Budget Update: What Gateway Cities Need to Know
The Gateway Cities Journal
This week the FY 2022 budget moves to the Senate for debate. MassINC is tracking several amendments that are critically important for Gateway Cities, including funding for Early College expansion, neighborhood stabilization, small business assistance, and Regional Transit Authorities.
Funding to support Early College expansion is high on MassINC’s list of priorities. Building on an excellent start in the House budget, the Senate Ways and Means budget goes even further. Early College partnerships rely on two line items. The largest is Dual Enrollment Grants (7066-0019). The House budget increased this line item to $5.3 million; the Senate budget goes a bit further, providing $6 million.
Early College Programs (7009-6600) provides startup funds. The current maximum startup grant ($30,000 per program) is way too low to build a transformative partnership, and an increasing number of districts are interested in starting new programs. The Senate Ways and Means budget increases this line item to $5 million, while the House budget provides level funding at $2.5 million.
At first glance, the Senate Ways and Means budget looks like a stronger proposal for fully meeting the anticipated growth in Early College programs in FY 2022. However, there is one important caveat; the proposal does not provide funding for the Community College SUCCESS Fund (7100-4002), which pays for enhanced advising, including services that support Early College students. The House budget included $10.5 million for the Success Fund.
To expand investment in programs like Early College that are demonstrating results, budget makers must make hard choices. But community colleges are among the most under resourced institutions in the state and they will play a vital role supporting an equitable economic recovery. Senator Anne Gobi, chair of the higher education committee, filed Amendment 171, which doubles the SUCCESS Fund to $14 million. Passage of this amendment will help ensure that the Commonwealth is making good on its commitments to close large gaps in college completion to the benefit of thousands of Gateway City students.
Building off recommendations included in a 2018 MassINC report (and a related bill filed by the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus in 2019), the Economic Development bond authorization signed by Governor Baker in January included $50 million to support Gateway City neighborhood revitalization efforts. American Rescue Plan Act dollars put Gateway Cities in a better position to leverage these capital funds. MassHousing is providing technical assistance to help five Gateway Cities (Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, and Malden) develop strategies to deploy these resources for the most impact. The House budget included $750,000 to expand the number of cities receiving assistance from MassHousing. Senator Eric Lesser filed Amendment 724 to secure a similar level of funding in the Senate budget.
Small Business AssistanceA recent MassINC report identified an urgent need to expand access to high-quality business assistance to support a growing number of entrepreneurs of color in Massachusetts. Amendment 748 filed by Senator Nick Collins increases funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance program from $5 million to $10 million. Expansion of this program is critical to building the support systems Massachusetts will need to close large racial and ethnic gaps in small business ownership.
Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs)
Regional transit agencies will play an important role helping Gateway City residents get new jobs as the economy recovers. Amendment 4 filed by Senator Harriet Chandler removes performance grant distribution language, allowing RTAs to implement the long-term changes to service identified in recently completed comprehensive service plans.