May 14, 2021
Pressley, Warren, Mass. Lawmakers Renew Calls for Baker to Provide Relief Funds to Disproportionately Impacted Communities
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Bill Keating (MA-09), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06) and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04) in sending a letter to Governor Charlie Baker reiterating their request for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide relief funds to disproportionately impacted communities that are in desperate need of relief to help them recover from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession.
On Monday, the Department of Treasury (Treasury) released allocations for states and the interim final rule for the use of the funds in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) Coronavirus Relief Fund. Massachusetts will receive approximately $5.28 billion in direct federal aid in addition to funding that will go directly to municipalities and functioning counties.
“We are acutely aware of how significant these resources are to the Commonwealth and we are glad that Massachusetts will receive this federal funding at such a crucial time,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, there are many Massachusetts communities – particularly communities of color – that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and may not qualify for the same resources due to existing formulas that determine allocations. These formulas cannot factor the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on a community nor the fact that many frontline and communities of color may require additional assistance beyond their direct federal allocations.”
The pandemic exacerbated many economic disparities that existed prior to the pandemic. Treasury cited in its interim rule that the negative economic impacts of the pandemic are particularly pronounced in certain communities and families and that low- and moderate- income jobs make up a substantial portion of pandemic job losses. Furthermore, Treasury stated that many of the jobs in these communities require in-person frontline work, exposing workers to greater risk of contracting COVID-19, and again further exacerbated the virus’ impact in these cities and towns.
To address these inequities, Treasury’s interim final rule provides states with maximum flexibility to utilize ARP funding allocations. According to Treasury, states and municipalities can spend these federal dollars to: (1) support public health expenditures; (2) address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic; (3) replace lost public sector revenue; (4) provide premium pay for essential workers; (5) invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
“[W]e believe that your administration’s initiative to designate 20 Massachusetts communities for targeted support from this public health emergency provides a blueprint to equitably distribute federal resources. These communities have been on the frontlines of the pandemic and deserve additional relief to support their full recovery from the pandemic and the recession. We respectfully request that you use these federal funds and the discretion provided by the ARP and Treasury to equitably direct the Commonwealth’s allocation of ARP funds to our hardest hit communities,” the lawmakers wrote.
In March, Rep. Pressley and Senators Warren and Markey, along with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, urged Governor Baker to use the discretion provided by Congress and President Biden in the ARP to immediately target the $4.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s direct federal aid to disproportionately affected communities. In a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Secretary Yellen confirmed that under the law, states should have the authority to allocate ARP funds to communities hard hit by COVID-19.
Pressley and Warren also led a letter with seven other senators and 26 other members of the House of Representatives, requesting Secretary Yellen use discretion in issuing guidance for ARP funding to support non-entitlement cities that have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawmakers also asked that the Treasury work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure that population and other relevant community data are accurate and up to date.
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