Rep. Dykema’s Quarterly Newsletter – Holliston

Spring 2021 Newsletter

Dear Neighbor,

Optimism is in the air! Warm weather, vaccines, and the end of the public health emergency means brighter days ahead. While the economy is just beginning to open up, our work is already in full swing for the 192nd legislative session.

Improvements in vaccine distribution, as well as positive trends in public health data, are allowing the Legislature to expand its focus from the immediate threats posed by COVID-19 to long-term recovery efforts. As a member of the newly created Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, I’m looking forward to contributing to these important conversations.

The new legislative session began in January, during which members file new legislation for the two-year session. This year, I’ve filed 35 bills on topics ranging from water protection, to juvenile justice, to child care, to mental health, and veterans, all of which are informed by input I’ve heard from you, residents of the 8th Middlesex District.

I am also pleased to have been nominated by the new House Speaker Mariano, and elected by my peers, to serve as the House Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. In this new position, I’ll be playing a leading role in shaping policy on natural resource and water protection, climate response, and agriculture. As many of you know, this is a policy area I’m passionate about, and the committee has already begun its work, hosting our first two remote public hearings earlier this month alongside my Senate co-chair, Sen. Becca Rausch.

In this newsletter, I hope you’ll find useful information on the latest reopening guidance, the House’s recently passed budget recommendations, and other happenings. To stay up to date on all that’s happening on Beacon Hill, visit the Legislature’s website or my own website for more information. I also encourage you to check my Facebook page for more up-to-the-minute updates and communications from the District.

While the State House is closed to the public, the People’s House has continued to operate remotely throughout the pandemic. The best way to reach me or my staff at this time is via email at carolyn.dykema@mahouse.gov.

Sincerely,

FY 22 Budget Overview

In April, I was proud to join my colleagues in voting to unanimously support the House’s $47.7 billion Fiscal Year 2022 budget, a 3.5% increase over last year. The House budget balances our challenging financial circumstances caused by the pandemic with focused funding for municipalities, essential state programs, and supports for vulnerable residents. Below you will find a summary of some of the key funding initiatives from the House budget, which will be debated in the Senate next week.

As our communities continue to financial challenges created by the pandemic, I was able to secure funding for key local projects in the House budget, which included:

  • $100,000 for Goodwill Park in Holliston
  • $30,000 for a memorial honoring veterans in Holliston

Statewide Funding and Other Highlights:

Education

  • Chapter 70 Aid: Increased by $219.6 million overall, $5.5 billion toward fully funding the Student Opportunity Act legislation that makes significant investments in our K-12 schools over the next 7 years.
  • Special Education Circuit Breaker: $368 million for critical reimbursements to school districts for special education costs. Included in the $23 million increase over FY21 is the first-year implementation of a new policy to reimburse out-of-district transportation costs.
  • Pandemic Learning Loss Grants: $15 million for one-time grants to reimburse schools for summer programming aimed at reversing pandemic-related learning loss. It includes prioritization for student mental and behavioral health concerns and other direct effects of the pandemic.
  • State Aid to Public/Regional Libraries: $13.5 million to Regional Libraries, which represents a $1.1 million increase over the FY21 level, as well as an additional $13 million for state aid to public libraries.

Health & Social Services

  • Executive Office of Health & Human Services Operations and MassHealth: $119 million to support the increase in caseload during COVID-19 to ensure that residents who need coverage are able to access it. 
  • Community Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund: $200,000 for grants to community organizations for establishing or supporting evidence-based behavioral health programs for children and young adults.
  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP): $12.5 million to provide additional needs-based housing opportunities.
  • Office of Health Equity: $100 thousand for the operation of the only state office established to oversee a sustained effort to eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities and to coordinate public and private actions to address the social determinants of health.

