Departments within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EHS) have been awarded $37.7 million in direct ARRA grants. EHS departments also administer nearly $3 billion in Safety Net funding, including increased Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The funded projects assist disadvantaged populations to secure or retain employment, provide resources to support and expand local public health infrastructure, and deliver a range of resources for families hardest hit by the recession.
Investing in Public Health
The Department of Public Health (DPH) has been able to invest over $1 million in ARRA financing to support the development of a statewide immunization system. Funds will be used to develop a mechanism for schools and other public sites to receive reimbursement from health insurers for the cost of administering vaccines. This funding will increase access to vaccines and immunization services for high-risk adolescents and adults through outreach and enrollment, enabling non-traditional providers to receive vaccines.
Additionally, through $8.5 million in ARRA funding, DPH has maintained program eligibility for the Early Intervention program during this time of severe fiscal constraints. The funding ensured access to services for 7,500 infants and toddlers who have developmental disabilities, helping facilitate their healthy development.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Citizens
ARRA increased funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), allowing the Commonwealth to serve over 392,000 families (726,000 individuals). ARRA included $7 million to help the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) hire 86 new staff to process SNAP applications and provide enhanced customer service. DTA administers over $90 million in SNAP benefits each month.
Over $2.1 million in ARRA funds have supported the delivery of home meals and other nutrition support services for elders. These resources go directly to families in the Commonwealth who are impacted by the recession and are working to care for their elders in home settings on stretched family finances. These funds have supported the provision of thousands of meals to elders over the past year.
The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind is using $1.9 million in ARRA
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) received $6 million in ARRA funding to support programs for disabled citizens. These programs include, among others, an On-The-Job Training Initiative (OJT) to rapidly develop individualized, employer- and industry-specific job training opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This public-private partnership between MRC and employers creates private industry job training opportunities for disabled individuals in the high-growth areas of health care, transportation, manufacturing, and customer services. To date, 67 OJT trainings have resulted in 26 employment placements.
Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP)
ARRA and subsequent federal jobs legislation increased the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) received for Medicaid payments in Massachusetts to 61.59%, from a pre-ARRA level of 50%. These funds have allowed the state to maintain critical health-care services to our citizens. FMAP dollars allowed many budget areas in the Commonwealth to experience a smaller reduction than would have been possible without FMAP funds, and also allowed for a modest increase in spending in some areas. For example, although the MassHealth program did not increase reimbursement rates for the majority of providers, it was able to sustain eligibility for an increased caseload of 1.2 million members in fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2010.
However, FMAP dollars are intended to not only sustain critical services and benefit levels within many of our health related programs, but they also support statewide spending on services that benefit all of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Under state law, ARRA FMAP funds are deposited into the General Fund for appropriation throughout the Commonwealth's operating budget.