BOSTON – Massachusetts Senate Committee on Reinventing Post-Pandemic Resilience released a report outlining proposals on topics ranging from broadband access, housing and public health to care, education and in the future of work.
“This is going to kick off and have a lot of discussion,” Senate President Karen Spilka said at a press conference on Tuesday. “This is a model for immediate needs and long-term needs. “
While Spilka said the report outlines a potential political future that can serve as a guide for the months and years to come, his proposals will still have to go through Senate processes. The special committee was formed earlier this year and is chaired by Senator Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.
“These are the first conclusions of this two-year committee,” Hinds said at the press conference. “I have the impression that there are no bigger problems to be solved. “
Hinds said the committee is focused on bringing forward proposals as the legislature considers how it will spend roughly $ 5 billion in federal bailout law money.
The report examines five areas: the digital divide; childcare, preschool education, intergenerational childcare and the childcare economy; new avenues to economic opportunities, housing prices and real estate; and transit and transport.
Hinds said these topics reached the top of the committee’s five hearings and that by examining the impact of the pandemic, deeper issues with the state were revealed, including stagnant wages, affordability care and rising housing costs.
The report examines the impact of the pandemic on these five areas and presents policy proposals. For example, the section on the digital divide indicates that while some areas of the state lack solid options for secure broadband, the biggest barrier to broadband access is income.
“The reality is, it’s not just an infrastructure issue,” Hinds said in an interview.
The section includes a proposal for better, low-cost options from ISPs, which could be obtained through the state’s $ 50-100 million per year.
On the care front, the report contains a proposal to expand tax credits for people caring for children, the elderly or disabled family members, which could cost between $ 100 million and $ 150 million. dollars per year. Another proposal would be to create intergenerational campuses, placing facilities for the elderly next to schools, allowing intergenerational engagement and sharing of space.
Spilka said she was particularly struck by the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on women in the workplace.
She said the state needs to come up with more creative solutions to help strengthen Massachusetts’ care sector to better support those – often women – who are trying to juggle work while caring for vulnerable members of the family. family.
“It is clear to me that if we are to have a full and fair recovery, we need to look at the factors that affect the employment of women at all levels and in all sectors,” she said.
The report recognizes that remote working is more accessible to people with higher incomes and white populations.
“How do you get the persistent differences in wealth and income by race?” ”Asked Hinds, who noted that this was a driving force behind many policy proposals.
He also said data showing where we are vulnerable as a society continues to show disparate results by income and race.
“It takes more investment and action,” said Hinds.
The combination of the pandemic, an ongoing racial calculation and federal funds has paved the way for significant improvements, Hinds said.
One of the proposals of the report would be to create a public bank with the mission of promoting racial and ethnic equity. The proposal says that even though the initial costs would be $ 500 to $ 1 billion, they would be self-financing once capitalized.
Some of the questions referenced in the report focus on how families can build wealth in so-called “underbanked communities,” where people may not have traditional bank accounts and use institutions such as banks. check tellers and payday lenders.
“How do you deal with underbanked communities and the implications of intergenerational wealth transfers, and how do we once and for all try to move forward on the income and wealth gaps that lead to disparate health outcomes and income and a different levels of education throughout life? Hinds asked.
An investment of $ 400 million to $ 500 million in existing programs to increase the stock of housing and rental housing is proposed in the report. The transport section, meanwhile, is launching the idea of free bus fares in certain regions.
The report makes it clear that the committee’s work is not done and that it will also examine areas that include health costs and health equity, climate change, environmental justice, democracy, health systems. voting and governance, as well as kindergarten to grade 12 and higher education. .
Hinds said the committee could release another report with proposals next spring.
This story includes reports from The Associated Press.