BOSTON – Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Jamaica Plain) announced today that critical funds to continue the Commonwealth Care “Bridge” program were included in the supplemental budget passed today by the State Senate and House. The Bridge program, as it has come to be known, provides basic-level health care access for more than 20,000 “special status” immigrants in Massachusetts who lost access to the state’s regular Commonwealth Care program in 2009 due to state budget cuts.
“Special status” immigrants are fully legal, documented residents of the state who have been living in the U.S. for fewer than five years. The category is one that is created by federal immigration policy.
Without the $20 million the legislature included in the supplemental budget for the Bridge program, funds for the critical program were projected to run out at the end of January. At that point, more than 20,000 legal, tax-paying residents of the state would have been left without access to health care other than emergency room treatment. If approved by Governor Patrick, today’s supplemental budget will allow the program to continue functioning through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends in June 2011. The fate of the program beyond June 2011 will be decided in the regular state budget debate process this spring and summer.
“I am thrilled and relieved that the Bridge program funding is included in this budget,” said Chang-Díaz. “Ensuring that 20,000 legal, tax-paying residents of our state don’t go without health care access this winter was of utmost importance to me. It is a matter of basic fairness that everyone who’s paying into our system should be able to access it.” She added: “The Bridge program has a huge impact on the 2nd Suffolk district in particular. So I am especially appreciative of the Senate President’s, the Speaker’s, the Governor’s, and the Ways & Means Chairmen’s support on this issue and their commitment to preserving the promise of health reform in Massachusetts.”
The supplemental budget now goes to the Governor for his approval.
Other highlights of the supplemental budget include:
- $17 million in funding for primary and preventive health care coverage for low-income, long-term unemployed residents
- $2.5 million in support for Early Intervention services for at-risk infants and toddlers
- an additional $750,000 for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and victim services
- $1.1 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which helps keep thousands of low-income families across Massachusetts and in the 2nd Suffolk District from falling into homelessness
- $2.4 million for the provision of elder home care services
- $350,000 for the Boston Public Library to help keep branch libraries open