Treasurer Goldberg Provides Testimony to Joint Committee on Ways & Means Regarding ARPA Funding for Education, Social Equity, and Families
Today, State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg joined the Joint Committee on Ways & Means for a virtual hearing to testify in support of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Treasurer addressed the Committee on how ARPA will provide necessary funding for education, social equity, and families. The Treasurer emphasized that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to speak to the inequities we see in our society. Treasury programs and agencies such as BabySteps Matching Grant Program, the Financial Education Trust Fund, Clean Water Trust, and the Massachusetts School Building Authority would greatly benefit from strategic investments and would ensure that we create a Massachusetts economy that includes everyone. Below are the Treasurer's remarks prepared for delivery:
REMARKS OF TREASURER DEBORAH B. GOLDBERG
Joint Committee on Ways & Means
State House, Boston, MA 02133
Friday, October 1, 2021
As prepared for delivery:
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the structural inequities limiting our collective economic success.
It is no secret that the pandemic disproportionately impacted women, particularly women of color. Thirty years of progress toward equal labor participation was erased almost overnight as 2.3 million women left the workforce in the last year alone. Women of color were severely impacted at double the rate of their white counterparts.1
The economy cannot recover to its fullest potential here – or anywhere – without change. Acting now to achieve equal employment opportunities for all could produce an estimated $13 trillion in global GDP by 2030.2
The pandemic also hit low-wage workers much harder than high-wage workers. Low-wage jobs have been the slowest to return.3 The result is an imbalanced, or even stalled, recovery that will impact our entire economy.
The American Rescue Plan Act [“ARPA”] funds provide us the truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these inequities. The programs that I will highlight today are strategic investments designed to ensure that we create a Massachusetts economy that includes everyone.
BabySteps Matching Grant Program
Ensuring equitable access to education and vocational/technical training is an essential ingredient in creating opportunity and economic stability for children and their families. Additionally, meeting the need for a skilled workforce is critical to our state’s economy.
With this in mind, Treasury’s Office of Economic Empowerment [“OEE”] launched The BabySteps Savings Plan – Massachusetts’ first statewide child savings account program, designed to empower all families to save for their child’s future, for both college and/or vocational/technical training.
This public-private partnership deposits $50 in seed funding into a 529 account and wraps financial literacy around the entire participating family. Research demonstrates that as the deposit grows, there is a definite likelihood of children achieving these educational goals, which in Massachusetts leads to better paying jobs. Our own MSBA did a study, in
collaboration with the Dukakis Center at Northeastern, which showed that to access the jobs that sustain families required post-secondary education – college, community college or voc/tech training.
Since its inception on January 1st, 2020, the BabySteps program, through its public/private partnerships, has provided a total of $553,000 to over 11,000 children across the state. Based on our research of similar programs nationwide, we expected to hit an enrollment rate of 10%. However, even though our program began just as the pandemic arrived, we exceeded expectations. The current enrollment rate for babies born in 2020 is 12.5% and is growing. Enrollment trends indicate that our program could quickly reach 15%. I can tell you this very impressive when comparing similar programs nationwide.
Yet, despite the program’s overall success, our enrollment data sadly shows the continuing and persistent challenges, and barriers, for low-income families and communities of color. These groups enroll in BabySteps at a much lower rate than the statewide average.
For example, of the top 25 cities or towns with the most babies born in 2020, Somerville, Newton, Cambridge, Medford, Waltham, and Boston exceeded average enrollment. By contrast, Lawrence, Springfield, New Bedford, and Lynn fell short of the statewide average by more than 10%. These communities have among the highest unemployment rates, where levels have yet to rebound to pre-COVID levels.5 Our hope is that ARPA funds may help to change this paradigm.
Before launching BabySteps, my office ran two pilot children’s savings account programs in Gateway Cities across Massachusetts. From these initiatives, we learned that it was essential to involve trusted community members to support families who are new to asset building.
