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State House Bill Seeks Funding for People Helping People, BACC, Pocket Park

Burlington’s premier charity organization, its local chamber of commerce and a new project created by its Economic Development team are set to receive financial assistance due to a bill pushed by State Rep. Ken Gordon if the State Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker also approve. 

“The Massachusetts House of Representatives addressed the needs of communities across the Commonwealth by providing one-time financial assistance with COVID-19 recovery this week, and Representative Ken Gordon made sure Burlington was included,” a release from Rep. Gordon’s office states. “The town will receive $100,000 for People Helping People, Inc., $150,000 for the Burlington Area Chamber of Commerce (“BACC”) and $100,000 to support the Burlington Pocket Park in Town Center.”

The legislation distributed $4 billion of Massachusetts’ $5 billion share of the American Recovery Plan Act (“ARPA”), along with surplus FY21 state funds, the release explains. The House funded programs include: $200 million in tax relief for small business owners; $12 million to aid in the re-settling of Afghan refugees; $20 million to address the needs of community health centers; and $15 million for job training. The bill also includes $400 million to address climate change; $250 million to assist financially strapped community hospitals and $70 million to improve care at nursing homes.

“Many of Burlington’s residents and small businesses were hit hard when we were forced to shut our doors to protect ourselves from the spread of the virus,” said Gordon.  “These funds will help us build back efficiently as we address the new challenges ahead.”

According to the release, Rep. Gordon sought funding for People Helping People to directly benefit families currently struggling with food insecurity. His support for the Chamber of Commerce will allow the organization to focus on the needs of small businesses at a time that many of those businesses cannot afford to pay dues.

“This federal funding will allow our town’s programs to take a figurative deep breath,” Gordon said. “The pandemic caused the need for People Helping People’s services to increase beyond its traditional resources. I pushed for this funding in the hopes that $100,000 will give it time to address its current needs and plan for the future.

“Similarly, the BACC must have the time to focus on the needs of our small businesses, rather than worry about how it will pay its own bills.  This will allow the organization to reach out to all of our small businesses, provide needed counsel, and put together educational programs to address their concerns.”

The Burlington Pocket Park has been a goal of the town’s economic and cultural development efforts for some time. After a successful trial run, the funding will be used to bring a permanent recreational area to the Town Center area, including a mural and three-dimensional sculpture to help bring people to the small businesses on and around Cambridge Street.

“This is fantastic,” said Burlington’s Economic Development Director Melisa Tintocalis.  “It’s exciting for residents of Burlington as a way of activating an area they care about. It’s an area that defines our community and we hope will establish a cultural district.”

The bill moves on to the Senate, which expects to take up the measure this week.  Representatives of both branches will meet if there are differences in their approaches, and any resolution they reach will be sent to the Governor.  While no timetable is assured, the legislature expects the matter to be funded shortly.