The Arc is grateful for the “almost” final approval of funding from the legislature and the Governor. Baker’s veto and amendments (H 4289) to the Legislature’s $4 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending bill (H 4269) landed in the House on Thursday morning where lawmakers quickly shipped them off to the Committees on Ways and Means and Bills in Third Reading, respectively.
As a reminder, these monies are from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) supported by our federal delegation and put forth by President Biden. It includes home and community-based services championed by The Arc. In Massachusetts, staff and volunteers at The Arc advocated for specific use of ARPA funds with elected officials. The supplemental budget will translate into significant enhancements for our workforce and home and community-based supports.
There are many provisions in this budget/law that will go a long way to support our service system that is in crisis due to the workforce shortage crisis and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you to all our constituents that have advocated for the needs of our workforce and our other priorities through your personal stories, contact with the legislature, and action alerts. The Arc is especially encouraged to see the funding below:
- $300 million to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) will begin to help with workforce recruitment and retention bonus payment to impact the crisis in our residential and day services. All HCBS service areas are receiving additional resources.
- $39.4 million to increase Chapter 257 rates for programs that received a rate review in FY’22. This impacts the pay of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Many agencies already have increased salaries. Keep in mind that the increase (a little over $1/hr.) will vary since it is a blended benchmark for DSPs of varying levels of experience and skills.
- $40 million to provide direct financial support to essential workers not to exceed $2,000 per individual (to be decided by a commission).
- $30 million for a loan repayment program and grant program for human services organizations to support the retention and recruitment of human services workers.
- $10 million for compensatory services for adults that reached age 22 during the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.
- $10 million for grants to Massachusetts approved special education schools to address the workforce impacts of the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic,
- $5,000,000 for the DPPC to study and review the interrelationship between service-providing agencies for individuals with disabilities within the commonwealth and to design and implement a system for an interconnected network
In addition to these expenditures, hundreds of millions of dollars more are earmarked for behavioral health, housing, and the digital divide. Examples include:
- A reserve of more than $400 million to address the behavioral health crisis. Targets include inpatient psychiatric beds for youth in crisis and a portal to facilitate coordination from ERs. The funding will align with the commonwealth’s roadmap for behavioral health reform. The reserve will address other important behavioral health needs through grant programs, as well as loan repayments for students and professionals.
- $100 million is included for grants to public school districts with high concentrations of economically disadvantaged students to address inequitable school facilities and repairs for improved ventilation and indoor air quality.
- $150 million to address homelessness and related housing needs for a broad population (behavioral health needs or substance addiction needs, survivors of domestic violence or sexual violence, those at risk of foster care, youth and young adults, seniors, veterans.) An additional $150 Million is included for a reserve to rehabilitate and modernize state-aided public housing developments through the funding of infrastructure improvements.
Further analysis and work with our partners and stakeholders will continue as funding decisions are implemented. As Leo notes in his blog, we need to come together even more to make this crisis an opportunity and to ensure that our constituents are accepted AND supported in all sectors of society.
Stay tuned to The Arc and reach out to Maura Sullivan at email@example.com with any inquiries.
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Warmest thanks and congratulations to you for your tireless work. We are deeply grateful for these critical measures to benefit direct support professionals (DSP), people with disabilities and their families. On Cape Cod, the islands and south coast, where DSP vacancies have had a devastating impact on our programs, the new law will help. We are eager to learn details including 1. when/how retention and recruitment bonuses will be paid 2. how DSPs can apply for rental vouchers and housing assistance 3. how to apply for tuition assistance and student loan forgiveness. Your advocacy has had a great impact on our people. Thank you.