Washington D.C. (March 18, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), along with members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, sent letters to Governor Charlie Baker and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging them to provide relief funds to disproportionately impacted communities that are in desperate need of relief to help them recover from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession.
In their letter to Governor Baker, the lawmakers request that he immediately target the Commonwealth’s allocation of $4.5 billion in federal aid to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the ongoing public health crisis. In their letter to Secretary Yellen, the lawmakers ask that the Treasury provide Massachusetts with maximum funding flexibility to allow the Commonwealth to provide as much help as possible to those aforementioned communities.
The letters are also signed by Representatives James P. McGovern (MA-02), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Bill Keating (MA-09), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Lori Trahan (MA-03), and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04).
The American Rescue Plan (ARP) recently signed into law includes $350 billion for state and local governments to pay for essential services, retain frontline workers, and offset lost revenues and increased costs from the COVID-19 pandemic and to help rebuild Main Street economies. The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation has fought
for this funding since the beginning of the pandemic – including the federal support provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act - and understands how important these resources are to the Commonwealth’s recovery.
The ARP uses the existing Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) statutory formula to determine the amount of assistance provided to each community. Under the CDBG formula, metropolitan cities with populations of at least 50,000 as determined by Census data receive a substantial allocation of ARP federal assistance. Furthermore, some cities and towns qualify for the metropolitan city designation without having a population over 50,000 because they are considered principal cities in Metropolitan Statistical Areas with populations greater than 50,000, and pursuant to the Housing and Community Development Act, they qualify for direct entitlement funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
But some Massachusetts cities that are under this population threshold are not eligible for these additional funds, regardless of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community. Unfortunately, the formula locks out many communities with a population that puts them just out of reach of qualification as a metro city, resulting in these cities receiving significantly less relief than their similarly populated neighbors. Many of these non-qualifying cities are communities of color and/or have large immigrant populations, which have historically been undercounted by the Census. In this case, undercounting can result in dramatic underfunding for some of the most vulnerable communities that have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
“We recognize that these municipalities need more assistance, especially our communities of color which continue to be disproportionately impacted by this pandemic. Fortunately, the legislation we have recently passed also allocates $4.5 billion in federal aid to the Commonwealth and we urge you to work to target these federal dollars to these communities that are in desperate need of relief,” the legislators wrote in their letter to Governor Baker.
In February, Massachusetts announced a targeted outreach initiative
in 20 municipalities across the state that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These communities are: Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester. Throughout the pandemic, these cities and towns - particularly Black and Latinx residents and essential workers - have felt the greatest burden from the pandemic and the economic recession. The lawmakers are urging the Governor to use this initiative as a blueprint to equitably distribute state and federal resources such as ARP funding to those communities that do not qualify for additional dollars under the CDBG formula.
“Cities and towns in the Commonwealth and across the country are on the frontlines of our fight against this pandemic, and they require our support. We will continue to fight on behalf of all our communities, and respectfully call on you to do the same. We hope that you use your discretion under the ARP to direct these recently passed federal funds to our communities that need it the most,” the lawmakers concluded.