared to October 2020.

The budget invests in higher education allocating $571 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $315 million for community colleges, and $291 million for state universities. The budget also includes $130 million in scholarship funding and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $10.5 million and the STEM Starter Academy at $4.75 million.

The budget also includes large investments in labor and economic development, such as the creation of a trust fund dedicated to job training for the offshore wind industry to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. This budget makes an initial deposit into this fund of $13 million to establish and grow technical training programs in our public higher education system and vocational-technical institutions. The fund will also prioritize grants and scholarships to adult learning providers, labor organizations, and public educational institutions to provide workers with greater access to these trainings.

Other education investments include:

  • $388.4 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate
  • $154.6 million for reimbursing school districts at 75% for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
  • $82.2 million for regional school transportation
  • $50 million for Adult Basic Education
  • $27.9 million for the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program
  • $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1M for a new pilot program to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
  • $4 million for Rural School Aid

This budget supports working families by addressing the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting the existing tax deductions for young children, elderly or disabled dependents and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. These tax credits will benefit low-income families who have little or no personal income tax liability and cannot claim the full value of the existing deductions. The conversion to a refundable tax credit would provide an additional $16 million to over 85,000 families each year. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, these credits will help lift families out of poverty and support low-income working parents and caregivers across the Commonwealth.

The FY22 budget builds on the success of last year’s efforts to tackle ‘deep poverty’ with a 20 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefits over December 2020 levels, ensuring families receive the economic supports they need to live, work and provide stability for their children. Further, the final budget repeals the asset limit for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Traditionally, asset limits on assistance programs further expose those who are already financially vulnerable to greater economic hardship. While families are recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, it is vital to make assistance programs accessible and effective, and removing the asset limit allows families to save for education, job training, reliable transportation, home expenses, and other emergency needs.

Other children and family investments include:

  • $30.5 million for Emergency Food Assistance to ensure that citizens in need can navigate the historic levels of food insecurity caused by COVID-19
  • $7.5 million for grants to our Community Foundations to support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
  • $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
  • $4.2 million for the Office of the Child Advocate, including $1M for the establishment and operation of a state center on child wellness and trauma
  • $2.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers

To help families get back to work, the FY22 conference report includes $820 million for the early education sector, including $20 million to increase rates for early education providers, $15 million for Massachusetts Head Start programs, $10 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand public preschool, and $9 million to cover the cost of fees for parents receiving subsidized early education in calendar year 2021.

The FY22 budget provides resources to help with housing stability, including $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to expand access to affordable housing, $85 million for grants to local housing authorities, $22M for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and $8 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers to help administer nearly $1 billion in federal housing relief.

The budget makes the state’s film tax credit permanent and requires an increase in the percentage of production expenses or principal photography days in the Commonwealth from 50 per cent to 75 per cent. The film tax credit was set to expire in January 2023. The budget also includes a disability employment tax credit for employers that hire employees with a disability.

To ensure long-term fiscal responsibility, FY22 budget repeals three ineffective tax expenditures as recommended by the Tax Expenditure Review Commission (TERC), namely the exemption of income from the sale of certain patents, the medical device tax credit, and the harbor maintenance tax credit, effective January 1, 2022. The TERC found that these tax expenditures are either obsolete, fail to provide a meaningful incentive, or fail to justify their cost to the Commonwealth. The TERC was created as part of a Senate budget initiative in Fiscal Year 2019.

The Legislature’s FY22 budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of the pandemic to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19. It also sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion, thereby providing over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. It also invests $15 million to support local and regional boards of health as they continue to work on the front lines against the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Understanding that the pandemic has been a stressor on mental and behavioral health, the FY22 budget invests $175.6 million for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services. It also invests $12.5 million to support a student telebehavioral health pilot, public awareness campaigns, loan forgiveness for mental health clinicians, and initiatives to mitigate emergency department boardings for individuals in need of behavioral health support, as well as $10 million for Programs of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) grants to provide intensive, community-based behavioral health services for adolescents.

