In Case of Mistaken Identity on the State’s Part, Ruth’s House is Not Security Grant Recipient

It was a grant of a lifetime…and then it wasn’t. Yesterday, WHAV reported Ruth’s House, a popular Lafayette Square thrift shop with a charitable mission, was to receive a nearly $100,000 state grant to bolster security. The information came Wednesday in a press release from the state Office of Grants and Research. The release clearly listed “Ruth’s House, Haverhill, $98,797.02” under Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Unfortunately, the state admitted Thursday, that despite listing “Haverhill” specifically, the grant was actually awarded to JGS Housing Services, doing business as Ruth’s House of Longmeadow, a nonprofit assisted living facility.

State Awards Nearly $100,000 Grant to Ruth’s House of Haverhill to Upgrade Security

See update here. Ruth’s House of Haverhill will update its security thanks to a Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant announced Wednesday. The Lafayette Square nonprofit was awarded $98,797 under a state program to assist at-risk organizations with on-site security measures. It was part of $3 million given to 47 organizations at “increased risk of hate crimes or terror attacks.”

“Today’s recipient organizations contribute immeasurably to the life of our Commonwealth as nonprofits fulfilling unique missions,” said Gov. Maura Healey. “The security enhancements made possible by this funding ensure their continued preparedness against potential threats.

Former Andover Town Employee Pays $9,000 State Ethics Fine For Accepting $17,500

Former Andover Youth Services Assistant Director Glenn Wilson paid a $9,000 fine for violating state ethics laws by receiving money from a nonprofit related to his employment and because of his position as a town employee. The state Ethics Commission said Tuesday Wilson signed an agreement, admitting to the violations and he waived his right to a hearing. According to the Commission, in 2016, Wilson and Andover Youth Services Director William Fahey met with the president of the private nonprofit Hurston Family Foundation, who proposed the foundation would provide funding for Andover Youth Services for building maintenance, programming and staff. Subsequently, it was agreed Hurston Family Foundation would send the money to another private nonprofit, Andover Youth Foundation, which would in turn pay Andover Youth Services. The first donation in May 2016, earmarked $3,000 for payments of $500 each to Wilson, Fahey, and four other Andover Youth Services staff.

Sens. Finegold and Payano Hail Senate Passage of Housing, Education, Safety Net Bill

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation that makes investments in housing, education and key safety net programs.

According to a joint press release from Sens. Barry R. Finegold and Pavel Payano, the bill extends programs first implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic and adds $814.3 billion in bond borrowing to support economic development projects across the Commonwealth. “I am especially grateful to see over $85 million allocated for housing, including $45 million for emergency shelter assistance. Housing in our Commonwealth is less affordable today than at any time in modern history. These funds will go a long way in supporting the work of local organizations in districts like mine, where the demand for affordable housing far outweighs the supply,” said Payano

Overall, the bill provides $368.7 million to various essential social services, including $130 million for SNAP food assistance benefits, $68 million for the Early Education C3 stabilization grant program, $65 million for the continuation of free school meals, $45 million for emergency shelter assistance and more than $40 million to support affordable housing for immigrants and refugees.

DiZoglio Makes Good on Threat to Investigate State Legislature; Last Audit in 1922

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio made good on her promise Tuesday to begin auditing the state legislature where she served most recently as a state senator from Methuen and previously as a member of the House of Representatives. DiZoglio’s promise to investigate the legislature brought her criticism on the campaign trail last year, especially from Senate President Karen E. Spilka and former Auditor Suzanne M. Bump who instead endorsed former Assistant Transportation Secretary Chris Dempsey. “As I committed, my office has begun an audit of the state legislature. We hope this will increase transparency, accountability and equity in an area of state government that has been completely ignored. Historically, the legislature has been a closed-door operation, where committee votes have been hidden from the general public, and legislation has been voted on in the dark of night,” said DiZoglio in a statement.

Rep. Vargas, Sens. Finegold and Payano Note Current Legislative Assignments

Members of Haverhill’s State House delegation are touting their various appointments and committee assignments as the year’s legislative agendas take shape. The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus elected Rep. Andy X. Vargas as vice chair. The Caucus, comprised of House and Senate members, says its job is to “define, highlight and analyze those issues and concerns affecting people of color in the Commonwealth.” The Caucus welcomed 11 new members this session, bringing its total to a historic 25 members. “We have a lot of work to do to make Massachusetts an affordable place to live and thrive. We take on this endeavor clear eyed about the data which confirms what we already know—black and brown families face the brunt of our affordability crisis in Massachusetts,” Vargas said in a statement.

Rep. Vargas Files Legislation to Permanently Make All School Meals Free to Families

After agreeing last summer to a $110 million one-year extension of a pandemic-era program, lawmakers, advocates and families are calling for the state to make school meals free for all Massachusetts students permanently. New legislation filed by Rep. Andy X. Vargas of Haverhill and Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett would allow every Massachusetts student to receive free breakfast or lunch in school without providing income or other eligibility information. “We know that when kids are hungry at school they cannot learn,” Vargas said. “We know that hungry kids have problems concentrating, have lower academic achievement, suffer cognitive development impairments and exhibit more behavioral problems than their food secure peers.”

Vargas said that prior to the universal program, more than a quarter of food insecure students in Massachusetts did not qualify for free or reduced price lunch. Others who may have qualified did not apply to the program due to stigma or other obstacles, he said.

Sen. Payano, Area Reps. Call on Regulator to Roll Back ‘Unfair and Deeply Damaging’ Electric Rates

Newly sworn-in Sen. Pavel Payano and Rep. Francisco Paulino joined a number of area legislators last week urging the state Department of Public Utilities to roll back its approval of higher electricity rates in light of dropping oil prices. Payano, one of Haverhill’s new senators, and freshmen Reps. Paulino, representing Lawrence and Methuen, and Adrianne P. Ramos, now representing Boxford, Groveland, North Andover and West Newbury, were among those legislators statewide signing a letter to DPU Chair Matthew H. Nelson. Other area representatives included Reps. Frank A. Moran, Lawrence and Andover, and Tram T. Nguyen, Andover, Boxford, North Andover and Tewksbury.