Senator Nick Collins leads fight for investments in equitable access to technology resources
Information technology bond bill clears legislature
BOSTON – Last week, the Massachusetts Legislature finalized a $1.8 billion investment bill to modernize our Commonwealth’s technology infrastructure, empower communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, support early education and care providers, and expand access to remote learning opportunities for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Nick Collins, who represents Dorchester, Mattapan, South Boston, and Hyde Park, secured three amendments which will authorize spending in those communities, including:
- $200,000 for an Information Technology Equity Fund to provide equitable access to technology for businesses owned by socially and economically-disadvantaged people and businesses operating in communities with a high proportion of low-income residents;
- $300,000 for Boston Public Schools broadband internet access to serve families, students, and teachers who need support accessing high speed internet
- $500,000 for the District Attorney Rachel Rollins’ office to support modernization of their data collection and storage and advance a more holistic approach to evidence-based prosecution
“Throughout this pandemic my office has been committed to delivering relief to those who most need it,” said Senator Collins. “I was proud to secure these funds that break down barriers to access for low-income students and their families, promote fairness and equity in our criminal justice system, and support the many small businesses that make up the fabric of our communities.”
“As we adapt to new models of remote learning, access to high speed internet and technology is more important for student success than ever,” said Jessica Tang, President of the Boston Teachers Union. “I want to thank Senator Collins and the Legislature for their continued commitment to our students, teachers, and families.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said: “Every day, Suffolk County prosecutors make decisions that impact the lives of our victims, witnesses, defendants, and the communities they each call home. Having a data-driven and evidence-based approach to decision making helps us better ensure public safety and displays disparities quickly so adaptations can be made. The antiquated IT infrastructure that I inherited back in 2019 was woefully inadequate and could not meet even the basic needs of our evolving and innovative office. To be clear, this criminal legal “system” deeply impacts people — victims, survivors, witnesses, defendants, and families and loved ones of each. We owe it to them to be better and to do better when we have their liberty and safety in our hands. Accordingly, in order to invest in the people of Suffolk County, I turned to the legislature for assistance in developing an IT infrastructure that can actually accommodate a modern day, progressive District Attorney’s Office.”
“I’m deeply grateful to Senator Nick Collins for his tireless work on behalf of my Office and his constituents, and to the legislature for investing in the resources necessary to create a more equitable, transparent, and informed criminal legal system. I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow elected officials to drive positive change, safety and better health outcomes in the communities I serve,” Rollins continued.
“We’re grateful to Sen. Collins’ partnership with BECMA in prioritizing Black and Brown business owners in the economic development bond bill,” said Segun Idowu, Executive Director of BECMA. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed these stark realities facing our business community. Not only are there barriers to accessing capital, but there exists another crucial obstacle to our success: our preparedness for the digital age. This grant will help reduce systemic roadblocks facing businesses owned by people of color in accessing digital tools that will prepare them to thrive now and in a post-COVID reality.”
The legislation also includes
- $65M in economic empowerment and justice reinvestment capital grants to support communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system with access to economic and workforce development opportunities
- $50M to enhance and expand access to K through 12 remote learning technology
- $37M for a food security grant program
- $25M to assist licensed early education and care providers and after school programs
- $20M for a body camera grant program for police departments to ensure accountability
- $2.5M for implementation of an automated electronic sealing process to seal certain criminal records
The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.