COVID-19 Spending Runs Through Baker's 2022 Budget

Baker announced the budget proposal during a press conference Wednesday

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Baker administration finance officials are characterizing the governor's fiscal 2022 spending plan as something of a recovery budget, and the $45.6 billion proposal includes several measures targeting areas spotlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In public health, Gov. Charlie Baker's budget will include spending to support staffing at the state laboratory and public health hospitals and continue $10 million in grants for local boards of health, according to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

After a year that's driven most government services, at least temporarily, to the virtual realm, the budget proposes $138.8 million in spending by the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security, for investments around improved cybersecurity and supporting partially remote workforces.

The budget for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency would double under Baker's budget, to $4.1 million. State finance officials said the pandemic and the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas disaster underscored the importance of MEMA's ability to respond rapidly, and that the agency can function better when operating from its own reserves rather than going through a lengthy process to secure reimbursement from the federal government.

In a nod to all the TV we've been watching amid the coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged people to follow the wisdom found in the show "Ted Lasso" in the face of talking heads and instant reactions on social media. The advice, borrowed from Walt Whitman, is "be curious, not judgmental."

In other areas that have drawn attention during the COVID-19 crisis, the budget proposes allowing cities and towns to count up to $114 million in money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, fund towards their required local contribution under the state's school spending formula, and includes $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and $26 million for the HomeBase housing assistance program.

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