Healey’s ‘leveling’ actions bust budgets of local organizations

The “9C” mid-year state budget cuts made by Gov. Healey this month seemed like technical moves far away on Beacon Hill until the bill came due at a number of local organizations, where funding they have depended on – and spent in a number of cases –is being cut in half.

This week, non-profits in Dorchester and Mattapan non-profits – and even the Boston Fire Department - are bearing the brunt of the trims to earmarks that were approved in the July 2023 state budget bill. Tough decisions will have to be made, and in some cases, temporary closures will follow as the governor finds ways to make up a $780 million deficit that many some feel came out of nowhere.

“I’ve already sent in receipts and the programming has been done,” said Paulo Debarros, director of the Cape Verdean Association of Boston, based on Bowdoin Street. “I never got a response about when I would be reimbursed, and now I won’t be. This is it for me. I’m looking at closing the doors for a while. We heard about this in the news. There was no letter telling us this two or three months ago so we could plan, and no analysis of how this would affect each organization. It was just boom, you’re cut.”

Debarros has seen a $150,000 earmark engineered by state Sen. Nick Collins turn into $75,000, and a $25,000 earmark sponsored by state Rep. Chris Worrell turn into $12,500.

“I was looking to see how to extend the staff and now I’m looking at who and what to cut immediately while helping the community deal with young people who are stressed out and suicidal and homicides that have hit the community hard,” he noted.

Like many non-profits in Dorchester and Mattapan, the last several years have been good with ample state earmarks that have helped fill budget gaps and fund expanded programming for the community. The last time there were mid-year budget cuts was in December 2012 under then-Gov. Deval Patrick, cuts that many folks now weren’t around for.

State Rep. Russell Holmes was around, though, and he has been warning of the impending problems at community meetings going back to last summer, telling people that revenues weren’t good, and tough decisions were coming.

“When 9C cuts happen, the governor is doing her job,” said Holmes. “I am not happy about it, but I am happy it wasn’t 100 percent of the earmarks, which is what could have happened…It’s been a long time and there’s an entire generation that has not dealt with this…You get folks into state funding and then you cut it in half suddenly. Some folks, because of inexperience, spent the money without getting it first. If you have experienced 9C cuts before, maybe you don’t, and I always remind folks that get earmarks that this could happen.”

Still, delivering the news has not been an easy task.

“I just apologize and understand their despair, but there’s not much I can do, and I tell them that I will do my best to get them funding in next year’s budget,” he said.

For his part, Worrell, who was able to bring a lot of increased resources into the community in the budget, is now looking for ways the cuts can be mitigated.

“Despite this increased funding, these 9C cuts will still be devastating for many,” he said, “which is why I am working closely with House leadership and in collaboration with Gov. Healey to limit its impacts and ensure that programs and services in Dorchester and Roxbury are receiving the funding that they deserve.”

Sens. Collins and Liz Miranda did not respond in time for comment on this story.

The list of those affected by the budget moves is long and includes community organizations like Project DEEP, Caribbean Integration Community Development (CICD), Mattapan Tech, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, St. Mary’s Center, and the Boston Fire Department – which had two earmarks worth a $1 million for training that are threatened.

“We are aware of the budget cuts announced by Gov. Healey, which includes cuts to local fire department projects and grants,” said District Fire Chief Kevin Meehan, executive assistant to Commissioner Paul Burke. “To our knowledge, the cuts have not been finalized and so we do not know how the Boston Fire Department will be affected, if at all.”

The Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) identified 34 cities and towns, including Boston, that will lose an estimated $1.68 million in funding, mostly via the 50 percent earmark cut.

Locally, another non-profit grappling with the future is the Sportsmen’s Tennis and Enrichment Center (STEC) on Blue Hill Avenue. While a larger organization than the Cape Verdean Association of Boston, the center is still working with its board to mitigate the loss, said Executive Director Toni Wiley.

She said the earmark they got earlier this year allowed them to add security personnel around the facility, and now that decision has stretched them thin.

“Having that line item gave us the assurances to do that,” she said. “We can’t eliminate the security guard but we’re going to have to figure out something…As a non-profit that also operates a facility, you have to figure out if you’re going to make facility changes like security around the building or snow removal, or if we have to make program changes that will affect the community…Not having that money makes a big difference in our ability to do both things.”

She said they have already started trimming their budgets because “times are different” now, and they don’t expect next year’s state budget to be a saving grace.


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