Vargas, with Five-Month Tenure, Secures $340,000 in Special City Aid in House Budget

Andy Vargas, state representative candidate, and Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo.

Rep. Andy X. Vargas with Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. (File photograph.)

Defying the odds for a freshman state representative, five-month legislator Andy X. Vargas said Tuesday night he has secured $340,000 in special earmarks for Haverhill in the next proposed state budget.

The allotments help pay part of the former city-owned Hale Hospital’s debt, aid homeless programs and support the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. The amounts came through Vargas’ amendments approved by the House Ways and Means Committee and are in addition to other state aid dollars.

“Our first budget shows that we’re bringing financial support back to the city and to the people—where it belongs,” said Vargas in a statement. “These budget wins reflect many of our top priorities in Haverhill: ending homelessness, combatting the opioid crisis, supporting small businesses and making sure our city has a stable and healthy operating budget.”

Vargas secured $65,000 for homeless shelter Mitch’s Place, operated by Emmaus; $25,000 for the Chamber; and $250,000 for the hospital debt. City officials had been bracing for no Hale relief following the departure of veteran state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Dempsey had secured amounts up to $2.4 million a year to help pay down the hospital’s debt.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini said, “This $250,000 in Hale debt relief is a great accomplishment for a freshman representative and is totally unanticipated. It will help us as we put together next year’s city budget and in paying next year’s Hale debt bill.”

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, now dean of the city’s legislative delegation, supported the hospital relief. “This was a unique situation,” she said. “This is a regional hospital, not a Haverhill hospital, and it is critical to the region. I am committed to working with my colleagues and with Steward leadership to find a way forward.”

Vargas said he also secured a statewide amendment to change language around contracting for the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchasing Trust Fund. The amendment allows nonprofits that already contract with the Department of Public Health to buy into the program, which provides naloxone—known commonly as Narcan—at a subsidized rate. Previously, only cities and towns could buy into the program.

The House Ways and Means budget included $20 million for the early educator salary reserve; around $5 million for local school aid; $31.6 million for elder protective services; $139 million for recovery centers across the Commonwealth; $12.8 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth; $2.8 million for district local technical assistance; $139 million for recovery centers across the Commonwealth; $7 million for the Shannon Grant to combat gang violence; $20.8 million for civic legal aid; and $300 million for the special education circuit breaker. The budget also included a legislative section that lifts the “cap on kids” that currently prevents families from receiving benefits for children conceived while the family is already receiving benefits.

The proposed budget is still subject to negotiations with the state senate and approval of Gov. Charlie Baker.