Summer Internship On Beacon Hill With State Rep. Rogers

Photo: The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill, Boston (Credit: Upstateherd – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62661950)

High school and college students with a keen interest in government has an opportunity to participate in a summer internship with Belmont’s legislative delegate in the State House on Beacon Hill.

State Rep. Dave Rogers will be welcoming interns to his team at the State House for the summer. The internships are available to college students, graduates, and high school students who have completed their junior year from the 24th Middlesex District.

Feedback through the past few years is that interns enjoy a richly rewarding experience and learn a great deal about our system of government generally, and the legislative process specifically. Particularly in times like these, it is rewarding to help young people begin to understand the importance of our democratic institutions.

The deadline for applications will be Friday, April 8 (with some flexibility). Interviews will take place over the ensuing weeks, and applicants will be notified of their status by early May at the latest. Those interested in applying should send both a cover letter and resume to Kira Arnott at Kira.Arnott@mahouse.gov

Change To ‘Final, Final’ Rules Frees Up Covid Funds For Unrestricted Town Use

Photo: The American Rescue Plan signed on March 11, 2021

It’s true: the squeaky wheel did get greased.

A last-minute reversal of state regulations which likely would have forced Belmont to hand back a substantial portion of millions of dollars in federal Covid-19 relief funding will now allow the town to spend the entire $7.6 million as it sees fit.

“As of Thursday afternoon … we were informed that the interim final rule changed yet again. I’m told this is the final, final interim final rule, which puts the town in a great position,” said Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator who with the town’s state and federal elected representatives.

After a quick word with the town auditor, “we were able to all of our money as revenue loss if we choose and we can use it as unrestricted as we’d like,” Garvin told the Select Board on Monday, Jan 10.

“We were concerned that we had to return [the 7.8 million],” said Adam Dash, select board chair. “This is phenomenal.”

While the grant does nothing to solve the massive structural deficit looming over Belmont, it will allow the town’s planners breathing room for at least the next two budget cycles as the funds will come in two $3.9 million segments with the second available next fall.

In mid-March 2021, Belmont received $8.8 million as part of the Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan – dubbed the American Rescue Plan Act – with $1 million going off to the schools. But as Belmont was preparing to incorporate the funds to replace revenue lost during the pandemic, it became apparent regulations imposed by the state would placed a stranglehold on the funds.

After a careful reading of the rules and regulations, the town’s auditor – Craig Peacock, a partner with Powers and Sullivan – determined that during the tight 18 month window the state is using to calculate lost revenue, the 2018 voter-approved debt exclusion used to finance the building of Belmont’s new Middle and High School, as well as the state’s partial reimbursement of expenses constructing the building was seen by Beacon Hill as a revenue “gain” for the town.

“As you remember, we had the town auditor come in and report out that … we could not find any revenue loss calculation” under the then final interim regulations, said Garvin on Monday.

While he could not give the town a financial balm, Peacock suggested a more political avenue of relief. “As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease so I don’t think it ever hurts to try to contact” state legislators, said Peacock at the time.

And that’s what Belmont did.

At the urging from the Select Board to air its consternation of the rules, Garvin sent a letter before Christmas “prompted by a lot of the town’s frustration with the final interim rule” to the town’s elected officials – State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers – as well to [US Rep.] Katherine Clark, “letting her know that we are we’re in a really tough position with revenue lost calculation given the interim final rule,” said Garvin.

The result was a letter from the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation to the US Secretary of the Treasury asking to provide relief to Belmont and a number of other small and mid-sized municipalities which found themselves in a similar predicament.

On Thursday, Jan. 6, came the good news from the state that the new change will allow any community to use up to $10 million in ARPA funds to recover revenue lost which has no bearing on each town’s final calculation.

“We will be able to take all of the money that we received from ARPA … and not have any restrictions for it,” said Garvin.

Belmont Secures $1.1 Million In State American Rescue Plan Funds For Something Extra

Photo: Monies to help plan for a new library is part of the recently received $1.1 million in state funds.

With thanks to state legislators and town officials, Belmont has received $1.1 million from the state of Massachusetts to fund some of the town’s “extra” expenses that would have been waiting until the next budget cycle.

The source of the funding is from the $5.3 billion the state was allocated from President Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion funding package to promote recovery from the economic and health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related recession. The $1.1 million is coming from a separate pot of funds than the $7.6 million in ARPA monies distributed as part of the bill’s Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

“This is funding that the town of Belmont has been able to secure thanks to state Rep. Dave Rogers and state Sen. Will Brownsberger,” Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Select Board at its first meeting in December. “This is great news for the town.”

Select Board member Mark Paolillo also thanked Garvin as she started the conversation to find state funds to pay for aspects of the skating rink’s planning and design, leading to this larger allocation.

