Press Release: Increasing the Share of Federal Funding for Massachusetts

Published nov. 17, 2015

New report highlights dozens of ways the Commonwealth can maximize millions in federal funding and improve services

November 17, 2015—Boston, MA—A new report released today entitled Maximizing Federal Support and Opportunity for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts identifies 15 opportunities to increase federal funding for the Commonwealth through new and existing programs. Many of these oportunities also increase services for some of our most vulnerable citizens.  

The report highlights how Massachusetts can leverage emerging trends in federal funding and recommends structural changes in state government to maximize these opportunities. The report was produced by Jobs for the Future (JFF), a Boston-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on education and workforce reform, and was commissioned by the Barr Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and Tufts Health Plan Foundation. 

The funding examples highlighted in the report are organized into five categories: Social Safety Net; Health Care; Workforce Development; Reauthorizations; and Community Development. Examples include: foster care adoption incentives, lead poisoning reimbursement, and diversity in the highway construction workforce.

There are currently over 1,300 federal funding opportunities through which the Commonwealth can receive federal funds for new or ongoing programs. When evaluating how states perform on each of these opportunities, Massachusetts does relatively well in total federal funds received per capita. However, when viewing the percentage of the state’s budget that is directly funded by federal dollars, the Commonwealth ranks in the bottom third of all states. 

“While Massachusetts has long been a leading state in maximizing federal funding opportunities, the lack of cross-agency tracking systems and coordinating bodies has meant that there are plenty of funds still being left on the table,” says JFF Senior Vice President Maria Flynn. 

Implementing Structural Changes to Improve Grants Management

The report makes several recommendations for improving the infrastructure to maximize federal funding opportunities. They include: implementing an enterprise-wide system to collect and disseminate data on all federal grants within and across all state agencies and secretariats; increasing staff resources; streamlining intra-agency processes and greater coordination across secretariats; improving communications between the Executive Branch and the Legislature; and potentially establishing a Legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs.    

Emerging Trends in Federal Funding    

The landscape for federal funding is changing, with a rapidly growing focus on rewarding programs with a proven return on investment (ROI) and an emphasis on public-private collaborations. The report highlights several examples of opportunities for the Commonwealth to increase its sharing of these growing funding sources.

“As the Commonwealth explores new federal funding opportunities, we encourage leaders to also consider programs that address the changing demographics of our state. It’s no secret that older adults are our fastest growing population. In fact, sometime in the next 12 months a significant demographic shift will occur—for the first time ever, there will be more Massachusetts residents who are over age 60 than under age 20,” says Nora Moreno Cargie, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship for Tufts Health Plan, and President of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation.

Foster Care—Adoption Incentives

The federal government has offered incentives to states that improve their performance in transitioning children out of the foster care system and into permanent adoptions since 1998, with incentives totaling $450 million. Massachusetts has collected less than $450,000 in incentives over those 17 years; the lowest incentive payment received by any state in the nation.  This is due to the Commonwealth’s low foster care adoption rate, which at 7.2% is the third lowest in the country.  

“It is encouraging that reforming our failing foster care system is a top priority for Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Governor Charlie Baker,” says Paul S. Grogan, President & CEO of the Boston Foundation. “It’s important that our legislators follow their lead on this issue and understand that financial incentives are available to offset the costs of these much needed reforms.”   

Diversity in the Highway Construction Workforce 

Women and minorities are underrepresented in the rapidly growing highway, street, and bridge construction industry, where employment is expected to increase by over 20% in less than 10 years. These are well-paying jobs requiring skills that are readily transferable to other segments of the construction industry. 

Significant federal resources are available to states for job training in construction industries, with specific incentives for programs targeted to women and minorities. Few states are taking advantage of these incentives.

Lead Poisoning Reimbursement    

Over the last half-century, our country has made tremendous strides in the detection, treatment, and prevention of lead poisoning, especially in children. Massachusetts was an early leader in detection and prevention, but over the years has fallen behind as other states make further progress. According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, only 48% of the Commonwealth’s children age five and under are now tested for lead poisoning (as compared to a national average of 66%). Of those tested, some 3.6% have blood lead levels greater than 5 mg/dL, and over .3% have levels greater than 10 mg/dL—the highest rate in the country.  

“The impact of lead poisoning can be devastating, including brain damage, developmental delays, and decreased cognitive function,” according to Audrey Shelto, President of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. “We must ensure that children, in particular, have access to critical prevention and treatment services and that we, as a state, maximize the federal funding available to support these programs.”

As federal funding for childhood lead poisoning has decreased in recent years, many states have turned to increased Medicaid reimbursements to help cover their prevention and detection programs. Medicaid guidelines require that enrolled children under age five be screened for lead poisoning and recent updates significantly expand funding for prevention services. Despite these new resources, Massachusetts currently has no Medicaid-funded prevention programs in place.