Monday, November 23, 2020
Secures Bipartisan Senate Budget Amendments To Support Impacted Sectors
Responding to the concerns of local and school officials and the ongoing threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R - Gloucester) has added provisions to the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget approved by the Senate this week to advance efforts in protecting public health during the state of emergency. Specifically, those amendments will:
* Give local school districts needed risk assessment tools to inform decisions about protecting the health of students, educators, and staff
* Ensure that those on the front lines of health care have adequate personal protective equipment
* Provide communities with funds to meet the extra costs of addressing the pandemic.
In addition to an amendment that provides a minimum of $250,000 for the communities in the district that Tarr represents in the Senate for 2019 novel coronavirus public safety response, the Senator also won the approval of a plan to direct the state’s Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for inventory tracking, materials management, and using robust procurement systems for the purposes of obtaining the amounts of personal protective equipment needed.
“One of the most important elements of combating COVID-19 is to develop a system for PPE management such as tracking availability, identifying problems, and ensuring that we have a systematized approach for procurement so we don’t have a shortage again,” said Senator Tarr. “The adequacy of personal protective equipment availability, particular for those who provide us with our health care on the front line, is critically important and I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the Senate.”
This PPE supply management plan will identify disruptions in supply chains, incidents of price gouging and projected need while putting in place cost-saving mechanisms for bulk or coordinated purchases of the gear. Another important feature of the system will include a mechanism for a health care provider to alert the office to any impending shortages.
Students, school staff, and families connected to school districts both public and private across the state will benefit from a Tarr proposal to create a School Virus Risk Assessment initiative. The Tarr plan grew out of conversations with local school administrators and was further enhanced by Rockport Superintendent of Schools Rob Liebow.
"Senator Tarr is always keeping the best interests of our young people as one of his top priorities regardless of all the other competing forces he has to deal with on Beacon Hill. He listens carefully to those in the educational field and always responds to the needs of those who can't necessarily advocate directly for themselves,” said Superintendent Liebow. “Our young people are so lucky to have Senator Tarr keeping an eye out for what is best for the children who are certainly our most precious resource and our greatest hope for a brighter future."
The amendment requires collaboration by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with the Department of Public Health to procure or otherwise develop, statistically valid risk assessment tools for the 2019 novel coronavirus among student populations. The state agencies must make those tools available to all schools in the state, both public and non-public, within 3 months of the budget bill becoming law.
“This budget represents one of many ways in which we can identify areas of need for our residents during this world-wide pandemic,” said Tarr. “From food security, ensuring the wellbeing of vulnerable people, and giving support for those who keep our economy functioning we are in this together.”
The Senate budget takes several other important steps to preserves access to essential services for our most vulnerable residents in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.2 billion to maintain critical access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.9 million people, The budget bill also includes targeted investments to maintain and expand access to mental health care, while strengthening public health infrastructure at the local, state and regional level to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Conference Committee will now convene to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives.