Racial Equity Dashboard to Assess ARPA Spending

BOSTON (SHNS) – Awaiting decisions from legislative leaders in the coming weeks on how to begin spending the remaining billions of dollars in the state’s American Rescue Plan Act allowance, a coalition of Advocacy groups and a handful of lawmakers on Monday released a dashboard that they’ll use to measure whether plans prioritize racial justice.

The coalition is launching a website it says offers a roadmap for how lawmakers can use the $ 4.8 billion to focus on reducing structural gaps that have been exacerbated by the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on communities of color.

The dashboard will assess spending plans based on six factors: urgency, attention to structural issues such as housing instability and racial divide, innovation, targeting funds to hardest hit populations, accountability and inclusive decision-making processes.

“Our state lawmakers have seen the growing number of COVIDs topping the charts in our state. They saw the thousands of people queuing for hours in our queues and they heard the stories of appalling housing conditions and health problems due to code violations in apartments facing monthly rent increases and annuals, ”Norieliz DeJesus, director of policy and organization at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, said in a statement. “We need to make sure that these facts stay on the table and in the discussions as our lawmakers allocate funds to different cities in our state. For the sake of our children who sometimes fall asleep hungry and worried about where they will sleep the next day, we must embrace the Racial Equity Scorecard and give these children a fair chance out of poverty.

The dashboard is supported by the Senses. Chang-Díaz and Adam Gomez and Representatives Russell Holmes, Orlando Ramos and Danillo Sena, all of whom are members of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. Chang-Díaz, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022, is Senate Chairman of the Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion, and Holmes is a member of the Ways and Means Committee of bedroom.

Groups involved in the effort include the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, Amplify Latinx, the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, Neighbor to Neighbor, La Colaborativa, the Greater Boston Latino Network, the American Civil Liberties Union. of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Public Health Association.

The dashboard uses alphabetical ratings, and the website has examples of how a spending plan might achieve an “A”, “C” or “F” rating.

To get an “A” for the emergency, lawmakers would need to pass legislation committing 90% of ARPA’s money by the end of the year. A “C” spending plan would place “large chunks of the money” in reserves, “creating the illusion that they are incurred,” and a failure rating would be given if half of the money is not committed by December 31.

Legislative leaders have expressed interest in finalizing a bill that would spend at least a portion of federal funds before lawmakers break in mid-November for their next formal recess, which will run until the end of the year. .

With a series of hearings on how to spend ARPA money now behind them, Ways and Means Chairs Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Sen. Michael Rodrigues said last Wednesday that they planned to produce a bill “in the coming weeks”.

The coalition wants all the money to be spent on resolving “structural problems exposed by the pandemic”, including legal aid for pandemic-related needs, workers’ health and economic vulnerability, disparities in health and public health, support for young people, high speed internet access, the childcare sector, environmental disparities, economic opportunities in hard-hit communities, housing instability and the racial division of wealth. The scorecard lists repairing roads and bridges as an example of a problem that is “neither created nor exacerbated by the pandemic.”

An ARPA spending bill would receive a failing innovation rating if the money was mostly spent on pre-existing obligations and its programs “require a lot of work to apply and long time to go. ‘waiting”. It would earn an “A” if all the money went to new or expanded programs that “would revive our new normal, not to fund the pre-pandemic status quo.”

According to the coalition, 85% of funds are expected to reach environmental justice communities or communities that rank in the top half of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index. Lawmakers would fail the “targeting” category of the scorecard if they allocated the dollars on the basis of pre-pandemic per capita formulas and ignored the “disproportionate toll of the pandemic on communities of color and residents to low income”.

When it comes to accountability and inclusiveness, groups want to see “a solid, real-time public-facing database” that tracks the percentage of dollars spent in hardest-hit communities and contracts awarded to owned companies. to minorities, as well as engagement with the Racial Equity Committee chairpersons or legislators of color on House and Senate Ways and Means committees before Ways and Means members vote on a draft plan .

The scorecard also requires at least four working days between the public publication of a ways and means plan and the deadline for lawmakers to table amendments.

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About Robert Valdivia

Robert Valdivia

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