State House News – The approximately $1.1 billion COVID-19 spending bill sent to Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday directs money toward a wide slate of programs and organizations, including the health-care system, homelessness prevention, child-care providers, elections, food banks and addiction treatment services.
The bill (H 4808) includes hundreds of millions of dollars for some of the more obvious COVID-19 costs, like $350 million for personal protective equipment, $85 million for field hospitals and shelters, $44 million for the state’s contact-tracing collaborative, and more than $111 million in supplemental payments to hospitals and providers.
It also contains funding meant to help companies affected by the pandemic and the state’s orders to close all non-essential businesses. The bill calls for $10 million to go to the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation to provide grants to businesses with 50 or fewer employees to help cover payroll and benefits, mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
The MGCC is directed in the bill to prioritize grant funding for companies that focus on reaching underserved markets, are women-, minority- or veteran-owned, and have not received aid from federal COVID-19 relief programs.
The Baker administration has said that many of the pandemic-related appropriations will be reimbursed by the federal government, and the governor has warned that Massachusetts is in a race with other states to access a limited pool of resources available for reimbursement.
He said his administration could not pursue funding until the Legislature finished the bill, which the governor initially filed back on May 12.
If Baker signs the bill as expected, the state would direct $3 million to summer camps and youth programs that are operating this summer “to provide adequate and appropriate accommodations in a manner that is consistent with the safety protocols necessary to mitigate the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic.”
The legislation grants the Department of Early Education and Care $500,000 “to leverage state funding by working with philanthropic and private partners in order to assist the business and technical needs of early education and care providers in the commonwealth during the reopening and recovery process.”
That Early Education and Care Public-Private Trust Fund would include money directly appropriated by the Legislature and gifts, grants and donations, and would provide statewide and regional training and make available opportunities for providers and stakeholders to assess and share best business practices relative to early education and care reopening efforts.
The bill also includes $5 million for COVID-related elections costs, which Secretary of State William Galvin said “would probably get us going” towards his office’s new requirement to send out applications for mail-in ballots for the 2020 primaries and general election.