Major Budget Wins This Week in the Massachusetts State Senate

Special to the Times

The Massachusetts State Senate convened this week to debate and finalize the Senate budget package. There is a lot to celebrate this year for the residents of the Commonwealth, especially for the constituents of Senator Lydia Edwards’ Third Suffolk district, which covers East Boston, Winthrop, Revere, and portions of Back Bay in Downtown Boston. The community-minded budget success this session is poised to invest in the things residents of the Commonwealth need most.

Tenancy Protections Secured Through Eviction Sealing and Preservation of RAFT

Among the most impactful achievements in the Senate’s budget package is the passage of Senator Edwards’ Tenancy Protection Amendment. This amendment to the budget assures that those who qualify for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and pay their landlord the amount of money owed can avoid eviction, dismiss their case, and seal their record. This achievement also means that tenants who are waiting on approval of RAFT will not face a judgement on an eviction case. Importantly, this accomplishment allows a tenant to petition to seal their eviction record in certain situations, such as no-fault evictions, RAFT approval, or where the eviction case is dismissed. The Tenancy Protection Amendment delivers the infrastructure necessary to prevent unfair treatment based on eviction records and improve access to safe, affordable, and dignified housing.

Investment in the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts

Senator Edwards secured $400,000 for the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), which supports adults of Eastern Massachusetts in accessing employment and economic development opportunities by providing support to overcome racial, social, economic, and sexual and domestic violence barriers. Their programs and services offer an array of crucial skills-training classes and workshops at no cost.

Winthrop Ferry Funds Add a Stop at Logan Airport and Aim for Affordable Fares

An incredible win for the Town of Winthrop includes $1 million allocated to subsidize ferry services while the Sumner Tunnel is closed July 5 – August 31, 2023. Notably, the Winthrop Ferry will now make a stop at the Logan Airport Ferry Terminal, making travel from East of Boston to Downtown Boston more accessible and dependable. Investing funds in these ferry services will provide a much-needed alternative method of transportation for residents and is set to decrease traffic congestion on neighborhood roads.

Funds to Aid the Local Food Shelters in East Boston and Back Bay

East Boston and Back Bay will receive $30,000 to support local food services, including the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, the Grace Church Federated in East Boston, and the Arlington Street Church’s Friday Night Supper Program in the Back Bay section of Boston. The East Boston Community Soup Kitchen in Maverick Square is open every Tuesday at 9 am and is the go-to destination for those facing food and resource insecurity. The Grace Church Food Pantry is open every Saturday from 10 am – 12 pm, which East Boston residents can access once per month to receive several bags of food to take home. The Arlington Street Church’s Friday Night Supper is one of the oldest food shelters in Boston and has served thousands of meals every Friday night, including on holidays and through snow, storms, power outages, and pandemics. Friday Night Supper is located at Arlington Street Church on Boylston Street.  Funds for these incredible services promises the community that we can meet one of their most basic human needs: adequate nourishment.

Budget Win Invests in East Boston Latin American Arts and Culture

East Boston will see $50,000 funding the Veronica Robles Cultural Center (VROCC), a central community resource which promotes Latin American arts and culture as an engine for stronger communities and economic growth. The VROCC offers a safe space for immigrants and their families, as a source of connection to their cultural heritage, and for people of all backgrounds to celebrate Latino cultures.

An additional $50,000 will be provided to support the East Boston Latino Festival in Summer 2023, presented by ZUMIX and Senator Lydia Edwards. Last year, Senator Edwards partnered with ZUMIX to celebrate the diverse Latin American cultures of East Boston and their vibrant music. This year, the Latino Festival will be hosted on September 9, 2023. Stay tuned for updates! Along with showcases of talented performers and community events, ZUMIX offers programs and lessons to help young people reach their full potential and create a safe space for youth to explore who they are and who they want to be.

Progress for the Green Workforce and Environmental Resiliency

To help protect the largest surviving salt marsh in Boston Harbor, this budget win will allocate at least $50,000 in funds for Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, Inc., a grassroots organization that preserves the Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop.

Additionally, $75,000 will go to other green workforce and environmental resilience programs, including Eastie Farm, Inc., Mass Save, and Community Choice Electricity (BCCE) Eastie Farm, Inc. aims to create green job pathways for teens and young adults in environmental justice communities, including the development of skills in energy efficiency, conservation, and clean energy.  Funds are also provided to increase the utilization of ecosocial state and city programs like Mass Save and Community Choice Electricity (BCCE). Mass Save helps homes and businesses become more energy efficient, and BCCE gives Boston residents greater control over the electricity that powers their homes, places of worship, and small businesses. These programs will create more access to Massachusetts-grown fresh produce for low-income families in environmental justice communities.

Expanding the Boston Common Public Bathrooms

Boston Common and Public Garden will receive $50,000 in funds for the purpose of providing public restrooms. The lack of public bathrooms in this area amounts to an ongoing public health crisis, shining the light on community inequities in the ability of unhoused residents to access dignified bathrooms. This budget win will create more public access to restrooms for all Bostonians traveling through the Boston Commons.

Financial Assistance for First-time Homebuyers

To help first-time homebuyers with financial stress and hardship, this achievement will provide $25,000 to the city of Revere to create a pilot program for grants of $5,000 for eligible first-time homebuyers in Revere. With this funding, the new pilot program will be able to distribute grants over the next year and a half.

Support for Survivors of the April 21 Fire in the Town of Winthrop

A four-alarm fire broke out in Winthrop on April 21, 2023, leaving over 100 individuals and families without a home. After 64 apartments were no longer available, Winthrop residents were placed at the Senior Center, and then provided services through the support of the Red Cross, Winthrop Foundation, and other local organizations. The Town Manager Tony Marino said that about 15 families are still in need of another apartment. Senator Edwards secured $100,000 in the budget to support those who lost their homes in the fire.

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