Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday he has transferred $109 million to Randolph, Everett, Methuen and Chelsea to make up for a shortfall in what the communities recieved from federal pandemic relief money. The communities were very hard hit by COVID but were shortchanged because of a problem in the way the federal funding formula was applied.
The money Baker released comes from the state's own $5.3 billion share of the American Rescue Plan Act funds passed by Congress. Baker and the legislature have been squabbling over which branch of government has the authority to spend that money.
Lawmakers are moving a bill through their chambers to take control of the entire $5.3 billion out of Baker's hands so they can develop a process for appropriating it. That bill did not arrive on Baker's desk before the governor himself sent the four towns the $109 million they were promised. It was unclear Friday whether legislative leaders condoned Baker's move or were even aware of it.
"These four communities were disproportionately impacted by the virus, and this additional funding will support critical local COVID response and recovery efforts," Baker said, according to a press release from his office.
Baker is granting $28.5 million to Chelsea, $26.3 million to Methuen, $33.3 million to Everett and $21 million to Randolph.
The state's two U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who admit the initial federal payment was insufficient, had pushed for the funds to immediately go to the communities without going through a new appropriation process that legislative leaders prefer.
"The cities of Chelsea, Everett, Methuen, and Randolph have borne a disproportionate brunt of the public health and economic crisis over the past year, and today, they finally received the help they need and deserve," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Ed Markey and Pressley wrote in a statement.
In a statement, Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Ron Mariano wrote that they are glad the funds found their way to the four communities, but that they still intend to strip Baker of his direct control over the remaining $5.2 billion.
"The Senate and House look forward to working with the Administration and the public in an open and transparent process to equitably distribute federal funds," the leaders wrote.
Baker announced the funding grants in Boston's South End where he also kicked off a new promotion to encourage dining out at restaurants now it is safer to do so.