Baker-Polito Administration Files the FORWARD ACT

On April 21st, the Baker-Polito Administration filed its economic development bill, An Act Investing in Future Opportunities for Resiliency, Workforce, and Revitalized Downtowns (FORWARD) Act. This legislation includes $2.3B in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds and over $1.256B in capital bond authorizations. It is also likely to be the last large piece of legislation this Administration files. You can view the entire bill here.

See below for highlights for how the bond authorizations and ARPA funds would be spent. In terms of workforce funding, this bill would use ARPA funds to transfer $300M into the UI trust fund to address overpayments, $25M for HireNow, and $20M for workforce training grants to municipalities to recruit and train municipal employees that deliver important public services across the Commonwealth. As with every legislative session, the House and Senate use this bill as starting point but each branch inserts its own priorities and policies into this omnibus legislation.

Bill Highlights:

Climate Resiliency and Preservation Efforts (ARPA funding):

  • $750 million in clean energy investments
  • $232 million to support 67 projects for parks, trails, and campground expansion and rehabilitation
  • $97 million for 55 coastal infrastructure projects
  • $64 in for 12 clean water projects, including COSs
  • $7 million for fishing and boating access projects
  • $6.4 million for resiliency and habitat projects
  • $4 million for open space acquisition
  • $1.4 million for culvert projects

Revitalized Downtowns & Communities (ARPA and bond authorization):

  • Almost $550 million for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure projects, including $147 million in ARPA funds to support 100 local projects and $400 million in capital reauthorization
  • $108 million for downtown recovery grants for 246 municipalities
  • $32 million for the Community OneStop for Growth competitive grant program
  • $10 million for site readiness evaluation projects
  • $7 million for brownfields redevelopment projects
  • $8 million for underutilized property program projects
  • $3.5 million for rural redevelopment grants
  • $1.2 million for community planning grants
  • $104 million in authorization for Clean Water Trust Fund grants
  • $50 million in authorization for the Revitalizing Underutilized Properties Program
  • $50 million in authorization for broadband matching funds in anticipation of competitive programs at the federal level
  • $12 million in authorization for “middle mile” broadband grants
  • $10 million in authorization for Seaport Economic Council grants
  • $10 million in authorization for the Rural and Small Town Development Fund
  • $5 million in authorization for Community Planning Grants

COVID-19 Response (ARPA funding):

  • $250 million for fiscally distressed hospitals
  • $100 million for future COVID-19 response needs, including testing
  • $30 million for ongoing efforts to adapt state government services to a post-pandemic world
  • $25 million for compliance and oversight costs associated with optimizing federal COVID funds
  • $20 million for local workforce training grants to recruit and train municipal employees that deliver important public services across the Commonwealth

Workforce (ARPA funding):

  • $300 million transfer to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to address unemployment overpayments
  • $25 million for HireNow

Housing (bond authorization):

  • $243 million in reauthorizations for existing programs to increase affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, public housing, climate resiliency and transit-oriented development
  • $26 million in authorization to expand a public housing demonstration program and smart growth housing

Innovation (bond authorization):

  • $50 million for a new Competitive and Secure Future Innovation Program
  • $30 million for the Mass. Manufacturing Innovation Initiative
  • $24 million for R&D grants
  • $23 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Accelerate Program
  • $10 million for tourism destination development grants
  • $200 million for matching funds for anticipated federal grant opportunities in the technology and innovation industry

Education (ARPA funding):

  • $35 million for planning grants to higher education institutions

This legislation is now before the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. It will have a public hearing on Monday, May 9th. MWA is working with colleagues and members to think about other policies and funding priorities for consideration as the legislation moves through the process. One of the places we are looking to for ideas is the recent Future of Work Commission Report. MWA Executive Director, Tonja Mettlach, and MWA Board Member, Lauren Jones, were both commission members. If you have ideas about workforce related initiatives or funding for this legislation, reach out to Tonja any time.

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