This is a joint response from Mindy and Jo — as we work as partners in our accountability to the University of Massachusetts Amherst and its wider community.
This is an absolutely wrenching time as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis continue their stranglehold on our region. Like you, we are extremely concerned about the impact of workforce cuts at the UMass Amherst campus. We are worried for individual constituents and their families, and we understand the direct impact of this economic blow on our neighbors and the ways it also affects our small businesses and the community at-large. We’re also mindful of the long-term impact on the University.
Here’s what we’re doing:
We are deeply engaged with House and Senate leadership to urge level funding of public higher education through FY21. To date, the state has passed interim budgets while waiting to see how much aid may come from the federal government in a next stimulus package. The House, the Senate, and the Administration reached an agreement to level fund K-12 education and to adjust for inflation. We are forcefully advocating for the same for public higher education and will keep up the pressure. Please join us, and please connect with friends, family, and colleagues across the Commonwealth and ask them to join in as well.
We are meeting with UMass President Marty Meehan to raise our strong concern around budget pressures on the system and on the UMass Amherst campus in particular, as well as the consequences of those decisions on our constituents. We are hopeful that this meeting will take place this coming week.
Like you, we’re urging our federal delegation to act swiftly and boldly on another tranche of stimulus funding as we have not yet seen nearly enough support from Congress and the White House. It is important to note that if the state were to pass an annual budget prior to another federal stimulus package, the state’s budget would likely contain cuts across the board — so the importance of a final and timely federal stimulus bill cannot be overstated. The state currently has a rainy day fund of upwards of $3.46 billion dollars. It’s clearly raining and we are strong advocates for using these funds now, but they simply will not be enough to close across-the-board budget deficits in all public programs resulting from a steep decline in revenue and a sharp increase in health care costs. To that end, we are also both proponents of fairly raising additional state revenue through progressive taxation. In sum, we all need to be advocating, organizing, and fighting to use the state’s rainy day fund, to raise additional state revenue fairly, and to enact another federal stimulus bill.
We have been in consistent communication with UMass throughout this time, and we have also recently reached out to Chancellor Subbaswamy to emphasize the concerns of our constituents — like you — and to bring him questions that have been brought to our attention by our constituents.
We understand that the PSU and USA have lodged a formal complaint with the state and that negotiations continue. We cannot intervene in that proceeding, but wanted you to know that we’re not giving up. And we know you’re not either. We will keep you posted as to the results of our inquiries and meetings. We hope you will continue your communication on the federal level to secure additional COVID-19 stimulus and also expand your outreach to friends and family who live across the commonwealth to urge their support for public higher education as well.
Jo and Mindy