To date, we have worked with multiple local organizations to spread the word about BabySteps and help families enroll in the program. However, more comprehensive outreach is needed to reach those who need it the most in our low-income communities. To achieve this, additional capacity is necessary to create robust public/private partnerships that will reach more on-the-ground community organizations and build sustainable relationships with potential BabySteps families.
I respectfully request an appropriation of $10 million into a matching grant account, which will match outside investments dollar-for-dollar and enable our office to effectively leverage private capital, unlock untapped resources and cement ongoing relationships.
Helping Massachusetts families save for their children’s future positively impacts long-term economic well-being of our state and its people. Ensuring access to post secondary education is a proven pathway to economic opportunity and greater stability for everyone.
Financial Education Trust Fund
When thinking about building a more equitable future for our children, what is sometimes not understood is the necessity that kids need financial skills and tools to understand most decisions they will need to make in their lives. Requiring that schools in Massachusetts offer financial education is a crucial component.
The research is clear. Students who receive financial education are more likely to save, budget, invest, and increase their credit scores. Following the last year and a half of economic uncertainty and devastation, the need for all Massachusetts students to learn foundational financial skills is only clearer.
Currently, Massachusetts is one of only 12 states and the District of Columbia that has no state level requirement that schools teach or offer personal financial literacy content to students.
While many schools in Massachusetts offer students some personal financial literacy content, there is significant variance in quality and consistency. This is an equity issue. Low-income people are more vulnerable to financial downturns than those with high incomes. As we all know, this trend was only exacerbated during the pandemic.
I respectfully request that the Legislature require financial education to be offered in all Massachusetts schools and deposit $1 million in a trust fund to assist with implementation.
My office is prepared to collaborate with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [“DESE”] on this initiative. Together, we can build a public-private partnership with non-profits and other likeminded entities to provide professional development and teacher training.
Clean Water Trust
At your last hearing, you may have heard about the tremendous need for water infrastructure projects. Allocating at least $400 million to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust will enable the Trust to meet the compelling needs of communities across the state – many of them Gateway Cities and environmental justice communities. Moreover, a $400 million investment in the Trust will generate an estimated 2,400 jobs.
Recent legislative changes have allowed the Trust to identify priority projects and initiatives to receive additional financial subsidies. They have developed many such programs that protect public health and maximize local investments. These programs include the Lead Abatement Loan Forgiveness Program, 0% PFAS Remediation Loans, and Asset Management Planning Grants, among others.
The Trust has developed affordability criteria, based on federal guidance, to identify communities that need additional subsidization to afford their much-needed water infrastructure projects. These eligible communities receive loan forgiveness based on Adjusted Per Capita Income [“ACPI”], with the most at-need communities receiving the most assistance [wastewater projects receive 3.3%-9.9% of project cost; and drinking water projects receive 6.6-19.8% of project cost]. Additional ARPA funds could increase the level of subsidization for our most at-need communities.
We have seen, as have you, that Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) remediation projects and lead identification and outreach projects are disproportionally located in our most at-need communities – Boston, Chelsea, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn, Springfield, and Worcester, to name a few. Using ARPA funds for these projects will increase investment in these communities, and will advance social equity through significant environmental and health improvements.
The Trust is well positioned to put these funds to use on qualifying projects. In 2009, the Trust received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] funding of $185 million. These funds ended up financing a total of $770 million in projects by providing an additional subsidy as an incentive to undertake construction.
Today, ARPA funding could be put to work in much the same way without creating a new process. The Trust already has a proven track record and reputation in communities across the state. The Trust can deploy these funds efficiently and effectively, and without delay.
Investing at least $400 million in the Clean Water Trust will help ensure that essential water infrastructure projects are affordable for all residents.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today.
We are facing more uncertainty as we try to rebuild, heal, and rebound as a state and as a country. The proposals highlighted here will improve the economic stability of all Massachusetts residents, enhancing our broader economy as well.
I am happy to take any questions that you may have.