What Dorchester, Mattapan can look for as state rolls out $4 billion in funds

A $4 billion bill approved by state lawmakers funnels funding toward trees on Gallivan Boulevard and also to Neponset’s health center, “Little Saigon” in Fields Corner, and a food pantry in Mattapan.

The legislation, which sets up the distribution of the pandemic relief money – a combination of federal funds and a surplus in state coffers that House Speaker Ronald Mariano call “one-time investments” – is awaiting Gov. Baker’s signature.

Says Dorchester Rep. Dan Hunt, the House chair of the committee that held hearings earlier this year on how to deploy the money, said in a statement that “this strong spending package is the result of many months of a robust public process as well as tireless work and collaboration with colleagues, stakeholders, and residents across the state.”

State Sen. Nick Collins, a South Boston Democrat who represents Dorchester and part of Mattapan, said the funds are geared toward helping the neighborhoods recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What we hope is these investments will position the district to rebound stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, and we look forward to the infrastructure bill, where we hope to bring more resources to bear,” Collins said, referring to the federal bill recently signed by President Biden. 

The $4 billion federal funding outlay includes some big-ticket items, like $500 million for premium pay bonuses for essential workers, up to $2,000 per worker, and $20 million for the resettlement of Afghan and Haitian refugees. The legislation also has $100 million for vocational school infrastructure and $37.5 million for workforce development.

But it also has a smattering of earmarks for Dorchester and Mattapan, according to a Reporter analysis of the legislation, that include $250,000 for a study to create a “natural resilience barrier” to protect against high tide and storm surge flooding on Tenean Street along the train tracks that serve the MBTA’s Red Line and commuter rail, and $50,000 for trees at the Gallivan Boulevard median, from Neponset Circle up to Dorchester Avenue, a very public space that a Reporter story last summer described as “clusters of mostly dead wood surrounded by weeds and crabgrass.”

Other elements for Dorchester and Mattapan include: 
• $250,000 for technology upgrades for record keeping, patient information, and prescription services at the Dan Driscoll Health Center in Neponset;

• $250,000 for the Boston Home, the Dorchester Ave. rehabilitation facility, for “upgrades related to the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic and the high acute care population suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis and other progressive neurological disorders”;

• $150,000 for the Healthy Baby Healthy Child food pantry in Mattapan;

• $100,000 for Project R.I.G.H.T. Inc.’s substance use disorder and trauma prevention initiative in the Grove Hall;

• $100,000 for the cleanup of the brownfields site at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge;

• $100,000 for Uphams Corner Main Streets to provide technical assistance to small businesses in accessing economic relief and recovery programs at the state, federal and local levels;

• $50,000 for Boston Little Saigon Inc., to support businesses and marketing the Vietnamese cultural district established in Fields Corner;

• $50,000 for a “rebuild” of the Polish American Citizen Club so it can host cultural events;

• $50,000 for Mattapan Square Main Streets;

• $25,000 for the All Dorchester Sports League, a youth sports organization. The funding is for job training, after school programming, and youth activities.

The bill also includes $5 million to cover debt service for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the US Senate, which is housed in Columbia Point, next to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. The EMK facility, like many across the state, was closed to the public during the height of the pandemic. The institute, which has a full-scale replica of the US Senate chamber, reopened to school groups on Sept. 28.

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