© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mass. Senate stares down early education, childcare bill; soon to tackle spending bill

Mass. Senate President Karen Spilka reads a book to children at a Head Start center in Malden.
Sam Drysdale
State House News Service
Mass. Senate President Karen Spilka reads a book to children at a Head Start center in Malden.

Massachusetts House lawmakers last week overwhelmingly approved another $245 million injection for the state's maxed out emergency family shelters. That issue awaits its fate in the state Senate. But like so many bills, Colin Young from the State House News Service explains, the bill not only funds these shelters, but includes a series of reforms.

Colin Young: SHNS: The House hopes these reforms will ultimately control the costs of the shelter program moving forward. The big ones there are limiting the amount of time that families can spend in the state's emergency shelters. Right now, the average length of stay is about 13 or 14 months. The House wants to limit that to nine months in most cases, and 12 months in the case of pregnant women, people who are working and certain other cases. And there's also a tax credit to try to incentivize businesses to train some of these migrant workers so that they can get to work and presumably move out of the emergency shelter system.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: This week, the Senate is taking up a new early education and childcare bill aimed at expanding access and making it more affordable for families. But the state's tax collections are not encouraging. So, what's known about the estimated cost for this childcare initiative and what's actually in the bill?

We don't have a dollar figure for this Senate bill. But what we do know is that it's going to cost a lot of money over a number of years, probably in the billions of dollars over, you know, six, seven, eight years or so.

The bill would gradually expand the eligibility for childcare subsidies so that more families would be eligible for at least some state aid for paying for childcare. And there's also a cap on out-of-pocket expenses for some families at 7% of household income.

For childcare providers, there is a sort of solidification of state grants that are meant to help childcare centers raise employee wages, and take on additional children. And then the state also wants to create a career ladder so that people who work in the early education field have some chance for upward mobility, have a chance to earn more money as they stay in the field longer.

Switching gears, Colin, you reported that banking and business leaders are seeing an uptick in property listings and pending home sales over recent months. That's offering a glimmer of hope in what has been an inaccessible or unaffordable housing market. Just last year, Governor Healey identified housing as the "number one issue facing this state.. So, what's the current state of the housing market?

For months and months it had been sales down and prices up. In January, we saw a little bit of a shift away from that, where prices were still up, but sales were up 0.2%, which I think is truly a glimmer of hope. But the Federal Reserve Bank said that modest declines in mortgage rates are getting more people willing to become homebuyers now, more willing to jump into the housing market.

So, I'm sure we'll see that play out more as spring unfolds, as the weather gets nicer and there are more open houses and more houses come on to the market. It’ll really bear watching whether the sales continue to trickle up a little bit, or if we head back to that rut that we had been in.

And finally, a Legislative committee is meeting Tuesday to scrutinize another proposed ballot question. Last week, the panel took testimony on a question to remove the MCAS standardized testas a graduation requirement from high school. So, is it usual for a joint committee to deal with the ballot question approval process, and what's on the agenda before them this week?

It is usual for the Legislature to review these ballot questions. They actually have to under the Constitution. But what's unusual about the way they're doing it this year is that the legislature created a new special committee just to review the ballot question. So that's a little bit of a new wrinkle to it this year.

And this week, that committee is going to look at the ballot question that would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. Right now Massachusetts has a minimum wage of $6.75 an hour for service workers who also get tips, and this proposal would gradually bring that into line with the overall state minimum wage.

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.
Related Content