Senate’s ‘reimagining’ committee report makes recommendations for spending of ARPA money

The Massachusetts Statehouse. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Madeleine Pearce
Boston University Statehouse Program

With billions in federal aid available for the Massachusetts Legislature to spend, a Senate committee’s report makes recommendations for investments that target a more equitable future.

“Things are changing,” Senate President Karen Spilka said at a virtual news briefing on the report from the Senate’s Special Committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency.

“We’re not exactly going back to the old normal,” Spilka said.

The 22-page report, released Tuesday, examines inequalities in internet access, employment, care, housing and transportation, with a focus on gender and racial gaps. State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, who chairs the committee, joined Spilka on Tuesday for a tour of intergenerational care facilities in Swampscott, Cambridge and Newton.

Data gathered for the report showed women leaving the workplace to focus on child care at high rates, and emphasized the need to rework facilities to provide convenient and affordable intergenerational care.

“I have been particularly struck by the statistics on the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace,” Spilka said. “It’s clear to me that if we wish to have a full and equitable recovery, we must take a look at the factors that affect women’s employment at every level and in every sector.”

Mothers have spent more time on child care and less at work during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the report. Women also experienced the sharpest job losses. The report lists resources for “proximate and accessible, as well as affordable” intergenerational care as an immediate need as a result of the findings.

With more people working from home, the report also focused on the digital divide in Massachusetts.

“The data really pulls out this challenge of poverty being a factor,” Hinds said. “Who has access to the internet and who does not is abundantly clear when you look at the data.”

Hinds also emphasized the importance of making expensive equipment for using the internet more readily available. In addition, the report includes policy options for improving and expanding housing development, public transportation and income supports.

“We truly have worked to focus on the big issues,” Hinds said.

The Legislature has jurisdiction over about $4.8 billion in federal aid that the state received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Spilka has said the Legislature aims to spend some of the remaining money by Nov. 17, when its Thanksgiving recess begins.

This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle.

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