Economic experts backed the Legislature’s take-it-slow approach to pulling out the remaining $4.8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds, as Governor Charlie Baker found himself at odds with Democratic lawmakers over how and when in a series of Spending cash for the first time. Why hearing?
“We have to start making the proposed investment now, not months from now,” Baker said, before the Joint Committee on Methods and Means on Tuesday to immediately invest $2.9 of federal American Rescue Plan Act money. Billion plan. “Some of these programmes, especially housing and infrastructure projects, need to be implemented over a longer period of time. For others, time is of the essence to meet immediate needs. “
The governor’s plan calls for $1 billion for housing and homeownership, $1 billion for infrastructure investment, $450 million for economic development, $240 million for workforce development, and $225 million for hospitals and health care. is.
Baker emphasized the urgent need for investment to rebuild communities torn apart by the pandemic, telling lawmakers on Zoom that “time was not our friend then. And it remains a significant obstacle.”
Senate President Michael Rodrigues said the legislature was “responsibly and strategically investing these lump sum federal funds”.
“While it is important that we take the time needed to properly make these investments, we understand the importance of moving quickly in the face of any emerging public health threat associated with the pandemic,” Rodrigues said, adding that a “monthly “- hinting at the lengthy process.
The take-it-slow approach was supported by a handful of economic experts who testified on Tuesday.
Eileen McEnany of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said, “We have until 2026 to really spend this and we should take the time needed to develop a forward-looking, comprehensive plan that considers other resources available and maximizes impact.” To make the best use of them.” .
According to US Treasury guidance, the state should allocate funds by 2024. The state has already spent some of the roughly $5.3 billion in unrestricted ARPA funds. Another $3.5 billion was sent to cities and towns as direct aid.
On his agenda to rapidly get more funding into communities, Baker raised $186 million of the $200 million left at his discretion by the Legislature to support hospitals, health services and workforce development in areas hardest hit by COVID-19. Highlighting its plan to invest Rs. .
Rodrigues said he supported Baker’s spending priorities, but argued that the governor was misusing the money to “break the glass in case of an emergency”.
Reading directly from the statute, Rodrigues said that Baker will only use the funds “to protect against emergency public health threats, or to support new, increased or emergency public health response efforts against the 2019 novel coronavirus and its variants”. Can be used.