I hope you all are doing well and have been able to take advantage of some of the warm weather we have had recently. This past week was packed full of meetings throughout the district and I was honored to participate in several Veterans Day ceremonies as well.
I began my week at the Holyoke Medical Center for a meeting with HMC President Hatiras, Representative Vega, and Representative-Elect Duffy where we discussed how services for patients have changed in recent months. Later in the day, I stopped by the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to drop off over 500 letters from students in our district that were distributed to Veterans this week. The letters were truly heartwarming, and full of appreciation for our Veterans and their service. I know how much they meant to the Veterans and am inspired by how thoughtful the students in our community are.
On Tuesday morning I was glad to join the Forum House and Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition at the Short Stop Bar and Grill in Westfield, where I had the privilege of recognizing Short Stop and the Hannoush family for their work with adults with mental illnesses. It is phenomenal to see businesses and organizations in our community diversifying their workforce and collaborating together, and I was happy to be a part of the recognition ceremony.
Although our usual Veterans Day celebrations may have been restricted this year, it was amazing to see all the different ways that our communities showed their appreciation for our Veterans. I began the day in Agawam at the Vietnam Memorial Bridge for a moving ceremony with the Agawam Veterans Council, the West Springfield VSO, and the Agawam Police Department. We were also joined by students of Agawam High School who played Taps during the ceremony.
Later in the morning, I joined Westfield community members and Veterans at Parker Memorial Park, where I was honored to speak and thank our Veterans. And Wednesday evening I joined Congressman Seth Moulton and several other Veterans for a virtual Veterans Town Hall event where we shared experiences and talked about what our service means to us. I couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of all these amazing events, and I am proud to be a part of a community that appreciates our Veterans so much. Everything that we have in our lives, everything that we so often take for granted, is due to the sacrifices of our service members, and we are all so thankful for the men and women who have served our great country.
On Thursday morning, I had a virtual meeting with the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association, where I received updates about how the expansion of broadband access to the Hilltowns is going. During these times, it is critical that every community has access to internet, and I was encouraged by the progress that has taken place.
Thursday afternoon the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released their final Fiscal Year 2021 State Budget recommendation. I believe that this budget has made important investments in our State and local infrastructure, while remaining fiscally responsible during these difficult economic times. The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $45.985 billion in spending.
Some of the highlights in the budget recommendation include $5.283 billion for Chapter 70 education funding, $18.577 billion for MassHealth funding, more than $540 million in housing stability programs, and $1.129 billion in unrestricted general government aid for local investments in education, health care, public safety and road infrastructure. I am also pleased that there is significant support for those who have been hit hardest by COVID-19, including a new Economic Planning and Resource Program that will fund more than $40 million in grants and
loans to small businesses.
I am also extremely happy to announce that the Senate prioritized the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in the Senate budget. The Senate included an additional $1,000,000 for the Home in the budget recommendation, totaling $25M. This will provide much needed support to the residents and staff, and emphasizes the Senate’s strong commitment towards the Home and our Veterans.
I am proud to be apart of the Senate and to continue working to make the Home the best it can be. Next week the Senate will debate the Senate budget, and changes and additions will be made through amendments. After the budget is debated by the Senate, the Senate and the House will then work out the differences between their respective versions, before sending a finalized one to the Governor’s desk.
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.
John C. Velis