The Massachusetts House of Representatives has unanimously passed a $55 million COVID-19 response bill.
In it, $30 million is set aside to expand COVID testing and get more young kids vaccinated.
Another $25 million is for masks for school staff and students, beginning with elementary school and going up.
Approving the money means the state can put in orders now instead of at the last minute, which will help manage supply chain delays.
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"There is still much more work to be done before we see the end of this pandemic," House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said as he introduced the bill on the House floor. "We've all seen, heard and experienced the struggle that many across the state have had in getting a COVID test or to receive proper masks for our schools. And while the items contained in this proposal are not the panacea, they represent the most immediate and urgent pandemic-related needs that our residents are facing."
Instead of tapping into some of the $2.25 billion that remains in state American Rescue Plan Act funds, the bill spends money out of the state's general fund "but the language in this bill instructs the administration to seek FEMA reimbursements for these needs," Michlewitz said.
The bill will next go to the Massachusetts State Senate and is expected on the governor’s desk next week.
Asked about the $55 million bill Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker said he was not familiar with its details but suggested that he is on board with the idea of stocking up on masks.
"The biggest challenge we have with respect to testing is much more about staff than it is about either supplies or dollars," the governor said. "We think keeping -- and I said this when I was talking to the oversight committee last week -- we try to keep about a six-month supply of masks on hand. If this would be funding that would make it possible for us to continue to extend and expand our supply with respect to masks, then obviously we would put it to work that way."