It was Haitian migrants like Marckenton Ulysses and Lorana Sauveur, who made the arduous journey across South America to the US border by caravan and on foot with their 1 year old son in tow, arriving in Massachusetts there. just a few weeks ago.
While lawmakers have wrapped up their formal session of the year and have mostly left Beacon Hill for the holidays, those in financial difficulty are left in limbo at a particularly stressful time of year. If the government is looking to provide aid when and where it is most needed, then in this case state lawmakers are failing miserably. Legislative leaders say there is hope for a compromise in the coming weeks, even though they missed their self-imposed deadline to reach a deal before Thanksgiving.
Bernardo, a part-time employee for Stop & Shop in Reading and among the thousands of essential low-income workers eligible for a bonus, stressed the urgency of the issue: “Christmas is coming.
President Biden enacted the American Rescue Plan Act in March, sending $ 5.3 billion to Massachusetts to help the state’s most vulnerable cities recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19. All of this should not be spent this year; the legislature and Governor Charlie Baker have already shelled out roughly $ 400 million in what, in hindsight, looks like a rare moment of decision. Channeled baker $ 109 million to hard-hit municipalities such as Chelsea, and an additional $ 75 million has been spent on a COVID emergency sick leave program.
Baker was supposed to decide how to spend relief money, but the Democratic-led legislature took that power away from him. The Republican governor in July almost predicted the ensuing grind.
“Time is running out,” he told a hearing in July.
Naturally, lawmakers bicker when there isn’t enough money for everyone. But they’ve also proven adept at bickering when the money is flowing. The $ 3.8 billion spending package that Beacon Hill failed to adopt is also expected to include a large chunk of the state’s $ 1.5 billion budget surplus. Last year, the state collected $ 5 billion more in tax revenue than expected; While most of the money was deposited into the state’s rainy days account or covered other remaining costs or transfers, the legislature placed the rest in a separate account it could operate.
“I am really disappointed,” said Fernando Lemus, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.
Lemus was already unhappy with the way the package was going because as it is now written, many of its members would not be eligible for essential worker bonuses. Only people earning less than $ 39,000 or a family of four earning less than $ 80,000 would be eligible. Local 1445, which represents workers in Commercial Laundries, Manufacturing and Stop & Shop, has pushed for higher income thresholds – five times the federal poverty line, or about $ 65,000 for an individual and about $ 132,500 for a family of four.
Cheryl Ferullo, who runs the Stop & Shop deli counter in Reading and is a member of Local 1445, said she was narrowly missing the proposed income threshold. Ferullo said she felt penalized for working six days a week to make up for the store’s understaffing. Of the 100 employees on the payroll, she estimates that only a handful of part-time employees are entitled to a bonus.
“I don’t make a bad living,” Ferullo said, but “a lot of us live paycheck to paycheck. “
Bernardo, his Stop & Shop colleague, has a message to Beacon Hill: Don’t be a Scrooge. Give bonuses to all essential workers.
“People who risk their lives all the time. . . should get it, ”said Bernardo, adding that the current proposal sends a mixed message of“ we are essential but not really ”.
The pandemic has been difficult for Altagracia Diaz, who works nights at Logan Airport to clean airplane cabins and is a member of 32BJ SEIU, which also represents janitors and security guards. She was out of work for a year and the prospect of an essential worker bonus would be a relief.
“It would be wonderful,” Diaz said through a Spanish interpreter. “It would be a blessing from above.”
The spending program is also intended to put money aside to help small businesses. Nearly two-thirds of small businesses in Massachusetts say they have yet to recover from the pandemic, according to a recent survey conducted by Alignable, an online network for small businesses. From increasing COVID cases to inflation and higher procurement costs, they have something to worry about.
The small business owners I’ve spoken to appreciate the government money that was given to them last year, whether in the form of loans from the Federal Paycheck Protection Program or grants from the Government of Canada. State.. But the pandemic is not over and they will need more help to ensure not only to survive, but thrive.
Campbell, co-owner of Fresh Food Generation in Dorchester, said the spending envelope money will allow his farm-to-fork Caribbean-American restaurant to develop a better plan for the winter when the Business tends to slow down, even more during a pandemic because some people remain reluctant to eat indoors.
She wants to avoid cutting the hours of her dozen employees. Good workers are hard to find in a tight labor market.
“As we enter the third year of the coronavirus, the support to get through the most difficult time is really important,” said Campbell. “Government funds are helping us get through these three months knowing that you have had enough in your bank account. “
Perhaps the most reliant on Beacon Hill’s money are the Haitian migrants who began arriving in Massachusetts after the Biden administration said in September it would deport Haitians gathered at the Texas border. .
Unlike Afghan refugees who receive federal funds to help them resettle, most Haitian migrants depend on non-profit organizations for their basic needs. The Senate is proposing about $ 8 million in the Haitian resettlement spending program. About 1,600 Haitian migrants have already found their way to Massachusetts, and hundreds more are expected, according to Geralde Gabeau, executive director of the Immigrant Family Services Institute, or IFSI, in Boston.
On Monday morning, a constant stream of Haitian migrants, often accompanied by toddlers, flocked to the IFSI center in Mattapan in search of accommodation, employment and other forms of assistance. They flew to Massachusetts, thanks to the generosity of family and friends, home to a thriving Haitian-American community. They live off the goodwill of others in places like Brockton and Malden.
The stories you will hear in this center of Blue Hill Avenue are heartbreaking. Some left Haiti years ago, trying to travel to another South American country like Chile or Brazil. Over the summer, they decided to make the dangerous trip to America.
Ulysee, 23, and Sauveur, 25, took an excruciating journey with their son, arriving in late summer in Del Rio, Texas, where a horse-mounted border patrol docked Haitian migrants.
Speaking in Haitian Creole, Ulysee and Sauveur told me that they had been in Massachusetts for a month and that they were staying in Malden with members of their family. Reverend Dieufort Fleurissaint, executive director of True Alliance Center, a Haitian advocacy group in Boston, translated the conversation and said the couple found their way to the Boston immigrant center through a Google search.
Dressed in a Celtics sweatshirt, Ulysee told me: “Despite all the dangers we have faced, we are so optimistic and determined to get here.”
Fleurissaint said he was frustrated by Beacon Hill’s inaction.
“They do not understand the urgency of the situation,” he said.
I guess there is always a chance for a Thanksgiving miracle.
Whether it’s through public disgrace or self-enlightenment, lawmakers may be able to take their vacations long enough to craft a plan that puts people first.
Shirley Leung is a business columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]