Baker-Polito Administration Visits Revere in Support of FORWARD Proposal

Special to the Journal

Last week, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card, and Housing and Economic Development Undersecretary Ashley Stolba were joined by City of Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo and other state and local officials to advocate for the Baker-Polito Administration’s recently filed legislation to make $3.5 billion in investments to support the Commonwealth’s path forward into a post-pandemic world. 

The legislation, An Act Investing in Future Opportunities for Resiliency, Workforce, and Revitalized Downtowns (FORWARD) includes $2.3 billion in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and $1.256 billion in capital bond authorizations. The funding would be directed toward projects to strengthen state infrastructure, create jobs and invest in all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth.

Today’s event was held at the Markey Memorial Pedestrian Bridge in the City of Revere.  Under the proposed set of investments detailed in FORWARD, Revere would receive $10 million for renovations to the Oak Island and Shirley Avenue bathhouses on Revere Beach; $11 million for infrastructure improvements to support the city’s RiverFront District plan; and $3 million for new park and playground construction at Sullivan Park. In total, the FORWARD bill proposes approximately $25 million in funding for projects in Revere.

“While Massachusetts has repeatedly demonstrated its resiliency, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on local, regional, and state economies, but the filing of the FORWARD Act will enable the state to rebound faster by making critical investments where they are needed most, which is within our communities,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through this thoughtful series of investments, we can make sure that communities like Revere as well as each and every city and town in the Commonwealth can benefit from our plans for economic recovery.”

“Through this proposal, each and every city and town in Massachusetts, including Revere, will receive critical funds to make important infrastructure investments and support other initiatives to aid in the state’s economic recovery efforts,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “Importantly, the FORWARD Act provides the Commonwealth and its communities with a once in a generation opportunity to make significant investments in each city and town across Massachusetts.”

“Throughout the pandemic, the partnerships we’ve built across cities and towns, the business community academia, and state government became more important than ever, and this legislation reflects that spirit of collaboration by targeting funding toward key priorities in all cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy.  “In addition, this bill lays out a thoughtful strategy that will accelerate our transition to a post-pandemic world by making the kinds of investments that support our downtowns, our workforce, core infrastructure, and the state’s housing needs with the urgency this situation calls for.”

The FORWARD Act supports $1.2 billion for climate resiliency and preservation efforts, including $413 million for over 100 projects across state parks and trails, water and sewer, and environmental infrastructure grant programs. The legislation supports reconstructing Revere Beach’s decades-old bathhouses into state-of-the-art, net zero buildings that would house amenities such as public restrooms, changing rooms, and breakrooms for lifeguards. The bill also proposes spending $750 million on the Commonwealth’s clean energy industry.

“We saw people in our communities visiting our state parks and beaches more than ever during the pandemic; and we want to do all we can to continue to enhance visitor experiences,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Making smart investments into our coastal facilities, parks, and downtowns will benefit our environment, our economy and the health and well-being of the Commonwealth’s residents. ”

The FORWARD legislation also proposes:

• Nearly $970 million for investments to revitalize the Commonwealth’s downtowns and help communities adapt to the post-pandemic world. This includes $550 million for the MassWorks program to support 94 local projects. Nearly 250 municipalities will receive downtown recovery grants totaling $108 million.

• $325 million in ARPA funding for workforce efforts, including $300 million for the Unemployment Trust Fund to address unemployment overpayments. The HireNow program, which provides grants to employers to train and hire new workers, would receive $25 million.

• $270 million in authorization to support housing production across the Commonwealth, including affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, public housing, climate resilient housing, and transit-oriented development. The bill also makes several policy proposals to increase housing production, including an increase of the cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10 million to $30 million.

• Funding to support the Commonwealth’s innovation economy, including $50 million for a new competitive and secure future innovation program to make strategic investments in purpose-driven research, technology development, and innovation, and in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), robotics, quantum information science, cybersecurity, communications, and digital health.

In addition, the bill would allow the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to sell the Hynes Convention Center, with proceeds from the sale going to affordable housing development and the Back Bay area.

ARPA funds must be committed by states by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. This legislation prioritizes investing ARPA funding into projects that are already sufficiently defined and narrow in scope so they can be completed by 2026.

In an effort to support the Commonwealth as the state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Baker has filed several bills recently to aid municipalities and industries across the state. On May 18, 2022, Governor Baker announced the filing of a Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) supplemental budget that directs investments in transportation, housing, environmental infrastructure, economic development, childcare and education initiatives. Additionally, on March 17, 2022, Governor Baker announced the filing of “An Act Relative to Massachusetts’s Transportation Resources and Climate,” (MassTRAC) a $9.7 billion infrastructure bond bill, which seeks to advance and support significant investments in the Commonwealth’s transportation and environmental infrastructure, as well as provide critical and required state matching funds to compete for, unlock and leverage federal formula and discretionary investments provided by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) enacted in November 2021.

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