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News Brief: Mass. Senate passes FY ’19 supplemental budget

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By Wednesday, Mar 13, 2019 News

Mass. Senate passes FY19 supplemental budget

Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that the Massachusetts Senate Thursday passed S.2181, a $143.9 million supplemental budget for fiscal year 2019 to address deficiencies and policy and spending items that are time-sensitive in nature. The proposal is $21.4 million less than what Gov. Charlie Baker originally proposed in January.

Furthering the Senate’s continued commitment to support working families and those in need, the budget bill eliminates the so-called “cap on kids” and includes $30 million for the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program, among other considerations.

The Massachusetts “cap on kids” policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The Senate’s supplemental budget repeals this discriminatory policy, and an amendment adopted on the floor makes the repeal retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019. Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are or would be excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The FY 2019 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House of Representatives and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the governor. Hinds is a co-sponsor of S.37, stand-alone legislation which lifts the “cap on kids.”

This year, Massachusetts received a 7.6 percent cut in its federal fuel assistance allocation, which had already dropped from $200 million to $136 million in recent years. In response to this shortfall in federal funding, the Senate proposes to provide an immediate state allocation of $30 million to the LIHEAP program. This will help over 40,000 vulnerable low-income households—including low-income families with children, seniors and veterans—stay warm through the winter. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on household size and the annual income of every adult household member, and it provides assistance for electric and gas utility bills and other heat sources such as oil and propane. In mid-January, Hinds joined 70 legislators in signing a letter to Baker requesting this $30 million supplemental appropriation for LIHEAP.

Building on the commitments of last session’s criminal justice reform, the Senate’s supplemental budget also includes $16 million for sexual assault evidence kit testing by the State Police Crime Lab to end the backlog of untested rape kits.

S.2181 also includes $1 million to the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Pediatric SANE Programs. These programs provide trauma-informed, expert forensic nursing care to sexual assault patients, including children, across the state.

The proposed supplemental budget for FY 2019 also includes:

  • $39 million for collective bargaining agreements;
  • $28.1 million for the Department of Correction for a new medical vendor contract and CARE Act implementation;
  • $16.5 million for the Health Information Technology Trust Fund;
  • $10 million to fund emergency assistance shelters;
  • $1.5 million for gas infrastructure evaluation;
  • $680,000 for the contingency contract retained revenue account;
  • $495,000 for the Sex Offender Registry Board;
  • $438,000 for the DCAMM rents retained revenue account; and
  • $230,000 for the Department of Labor Standards.

In addition, the supplemental budget also includes a number of legislative fixes to address the administration and implementation of paid family leave and the expansion of the room occupancy excise to apply to short-term rentals, as well as a proposal championed by Hinds that authorizes local farmers to grow hemp on Agricultural Preservation Restriction land.

The supplemental budget will also allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services to declare an emergency related to care and protection cases in a county and authorizes CPCS to temporarily raise the rates for new assignments by not more than $75 per hour. It also waives the annual cap on billable hours, up to 2,000 hours until July 1, 2020.

The Senate’s FY 2019 supplemental budget must now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed last week.

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