Happy Memorial Day weekend folks,
As many of you go to the beach or camping, I hope you take a moment to not only reflect on the sacrifices of those in the armed forces but also to celebrate the free and prosperous country that they helped build. Remember to be safe this weekend as well.
After a full week of deliberations, I’m very happy to announce that the State Senate has finalized its version of the FY22 state budget. Among the amendments that I put forward and passed was adding $500K to the Women’s Veterans Program in the Department of Veteran Services to expand outreach and commission a year-long study on the services available to women Veterans in our Commonwealth. As a Veteran myself and as we approach Memorial Day, the passing of this amendment was a particular point of pride. Women have played a crucial role in the military since the Second World War. They are also the fasting growing demographic of Veterans but also one of the most underserved.
Another amendment that I sponsored that passed was one funding Recovery Works, an organization that assists those in recovery with substance abuse issues to find and maintain work. They also work alongside firms and recruiting agencies to reduce the stigma around hiring those with past substance abuse issues. One of the biggest obstacles to remaining free from substance abuse is employment. So often, those who put in the work of getting sober are unable to find gainful employment due to the stigma. This makes it that much more difficult to remain free from these issues. The goal of this organization is to help individuals across our state who have fought that hard battle of recovery and to set them up for long term success.
I was able to add funding directly to our local communities through other amendments I sponsored. Right here in Westfield, $59,800 has gone to de-escalation training programs at the Westfield Police Department and $15,2000 will go to Westfield American Legion Post 124. Another $50,000 has been allocated to the Enchanted Circle theater in Holyoke- expanding access to theater programs for kids from all around the Pioneer Valley. $100,000 has gone to a pilot program for child-care at Holyoke Community College to reduce barriers to accessing education for parents. $50,000 has been allocated to Girls Inc, a group that works throughout Western Mass to empower and grow young women through academic and athletic programs. $25,000 will go to the Town of Southwick for economic development. $50,000 has been allocated directly to the Agawam Senior Center. Another $25,000 will go to the Easthampton Community Center. Last, but certainly not least, especially this weekend, $50,000 will go to renovations and repairs to the Holyoke War Memorial.
It’s an honor to serve as your State Senator and while we’ve accomplished much during this budget process, I’m still looking ahead to all that we’re going to do for this district. The Senate budget will now go into a conference committee to be reconciled with the House version before being sent to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
While the week was packed with budget session, I was still able to meet with representatives from the Massachusetts Nurses Association to discuss how the Legislature can best aid nurses. Our nurses have always been a crucial part of our healthcare system but never has their necessity been made clearer than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to continuing my work with the MNA.
As of May 29th, the Governor’s executive orders pertinent to COVID-19 are officially rescinded. It’s been a long year and half. The pandemic is not over yet but every day we are getting closer. I want to remind everyone that the general population is now eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine and that every vaccinated resident makes us all safer. Many vaccination sites, including the Eastfield Mall and CVS Pharmacy locations, are now offering walk-ins. Head to vaxfinder.mass.gov/ to find locations and appointments near you.
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at my email: [email protected] or by phone: (413) 572-3920 and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.