FEMA Awards Funds to Massachusetts for COVID School Testing Costs

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BOSTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be sending more than $64 million to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to reimburse it for the cost of contracting to provide testing services in public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The $64,144,440 Public Assistance grant will reimburse the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services for the cost of contracting to provide testing at schools and in public buildings in surrounding communities between February 2021 and June 2022.
 
The contractor provided services which included operations and logistics of pooled testing, training, software, and technical assistance to school personnel.
 
The contractor also provided transportation for a total of 907,829 COVID-19 test specimens from approximately 2,400 public schools across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the laboratory for analysis.
 
"FEMA is pleased to be able to assist Massachusetts with these costs," said FEMA Region 1 Regional Administrator Lori Ehrlich. "Reimbursing state, county, and municipal governments – as well as eligible non-profits and tribal entities – for the costs incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic is an important part of our nation's ongoing recovery."
 
FEMA's Public Assistance program is an essential source of funding for states and communities recovering from a federally declared disaster or emergency.
 
So far, FEMA has provided more than $2.7 billion in Public Assistance grants to Massachusetts to reimburse the commonwealth for pandemic-related expenses.
 

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West Side Residents Build Ideal Neighborhood At Zoning Session

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Program manager James McGrath opens the session at Conte Community School.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents mapped out a West Side they would like to see during an input session this week, utilizing multi-use properties to create robust density.

Held at Conte Community School on Monday, this was the second meeting of a project to examine zoning in the neighborhood. The Department of Community Development, in partnership with Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, has been working with an urban planning and design consulting team on the effort that will conclude on June 30.

"This is a really important project for your neighborhood," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

Multifamily houses with spaces to accommodate a small business were popular. A community center, church, year-round farmer's market, and even a place to draw in commerce appeared as elements on the tabletop street.

An emphasis was also placed on the amount of immigrants coming to the area in need of housing.

Max Douhoure, community outreach coordinator for Habitat, explained that he grew up in Africa where people liked to live together, which his build reflected.

"I wanted to improve their conditions," he said. "That’s what I did."

During the first meeting in November, the team heard desires for businesses and commercial uses — including a need for small, family-owned business support. The session provided an overview of what zoning is, what zoning can and can't do, how zoning can improve the community, and the impact on residents.

"Today's exercise is really about creating spaces in buildings and on properties to do a combination of residential [uses] that meet the needs and commercial uses that meet the needs of the neighborhood,"  Emily Keys Innes, principal of Innes Associates explained.

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