Other health care and public health investments include:

  • $98.4 million for children’s mental health services, including $3.9M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women
  • $25 million for Family Resource Centers (FRCs) to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
  • $56.1 million for domestic violence prevention services
  • $40.8 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, including funds to support health equity initiatives

To support economic development, the FY22 budget increases access to high quality and reliable broadband—which is crucial for businesses, students and families—by moving the duties of the Wireless and Broadband Development Division to the Department of Telecommunications, which is working to facilitate access to broadband, and has the institutional ability and knowledge to address broadband access issues. The budget also includes a $17 million transfer to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust fund, $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes, and $9.5 million for one-stop career centers to support economic recovery.

Other investments in economic and workforce development include:

  • $15 million for the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program
  • $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state
  • $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million for new regional security operation centers, which will partner with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses

To protect residents of the Commonwealth, the FY22 budget codifies and expands the existing Governor’s task force on hate crimes to advise on issues relating to hate crimes, ways to prevent hate crimes and how best to support victims of hate crimes. The conference report makes the task force permanent and expands its membership to include members of the Legislature and an appointee from the Attorney General. The conference report also contains a provision that supports immigrants who are victims of criminal activity or human trafficking.

The budget also authorizes funds from the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund to be used for monitoring and detection of threat activity in order to investigate or mitigate cybersecurity incidents. In order to proactively combat threats and attacks, the budget provides funding for a public-private partnership with the goal of engaging educational institutions to jointly expand the training, employment and business development in cyber fields in Massachusetts through a combination of regionalized instruction and business outreach, state-wide shared resources, and real-life simulations for cyber training and business development.

Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.

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Sen. Lesser and Rep. Cutler to Co-Chair Second Future Of Work Commission Meeting

Governor Deval Patrick to discuss his involvement in the Future of Tech Commission

On Tuesday at 11a.m., Representative Josh S. Cutler and Senator Eric P. Lesser will co-chair the second meeting of the 17-member Future of Work Commission. Former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick will deliver introductory remarks. The meeting will focus on the present and future state of work here in Massachusetts, featuring presentations from IDG CEO Mohamad Ali, EOWLD Chief Economist Mahesh Ramachandran, and EOHED Secretary Michael Kennealy. The meeting will be virtual and a livestream will be available on Senator Lesser’s Facebook page.

            WHO: Representation Josh S. Cutler, Co-Chair

                        Senator Eric P. Lesser, Co-Chair

                        Future of Work Commission members

                        Governor Deval Patrick

                        Mohamad Ali, Chief Executive at the global research firm IDG

Mahesh Ramachandran, Chief Economist at the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development

Secretary Michael Kennealy, Secretary at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development

            WHAT: Second meeting of the Future of Work Commission

            WHEN: Tuesday, July 20th 2021 at 11AM

            WHERE: www.facebook.com/EricLesserMA

For questions, please contact Lilla Adams in Representative Josh S. Cutler’s office at (339) 309-8266.

Summary of Labor and Workforce Development line items in FY22 Budget

The budget passed by the Legislature represents a serious and committed effort to help the economy recover in the short term and ensure that our workforce has the skills, tools and training needed to succeed in the Commonwealth’s post-pandemic economy.

I would like to highlight some key labor and workforce development provisions in the final budget passed by both houses of the Massachusetts Legislature that may be helpful in communications with your districts. If there is a common thread in these budget line items, it is that we are investing in our people. We all know that what powers Massachusetts is our skilled workforce and we should all be proud that our budget reflects that commitment.

7002-0012: Job Program for At-Risk Youth (YouthWorks)
The final budget provides $24 Million to Youth Works. This program is administered by the Department of Career Services and provides subsidized job opportunities for low-income and at-risk youth aged 14-21 in over 31 cities across the Commonwealth. Despite the pandemic, Youthworks was able to provide paid opportunities for over 5,000 youth in the Commonwealth last year. Summer jobs teach teenagers the value of accountability and punctuality. These cornerstones of professionalism ensure the success of young adults on their way to college or into the workforce. With a youth unemployment rate that has more than doubled in the past decade, it is vital that we continue to invest in job opportunities for our at-risk teens. $4 million increase over FY2021 Budget.

