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November 17, 2021

Pressley Urges MA Legislature to Prioritize Equity, Vulnerable Communities in Final ARPA Spending Bill

Text of Letter (PDF) 

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to her State House colleagues serving on the Conference Committee urging them to prioritize equity and center the needs of vulnerable communities in the Massachusetts Legislature’s bill to allocate billions in federal relief funding received under the American Rescue Plan Act, which Rep. Pressley helped pass in March 2021. 

“By passing the American Rescue Plan Act, my colleagues and I in Congress and the Massachusetts delegation provided the Commonwealth with billions in federal relief funding to support our shared constituents,” wrote Rep. Pressley in her letter. “I strongly urge you to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to prioritize equity and center the needs of our most vulnerable communities in Massachusetts.” 

In her letter, addressed to State House leadership and the Conference Committee members negotiating the $3.8 billion spending bill, Rep. Pressley urged the state lawmakers to prioritize health equity, housing and support workers and minority-owned small businesses. Citing the racial disparities in health outcomes, economic opportunity, and other quality of life indicators, Rep. Pressley specifically called on the lawmakers to: 

  • Prioritize Health Equity. Rep. Pressley called for investments to boost COVID response efforts and address the maternal health crisis, expand community health centers, substance use and recovery programs, and expanding access to mental health supports.
  • Support Workers and Small Businesses. Rep. Pressley urged the lawmakers to allocate funding for minority-owned small businesses, small business relief grants, and unemployment insurance.
  • Invest in affordable housing and homeownership. Rep. Pressley called for meaningful, robust, and targeted investments in affordable housing and pathways to homeownership for historically marginalized communities. 

The Congresswoman also urged the lawmakers to maintain and strengthen transparent and publicly accessible ways to track the disbursement of funds to ensure that all communities—particularly Black, brown and other historically marginalized residents are able to access resources. 

“Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous residents in my district were already experiencing undue hardship as a result of generations of systemic racism and underinvestment, and the ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated those problems,” Rep. Pressley continued. “Because we have borne a disproportionate burden of the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that the Massachusetts State Legislature direct significant investments to supporting our communities.” 

Rep. Pressley has consistently advocated for the Commonwealth to distribute the federal American Rescue Plan Act relief funding equitably and with a focus on the hardest-hit communities. 

In March, Rep. Pressley and Senators Markey and Warren secured a commitment from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to distribute $100 million in federally-provided American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars to hard-hit communities, specifically Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, and Methuen. In July, the lawmakers applauded the Commonwealth’s disbursement of these funds to these hard-hit municipalities.

The commitment came after Pressley, Warren and Markey and other members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation urged Governor Charlie Baker to use the discretion provided by Congress and President Joe Biden in the ARP to immediately target the $4.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s direct federal aid to disproportionately impacted communities and secured a public commitment of $100 million. Given the limitations of the CDBG funding formula, the delegation specifically secured this commitment to disburse funds to communities that experience disparities under this formula. In a Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confirmed that under the law, states 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. 

Earlier this year, the lawmakers led their colleagues in the Massachusetts Congressional delegation 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 effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.