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$1.8B bond bill aiming to strengthen IT becomes law

Invests in food security, education, body cameras

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

Dave RogersRogers

The state Legislature recently passed a bill authorizing as much as $1.8 billion in spending for the improvement of information-technology equipment and other capital projects in Massachusetts. The legislation also authorizes funding for food security, law enforcement body cameras and investments in educational technologies in Massachusetts schools. Gov. Baker has signed the measure into law.

“This IT bond bill will allow us to find new ways to invest in underserved communities across the Commonwealth, especially as we continue to confront the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) said in an Aug. 21 news release.  “I’m particularly thrilled that this law authorizes funds I fought for to automate and expedite the sealing of criminal records, which is just one example of how our system can do a better job to remove the stigma of having a criminal record for individuals who are trying to move forward with their lives. Now more than ever, we should be investing in the things that strengthen our communities, support our most vulnerable residents and help people restart their lives rather than penalize them for life.”

The new law includes a $2.5 million technology investment authorization secured by Friedman to automate the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system for sealing criminal records. Under the current system, sealing a criminal record can take months – meanwhile employers, landlords, bankers and others turn people away from employment, housing and financing opportunities based on minor or old incidents that appear on CORIs. This substantial delay is inefficient and continues to disproportionately impact people of color in the Commonwealth.

"The new investments proposed in the recently passed IT bond bill authorizes a series of critically important technology related projects across a wide range of areas," Rep. Rogers (D-Cambridge) said in the release. "As we continue to adjust to the impact Covid-19, this bill helps the Commonwealth respond on multiple fronts, including providing additional funding for food security and investing in educational technologies for schools across the Commonwealth. In the process, I was able to obtain funding for Arlington, including $120,000 for a cybersecurity assessment if the Town. I’m also pleased to have secured $1 million for a community computer lab at the Rindge Towers in North Cambridge to address a manifestly unjust “digital divide” that exists right here in our communities.”

"As the new school year rapidly approaches, we are still dealing with a fair amount of uncertainty about how education will look during a pandemic," said Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington). "The IT bond bill specifically addresses remote learning, with an emphasis on equity and access for all students. In addition, I am happy to have worked with my colleagues on including funding that will benefit underserved communities."

The new law, which includes $794 million for state and local general technology and physical infrastructure, also features the following targeted investments:

  • $110 million in public safety infrastructure and equipment;
  • $134 million in statewide economic development grants and reinvestment in disproportionately impacted communities;
  • $80 million in educational IT and infrastructure grants, including $50 million to assist public schools in facilitating remote learning environments;
  • $10 million to fund technology investments at community health centers;
  • $37 million in food security grants;
  • $25 million in capital improvements for licensed early education and care providers and after school programs to ensure safe reopening during Covid-19; and
  • $30 million in public safety accountability technologies including body cameras and a race and ethnicity data-sharing system.

This news announcement was published Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

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