7003-0803: MassHire Career Centers
The final budget provides $9.5 Million for MassHire career centers and ensures adequate resources to assist unemployed workers across the State. These centers serve every community in the Commonwealth. They work to prepare unemployed workers who are looking to re-enter the job market through counseling, training, and referrals for reskilling opportunities. MassHire’s career center system will be a central part of the recovery process for Massachusetts. The budget also provides over $2 Million in additional funding to the Department of Career Services for the purposes of maintaining and upgrading career center computer systems statewide.  This has become especially important as pandemic conditions have forced career centers to transition their operations online in order to provide virtual options. $4.5 million increase over FY2021 Budget.

1595-1075: Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund:
The final budget provides $17 Million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund. This program funds occupational training opportunities for workers with limited or no connection to the labor force, focusing on industries where there is a high demand for new workers. Employers with job openings partner with vocational training providers in order to help people gain the necessary credentials for employment. Programs supported through the Trust Fund will be an important part of efforts to retrain workers who have lost jobs in industries that are signaling plans to make permanent staffing reductions. $7 million increase over FY2021 Budget.

7002-1091: Career Technical Institutes
The final budget provides $15.3 Million to support the continued growth of the Career Technical Institute Initiative, an innovative plan to expand access to vocational technical education for high school students and adults. With the additional funds, vocational programs will be able to open two additional shifts of classes. The first new shift will allow students enrolled in comprehensive high school programs to take vocational courses after their school day is over. The second additional shift will be focused on adult-learners seeking skills and certifications in a number of high demand industries. $11,379,600 increase over FY2021 Budget.

7003-0606: Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
The final budget provides $2 Million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The MassMEP is a collaborative center comprised of government, business, and academic partners that consults with small and medium sized manufacturers to support their operation. MassMEP provides services focused around helping manufacturing firms with operational matters, workforce strategies, and innovative growth opportunities. Level funded with FY2021 Budget.

7002-0040: Small Business Technical Assistance Grants
The final budget provides $7 Million for Small Business Technical Assistance Grants. These grants are administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation to community organizations across the Commonwealth to fund technical assistance or training programs for small businesses. These funds continue the Legislature’s commitment to supporting the small businesses that keep our communities vibrant. $1.875 million increase over FY2021 Budget.

7003-0150: Former Prisoner Re-Entry Workforce Development
The final budget provides $2.5 Million for the Prisoner Re-Entry Workforce Development program. The Re-Entry Workforce Development program is an initiative administered through the Commonwealth Corporation, focused on improving workforce outcomes among individuals returning to the workforce after a period of incarceration. $1.5 million increase over FY2021 Budget.

I also would like to highlight three initiatives included in this budget that do not fall under the labor committee, but are integral to issues we are working on in the committee and will have workforce development benefits.  

Offshore Wind Initiative (Outside Sections 11 & 105)
The final budget creates a brand new Offshore Wind Energy Career Training Fund, seeded with $13 Million to fund initial grants. This fund will provide grants for technical training programs and professional certificate programs tailored towards careers in offshore wind energy. The fund will also provide grants to adult- and community-learner programs, labor groups, public institutions of higher education, and vocational technical schools to provide paid internships and career training in the offshore wind industry. As Massachusetts is poised to be a nationwide leader in offshore wind, the Commonwealth needs to build a workforce pipeline capable of building and maintaining this important industry.

Disability Hiring Tax Credit (Outside Sections 29 & 37)
The final budget creates a new one-time refundable tax credit of up to $5,000 for businesses for hiring a person with a disability, as well as an annual refundable credit of up to $2,000 for employing a person with a disability. This tax credit will create incentives for new hiring and help ensure individuals with disabilities are not left behind in the post-pandemic recovery.

SEN. LESSER & REP. CUTLER ANNOUNCE FUTURE OF WORK COMMISSION


Commission to hold first meeting on June 29th to study impacts of technology and remote work on the workforce

STATE HOUSE—A new commission led by co-chairs Senator Eric P. Lesser of Longmeadow and Representative Josh S. Cutler of Pembroke will focus on the future of the workplace and the impact of automation, artificial intelligence, global trade, and new data forms on the workforce, businesses, and economy.

