(Boston, MA) – After three days of spirited and in-depth debate, the Massachusetts State Senate approved a $40 billion budget just after 9:00pm on Thursday night. The Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes investments in key areas such as education, workforce development, health and human services, and housing. Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) was successful in securing $500,000 in local aide for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and $1.9 million for statewide programs supporting small business development and at-risk youth programs.
Local funding is attributed to organizations on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket that provide invaluable services to children, families, and older adults. Children’s Cove: The Cape and Islands Child Advocacy Center received $140,000 to support their work in providing an efficient and child-friendly facility for child abuse intervention. Housing Assistance Corporation of Cape Cod received $85,000 to fund a caseworker specifically for people on Martha’s Vineyard and for the work they do to provide a continuum of housing programs for those facing housing instability. Sight Loss Services, Inc. received $25,000 for capital services, allowing them to continue to serve Cape Codders who are gradually losing their sight. The Community Development Partnership has received $50,000 for a program to advance public participation in the development of affordable and middle-income housing. Senator Cyr also secured $100,000 to support residents of Martha’s vineyard and Nantucket to travel to health services provided off-island and $100,000 for the Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy to cover urgent capital expenses.
“These programs provide vital services to residents of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket,” said Cyr. “I am honored to do my part to ensure that the most vulnerable children receive the care and compassion they deserve, that those dealing with housing instability are supported, and that our public safety servicemen and women are provided with the training necessary to keep our communities safe.”
In addition to this local funding, Senator Cyr was able to secure a $150,000 earmark for the Massachusetts Office of Employee Involvement and Ownership. In 2008, the office was forced to suspend its operations due to the fiscal crisis confronting the state. This funding will allow the office to resume providing education, outreach, and promotional efforts to create an environment in the Commonwealth which will expand and enhance employee involvement and ownership.
Senator Cyr gave his maiden speech in the Massachusetts Senate Chamber in support of a $1.25M increase to the Small Business Technical Assistance grant program. In his speech, Cyr highlighted his own experience growing up in a small family owned restaurant, and noted the number of small businesses across the Cape and Islands that have benefitted from microloan programs, business counseling, and support.
“These grants strengthen locally-owned businesses like the one I grew while stimulating local economic development, supporting commercial and mixed use developers, and helping to sustain vibrant local business districts,” said Senator Cyr. “They further the goal of creating vibrant, inclusive communities where residents help shape the future of their own towns and cities so that everyone can thrive.”
The amendment was adopted unanimously by the Massachusetts State Senate.
A video of the speech is available for viewing at www.senatorcyr.com/blog.
Senator Cyr was also successful in securing $500,000 for the statewide Youth at Risk competitive grant program administered by the Department of Public Health. Senator Cyr spoke about the importance of these programs for at-risk youth.
“For years, the Youth at Risk Grant program has enabled 36 community-based organizations to fund interventions related to violence prevention, positive youth development, healthy relationships, and skill-building for LGBTQ young people and other vulnerable youth. If we do not restore this funding in this year’s budget, these essential programs are in danger of being cut.”
Throughout budget debate, Senator Cyr urged his colleagues to adopt amendments that would increase funding for tourism information centers, provide funding to link residents of Cape Cod to OpenCape’s fiber optic network, and modernize childhood lead poisoning prevention.
Senator Cyr also played a critical role in the adoption of a number of amendments offered by his Senate colleagues, including an amendment offered by Senator Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop) that asks the Department of Public health to evaluate the feasibility of supervised injection facilities and an amendment sponsored by Senator Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) to create an Alzheimer’s public awareness campaign.
Senator Cyr commented that Barnstable County has the third highest opioid overdose rate in the state, and that a feasibility study of safe injection facilities could help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic.
“We are losing a generation – my generation – to an opioid epidemic that is ravaging communities across the Commonwealth. When we have the opportunity to explore new avenues of intervention and recovery, we must rise to the occasion,” said Cyr. “From my time in public health I know that to tackle an epidemic of this magnitude we need out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness to explore unconventional methods.”
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget also calls for the state to levy an excise tax on all short-term room rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO, regional school transit funding, funding for HIV-AIDS prevention, food assistance, the Department of Environmental Protection, and an expansion of the housing court.
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget now heads to a conference committee where three members from the Senate and three members from the House of Representatives will negotiate a compromise spending plan to be sent to the Governor to be signed into law.