The funding will be spent on several projects in town outside of the budget:

  • $250,000, the new Belmont Public Library
  • $250,000, the new Belmont skating rink
  • $100,000, economic development
  • $500,000 public housing

The public housing portion includes:

  • $250,000, water and sewer infrastructure improvements at Belmont Village
  • $150,000, improvements at Waverley Oaks
  • $100,000, redevelopment of Sherman Gardens

State Rep Rogers Seeking Summer Internship Applicants

Photo: State Rep. Dave Rogers

State Rep. Dave Rogers is pleased to announce that he will once again be welcoming interns to his team for the summer. Feedback through the past few years is that interns enjoy a richly rewarding experience and learn a great deal about our system of government generally, and the legislative process specifically.

Internships are available to college students, graduates, and high school students who have completed their junior year from the 24th Middlesex District. Those interested should send both a cover letter and resume – if the student has one – to Kira Arnott at Kira.Arnott@mahouse.gov by Friday, April 30.

In a typical summer, interns would be in our office for about 12 hours a week. However, this summer our office will be holding our internships remotely due to Covid-19, so interns can expect a more flexible schedule.

Internships with the State Legislature offer many opportunities, including policy research, constituent services, networking, and daily seminars presented by the State House specifically for interns. Particularly in times like these, it is rewarding to help young people begin to understand the importance of our democratic institutions.

Belmont To Receive $8.6M From American Rescue Plan … With COVID Strings Attached

Photo: President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan. Creator: Adam Schultz | Credit: White House

Not only will most Belmont residents receive a $1,400 check from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Biden on March 11, but their Town of Homes is also set to be a beneficiary from the same stimulus package created to lessen the economic repercussions of COVID-19.

According to State Sen. Will Brownsberger, preliminary information from the state shows Belmont will receive approximately $8.6 million from the Rescue Plan with $1 million of the total targeted to Belmont schools.

“I would just like to underline that most of this money is coming from the federal government,” Brownsberger told the Belmont Select Board at its meeting held virtually on Monday, March 15. “This is rain comes falling from US Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren, Sen. [Ed] Markey and US Rep. [Katherine] Clark, so credit to them.”

In addition, both Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers, also at the meeting, said due to revenues coming into state coffers stronger than expected despite the pandemic’s economic downturn due to the pandemic, state aid to cities and towns will be greater than earlier forecast.

But before anyone in Town Hall or the school department begins spending this one-time windfall, Brownsberger told the board “that aid comes with a number of strings in terms of … how it can be used.” And nearly all of the threads have to do with COVID.

Brownsberger said the funding comes with defined eligibility criteria that will determine “how much of that money can be used for general government purposes and how much of it can be used only for particular projects” related to COVID relief.

According to preliminary reports, the money can be spent on one of four categories which includes:

  • Reimburse town funds spent responding to the public health emergency of COVID,
  • Lessen the negative economic impact on the community, (“So it could be broadly used to provide aid to small businesses, households,” Brownsberger said.)
  • Replace town revenue lost to the COVID recession, and
  • Make investments in water, sewer, or broadband.

To receive the funds, the town will commit to a certification process – rather than applying for the money – in which the town tells the state (which is running the program for the federal government for municipalities smaller than 50,000 people) that it understands the constraints of how the funds will be used.

Rogers said regulations are still being written by the US Treasury “on how the money can be spent as much of it is earmarked and targeted in very specific ways.”

Patrice Garvin, Belmont’s town administrator, said she has “not received enough information on how this money can be used.”

On the state side of the fiscal ledger, Rogers said the state budget is “in reasonably good shape given everything that has happened” and the legislature is now expected to have the ability to fund Chapter 70 general education aid formula at a level above Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s estimate for state aid announced on Jan. 27.

“We’re very committed to funding the Student Opportunity Act designed to increase local school aid to a level that’s really commensurate with a town’s need or actual spending, particularly for Belmont on the cost of health care and special education,” said Brownsberger. The end result is Belmont could see “maybe a few $100,000” more in Chapter 70 aid in fiscal 22.

One area the state is advising cities and towns not to do is make concrete fiscal decisions using these figures.

“[The Secretary of State’s office which distributed the data] said the information … should be viewed as preliminary and subject to change,” said Brownsberger reading from notes. “We’d strongly advise against the town making plans based on this preliminary information as the US Treasury will ultimately calculate the final amounts. So towns should not make plans about overrides based on these estimates.”

And that is the word coming from the campaigners seeking to pass the override on April 6.

Unfortunately, the stimulus money “doesn’t change the fundamentals concerning Belmont’s structural deficit, which is projected to be almost $20 million over three years even after spending down our cash reserves,” said Nicole Dorn, co-chair of Yes for Belmont which is advocating for the passage of a $6.2 million Prop 2 1/2 override on the April 6 town election ballot.

“This one-time infusion of funds won’t cover our operating expenses because it is restricted to certain programs or needed for COVID-related expenses. Every year we delay addressing our budget issues only makes our structural deficit worse, and means we’ll need a bigger override that is more expensive for taxpayers,” she said.

