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Healey looking for help housing immigrants coming to Massachusetts

Mass. Governor Maura Healey signs the annual budget on August 9, 2023.
File Photo
State House News Service
Mass. Governor Maura Healey signs the annual budget on August 9, 2023.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey is looking for ways to address the rapidly rising number of immigrants coming to the state.

She recently appealed to federal government officials for assistance housing new arrivals and also wants religious groups and residents to consider taking in migrants. Massachusetts has funding in the state budget, signed last week, to address homelessness. Reporter Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service says the state is spending as much as it can to address the issue.

Chris Lisinski, SHNS: There's a significant amount of resources going into this. Roughly $320 million in fact in the new state budget for fiscal year 2024, which is a really sizable increase over last year.

But that is still not enough. Governor Healey has been clear that that is not going to manage all the need itself. She's told federal officials that Massachusetts is spending some $45 million per month to shelter these individuals over a 12-month period. That's obviously way more than $320 million. So, some kind of federal help is going to be required as far as the administration is concerned.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: Also in that budget was a health care policy that lawmakers have seen filed for two decades by Senator Mark Montigny of New Bedford. It finally became law. Can you summarize who the bill — which has been called lifesaving — will affect and what it's all about?

This is primarily going to affect patients who are experiencing strokes and change the way that they get immediate emergency stroke care.

Under existing law people who are being transported by EMS to a hospital while experiencing a stroke go to the nearest hospital, even if that facility isn't the right kind of place to treat a stroke.

This law is going to require Massachusetts Department of Public Health to create some new guidelines to make sure that when someone is encountering a stroke, in that moment instead of just going to the nearest facility, they go to the facility best equipped to handle their needs in the most timely fashion.

This legislation is especially urgent given how much even small periods of time matter when someone is having a stroke.

Westfield State Senator John Velis also got some big wins in the budget for veterans, including programs advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ vets and support for women veterans.

Velis was previously involved in getting funding for the reconstruction of the Soldier’s Home in Holyoke now called the Veterans Home in Holyoke. I understand there's a big event planned there today.

That's right. Governor Healey, Lieutenant Governor Driscoll, U.S. Congressman Richard Neal, some other state and local officials are all gathering to kick off an official groundbreaking for this brand-new facility in Holyoke.

It's set to be completed, I believe, in summer of 2028. It's going to have 234 long term care beds set up in what they call a small house model, with more services readily available and more of a community feeling.

Finally, Chris, all Massachusetts public-school students in grades K through 12 will be entitled to free lunches regardless of their financial status this fall. It was one of the provisions in the budget signed into law.

The measure will cost taxpayers just over $170 million in this budget. It was signed in as permanent. So, what does permanent mean when it comes to the legislature? Are free school lunches now like a diamond and ‘forever’?

Well, as is so often the case with any kind of spending policy, nothing is truly, truly forever.

Lawmakers could always decide just to leave this out of next year's annual budget. But putting in the annual budget means that it is much more of an assumption that it's going to be there. It's intended as permanent, and it's not going to require a stand alone bill to advance every year, which, as we've seen with so many different issues, is always a heavy lift on Beacon Hill where things just fall through the cracks.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
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