Haverhill will again receive help paying off the debt of the former city-owned Hale Hospital if the state House of Representatives has its way.
Rep. Andy X. Vargas said Friday he secured another $125,000 despite the tight COVID-19 era state budget. Vargas’s office said he has now secured more than $625,000 for the city to alleviate the Hale debt, since joining the legislature. Vargas said his budget amendments also provide $35,000 towards emergency shelter services at Emmaus and $25,000 for the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. Vargas credited the Chamber with relief efforts such as the One Haverhill Fund and a gift card matching program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
“There is no guide out there on passing a state budget during a pandemic, but the House has consistently prioritized contributions to the rainy-day fund during our past budget deliberations to help prepare the state for times of financial uncertainty, such as the one we’re currently facing,” Vargas said, in part.
Vargas said he also advocated for the creation of a statewide education COVID relief fund, which is set to bring Haverhill Public Schools an additional $550,775 for pandemic-related expenses. This is an addition to a historic increase in education aid to Haverhill. He also supported a $50,000 earmark for the Haverhill-based Veteran’s Northeast Outreach Center filed by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell.
The $46 billion state budget is for the year that began last July 1. It makes few cuts and makes no broad-based tax increases, but remains to be approved by the Senate and be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The House budget, which is typically taken up in April, was delayed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since July, the State has operated under interim budgets as the House, Senate and administration worked on developing a clearer fiscal picture.
Recognizing the end of the state-wide eviction moratorium, the budget added an additional $50 million into the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program to provide rental relief for tenants. Additionally, the House included language that will restrict evictions from being executed if a tenant has an active RAFT application that has not yet been processed.
“Our Haverhill Delegation is always committed to putting Haverhill first. I’m proud of our collaborative effort in securing much needed funding for our city and in protecting our residents from evictions, and our small landlords from financial harm,” said Vargas.