The 17-member Future of Work Commission will hold hearings to receive testimony from leaders in workforce training and education, fair labor and workers’ rights, members of the labor community, and members of the business community to help inform a final report with their findings and policy recommendations. The commission’s inaugural meeting will take place on Tuesday June 29, with experts from the Aspen Institute, UMass Amherst Labor Center, and the SEIU scheduled to speak to members on widespread trends impacting the future of work.

“We know the way we work is changing. As COVID-19 crashed into our economy, many gig workers, drivers, musicians, and independent contractors faced a future with no unemployment insurance or workplace protections,” said Senator Lesser, Senate Chair of the Future of Work Commission & Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development. “The nature of work itself has changed in the 21st Century, but we still operate off of a regulatory policy from the 19th Century. I’m excited to hit the ground running with my Co-Chair, Rep. Cutler on the Commission on the Future of Work. We’ll convene the leaders of our state in a dialogue about the future to begin charting the path for a new era.”

“One of the few bright spots of the past year is that it has forced us to reimagine the role of the workplace. As we emerge from the pandemic and look to ensure that no one is left behind in our recovery, this is the ideal time to take a deeper dive into fundamental questions on the future of work—where we work, how we work, and when we work,” said Representative Josh S. Cutler, House Chair of the Future of Work Commission & House Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “We need to ensure that our workforce is properly supported and prepared for the transformations in the nature of work. The House, led by Speaker Mariano and Chairman Michlewitz, has long prioritized workforce development policy and I’m excited to work with Sen. Lesser, our counterparts in the Senate, and the distinguished Commission members, to further this effort.”

The 17-member Future of Work Commission, established pursuant to Chapter 358 of the Acts of 2020, brings together a diverse array of government, business and labor leaders. In addition to the co-chairs, the members are:

Senator Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield), Rep. Kathy LaNatra (D-Kingston), and Rep. Lenny Mirra (R-Georgetown); Rosalin Acosta, secretary, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development; Joanne Goldstein, former secretary, Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development; Joe Bevilacqua, president, Merrimack Chamber of Commerce; Steve Tolman, president, Massachusetts AFL-CIO; Harry Dumay, president, Elms College; Lauren Jones, executive vice-president, Massachusetts Business Roundtable; Tonja Mettlach, executive director, Massachusetts Workforce Association; Rahkeem Morris, CEO, Syrg; Al Vega, policy director, MassCOSH; Lisa Bernt, project director, Fair Employment Project; Laura Stout, president, Blue Cross Blue Shield Empowering Abilities; and Miriam Ortiz, director of education and training, Just-A-Start Corporation.

The inaugural meeting of the Future of Work Commission will be held virtually on Tuesday June 29, at 11 a.m. and will be streamed live on Senator Lesser’s Facebook page.

New law prevents spike in unemployment costs for small businesses

Gov. Baker has just signed into law a bill designed to prevent an unexpected spike in unemployment costs for Massachusetts businesses. All employers will now get a revised UI bill with the new amount. Employers who have already remitted their first quarter payment will received a credit.

The legislation (H.3702) was previously approved in both the House and Senate. I was pleased to help lead this effort in the House in my role as Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. Thank you to Speaker Mariano and Chairman Michlewitz for prioritizing this issue. I am also grateful to our Senate colleagues, Governor Baker, and Secretary Acosta and her team for working together for a collaborative solution.

The underlying issue was caused by an unexpectedly high increase in what is known as the Solvency Fund Assessment, a reserve account for pooled unemployment costs. It particularly impacted small businesses and employers who did not typically have a high number of unemployment claims. Rather than facing significant rate hikes for 2021, most employers will now see their new unemployment rates in line with, or just slightly above, the previous year. This will vary based on an employer’s individual unemployment claim history.

