Rep. Vargas Secures Haverhill-Specific Business, Housing, Art and Reading Grants in Budget

Rep. Andy X. Vargas during a Pfc. Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge meeting March 9, 2023. (WHAV News photograph.)

Grants of $50,000 each to Haverhill groups to support small business, defray the cost of building accessory apartments at private homes, help pay for a public art project and aid grade-level reading are among priorities Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas won this week in amendments to the House spending plan.

Vargas also said support for veterans’ programs, repairs at two city parks and permanent free school meals were included in the proposed state budget for the year beginning July 1. The budget remains to be reconciled with a state Senate version and be signed by Gov. Maura Healey to take effect.

“This balanced budget represents the needs of families and of Haverhill. The funding secured for local projects will help our community’s veterans, assist in restoring our parks, support public art and boost accessible housing,” Vargas said in a statement. He added he is also “thrilled to see an additional $8.7 million coming into Haverhill Public Schools, alongside the key investments this budget has made in housing, workforce development, and childcare.”

He said, “Above all, I am proud that the House has led the way in making universal free school meals permanent in our state. After working for two sessions to make this into a reality, I am deeply grateful to the movement of advocates, teachers and students who helped us take this monumental step towards ensuring all students are fed and that hunger will never be a barrier to learning in our schools.”

Specifically, the $50,000 earmarks are targeted to the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce for inclusive small business growth and workforce development, Accessory Dwelling Unit Incentive Program grants to encourage homeowners to add low-cost housing once known as “in-law” apartments, Beyond Walls and Creative Haverhill for a public art project and Haverhill Promise to help expand efforts to ensure grade-level reading for Haverhill students, particularly those most impacted via pandemic accelerated learning loss.

Further, Vargas amendments added earmarks of $25,000 to Veterans Northeast Outreach Center to support their efforts to provide services to veterans, $30,000 for Riverside Park to help repair its basketball court and $25,000 for repairs to the 12th Avenue Park.

In addition, Haverhill is set to receive $82.6 million in school aid schools, an increase of $8.7 million over the current year. The proposed budget also seeks to ease worker shortages by creating scholarships for workers pursuing high-demand jobs and allocates $100 million to increase pay for childcare providers, $180 million in emergency rental assistance, $100 million for a Greenworks program to assist schools with investing in climate-friendly infrastructure and $70 million for regional transit authorities.

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