BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio)— While state lawmakers decide on what to do with federal pandemic relief funds, one state auditor has a plan to use those funds to help Western Massachusetts.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump, a former resident of Western Mass., called for what she refers to as the "rural rescue plan" to help bring massive improvements to the area. Her plan comes in response to a study that found public infrastructure in Western Massachusetts was in desperate need of improvements.
Her plan calls for an increase in Chapter 90 program funding for the region to $300 million annually to help provide more state funding for public infrastructure improvements. The plan also seeks to create a public infrastructure agency and invest more money in improving internet access and speeds in the region.
“Addressing these public infrastructure challenges now, specifically for transportation, municipal buildings and broadband, will go a long way in terms of enhancing equitable planning and development for generations to come," Bump said in a statement.
In her announcement, Bump highlights where the state is lacking in its treatment of Western Massachusetts infrastructure. It talked about how the state's Small Town Road Assistance Program received 65 applications in the 2020 fiscal year from Western Mass., but only five projects ended up being given awards.
The report also found that the average internet speed in Western Massachusetts, 109.7 megabits per second, is well below the state's advertised internet download speed of 191.2 megabits per second.
WBZ's John Baibak (@JohnBaibak) has the story.