Under this legislation, approximately $7.4 billion in COVID claims will be shifted out of the pooled Solvency Account, effectively reducing the solvency assessment from 9.23% to an expected 1.12%. This liability will then be spread out and bonded out over a twenty-year period and beginning Aug 1, DUA will return to the normal practice of charging new UI claims directly to each individual employer’s account. This solvency fix does not rely on the use of Federal funds, nor does it preclude that option at some future date. 

This legislation will provide an immediate solution for the unexpected increase in costs for employers. The Legislature continues to review long-term solvency issues surrounding the UI fund and has established a UI Trust Fund Study Commission to review and report back with recommendations before the end of this year.

House approves FY22 budget

BOSTON – Thursday, April 29, 2021 – The Massachusetts House of Representatives today passed its Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget. This budget responsibly responds to the needs of residents and makes investments that set the state on a path toward economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded at $47.716 billion, the House’s FY22 budget continues its strong commitment to cities and towns, and includes significant investments in education, supportive services for vulnerable populations, and workforce and economic development, among other priorities.

“This budget meets the needs of our residents who have endured an unprecedented level of health and economic challenges over the past year. The House continues to support the services and programs that have proven to be essential for so many, while making targeted investments to grow the Massachusetts economy,” said Speaker of the House Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I thank Chair Michlewitz for his leadership and guidance, the members of the Committee on Ways & Means, and all my colleagues in the House for their advocacy and hard work in shaping the final product.”

“This budget is the product of tireless work over the past few months that focuses on the challenges our constituents face in the midst of this difficult time,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “In times of need, people rely on the services that government provides. Vital areas like housing stability, food security, education funding, and combating the growing concerns surrounding domestic violence and substance addiction, are all areas we prioritize in this budget.”

The House FY22 budget does not cut services nor does it raise taxes, and is made possible due to strong revenue collections, increased federal reimbursement, and by leveraging funds from the state’s Stabilization Fund.The budget does not appropriate anticipated American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. As the House Ways & Means and Federal Stimulus committees await the issuance of spending parameters by the federal government, they have begun a process to better understand the needs of Massachusetts communities and analyze past expenditures of federal funds, particularly those received from the CARES Act.

The FY22 House budget reflects the local aid commitment recently made by the House and Senate. It increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $39.5 million over FY21 for a total of $1.168 billion and Chapter 70 education funding by $219.6 million over FY21 for a total of $5.503 billion, fully funding the first year of a six-year implementation plan of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Enacted in 2019 to support equitable funding for our most vulnerable students, the Legislature’s funding schedule ensures the SOA remains on track to be fully implemented over the course of seven years as opposed to the Governor’s budget proposal.

The House’s FY22 budget also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund to help school districts whose fall enrollment is negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help students with the consequences of prolonged remote learning and address the full educational and social-emotional needs of students, the budget provides $15 million for summer education and supportive services.

Additional education funding allocations include:

·         $367 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker;

·         $154 million for Charter School Aid;

·         $82 million for Regional Transportation; and

·         $14 million for Homeless Student Transportation.

Continuing the House’s commitment to high-quality early education and care (EEC), the FY22 budget includes a $20 million investment in rate increases for child care providers across Massachusetts.

Other early education and care funding initiatives include:

·         $15 million for Head Start grants;

·         $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies;

·         $5 million for EEC higher education provider opportunities; and

·         $2.5 million for early childhood mental health grants.

Building on Speaker Mariano’s priority to ensure Massachusetts residents from diverse backgrounds have access to meaningful educational opportunities, the House budget invests in higher education allocating $571 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $315 million for community colleges, and $291 million for state universities. The budget also includes a $10 million increase in scholarship funding over last fiscal year for a new total of $130 million, and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $10.5 million and the STEM Starter Academy at $4.75 million.

The budget also includes large investments in labor and economic development, such as the creation of a trust fund dedicated to job training for the offshore wind industry to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. This budget makes an initial deposit into this fund of $10 million to establish and grow technical training programs in our public higher education system and vocational-technical institutions. The fund will also prioritize grants and scholarships to adult learning providers, labor organizations, and public educational institutions to provide workers with greater access to these trainings.