State Rep Rogers Has Challenger In Dem Primary As Fries Qualifies For Sept. Ballot

Photo: Jennifer Fries

State Rep. Dave Rogers will have his first primary challenger since being elected to the State House in 2012 as North Cambridge resident Jennifer Fries has qualified for the ballot for the 24th Middlesex in the Democratic primary currently set to take place on Sept. 1.

The district, known as the ABC District, includes the entirety of Belmont and precincts in Arlington and Cambridge.

“The 24th Middlesex has been my home for twenty years, and as I crossed the district collecting signatures in February and had conversations over the phone with voters in March and April, I heard residents express many of the same hopes and frustrations that inspired me to run for office,” Fries said in a press release dated April 30.

“The progressive values that guide my campaign are the values of so many Arlington, Belmont, and Cambridge residents, and I will fight for them as our State Rep,” said Fries, whose campaign for the 24th Middlesex is her first run for elected office.

Fries stated in her release that transit equity will be “a cornerstone of her campaign.”

“I know first-hand that our transportation crisis influences the career and caregiving choices of families across the Commonwealth, and investing in and modernizing the MBTA through new revenue streams will be one of my top priorities,” she said. She also highlights

Fries is the executive director of ACE Mentor Program Greater Boston which offers an after-school program that providing students in grades 9-12 with an introduction to the design, engineering and construction disciplines. She spent more than nine years as executive director of Cambridge School Volunteers.

She matriculated at Brown where she received a BA in Public Policy then obtained a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard.

She’s also is a volunteer with Girl’s Scout Troop 88277 and is part of a team of parents that ran 200 miles and raised more than $15,000 annually for the Friends of the Amigos School.

“I’m grateful to every voter who signed my papers to get me on the ballot,” said Fries. “This is just the first step, and I’m looking forward to speaking with and hearing from residents across the district in the months ahead.”

Brownsberger, Rogers Holding Zoom Town Hall/Q&A On COVID-19 Thursday, April 16

Photo: Will Brownsberger (left) and State Rep. Dave Rogers

State Sen. Will Brownsberger and State Rep. Dave Rogers are hosting a Zoom Town Hall on Thursday, April 16 at 7 p.m. to discuss the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and answer questions submitted by viewers.  

To join the Zoom Meeting, link to this address: https://zoom.us/j/94791210043 Meeting ID: 947 9121 0043 

The Town Hall will also stream live on the Belmont Media Center’s website and Facebook page

State Rep Rogers Announces October Office Hours

Photo: Dave Rogers

State Rep. Dave Rogers, who represents the “ABC” district (Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge) announced his October office hours:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m at the Beech at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the Black Bear Cafe (Belmont Books), 79 Leonard St.

Feel free to contact Rogers’ office at any time with questions: by phone at 617-722-2013 or by email at dave.rogers@mahouse.gov

State Rep Rogers Holding Office Hours This Tuesday, Friday

Photo:

State Rep. Dave Rogers, who represents Belmont and parts of Cambridge and Arlington on Beacon Hill, will be holding his September office hours in Belmont this week.

They will be:

Tuesday, Sept. 10 from 9:30 a.m to 10:30 a.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

Friday, Sept. 13 from 9:30 am to 10:30 am at Black Bear Cafe, 79 Leonard St.

Can’t make the meetings? Feel free to contact Rogers’ office at any time with questions by phone at 617-722-2637 or by email at dave.rogers@mahouse.gov.

Rogers’ Bill on Pregnant Workers Fairness Passes House

Photo: State Rep. Dave Rogers speaking in the House chamber.

On Wednesday, May 10th the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed H3659, An Act establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, filed by Belmont State Rep. Dave Rogers (24th Middlesex “ABC” district).

The bill will “put our Commonwealth one step closer to ensuring that pregnant women in the workplace are protected from discrimination, filling key gaps in existing law,” said Rogers, who has represented Belmont and parts of Arlington and Cambridge since 2013.

“Today, once again, the Massachusetts House of Representatives has acted boldly to advance the cause of civil rights, women’s rights, and equal opportunity. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill I introduced, makes clear that women seeking a reasonable accommodation from their employers for certain conditions or needs related to their pregnancy must be treated fairly,” said Rogers

The bill adds pregnancy and its related conditions to existing employment non-discrimination laws as well as making it unlawful for an employer to deny a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition. Accommodations may include:

  • more frequent or longer breaks,
  • time off to recover from childbirth,
  • light duty,
  • assistance with manual labor,
  • temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous positions,
  • a modified work schedule, and
  • private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk.

“I thank Speaker DeLeo for his strong leadership, the 99 House colleagues who co-sponsored this legislation and the many courageous women who stepped forward to tell their stories while the bill was under consideration as – together – we send a powerful message in support of equal opportunity in our Commonwealth,” said Rogers.

“As I face my first Mother’s Day this weekend without my Mom and hero, Maxine Fitzgerald Rogers, I know she is with me today celebrating a milestone for equality and decency,” he said.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.