ARPA, Surplus Bill Provides Funding for Reading Town Forest Access

$4B spending plan also targets statewide COVID-19 recovery needs 

BOSTON – House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester) have secured $150,000 in funding for the Town of Reading as part of a multi-billion dollar COVID relief bill that utilizes a combination of federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and FY21 state budget surplus funds. 

House Bill 4269, An Act relative to immediate COVID-19 recovery needs, was enacted in the House and Senate on December 3 and is now on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. The bill represents a compromise that reconciles the differences between previous versions of the bill approved in the two branches earlier this fall. 

Included in the bill is a $150,000 earmark to assist Reading with the acquisition and development of a parcel of land off of Grove Street on the Meadow Brook Country Club property. Town Meeting and the Reading Select Board recently approved the purchase of this land to preserve it as open space and to secure an easement that will provide public access to the Town Forest. 

“Nearly two years into the COVID-19 global pandemic, Massachusetts residents, employers, and municipalities are still dealing with its public health and financial impacts,” said Representative Jones. “This bill provides a blueprint for using federal ARPA funds and the FY21 state budget surplus to make important investments in our communities and our Commonwealth.”  

“These investments are aimed at helping our communities and the Commonwealth recover from the economic and social challenges of the past several years,” said Representative Haggerty. “I was pleased to be able to help direct some of these resources to support the town’s effort to conserve open space and provide additional access to the town forest.” 

“Massachusetts is seizing this historic opportunity to invest in a strong and equitable pandemic recovery for our communities and Commonwealth,” said Senator Lewis. “I’m particularly pleased that our Reading legislative delegation was able to work together to include funding in the bill that will help improve access to the Reading Town Forest, an important local priority.” 

In addition to the local earmark, House Bill 4269 also provides significant financial support for housing, economic development, workforce training, health and human services, education, food security, the environment, and other critical areas impacted by the global pandemic. The bill includes: 

  • $500 million to help sustain the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund 
  • a $500 million premium pay program to provide bonuses of $500-$2,000 for lower-income essential employees who continued to work in person during the pandemic 
  • $200 million for local and regional public health systems 
  • $260 million for financially-strained hospitals in communities that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 
  • $50 million for capital improvements and workforce recruitment and retention at nursing facilities 
  • $100 million for capital improvements grants for vocational high schools 
  • $100 million for public school districts to improve ventilation and indoor air quality in their facilities 
  • $150 million to rehabilitate state-aided public housing developments 
  • $150 million for developing permanent supportive housing 
  • $115 million for the creation of affordable rental housing 
  • $115 million to promote homeownership opportunities   
  • $107 million for workforce and career technical skills training 
  • $75 million in small business grants 
  • $100 million for environmental infrastructure 
  • $100 million for water and sewer infrastructure 
  • a $400 million reserve for expanded access to mental and behavioral health services 
  • a $300 million reserve to support expanded Medicaid and community-based services 
  • $44.8 million to address food insecurity issues 

Governor Baker has 10 days to review and sign the bill. 

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