Additional investments include:

·         $50 million for adult education;

·         $24 million for Youthworks Summer Jobs;

·         $5 million for Small Business Technical Assistance;

·         $5 million for Community Action Agency Operating and Outreach Support;

·         $5 million investment in Local Tourism Recovery Marketing;

·         $2.5 million for Urban Agenda Grants; and

·         $2 million investment in Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The Commonwealth’s commitment to MassHealth remains one of the largest drivers of the budget. In FY22 the House provides $18.969 billion to fully fund its caseload, which has increased as more residents became eligible during the pandemic. The House’s FY22 budget accurately reflects this enrollment growth, showing the necessary increase in spending beyond what was included in the Governor’s budget proposal, while also factoring in the increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) reimbursement levels.

Many of the House FY22 budget’s most significant increases represent essential services and programs that serve Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, including $771.1 million for the Department of Transitional Assistance to maintain support to families, at-risk parents, victims of intergenerational trauma, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Other notable health and human services investments include $30 million for Emergency Food Assistance, $13 million for Healthy Incentives Program, and $500,000 for a public awareness campaign on the contraceptive ACCESS Law.

The House’s FY22 budget also includes funding for housing and homelessness prevention, investing $22 million in direct appropriations for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program to promote housing stability and combat the threat of evictions. The budget also includes $148 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and $84 million for public housing subsidies.

Additional investments for individuals and youth include:

·         $56.4 million for Homeless Individuals Shelters;

·         $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP);

·         $12 million for Rental Subsidies for eligible DMH Clients; and

·         $8 million for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

The budget funds the Department of Developmental Services at $2.29 billion, aimed to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. It includes $219.9 million for Day and Work programs; $84.9 million for Respite Family Supports; a $55.4 million increase for DDS’ Turning 22 class; a $7 million investment in transportation services; and $23.4 million for head injury treatment services.

Reflecting the Legislature’s strong commitment to providing access to care and treatment for individuals with a substance use disorder, the budget allocates $160 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, including support for the MA-Access to Recovery program and targeted investments in five additional recovery centers. The budget also provides funding for low-threshold housing for people experiencing homelessness, mental health disorders and at risk for HIV; outpatient and mobile services for persons with disabilities; and treatment at correctional facilities.

In an effort to ensure every resident has equal access to the criminal justice system, the House’s FY22 budget includes a $775 million investment in the Trial Court; $35 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation,; and increases for Prisoners’ Legal Services and Mental Health Legal Advisors. The budget also renews commitments made by the state’s criminal justice reform, such as $11.1 million for community-based re-entry programs, and $4 million in pre- and post-release services.

The budget also continues the House’s focus on environmental and climate protection by including $312.6 million in funding for environmental services, which includes increases for state parks, environmental protection, and the endangered species programs. Additional investments include millions for hazardous waste site cleanups, river ways protection and access, and Clean Water Trust contract assistance.

The House budget makes the MEFA college savings tax deduction permanent, creates a commission to develop recommendations and best practices for responses to mental health emergencies, and creates a new program to approve rural growth funds that would invest in small businesses in rural communities. It also eliminates the sunset on the Film Tax Credit and increases the Conservation Land Tax Credit.

Speaker Mariano and the House Ways & Means Committee introduced their FY22 budget on April 14, 2021, following a review of the Governor’s proposal and a series of budget hearings. After a three days of debate and over a thousand proposed amendments, the budget passed by the House of Representatives 160-0 and now goes to the Senate.

Legislature acts to safeguard unemployment benefits and freeze rates for businesses

Bill also gives small businesses tax exemption on federal relief funds

STATE HOUSE – The Mass. House and Senate have enacted comprehensive legislation to safeguard unemployment benefits, limit rate increases for employers, provide tax relief for lower income jobseekers, and exempt small businesses from state taxes on federal relief grants.  

“These measures will offer much need relief to workers, employers and small businesses. At the same time, we’re also taking critical steps to help safeguard our unemployment insurance system for the long term,” said Rep. Josh S. Cutler (D-Pembroke), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

The legislation, which is now on Governor Baker’s desk, prevents a sharp spike in unemployment insurance rates that was set to hit employers this quarter. Absent any legislative action, the typical small business would have seen their average annual UI cost rise from $539 to $866 per employee. In addition to freezing the rates, the bill protects extended benefits for workers struggling to reenter the workforce due to the pandemic and exempts the first $10,200 in UI benefits for individuals with a family income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.

