The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of March 4 to March 11, 2021

Gobi’s Legislation Targets Food Insecurity in the Commonwealth

BOSTON (March 1, 2021) - Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) has filed legislation this session aimed at enhancing the stability of one of the most popular transitional assistance programs offered by the state, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). The bill filed by the Senator, SD. 1178, An Act relative to an Agricultural Healthy Incentives Program, codifies the program into law, and requires that a separate fund be established within the department of transitional assistance to ensure adequate funding for the program moving forward.

Gobi is the co-chair of the Massachusetts Food Systems Caucus and a former chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture. She had this to say on the bill, "I appreciate the overwhelming bipartisan support for HIP in the legislature. It is a program that provides people with nutritious food from our local farmers, helping our farms and farmers remain sustainable. Every dollar stays in the state, it goes to farmers and back into the local economy, helping farmers protect their land, helping protect the environment and helps people stay healthy being able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables over less healthy options."

Launched in April 2017, the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) provides a 100 percent incentive -- a dollar-for-dollar match -- for each SNAP dollar spent on targeted fruits and vegetables purchased at farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs statewide. By increasing access to locally grown fruits and vegetables for SNAP clients, the program benefits family and community health, and support farms and the local economy.

Since its inception 85,000 families have earned HIP incentives, purchasing $19.5 million in local foods that directly benefited more than 200 farms in the state. More than 63,000 households used HIP in FY21, totaling more than $5 million in incentives being put back into the area. Estimates show that each dollar spent results in an additional $1.12 in local economic impact as farmers contribute back to the local economy.

For more information on the program, please visit

March & April 2021 Programs Offered by
Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary

113 Goodnow Rd. ~ Princeton, MA 01541
978-464-2712 ~ ~

Classes will be held outdoors except for extreme inclement weather. PLEASE NOTE: Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, advance registration is required. No walk ins allowed. Social distancing and wearing a mask or other face covering are required.

Homeschool Program- Moose
At Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
03/12/2021, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Fee: $20 Child Members, $28 Child Nonmembers
Description: Massachusetts is the southernmost range for a moose. As our local climate warms, we may see the moose move further north. After a short discussion about these massive beast and a study of a skull and a track cast, we will take a hike looking for moose browse and other signs of their presence on the sanctuary. They particularly love the new shoots of the red maple tree. Leader: Chris Eaton, Lead Educator. For more information and to register, call 978.464.2712. Sponsored by Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

Homeschool Programs for Teens-Animal Skulls
At Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
03/19/2021, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Fee: $20 Child Members, $28 Child Nonmembers
Description: Skulls can teach us so much about what an animal eats, how it behaves, and even how it evolved over millions of years. We will look closely at real skulls, explore their different features, and learn how to identify which animals they came from. We will take a hike around the sanctuary looking for evidence of these animals. Leader: Lisa Utzig, Teacher Naturalist. For more information and to register, call 978.464.2712. Sponsored by Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

Homeschool Programs for Teens-Invasive Species
At Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
04/16/2021, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Fee: $20 Child Members, $28 Child Nonmembers
Description: What is an invasive species? Where do they live, what should we watch for in Massachusetts, and how do we manage them? We'll participate in a lively discussion, go for a hike around the sanctuary and help clear some invasive species from the property. Leader: Lisa Utzig, Teacher Naturalist. For more information and to register, call 978.464.2712. Sponsored by Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

April Vacation Days at Wachusett Meadow
At Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
Monday-Friday, April 19-23, 9:00 AM-3:00 PM
Fee: $260 Members, $325 Nonmembers per week; $65 Members, $80 Nonmembers per day
Description: Spend your school vacation with us and explore what is happening at the sanctuary seasonally. We’ll play games, hike, do craft activities, and spend a lot of time outdoors. Come for one day or all four. Open to children ages 5 to 12 years. Extended day option is available from 3:00-4:00 PM. For more information and to register, call 978.464.2712. Sponsored by Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary.

United Way Distributes More than $80,000 in COVID-19 Relief Grants to Local Non-profits

FITCHBURG, MA: March 2, 2021 — United Way of North Central Massachusetts (UWNCM) has distributed $81,000 in grants to 11 local agencies from its Stand United COVID-19 Response Fund, bringing the fund's total distributions to nearly $350,000 since it was launched last March. The fund provides for basic and on-going needs of community members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest round of grants includes a $40,000 grant to Athol Area YMCA to help families and individuals maintain their housing and employment after facing long-term challenges from the pandemic. Households can apply for up to $1,000 each to cover a wide range of expenses including rent and utilities, car payments, medication and other essentials.

Additional grants were given to ten area food pantries to help address rising food insecurity in the region. Many food pantries have been busier than ever serving increasing numbers of clients while also adapting to new safety protocols due to COVID-19. The grants will enable pantries to continue operations while providing clients with food and crucial products such as cleaning supplies and diapers.

While distributing the grants, UWNCM sought to support pantries serving a variety of populations throughout North Central Massachusetts, including multiple pantries that they had not previously funded. These include Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center in Gardner, Northstar Family Services, Inc., in Leominster and HEAL Winchendon in Winchendon.

