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HWM FY 2022 Budget Proposal Lacks Bold Investments to Build Racial and Economic Equity in the Commonwealth

Statement by Marie-Frances Rivera, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), on the House Ways and Means Committee’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Proposal

Massachusetts remains in the midst of a health and economic crisis that the House Ways and Means (HWM) budget proposal does not fully address. The HWM Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 budget lacks a vision for how the Commonwealth plans to make sustainable investments over time after billions in COVID-19 federal relief runs out. The pandemic and recession have laid bare the inequalities that exist in our state, and this budget is not doing nearly enough to begin building racial and economic equity.

For example, while the HWM proposal is a first step towards getting the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) for K-12 education funding back on track, it misses the mark in a couple of ways:
  • It relies on a lower enrollment count, making its proposal $90 million short of what it would  take to stay on track with the SOA. During the pandemic, we saw enrollment numbers plunge by about 32,000 students compared with the previous school year. Many of these students are likely to return in the fall.
  • It puts $40 million into a reserve account that school districts have to apply for. This will create more work for school administrators who are already stretched thin as they respond to the pandemic. Depending on the criteria, this program could potentially disadvantage the schools — and the students — that need that funding most.
The HWM proposal is not the bold vision we need at this moment when the  pandemic has hit some of our communities hard. For example:
  • In our early education and childcare system, one in six spots had not reopened as of early spring, compared to pre-pandemic times.
  • Last month, more than 1 in 4 households with children had difficulty making ends meet.
  • In December, 33,000 renters in Massachusetts had a rent debt average of $6,000.
There are billions in federal aid coming to Massachusetts, and the Legislature has said it will wait until June to consider how to spend these funds at a time when the need is now. We must ensure the state is spending its dollars in ways that most benefit our communities that are struggling to make ends meet. The Legislature should allow for a transparent process that includes the community to ensure that the money goes to where the need is greatest.

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