Transportation, nutrition programs big winners in Boston budget

Boston’s recently passed budget includes several investments to address health equity in the city, including new bike lanes, reconstructed sidewalks and discounted fruits and vegetables for residents who receive government food assistance.

These investments are just some of the initiatives the American Heart Association advocated for to improve the health of the city’s 700,000 residents over the next year.

The Boston City Council voted 8-5 in late June to approve the $3.65 billion spending plan for fiscal 2021.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

“The citywide resilience strategy aims to ensure all residents can reach their full potential regardless of their background, and to remove the barriers that hinder Bostonians from having access to opportunities,” said Allyson Perron Drag, the American Heart Association’s director of government relations in Massachusetts.

Projects included in the city’s capital plan that will help to remove transportation barriers include:

  • A $100 million commitment to the design and construction of a transformative Northern Avenue bridge. This multi-modal bridge will prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and shared public space on the waterfront.
  • $2 million for a Safety Intervention Program on Neighborhood Streets, which will help the city evaluate and act on all resident 311 safety requests.
  • $1 million for the expansion of a bike share network, mostly in Hyde Park, Mattapan and Dorchester, in order to improve accessibility and reach the city’s Go Boston goal of 268 stations by 2022.
  • $150,000 to improve the Pedestrian Signal Retiming Program to retime more of the city’s most dangerous intersections in a more equitable manner.
  • $100,000 to subsidize bikeshare memberships
  • $90,000 to expand the city’s Youth Cycling program, which hosts bike workshops for thousands of Boston Public Schools students.

The budget also includes significant investments in the Public Health Commission, which serves as the city’s health department and provides emergency medical services, infectious disease surveillance, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, community health programming, shelter and advocacy for homeless individuals, and home and school based health services for children and families.

Additionally, to reduce food insecurity, the budget invests $524,724 in the Office of Food Access for the expansion of the Double Up Food Bucks program. This is a SNAP incentive program that allows people receiving government food assistance to get 50 percent off fresh fruits and vegetables at participating stores with their EBT cards. The investment will lead to the addition of participating stores in East Boston, Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester.

“This critical funding mechanism not only serves to address the burden of food insecurity for the most vulnerable in Boston in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also puts an infrastructure in place to help ensure future access,” said Perron Drag.