FY14 budget includes increases in local aid, housing, human services and higher education
BOSTON— State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted for the state budget on Monday, July 1st, as the Massachusetts Legislature approved a $34 billion budget for fiscal year 2014 that includes additional state aid for cities and towns and makes important investments to rebuild the Commonwealth’s essential services and programs, including education, housing, public safety, health and human services, environmental protection and supports the ongoing recovery of the local economy.
The budget reflects the priorities of the Commonwealth and the needs of cities, towns and residents, while also maintaining the state’s rainy day fund at $1.46 billion.
“This year marks the first budget in several years where the Senate was able to make significant increases in key budget areas, in part due to the improving economy and the passage of new revenue as part of the Senate transportation finance bill,” said Senator Eldridge (D-Acton). “I’m pleased with the priorities we supported in this budget, including funding for our cities and towns, housing, seniors and the continuation of programs to help those in our society who are most in need,”
The final budget increases local aid to cities and towns by $21 million for a total of $920 million for the first time since FY10. This year’s spending bill underscores Massachusetts’ ongoing commitment to strengthening its educational systems through both new and updated provisions. The budget increases key areas of local education funding including $4.31 billion for Chapter 70, full funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, and $51.5 million for Regional School Transportation. The budget also allocates a $15 million investment in early education that will take approximately 2,000 children off the waitlist for income-eligible child care. In addition, $251,000 in state regional bonus aid will benefit newly-regionalized public schools, including the Ayer-Shirley and Acton-Boxborough regional public schools. The final budget also includes $2 million in prison mitigation funds for communities that host prisons, which includes the town of Shirley.
The budget provides for important health and human services programs, including $11.5 million to private human and social services providers for a one time rate reserve payment and $847 million for community residential services for the developmentally disabled, $8.7 million for independent living centers, Additionally, the spending bill allocates $187.2 million to elder home care services, an increase of $6.2 million that will eliminate the 1,500 person waitlist for elder home care services.
As the Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Housing, Senator Eldridge also advocated for significant increases in investments in housing, which are included in the final conference committee budget. The budget provides $57.5 million in funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $64.4 million for state public housing, $1.6 million for the Home and Healthy for Good Program, $2.6 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers, and $10 million in funding for temporary rental assistance (RAFT) to prevent homelessness. In addition, the final budget provides protections and opens up options for families in the HomeBASE rental assistance program, whose rental assistance will soon expire. The final budget adopted language sponsored by Senator Eldridge, which will prevent families on the HomeBASE program from becoming homeless by ensuring these families maintain their homelessness preference for subsidized housing, have access to to RAFT or HomeBASE household assistance, and if necessary, access to shelter.