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Local delegation touts funding increases for Fall River, other SouthCoast communities in passed budget

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BOSTON – Yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature passed its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget, which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $43.1 billion, the budget makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $476 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $3 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services. The budget makes key investments in local aid for cities and towns, with $5.176B in Chapter 70 education funding, and $1.129B for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for municipal investments in education, public safety, roads and bridges and health care.

“In my first budget as Chair of the Senate Committee of Ways and Means, I was proud to produce a Fiscal Year 2020 budget that strikes a balance between maintaining fiscal responsibility and making targeted investments that include key funding for the SouthCoast,” stated Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee (D-Westport). “This budget significantly invests in education, public safety, substance use treatment and support, and many other meaningful areas. I applaud my colleagues in the House and Senate for passing a final budget that prioritizes the diverse needs of our Commonwealth.”

“I am proud of the funding we have secured for the SouthCoast thanks to the hard work and leadership of our local delegation,” said Representative Patricia Haddad, Speaker Pro-Tempore (D-Somerset). “This funding will be valuable in building on our efforts to bolster the economic success of our region.”

“Funding for youth development and diversion programs such as the Charles E. Shannon Jr. Community Safety Initiative, Youth-at-Risk, the YMCA/YWCA, and the Boys and Girls Club Inc. saw a 33% increase this year. Providing safe and accessible after school programming is of the utmost importance to our communities and our youth, I am proud the the Commonwealth takes such initiative,” said Representative Paul A. Schmid, III (D-Westport), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means.”

“As a member if the House Committee on Ways and Means, I was proud to advocate for the SouthCoast’s priorities in the 2020 budget,’ said Representative Alan Silvia (D-Fall River). “The significant increase to education funding will provide more resources for Fall River’s students to help them succeed.”

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to deliver one of the strongest state budgets for our district, including a significant increase to our school systems in Chapter 70 funding. Additionally, I was proud to advocate for funding for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Battleship Cove Strategic Plan, and for a Police/Business Partnership to help reduce crime in our neighborhoods,” said Representative Carole A. Fiola (D-Fall River), also a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “We were able to bring funding to key local programs that impact the public safety, health and culture in our community, while statewide we were able to invest in economic development, health and human services programs, and initiatives to reduce the opioid crisis, all while strengthening our rainy day fund.”

In total, Chapter 70 education funding will increase to $5.176B in FY2020. This represents an increase of $268 million over FY 2019 and the largest year-to-year increase in 20 years. All SouthCoast communities will see an increase in the 2020 budget from this funding. Notably, Fall River will receive an increase of $11,277,523, Somerset an increase of $744,824, and Swansea an increase of $367,696.

Among the many investments that the SouthCoast delegation secured is $500,000 to support the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County. The CAC of Bristol County is a private, non-profit agency that assists children and families impacted by the trauma of abuse and violence. Over 5,000 children have been served by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Bristol County since it opened in 2007.

The SouthCoast delegation also worked to secure $4.75M in grant funding for the Public Safety Staffing Grant program, administered by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Since 2011, Fall River has received over $6.3M in funding from this program to help ensure the safety of the public by providing adequate funding for emergency fire and police personnel.

“Public safety is absolutely vital, and I am always eager to help secure funding for the public safety staffing grants in the budget,” said Senator Rodrigues. “Our first responders are the best among us, and this money will help ensure Fall River’s firefighters and police officers have the resources they need to continue protecting our communities and our neighborhoods.”

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will increase the Commonwealth’s contribution into the Community Preservation Act (CPA), which will ensure that over $36 million more will be distributed to projects all across the Commonwealth. These new funds will help and support CPA communities, including Fall River, Westport, Somerset and Swansea, with affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreational preservation efforts.

Additionally, the FY’20 Budget included other notable investments for the SouthCoast:

$20K for Westport Shellfish propagation

$20K for Rochester Council on Aging Improvements

$20K for Freetown Council on Aging Improvements

$50,000 for the Westport Housing Authority for infrastructure improvements at Greenwood Terrace in the town of Westport

$50,000 for the Somerset Housing Authority for infrastructure and landscape improvements at John F. Kennedy Terrace and Eugene Murphy Village in the town of Somerset

$50,000 to the town of Westport for the Route 6 Corridor Integrated Water Resource Management Plan

$50,000 to the Town of Swansea to assist ongoing economic development efforts

$50,000 for the promotion of arts and culture by the Creative Arts Network in Fall River in consultation and collaboration with the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce.

$60,000 for the Bay Coast Rowing Center, which offers a high school and community rowing program in the city of Fall River

$60,000 for the Fall River Children’s Museum, which offers interactive exhibits to support Greater Fall River’s diverse educational needs

$75,000 for the Buzzards Bay Coalition to support a coastal water quality and natural resource monitoring program in Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound

$100,000 for a flood management study of the Assawompset pond complex that is a part of the Taunton river watershed in the towns of Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough and Rochester and the city of New Bedford

$100,000 to support the preservation of historical naval vessels berthed in Battleship Cove

$100,000 for the operation of the Cranberry Health Research Center at UMass-Dartmouth

$150,000 for the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Fall River

$150,000 for the Veterans’ Association of Bristol County, Inc, which is a regional outreach center serving veterans and their families living in the Greater Fall River area

$200,000 to support emergency radio communications upgrades for the Bristol County Fire Chiefs’ Association

$500,000 for a statewide non-profit security grant program, which will ensure that religious and nonprofit facilities “at risk of terrorism and violent threats” are safe and secure through improved security upgrades.

Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.

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