With Thanksgiving coming up, I wanted to take a moment to reflect with you on all that we have to be grateful for. In the 15th Middlesex District, we are fortunate to have many local leaders and organizations that work to make our communities more inclusive, sustainable, and engaged - so many that putting them all in one newsletter would be quite difficult! Below are just a few recent highlights from around Lexington and Woburn, alongside some legislative and seasonal updates.
Veterans Day is all about showing gratitude to those who have given back to us and their country by serving in the Armed Forces. This year, in a return to normalcy, Woburn hosted its annual Veterans Day parade in-person. I had the pleasure of delivering remarks recognizing all our veterans' sacrifices and expressing my gratitude for those who have just recently returned home.

Every year, but especially during a time where many veterans may feel isolated, showing our appreciation for their sacrifice and service is hugely important. So, I encourage all of us to reach out to a veteran in our lives, whether that's a call, text, or dropping by to check in on them. This simple act of showing you care can make all the difference if someone is silently struggling in readjusting to civilian life, and it is such a simple, meaningful gesture we can make. If you'd like to watch the whole Woburn Veterans Day proceedings, please click here!
Woburn City Councilor Joanne Campbell, Woburn School Committee Member Colleen Cormier, me, and my Woburn colleague in the House, State Representative Rich Haggerty
As an avid gardener, autumnand Thanksgiving specificallyis always a special time for me to reflect on the hard work, planning, and reward that come from growing food. Feeding myself and others is tremendously rewarding, and it serves as an apt metaphor for the work I do in the Legislature. Oftentimes, we want to see immediate results, but like a garden, the legislative process takes time, consideration, and hard work that can lead to great outcomes. 

There is also tremendous work being done in our community around food security. Usha Thakrar, whom I had the pleasure of honoring as the 15th Middlesex District's "Woman of Distinction" earlier this year, makes significant contributions right here in town, working with the Lexington Interfaith Food Pantry as well as the Boston Area Gleaners. She and so many others exemplify the collective spirit of our community, ensuring no one goes hungry.
Harvesting tomatoes, canning them, and making one last sweep through the garden before the frost works nature's course and ends the season
As chair of the Zero Waste Caucus, I was thrilled to present as a panelist at the National League of City's workshop on how communities can work to reduce waste and go beyond the recycling paradigm. Specifically, I had the chance to talk about many of the Zero Waste Caucus' bills, such as the Bottle Bill Expansion, the Plastic Omnibus bill to reduce plastic waste, and the creation of a Special Commission for waste-reduction policy. These pieces of legislation would help bring us significantly closer to our zero-waste goals, and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak at a national workshop about the importance of state policymaking.

If you'd like to learn more about the three Zero Waste Caucus bills you can click here. The National League of Cities focuses on how local action can inspire change. This year, on National Recycling Day, they released their new report titled Beyond Recycling: Policy to Achieve Circular Waste Management, which you can find here.
On October 30th, I was delighted to present a citation to Omar Masood, Owner of Omar's World of Comics in downtown Lexington. This citation was in recognition of all the community work Omar has done so far in his career, including his commitment to providing jobs and self-sufficiency to our community members with disabilities.

Omar, who has Down Syndrome, has always loved all things superhero related. When he graduated from the LABBB Collaborative, his family knew they wanted to help him open his own comic book and game store. Now, Omar's World of Comics employs several people with disabilities, showcasing the Masood family's remarkable commitment to inclusion and access.

Stores like Omar's illustrate our local community's willingness to uplift and empower others. You can learn more about Omar's story and the store's re-opening at the store's website.
On October 28th, the Conservation Law Foundation's Lauren Fernandez and I hosted a presentation and Q&A for the Lexington Climate Action Network (LexCAN). There, we discussed how we can all make changes and take action locally in our communities to progress closer to our zero waste goals.

LexCAN has done amazing work in our district, leading the way toward a lower-waste future and more sustainable energy sources. In this particular event, we went through our Green Grocer Campaign, which will help empower shoppers to encourage grocery stores to cut down on plastic waste. Given that grocery store packaging accounts for a huge percentage of our household waste, this is one area ripe for action where customers can make a difference.

I am so grateful that our district is filled with folks who are dedicated to, and know the power of, local action. If you'd like to learn more, please reach out to either LexCAN here, or me at michelle.ciccolo@mahouse.gov!
Our local Boy Scout troops consistently give back to the community, and last month, I was able to participate in an Eagle Court of Honor for Troop Ten, where it recognized several new Eagles.

