Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey said some of the $1 billion from a government surtax will help fund universal school lunches for K-12 students throughout the state.
Last week, Healey signed the state's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which included the expansion of a number of social programs. Other programs include free community college for students age 25 and older, grants for child care providers, and expanded emergency assistance. The surtax is also expected to help fund several new road projects.
Healey's office said making school lunches free for all students will cost $172 million in the next fiscal year.
"Our administration is proud to deliver our first budget that meets the moment by making Massachusetts more affordable, competitive and equitable. This budget makes significant investments in schools, child care, clean energy, the environment, and access to mental and physical health care,” said Healey.
Six other states have made school lunches universal. New Mexico, Minnesota and Illinois both approved bills earlier this year to make school lunches free for all students. California, Colorado and Maine also have laws on the books to offer free meals to students.
A number of other states have proposed similar provisions, but most still only provide free or reduced-cost lunch based on federal guidelines.
The federal free and reduced-cost lunch program is based on family income. For children to qualify for a free school lunch, their family must earn less than 130% of the federal poverty level. The family must earn less than 185% of the federal poverty level for a reduced-cost meal.
In 2023-24, the cutoff for free school lunches for a household of four will be $39,000 For reduced-cost lunches, the cutoff for a household of four is $55,500.
There have been efforts to make free school meals universal throughout the U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, proposed legislation to make school meals free for everyone nationwide. In addition to free meals during the school year, children would also be able to access free meals during the summer.
By a 52-48 margin, Massachusetts voters authorized increasing taxes by 4% for income over $1 million last November. While someone making $1 million exactly would not have an income tax increase, someone making $2 million a year had their state taxes go up this year by $40,000.
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