Economic Development

  • Small Business Technical Assistance Grants: $1 million increase over FY21 for a total of $5 million in grant monies to be awarded by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation to community organizations across the Commonwealth to fund technical assistance or training programs for small businesses. 
  • Preservation of the Film Tax Credit: Eliminating the sunset-clause ensures that film and movie production can continue to provide economic opportunity for small businesses in the district and across the Commonwealth. 
  • Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership $2 million investment in technical support for small manufacturers.
  • Massachusetts Cultural Council: $20m for arts and cultural organizations across the Commonwealth to expand programming, adapt to technological changes, and assist with operating costs.  

Agriculture & Environment

  • Climate Adaptation and Preparedness: $2.2 million to fund climate change adaptation and preparedness, promote resiliency of transportation, energy and public health infrastructure, and revitalize natural resources and wetlands.
  • Watershed Management: $1.5 million for operation and maintenance of reservoirs, watershed lands and related infrastructure.
  • Emergency Food Assistance: $30 million in funding for food assistance for vulnerable families during a time of unprecedented need. Includes a new Community Food Security earmark providing $1 million to the Commonwealth’s four regional food banks.

COVID-19 Update

As we enter the spring, all Massachusetts residents and workers over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, residents aged 12-15 are now able to receive the Pfizer vaccine. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please visit the links below:

Many of you have been receiving our updates on the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 15 months. Thanks to many of you who have shared feedback with my office and I’m glad that many of you find it helpful. I’d like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to my Chief of Staff David Melly who has faithfully compiled these updates since last March, only days after the pandemic began. What I initially assumed would be a few weeks of updates, turned into 15 months. I can’t thank David enough for his dedication and for his efforts to keep you informed.

Join me for Virtual Office Hours!

Wednesday, June 9th, from 4:00pm – 6:00 pm.

Drop in via Zoom to say hello, ask questions, or share perspectives. Sign up for this virtual event and a 15 minute personal meeting to discuss issues of interest. Email Carolyn.Dykema@mahouse.gov to reserve a time

Regional Vaccine Collaborative Kicks Off in MetroWest

The MetroWest regional vaccination site at the DoubleTree Hotel is a collaborative effort by the towns of Hopkinton, Holliston, Southborough, Westborough, Ashland, Boylston, and Northborough. The site, a collaboration of all of the towns, is staffed by local EMS and health department personnel as well as Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members. (Pictured: Shawn McAuliffe, Hopkinton Public Health Director)

In March, I was proud to work directly with the outstanding local public health and emergency management officials, as well as my MetroWest legislative colleagues, to advocate for approval from the state Dept. of Public Health for this crucial site. The site’s convenient location at the DoubleTree Hotel at 5400 Computer Drive in Westborough is easily accessible to local residents.

How to book an appointment:

  • The majority of the appointments are filled directly through the State’s Preregistration System. Please register at vaccinesignup.mass.gov. You will be contacted when there are appointments available and provide you with a link to use to select and book your appointment.
  • The preregistration system is only for scheduling first doses. If you are looking to book your second dose, please contact the location of your first dose. If you are unable to book your second dose at your first dose location, please learn more about securing a second dose at a mass vaccination site.
  • A limited number of appointments are also available directly through private links for the collaborating communities. If you live or work in the towns of Ashland, Boylston, Holliston, Hopkinton, Northborough, Southborough and Westborough, I would urge you to contact your respective Health Department to learn more about how to signup via their private link.  

Signup for notifications of last minute appointment openings here.

Climate Corner:

Bill Highlight: An Act to support innovation and local investment in the green economy

Massachusetts has always been a leader in clean energy progress and innovation. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has been a force in these efforts, driving investment and innovation that has led to the creation of 289,000 new jobs and over $39 billion in economic activity in the Commonwealth over the past 10 years, according to new analysis.

With the recent passage of the Next Generation Roadmap legislation (see below), MassCEC will be more important than ever, serving as a critical driver and convener for clean energy innovation and workforce, as well as decarbonization of communities, buildings, homes, businesses, and vehicles.

This session, I have newly filed An Act to support innovation and local investment in the green economy to provide MassCEC with a stable source of funding, through a small surcharge on electric and gas utility bills. The bill also creates a new program within the agency that directs a portion of the new funding to municipal projects that advance local clean energy goals.

