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Kerry: Senate Prevents Lay-Offs of Teachers, First Responders, Strengthens Medicaid

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today voted for legislation that will provide emergency, temporary funding to help Massachusetts' schools avoid massive lay-offs weeks before the school year begins. The legislation will also extend federal Medicaid funding, preventing state budget cuts during the recession. The bill passed by a vote of 61 to 38 with the support of two Republicans -- Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Olympia Snowe (Maine).

The Federal Medical Assistant Percentages (FMAP) and teacher funding amendment will provide Massachusetts with about $450 million in federal Medicaid funding and $205 million in desperately needed educational funding.

"Governor Patrick, Mayors, teachers, parents, and first responders are breathing a sigh of relief now that the Senate has finally thrown them a lifeline," Senator Kerry said. "States everywhere are hurting. They didn't create the Wall Street meltdown or the housing crash, but they've been forced to cut essential services because of it. Now we've given them some relief. This vote will save more than 2,400 jobs in Massachusetts schools alone, keep cops and firefighters on the job, strengthen Medicaid for our most vulnerable citizens, and prevent devastating budget cuts. It's taken far too long to pass this legislation, but today we broke through the gridlock and finally voted to protect jobs, and make sure our kids start the school year right. Make no mistake, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has found this bill will cut the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade and it will keep teachers in the classroom, police officers walking the beat and firefighters on duty to respond to that alarm bell. Only in Washington could this be a close vote."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provided a 6.2 percent increase in Medicaid (FMAP) as well as additional FMAP assistance for states with high unemployment. These increases in federal reimbursement come to an abrupt halt on December 31, 2010, which occurs in the middle of fiscal year 2011 for most states--including Massachusetts. Massachusetts and nearly 30 other states are facing drastic budget cuts in the event that the temporary FMAP funding provided through ARRA is not extended.

Sen. Kerry has spent the past eight months fighting for a six-month extension of the Recovery Act FMAP provisions. In January, he led an effort with 37 of his colleagues to include this extension in the health reform bill. In February, he joined with even more colleagues to get this extension included in forthcoming jobs creation legislation. In June he worked with the Massachusetts House delegation to express strong support for including the FMAP extension in a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid.

The six-month extension in the Senate Amendment 4575 to H.R. 1586 - Teacher Jobs and State Fiscal Relief will provide about $450 million to Massachusetts. The amendment will extend and phase out increases in FMAP for six months, through June 30, 2011. This will ensure that states continue to receive these increases throughout state fiscal year 2011.

The education component of the amendment will provide states with $10 billion in temporary funding to prevent massive teacher layoffs. Massachusetts will get $205 million - money that will go straight to hiring, saving, and training more educators. It is estimated that it will create or save about 2,456 education jobs in Massachusetts.

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