Amid safety issues and service woes that have lengthened commutes across the region, Governor Maura Healey is asking for $20 million in funding for the MBTA to “better recruit and retain employees to meet its needs and deliver safe, reliable service across the system.”
The proposal was included in a $734 million supplemental budget bill she filed Friday that seeks to make one-time investments as well as prepare state government for the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, which Healey recently announced will end in May
The $20 million in funding, Healey wrote in a letter to lawmakers, could be used to attract employees through hiring and retention bonuses, increased pay for bus operators, and marketing campaigns to get potential hires to apply.
“A safe, efficient, and reliable MBTA is also essential to our economy and our future as a commonwealth,” Healey wrote in a letter to lawmakers Friday. “Meeting the workforce needs of the MBTA is a critical part of delivering on that goal.”
Last month, the T announced that 20-plus percent cuts to subway frequency would continue amid a shortage of dispatchers, operators, and trains. Similarly, a year-long hiring campaign for bus drivers has failed. Last week the T said it has even fewer bus drivers than it did in January and plans to cancel around 5 percent of trips on its already reduced schedule this spring.
The proposed spending bill would also:
- Triple the operating budget of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
- Spend $171 million to extend state-funded universal free school meals through the 2023-2024 school year. In a separate spending bill, Healey had previously requested additional funding to continue the program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
- Put $200 million toward a Critical Health and Human Services and Workforce Reserve, which helps pay for expenses related to the COVID-19 response, such as temporary staffing in nursing homes, group care facilities, state hospitals, and Soldiers’ Homes.
- Set aside $2 million for the state’s travel and tourism office to plan a celebration of the state’s 250th anniversary of the American Revolution.
- Increase salaries for some sheriffs.
The spending bill is the third such proposal Healey has made since she took office earlier this year.
Earlier this month, Healey unveiled a $55.5 billion budget blueprint that reflected some of her early pledges, including one to provide $7,000 to households in need of emergency rental assistance, increase spending on colleges and universities by nearly 25 percent, and help to pay for community college for students 25 years or older.
In late January, Healey filed a separate $282 million spending bill that, among other things, proposed an infusion of money for the emergency shelter system and money for two food aid programs.
Taylor Dolven of the Globe staff contributed to this report.