Landmark 2050 Climate Roadmap Signed into Law

Returning to the unfinished business of last session, the Legislature voted once again in March to pass An Act creating a next-generation roadmap for Massachusetts climate policy. Not only has the Legislature reaffirmed its commitment to addressing climate change, but the new law will set Massachusetts on a path to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 by establishing emissions limits for all sectors of the economy.

To meet these goals, this omnibus law also accelerates the Renewable Portfolio Standard for clean electricity, which builds upon the success of energy legislation passed in 2018 and increases the state procurement for offshore wind.

As Vice Chair of the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy last session, I was proud to work with Chair Thom Golden to include key provisions in the law that support solar deployment and workforce training for underserved environmental justice communities. I was also glad to see key gas safety measures, which I had filed as legislation, adopted in the final bill including changes include increased transparency in customer complaints, whistleblower protections for utility employees, and steeper fines for safety non-compliance. These measures will work to increase safety and accountability our existing gas infrastructure system as we move toward greener long-term solutions. I appreciate the partnership of Hopkinton resident and Eversource Steelworkers Union President Kathy LaFlash to advance these changes that will protect gas workers and the public.

Massachusetts has long been a national leader in setting climate and energy policy, and public awareness around the urgency of the climate crisis has never been higher. This legislation was the product of months of hard work from my colleagues as well as passionate advocacy from a growing grassroots community. The final bill reflects a strong bipartisan commitment to meeting these challenges head on.

Rep. Dykema Secures Funding for Holliston Veterans Monument

I’m proud to represent a district that celebrates and honors our veterans. On behalf of all of the residents of our district, I was pleased to secure $30,000 in the House budget for the creation of a new memorial in Holliston Dedicated to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The new monument will be located in downtown Holliston near the rail trail and is being spearheaded by local veteran, Steve Napolitano, with the support of the VFW and American Legion. Many thanks to Steve and all of our veterans for their dedication and service.

In the coming months, I’ll be working to ensure this funding stays in the final budget signed by the Governor in July.

Pollinator Health Update

At the beginning of this legislative session, I refiled my pollinator health legislation, H.896, with co-sponsor Attorney General Maura Healey. The bill proposed limits on the use of neonicotinoids pesticides.

Over the past decade, Massachusetts has lost 45% of its bee colonies each year on average, with annual losses peaking as high as 61% in 2017. A growing body of evidence is showing that neonicotinoid pesticides are contributing to this decline.

I’m so pleased that In March, with the support of Attorney General Healey and many of my legislative colleagues the Department of Agricultural Resources voted to implement the first-ever statewide limits on neonicotinoid use.

I will be closely following the rollout and implementation of these regulations and am very grateful to everyone, including many of you, who supported this effort over the past 8 years. It’s wonderful to finally achieve this success and reinforce Massachusetts’s standing as a national leader on environmental policy.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and there is no better time to recognize the importance of our mental well-being than right now.

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, including dramatic impacts on our mental health. If you have been struggling socially or emotionally, please know that you do not have to face this alone.

Here are some resources to help connect you or a loved one with information and support:

The Living Room was created by the Advocates, a disability and mental health nonprofit which is “a welcoming 24-hour crisis alternative to emergency department visits and hospitalizations.” Individuals who visit the Living Room are given a chance to share their experience in a safe environment and connect with peer specialists to walk them through their moment of crisis. The Advocates also offers mobile crisis intervention as part of their Psychiatric Emergency Services team.

HandHoldMA is a new site set up by Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, providing information to help individuals provide emotional and other support to the young people in your life. The site was created by a team of mental health and child development experts in partnership with parents.

Wayside Youth & Family Support Network is a MetroWest provider that works with families under significant stress due to mental illness, behavioral problems, addiction and other challenges and helps connect them with counseling and resources.

Every community in the 8th Middlesex District also has a local Youth and Family Services office with professionals who can help connect you with information and counseling services:

Samaritans offers a number of resources, including a crisis hotline by phone, text, or chat.

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