Legislation Highlights Commitment to Providing for Neediest Citizens while Aiding Businesses and Municipalities

BOSTON – State Representative Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that, for the fifth consecutive year, freezes a scheduled increase in the unemployment insurance (UI) assessment paid by all employers.

The bill also provides increased funding for the Department of Children and Families (DCF), homelessness programs, Brownfields Redevelopment, and the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

“It is important we get the additional funding to shelters, heating assistance, and other programs at this critical time,” said Vega. “I was especially glad to support additional funding for the Brownfields Trust program which will help economic development in Holyoke and around the Commonwealth.”

“Last month I stood before the Chamber and vowed to protect the Commonwealth’s children and pledged to build on Massachusetts’ economic success,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “Just a month later we are making these gains. While the the House conducts a comprehensive review of DCF, I’m proud that we could provide immediate funds to address caseload issues. I believe this budget sets the Legislature on a path for success in the coming months and I thank my colleagues for their diligence.”

“This supplemental budget includes targeted funding for time-sensitive programs and services. We provide $20 million for the federal LIHEAP program to ensure that the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents remain safe and warm throughout the winter months,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “We also implement an Unemployment Insurance rate freeze to encourage important economic opportunities as we progress through 2014 for both employers and workers. We also recapitalize the highly successful Brownfields Redevelopment program and include funding to cover the costs of snow and ice removal, supporting the many small businesses that contract with the state to keep our roads safe.”

The supplemental budget allocates $2.78 million to DCF, thus providing adequate funds to meet the department’s request of a 15:1 caseload ratio. This action follows increases in DCF funding over the past three budget cycles.

Because the House recognizes the challenges residents face during the winter, this legislation provides an additional $20 million for heating assistance and about $45 million to provide low-income homeless families with access to housing. Additionally, the Department of Transportation may spend up to additional $50 million for snow and ice removal dependent on the state’s needs.

The bill includes a $15 million recapitalization of the Brownfield’s redevelopment fund which will allow the current pipeline of projects to continue and increase development opportunities on currently vacant and underutilized properties across the Commonwealth.

This bill passed the House 146 to 2 and now moves on to the Senate.