Statement on House ARPA Plan
Federal pandemic relief funds are an unprecedented opportunity for Massachusetts. This is the time to address structural barriers and oppression laid bare by the pandemic. This is the time to right some wrongs by investing in our Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American communities who have been hit hardest by the pandemic and who have not historically received equitable funding. Our leaders must rise to this challenge; while the House debate led to some notable wins in these areas, there’s still a lot of work needed to meet the moment. We are advocating for the Legislature to take further action in three key areas:
Invest in equity by prioritizing funding to help the most vulnerable residents and those hit hardest by the pandemic, through more resources for eviction defense, increased support for children in deep poverty, more inclusive assistance for migrant arrivals, more resources to improve access to public meetings, and more funding for small businesses owned by people of color, women, and veterans
Increase accountability by clearly defining the target populations for investment and strengthening the proposed tracking system to ensure follow-through
Set clear goals for allocation of contracts to Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American-owned businesses
Notably, the House Ways & Means proposal includes, as we called for, funds and a requirement for a public-facing system to track ARPA spending in the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities. That the House recognizes this need for accountability makes us hopeful. Our organizations were glad to see several notable investments in fixing structural problems, from rectifying health disparities to hazard pay for essential workers to closing the digital divide. But without more specific language and goals, this bill will fail to ensure that those hit hardest will be the ones who benefit the most from our recovery. Finally, and importantly, the current draft only allocates just over half of the remaining ARPA funds, falling well short of the 90% benchmark we set in the scorecard to center the urgent needs that exist in our communities right now.
There are several steps remaining in the crafting of a final plan before the Thanksgiving legislative recess, starting with the release of the Senate Ways & Means proposal. We will continue to push for racial justice to be centered every step of the way. We appreciate the ways in which House Ways & Means has responded to our advocacy thus far and remain hopeful that legislators in the Senate will also partner with us to get this plan to a place where we can say it does meet the moment.
With nearly $5 billion at stake, we owe it to future generations to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to address historic inequities.
American Civil Liberties Union-Massachusetts
Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Asian American and Pacific Islanders Commission
Greater Boston Latino Network
Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations
Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition
Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Massachusetts Public Health Association