Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday morning signed the $1.1 billion COVID-19 spending bill sent to his desk last week, though he vetoed sections dealing with past MassHealth payments and a program spending floor.
The bill (H 4808) included hundreds of millions of dollars for some of the more obvious COVID-19 costs, like $350 million for personal protective equipment, $85 million spent on field hospitals and shelters, $44 million for the contact tracing collaborative, and more than $111 million in supplemental payments to hospitals and providers.
The Baker administration has said that many of the pandemic-related appropriations will be mostly reimbursed by the federal government, and the governor urged the Legislature to act quickly, saying that Massachusetts is in a race with other states to access a limited pool of resources available for reimbursement.
"Now that this authorization is in place, state agencies can finalize the documentation needed to secure federal reimbursement where available, in particular from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)," Baker wrote in his signing letter. "Federal reimbursement will be supplemented with other federal funding sources, including but not limited to money from the Coronavirus Relief Fund established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. As such, the net state cost is expected to be $0."
Baker said he vetoed a "proviso that would set a floor on $125.6 million in spending across five programs" because it "impinges on executive discretion to exercise judgment not to spend money unnecessarily, where a lesser amount does not compromise the underlying legislative purposes and goals."
He also vetoed sections that he said "attempt to change the terms of past MassHealth payments" because "it is administratively unworkable for the Legislature, in a new line item, to alter the terms of spending months after it has occurred."
The bill, now signed into law, also designates June 19 as a state holiday known as "Juneteenth Independence Day," commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Baker said that the holiday will be a time to "recognize the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality."