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Boston a great bet for federal investments

Thomas M. Menino
Boston a great bet for federal investments

Over the past 19 years, the City of Boston has come together to build vibrant neighborhoods and create inclusive opportunities for all residents. Lower crime, higher graduation rates, more affordable housing and a growing population of more than 625,000 speak to our progress over the last two decades. At the heart of all these gains is our steadfast commitment to put the people of Boston first.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) did just that — it put people first. Since its passage in 2009, Boston has been awarded more than $300 million in funds to modernize public housing, create green jobs, jumpstart stalled construction, expand the reach of information technology, improve public safety and health, and prepare Boston students for continued success.  

Investing in affordable housing

Demonstrating the potential of federal investment dollars, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) recently reached a major milestone in successfully spending down $40 million in competitive ARRA grants. The results are an award-winning redevelopment at the Old Colony public housing development in South Boston, ultra-green rehabs at housing developments in Jamaica Plain and the South End and green, healthy, affordable housing for residents. As of March 2012, ARRA-funded BHA projects accounted for the creation of nearly 600 full-time jobs.

Using approximately $4 million in federal funding, another BHA project currently under way is a comprehensive services center for frail elders at its Amory Street Elderly/Disabled development. Operated by Upham’s Corner Health Center’s Elder Service Plan, the full-service center will allow frail elders and people with disabilities over the age of 55 to continue living independently in the community rather than in a nursing home.

BHA will also modify one additional floor of the existing Amory Street development for residents, who will benefit from onsite, 24-hour care and services, including primary and specialty care, prescription drugs, home health services, rehabilitative services, respite care and transportation assistance. These services, as well as medical monitoring and treatments, structured activities and exercise, will be provided at no charge to residents.  

Achieving energy efficiency

Launched in August 2010 with recovery funds, the Renew Boston Energy Efficiency Program served low- to middle-income residents who historically have had a low rate of participation in energy efficiency programs.

In residential households, ARRA funds led to more than 8,000 comprehensive energy audits and the installment of 1,700 no-cost home insulation services that resulted in more than $2 million in savings annually for residents. Overall home insulation installations have quadrupled in 2012, and ARRA dollars funded no-cost energy efficiency services for 700 small businesses, saving them $650,000 annually.

Supporting community development

For 10 years, Foodie’s Urban Market has served the South End community from their store on Washington Street. Known for both a diverse selection of grocery items and an unwavering commitment to the local community, Foodie’s recently completed construction on a previously vacant 8,500-square-foot storefront in South Boston with the help of a $50,000 ARRA-funded small business loan through the City of Boston’s Office of Business Development. Construction is complete, and I’m excited to join owners for a grand opening next month. Upon opening, Foodie’s will create 40 new jobs for the neighborhood.  

From children to seniors, public housing tenants to community health professionals and construction workers to neighborhood entrepreneurs, recovery dollars have put shovels in the ground, people back to work, and improved the lives of countless individuals and families across Boston. Together, we’ve shown the nation what extraordinary progress can be made by combining a local, results-oriented agenda with federal aid.

Thomas M. Menino is mayor of Boston.