In order to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts must complete a project that betters their community. One of Troop Ten's projects was to build benches for goats at the Mass Audubon Habitat Education and Wildlife Sanctuary in Belmont. These benches will provide enrichment opportunities for the animals and contribute to the Sanctuary's educational efforts.

Congratulations to some of our newest Eagle Scouts: Adrian Pardoe, Samuel Pardoe, Jacob Abraham, Paulak Roy, and Bradley Winters!
Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by unanimously passing a proposal allocating surplus funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). At $3.82 billion, the bill addresses disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to facilitate recovery through one-time investments in housing, environment and climate mitigation, economic development, the workforce, health and human services, and education. 
Local Investments for Lexington 
At my request, the House appropriated $150,000 to the Town of Lexington to fund renovations at the historic Lexington Depot community building to improve public access and local engagement ahead of the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. I also championed a number of statewide priorities that were included in the final bill, which are detailed in further detail below. 

Economic Development 
The House bill includes $500 million to replenish the Unemployment Trust Fund, which will offset businesses’ contributions for unemployment programs. The bill includes $200 million in tax assistance for small businesses that paid personal income taxes on state or federal relief awards during the pandemic. It also includes $60 million for grants to support small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic, with $35 million of it reserved for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses. 
To assist recovering cultural organizations and artists, the bill appropriates $125 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants supporting cultural events, education, or performances highlighting underrepresented voices. Other economic development investments include $40 million for youth summer and school-year jobs; $50 million to close the digital divide; and $12 million to assist in the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Massachusetts. 
Health and Human Services 
Building on the House’s longstanding commitment to support and protect community hospitals, the bill allocates $250 million for financially strained hospitals and $20 million for community health centers. This bill includes more than $250 million for behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services, including $100 million for workforce initiatives with $15 million specifically for community health centers. The bill also includes over $150 million for local and regional public health systems. 
Other investments include more than $78 million to address food insecurity; $15 million for prison re-entry grants; $10 million for community-based gun violence prevention programs, $6.5 million for coordination teams for triage treatment and service supports and post-treatment supportive housing in Boston; and $5 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to bolster access to legal services for the most vulnerable. 
Workforce Development 
The bill includes $500 million towards providing premium pay bonuses for low- and middle-income workers who worked in-person during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. To promote employment, the bill also includes $150 million to enhance workforce opportunities through workforce skills training, as well as $100 million for vocational and career and technical schools. 
Affordable Housing and Homeownership 
The bill appropriates funds for affordable housing, with $150 million directed toward public housing maintenance and $150 million to create permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals, survivors of domestic violence, seniors, and veterans. The bill also includes $100 million for homeownership assistance and $100 million for production and preservation of affordable rental housing for residents of municipalities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Environment and Climate Change Mitigation 
Building on the House’s commitment to the environment and clean energy, the bill includes investments for environmental infrastructure and development spending, with a focus on environmental justice communities, climate change resiliency and clean energy. This bill includes $100 million for port infrastructure development and revitalization to facilitate economic activity and support the offshore wind industry. 
Other investments include $100 million toward infrastructure for communities to adapt and become climate resilient; and $100 million for water and sewer projects, including those to remediate combined sewer overflow into waterways. 
To improve indoor air-quality in schools and support healthy learning environments, this bill includes more than $100 million for grants to public school districts with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners, and communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This bill also includes $75 million for capital and maintenance projects for higher education; $25 million for the Endowment Incentive Program at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges, $20 million for special education, including $10 million for workforce development; and $10 million for programs focused on recruiting and retaining educators of color. 
Accountability and Public Engagement 
As a tool to inform future ARPA spending, the House’s bill allocates $5 million for the Inspector General’s office to create a public database and website to track total spending, including the percentage of funds spent in communities that were disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to track the number of projects awarded to minority-owned businesses and organizations. 
While the House and the Senate were unable to come to a final agreement on passage of the bill, the Conference Committee remains in negotiations to resolve the differences between the two, and I am hopeful the final version will be passed in the coming weeks.
Come join me for my next virtual office hours! On Tuesday, December 14th, I will be talking to constituents like you from 4:30-5:30 PM. You can sign up and submit questions ahead of time here

In the near future, I hope that I will be able to resume in-person office hours as vaccination and booster rates increase. In the meantime, I will continue to host these events on Zoom, but please never hesitate to reach out to me at Michelle.Ciccolo@mahouse.gov if you have any ideas or concerns you would like to share.

Please also contact me if you'd like to host a meet and greet or other forum for your group, network, or neighbors. I would be happy to coordinate and attend!
Representative Michelle Ciccolo | Website