Relief package to deliver big windfall

Christian M. Wade, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·3 min read

Mar. 11—BOSTON — Billions of dollars in federal aid will flow into Massachusetts under a new pandemic relief package signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday.

The $1.9 trillion bill, approved by the Democratic-controlled Congress, includes direct payments and a jobless-benefit extension, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, schools, state and local governments and businesses that are still reeling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance," Biden said in remarks from the White House.

All told, Massachusetts stands to get nearly $8 billion in aid when the law is enacted, according to estimates from the House Oversight Committee.

At least 37 cities with populations of more than 50,000 will be getting $1.7 billion in direct federal aid through the relief package.

Locally, Lawrence will receive more than $42.8 million; Haverhill $25.8 million; Salem $27.3 million; Gloucester $17.2 million and Peabody will get $11 million, according to a breakdown compiled by the National League of Cities.

Other communities would get direct funding based on their population.

A key provision of the bill is a $1,400 payment to individuals making up to $75,000 a year, or households with joint filers making up to $150,000 a year.

Dependents of eligible families will also receive $1,400 checks.

Meanwhile, the federal child tax credit will increase from $2,000 to $3,000 for dependents ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for children under 6.

The maximum deduction for child care will also climb to 50% of qualifying expenses, up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more children, under the changes.

Current law allows for a credit of up to 35% of child care expenses of $3,000 for one child or $6,000 for multiple children.

Massachusetts schools will also get a windfall as they prepare to open for full-time instruction. The aid includes $1.8 billion for elementary and secondary schools and $825 million for colleges and universities.

Republican lawmakers opposed the massive relief package as a job-killer that was loaded with Democratic pet projects that will do little to reopen schools or businesses shuttered for the pandemic.

They also complained about the bill's price tag, which they argue will hold back economic recovery.

But U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, who voted for the measure in the House, said the relief package will "get shots in people's arms, Americans back to work, money in people's pockets, and kids back in school."

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Cambridge, echoed those sentiments said in a statement, saying "it's a powerful bill that will make a real difference."

"Democrats have passed a historic relief package that will make a real difference to expand vaccines, safely reopen schools, and help Massachusetts families make ends meet," she said.

Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, called the relief package a "game changer" for the state and local governments that have waited for more relief as they struggle with pandemic-related costs.

"This bill will provide critical aid to every city and town in Massachusetts to stabilize essential services, inject real dollars into our communities to protect individuals, families and businesses hit hardest by COVID-19, and invest in a powerful economic recovery all across the state," Beckwith said.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group's newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com