“This is a comprehensive bill to help our economy recover from the pandemic. I’m grateful to Speaker Mariano, Chair Michlewitz and my legislative colleagues for putting forth a strong, bipartisan piece of legislation,” Rep. Cutler added.

Here are some further details on the legislation’s key provisions:

Unemployment Insurance Provisions

  • Freeze Employer Rates. Freezes unemployment rate schedule for 2021 and 2022, preventing an estimated 60% increase in average employer contributions. Creates a two-year excise charge to fund the Commonwealth’s required payments on interest accrued from Federal advances. This will result in a net reduction in employer UI costs.
  • Protect extended benefits. Allows the Commonwealth to continue to provide extended unemployment benefits through federally-funded program by amending statutory trigger.
  • Reduce financing costs.  Authorizes the Commonwealth to issue up to $7 billion in special obligation bonds, over a maximum of 20 years, for the purposes of meeting unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund obligations. Bonding option offers more flexible terms and likely lower borrowing costs.
  • Long-term solvency commission. Creates a special commission, co-led by Rep. Cutler, to study the long-term solvency of the UI trust fund and make recommendations to strengthen it. The commission, which will include a diverse array of employer and employee stakeholders, will report back by the end of this year.

Tax Relief Provisions

  • Tax Day Delay. Delays state personal income tax filing deadline to May 17, 2021
  • Tax Deductions.  The following are deducted from Federal gross income for the purpose of determining Massachusetts gross income for tax year 2020:
    • Loans forgiven through the paycheck protection program (PPP)
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loan advances
    • SBA loans paid off by the Small Business Administration under the CARES Act
    • PPP second draw loans or Shuttered Venue Operator grants
  • UI Benefits. People who received UI benefits during either 2020 or 2021 and whose family income is at or below 200% of the Federal poverty level can deduct up to the first $10,200 of their unemployment compensation from their state taxable income.
  • Tax Forgiveness. Eliminates the penalty for individuals who omitted to correctly pay income taxes on their unemployment benefits paid out in 2020.

New COVID relief bill to include tax relief to unemployed workers, rate freeze for businesses

Statement from Senate President Karen E. Spilka, Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano, Senate Ways & Means Chair Michael J. Rodrigues and 
House Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz

The Senate and House have reached agreement on a bill to help workers and employers jumpstart our nascent recovery as we begin to slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. This agreement strikes a balance to ensure that businesses can continue to move forward while protecting those working hard to keep the economy going. Time is of the essence to bring this much needed relief to businesses and employees, and so we will act expeditiously to get this comprehensive bill to the Governor’s desk.

While businesses require our support to weather this economic storm, our employees need help too. We have agreed to provide targeted tax relief to unemployed workers whose income falls below 200 percent of the poverty line. We also recognize that many are navigating our Unemployment Insurance (UI) system for the first time, and so we have agreed to waive penalties for missed tax payments on UI benefits received in 2020.

To help protect employees on the front lines—and to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19—we are making sure all employees have access to paid leave if they are unable to work because they get infected with the coronavirus, are ordered to quarantine, or need to take time off to get the vaccine. In tandem with federal legislation, this state response will ensure employees have access to paid leave and employers are reimbursed for such costs. We believe this will provide a necessary and crucial safety net for the employees, especially essential workers, who have shown up every day to keep our economy and communities running throughout this public health crisis.

Finally, the bill will prevent increases in the UI rate schedule for 2021 and 2022, providing employers with needed stability and relief as the Commonwealth continues to recover. The agreement also allows for state borrowing, secured by a temporary employer assessment, to ensure the solvency of the UI trust fund. In addition to UI relief, to help many small businesses and employers who received PPP loans to stay afloat and save jobs, we have agreed to conform to the current federal tax code to exclude forgiven PPP loans from gross income for small businesses organized as pass-through entities.”

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