Massachusetts Legislature Cuts $87 Million in New Bedford Funding From Draft Bill
BOSTON — A state house legislative committee has cut more than $2 billion in federal COVID relief funding from Gov. Charlie Baker's proposed FORWARD bill — including $87 million the governor had set aside specifically for New Bedford.
Gov. Baker's $3.5 billion FORWARD bill proposal announced earlier this year would have seen $2.3 billion in Massachusetts' American Rescue Plan Act funds plus $1.2 billion in proposed borrowing distributed to every municipality in the commonwealth.
Under his plan, New Bedford was set to receive over $87 million, with more than 90% of the funds going towards renovating the city's Marine Commerce Terminal for offshore wind.
The rest of the funding would go towards specific projects in the city, such as $5 million to replace water and sewer lines and $1.7 million for the Hetland Ice Arena, among others.
But the $2.3 billion in ARPA money has been stripped out of a new draft spending bill from the state legislature's Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies — including most of the funds the administration had set aside for specific projects in each municipality.
State Rep. Antonio Cabral, who represents New Bedford but does not sit on the Economic Development committee, said last week that his colleagues feel they still have plenty of time to decide how to spend the ARPA funds.
"We have until 2024 to designate how we're going to spend the rest of that money, and then we have to spend it by 2026," he noted, adding that there is funding for port infrastructure included in the bill that is not specifically designated for New Bedford.
"But that's a small portion of what the governor really wanted to spend," Cabral said. "He wanted to spend all of it before the end of the year. He wants to give out the checks."
On the other hand, legislators are taking a wait-and-see approach, he noted.
"We think it's wise to pause a little bit. We could have a recession looming," Cabral said, adding that there will be other opportunities in the near future. "I don't think in the long run it's going to jeopardize what we need to do for offshore wind."
Gov. Baker's office did not respond to a request for comment.
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