BOSTON – State Senator Eileen Donoghue secured nearly $3 million in the Senate budget for addiction treatment, youth outreach, food access, and economic development programs that serve Greater Lowell and communities around the commonwealth.
“I’m proud to support programs that will make Greater Lowell a safer, healthier, and more equitable place—a place where there is economic opportunity for everyone, from a young person looking for a fresh start to an entrepreneur hoping to launch a small business,” said Donoghue.
In addition, the Senate voted to incorporate Donoghue’s critical community development legislation into the budget. That legislation authorizes the establishment of Community Benefit Districts (CBDs), which are nonprofit partnerships that can manage important areas like downtowns and main streets and provide supplemental services to them. CBDs empower stakeholders to solve neighborhood problems based on their own unique strengths and with their own resources.
“CBDs are a way for communities to set their own goals and solve their own problems,” said Donoghue. “Local governments, especially in gateway cities, need help making their downtowns attractive to residents, visitors, clients, and customers. This will generate new local capacity and investment without costing the state a penny.”
Donoghue also won passage of an amendment allowing taxpayers to split their state refunds between multiple accounts, as they already can with federal tax refunds. The change will make it easier for families to save for retirement and take advantage of Massachusetts’ new deduction for contributions to 529 college savings plans, which Donoghue helped create last year.
The Senate unanimously passed a Donoghue-sponsored amendment that boosts its support for Shannon Grants by $2 million to a total of $7 million. These grants reduce gang involvement and youth violence by supporting street outreach workers, education and employment programs, and collaboration between law enforcement and social service agencies. Last year Shannon Grant-funded programs served 3,000 young people in Lowell.
“UTEC really appreciates the continued leadership of Senator Donoghue in pursuing Shannon Grant funding. This funding will continue to support a critical partnership with the Lowell Police Department and other community partners to continue our work reducing gang violence in the city,” said Gregg Croteau, executive director of UTEC, Inc.
Another Donoghue amendment increased Senate funding for the Massachusetts YouthBuild Coalition by $250,000 to $2.25 million. YouthBuild programs engage young people who have been out of school and unemployed. Participating students work toward high school equivalent degrees and learn construction skills by building affordable housing in their communities.
“Senator Donoghue has been a longstanding champion of the YouthBuild Lowell program. Over the last nine years, our program has reduced the recidivism rate amongst our graduates to just 4.7 percent, compared to the national average of 67.8 percent. As a direct result of Senator Donoghue’s support, we will have the ability to provide additional support services to youth in need. We appreciate her leadership on this important issue,” said YouthBuild Lowell Program Director Thula Sibanda.
The Massachusetts Food Trust increases access to nutritious food and creates jobs by providing financing to build or expand food enterprises. Donoghue helped authorize $6.4 million in capital funding for the program in last year’s economic development bill, and this week she secured $100,000 in operating funds that will allow the food trust to leverage that capital and begin investing in communities like Lowell.
One of the local food enterprises that could benefit from the launch of the program is Mill City Grows, which hopes to obtain financing for a second mobile market. That project would support up to five new jobs.
“The Massachusetts Food Trust is a great example of how public funds can be leveraged by private and charitable capital to really make an impact in low-income and low-food access communities,” said Francey Slater, founding co-director of Mill City Grows. “Implementing the food trust means that Lowell and other communities across the commonwealth will see an increase in accessibility and affordability of fresh and nutritious foods, which ultimately leads to healthier and more resilient communities.”
The Senate also passed a Donoghue-sponsored amendment that awards $200,000 to the Lowell Community Health Center to increase its capacity to provide medication-assisted treatment and peer-to-peer recovery coaching. Right now the health center cannot meet the high demand for these programs, largely because it does not have enough staff members who are trained to participate in them. The health center will use the new funding to train additional prescribers and recovery coaches, which will enable it to treat more patients.
“This funding will have tremendous impact on Lowell Community Health Center’s ability to provide outpatient substance use disorder treatment to hundreds of people from Greater Lowell by increasing access to treatment services, and offering education and peer support to the community and to our providers at a time of overwhelming need. We could not be more grateful for this support,” said Susan West Levine, CEO of the Lowell Community Health Center.
“The Lowell Community Health Center is on the front lines of the fight against opioid addiction, and its medication-assisted treatment and peer-to-peer support programs have been among its most successful,” said Donoghue. “This funding will save lives by helping people get the medical treatment they need.”
Economic and export development
Two Donoghue amendments related to economic and export development were also adopted by the Senate. One provides $200,000 for a matching funds grant program to be administered by the Lowell Development & Financial Corporation. The program will encourage young startups to stay and grow in Lowell by subsidizing office and lab space in the city.
The other amendment dedicates $100,000 to a new program that will assist Massachusetts companies in exporting products and services, attract job-creating foreign investments in the commonwealth, and expand the commonwealth’s visibility in the global marketplace. Donoghue serves as Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Export Development.
Westford school technology upgrades
Donoghue won passage of a budget amendment that dedicates $100,000 to technology upgrades at Westford’s public schools. The same amendment, filed Representative Jim Arciero, was included in the House version of the budget.
“Westford been working to better integrate technology into its classrooms, but with local budgets tight, it has been difficult to find the money for the necessary infrastructure upgrades,” said Donoghue. “The funding that Representative Arciero and I obtained will pay for those upgrades so that Westford can provide new, innovative learning opportunities to its students.”
The Senate and House will now reconcile the differences between their budgets before sending a final version to the governor for his approbation.