I can’t believe we are already at the end of July. I hope everyone has been having a good summer. This week brought forth an abundance of legislation, and I spent many hours in session. In addition, I had several meetings and events in the district (virtually and in person).
Earlier this week, the Governor announced that the Stop-The-Spread initiative will be expanded to Agawam. Free COVID-19 testing will be provided in Agawam, and you do not have to be a resident of Agawam or have any symptoms. I encourage everyone to frequently check out mass.gov/stopthespread for updated locations and times. We need adequate testing for all communities in our state, and I’m glad this initiative is being expanded to Western Mass!
One of the major pieces of legislation that the Senate passed this week was S.2842, the Endure Act. This economic development bill will provide support to small businesses and workers, and makes strong investments in infrastructure in our communities. There were major funding initiatives put forth in this bill, including $20 million for small businesses, $20 million for restaurants, $15 million for vocational school grants, and $10 million for climate resilient housing. There were also nearly 400 amendments filed to this bill, including two of my own that earmark specific bond funds to our district. I was able to secure $50,000 for renovations to the Wilson Hall lab at Westfield State University, and $450,000 for the towns of Granville, Montgomery, Russell, and Tolland to expand broadband access. One of the most important amendments that was adopted was amendment #253, which was introduced by my colleague Senator Timilty. This amendment creates a program within the Department of Veterans’ Services that will assist veterans in their transition from military service to the civilian workforce. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of this amendment, and am glad that it was adopted and passed!
This week the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means also agreed on a three-month interim budget that will provide near-term fiscal stability. While finalizing a full-year budget is important, it is still hard to do so at this point without knowing how the federal government is going to act, and how COVID-19 and our economic recovery is going to go. The Senate also passed the Breakfast After the Bell Act, and the Step Therapy Act this week. The Breakfast After the Bell Act will boost schools ability to provide breakfast, which many students rely on. The Step Therapy act will give health care providers more leverage in determining the most effective treatment options for patients, so that patients are not forced by their insurance to use less expensive drugs that are ineffective or harmful.
We’ve accomplished a lot this session, but still have a lot more to do. And that is why I am glad that the Senate and House of Representatives have decided to suspend Joint Rule 12A so that we continue our legislative formal sessions past July 31st. COVID-19 has changed how we legislate, and it has changed how our constituents live their daily lives. It is our duty to respond to those changes, and I believe it was crucial that we continue our work through the end of the year.
Outside of session, I still managed to get out in the district for some meetings and events. On Monday, I had a meeting with constituents about legislation coming up, and then headed over to the ribbon cutting ceremony at Results & Wellness in Westfield, which will be a great resource for health and wellness in our community. This was not my only ribbon cutting this week, as Friday morning I attended the opening of PLAYNOW!, a new toy store in Westfield.
Wednesday morning I joined the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce (virtually) for a great conversation about our local economy, and how we can help small business recover and navigate the reopening process. Later in the afternoon, I video-chatted with the Holyoke Literacy Lab. There has been an enormous amount of research that has shown that if students are not able to read by the third grade, they end up struggling with school and find themselves having to catch up. The Literacy Lab does a great job of stepping in with those students to tutor them. Soon after this presentation, I had my first meeting with the new president of Westfield State University, Roy Saigo. After we got to know each other, our conversation turned to talking about school reopening and how the testing of students is going to work.
Thursday evening, I was able to attend Westfield Technical Academy’s graduation, and Friday evening I attended Westfield High’s graduation. Seeing all of our community’s great students, and hearing of their accomplishments, is one of my favorite parts of my job. I wish all the students the best in wherever life takes them next, and offer my help if it is ever needed.
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 phone: (413) 572-392