Eagle Tribune – The state has seen a windfall of pandemic relief funds, with billions of dollars more on the way from Washington, but lawmakers say they’re cut out of decisions on how the money gets spent.
On Thursday, members of the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight grilled Finance Secretary Mike Heffernan over what they described as a lack of communication from the Baker administration when it comes to parceling out more than $2.2 billion in federal stimulus.
“It’s frustrating and I almost feel like we’re being left out of the process,” state Rep. John Barrett, D-North Adams, during the live-streamed hearing. “This (federal aid) was all rushed out the door and we didn’t have any oversight.”
Barrett singled out allocations of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, which he said are dispersed in many places with “little or no input” from state lawmakers or officials. He said some of the funds went to “questionable” recipients, and little was spent on oversight.
“We want to play a role in this,” Barrett said. “This is taxpayers’ money, any way you look at it, and there has been a lack of oversight.”
Rep. Colleen Gary, D-Dracut, said she’s headed off constituents who joke that lawmakers don’t have any authority under “King Charles,” a reference to Gov. Charlie Baker’s unilateral powers during the pandemic.