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More than 30 Massachusetts communities are using ARPA funding to support first responders

An ambulance in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/bwats2
An ambulance in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Coalition of Police, which represents more than 5,000 law enforcement officials in 175 communities, on Tuesday thanked 36 municipalities that have set aside a portion of their American Rescue Plan Act money for police, firefighters, EMTs and others whose duties put them in high-risk scenarios during the pandemic.

ARPA made available about $3.4 billion in direct support for municipalities to respond to and recover from COVID-19, and the federal law allows cities and towns to choose to use some of that money to provide premium pay to essential workers like public safety staff, nurses and doctors, sanitation workers, farm workers and more.

The coalition previously estimated such pay could add up to $13 an hour to an eligible employee's wages, and said the premium pay "in the aggregate cannot exceed $25,000 per eligible worker."

"The American Rescue Plan Act specifically recognized that first responders across all areas of emergency service played a crucial role in keeping communities safe during the historic COVID-19 public health crisis," said Scott Hovsepian, president of the coalition. "Cities and towns in every region of the Commonwealth have done the same and appropriated some of their federal ARPA funding to award premium pay for first responders: firefighters, EMTs, police officers, 911 dispatchers and other emergency personnel. This has not gone unnoticed by the men and women who protect our communities and our citizens each day."

The list of municipalities that has either appropriated ARPA funds for first responders or are close to finalizing such an appropriation, according to the coalition, includes Amherst, Arlington, Ashby, Brewster, Bridgewater, Brockton, Canton, Chicopee, Fall River, Falmouth, Fitchburg, Gardner, Granby, Groton, Hamden, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Mashpee, Methuen, Milford, Millbury, Nantucket, Oxford, Quincy, South Hampton, Springfield, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Sutton, Taunton, Topsfield, Ware, Wayland and Worcester.

The Baker administration last month began to send $500 checks to about 500,000 low-income workers as part of the first premium pay program of its kind in the nation. The program was authorized in a $4 billion COVID-19 relief law that Gov. Charlie Baker signed in December, and the initial round of payments will total about $250 million with about $250 million more expected to flow to other workers in future rounds.

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