"As local residents continue to struggle due to this unprecedented public health crisis and its lingering economic impact, UWNCM remains committed to partnering with these and other critical organizations to support those in need," says UWNCM President Kory Eng.

UWNCM launched the Stand United COVID-19 Response Fund in March 2020. So far, the fund has raised more than $400,000 and distributed nearly $350,000. The fund will continue to make grants to local agencies utilizing a targeted approach and invited-application process.

The United Way of North Central Massachusetts serves the communities of Ashburnham, Ashby, Athol, Ayer, Devens, Fitchburg, Gardner, Groton, Harvard, Hubbardston, Leominster, Littleton, Pepperell, Lunenburg, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Shirley, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster and Winchendon.

In Budget Testimony, Auditor Bump Highlights FY22 Priorities

Boston, MA (March 2, 2021) -- State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump testified today before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means in support of her fiscal year 2022 budget request. During her testimony, Bump detailed her office’s transition to remote work, highlighted ways it has improved government operations during this period, and discussed her agency's priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

"While nearly every aspect of our lives has been upended, sidelined, or otherwise disrupted since we last met, I am pleased to report that my office has smoothly transitioned into virtual mode and has continued on its accountability mission," Bump said in her testimony. "Financial support from the legislature has helped our office become a national leader in government accountability, and this continued financial commitment is increasingly important as my office undertakes auditing of federal pandemic relief allocations."

Bump also noted that her budget request for FY22 will support her office's efforts to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of state spending of CARES Act allocations and other federal assistance dollars. She told lawmakers that this review will take place during her office's regular cycle of state agency audits, and, in an effort to reduce duplication of efforts, is being conducted in coordination with the work KPMG is doing on the state’s single audit.

In addition to her budget request, Bump also called lawmakers' attention to other areas her work has touched upon. She encouraged them to provide adequate financial resources to support the newly established Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, which was included as part of recently passed police reform legislation. A 2019 report from Bump's office found the state did not adequately fund municipal police training in the Commonwealth.

Bump also encouraged lawmakers to adequately fund the State-Owned Land PILOT program which provides reimbursement payments to cities and towns for tax-exempt land owned by the Commonwealth. A study from Bump's office this past year showed that inadequate funding has harmed many communities that are involved with this program. Bump highlighted legislation she has filed with State Senator Adam G. Hinds that would fix some of the problems with the program.

For fiscal year 2022, Bump is seeking a budget increase of $702,000, bringing the total appropriation to $21,170,923.

Bump's full testimony is available here.

Audit Warns Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office Not Equipped to Provide Data on Juveniles Involved in the Criminal Justice System

Outdated Case Management System Impacts All District Attorneys’ Offices

Boston, MA (March 3, 2021)--In an audit released today, State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump warned that the case management system used by the Cape and Islands District Attorney's Office (CIDA), and all other district attorneys in the Commonwealth, is not equipped to provide critical data about young people involved with the criminal justice system. This information is required under the 2018 criminal justice reform law. The audit examined the period of July 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019.

The 2018 criminal justice reform law created the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board (JJPAD), which is charged with collecting data from criminal justice agencies that have contact with juvenile offenders, including district attorneys. This data includes age, gender, racial or ethnic category, and type of crime. JJPAD uses this data to provide recommendations to improve outcomes of young people involved in the criminal justice system.

Bump's audit notes, CIDA's current case management system, known as District Attorney Management Information Office Network (DAMION), is not capable of tracking all of this data. DAMION is used by all Massachusetts district attorneys' offices. This issue was initially highlighted in a 2019 report from JJPAD. DAMION was implemented by the Massachusetts District Attorney Association and is used by all 11 district attorneys' offices.

"The well-being of young people involved in the criminal justice system is far too important to be stymied by outdated and ineffective technology," Bump said. "This is a solvable problem. The Massachusetts District Attorney Association must make the technological upgrades and investments necessary to ensure district attorneys from across the state can begin tracking and reporting this important data and the Juvenile Justice Policy and Data Board gets the information it needs to do its job effectively."

The audit also examined CIDA's Youthful Diversion and Victim Witness Assistance programs and found no deficiencies with either of these programs. This is the latest in a series of audits of district attorneys' offices administration of these programs.

CIDA is one of 11 district attorneys' offices in the Commonwealth. Its jurisdiction covers Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket Counties, which include the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. At the end of the audit period, it had 59 employees, including 22 prosecutors and assistant district attorneys, 13 victim witness advocates, 2 staff members in its diversion programs, and 22 other staff members who aid in the operation of the office.

The full audit report is available here.

Auditor Bump Asks Municipalities to Report Spending Related to 2020 Elections

Boston, MA (March 3, 2021)--Today, State Auditor Suzanne M Bump's Division of Local Mandates sent a survey to all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth asking them to report their expenses associated with certain 2020 election activities. The survey was initiated after the FY21 state budget appropriated $3.02 million for reimbursements to cities and towns for costs incurred implementing the vote-by-mail and in-person early voting requirements. The Secretary of State's Office will be assisting in ensuring timely responses by city and town clerks. Bump asked that communities respond to the survey by Wednesday, March 17.

Bump’s office is asking communities to report expenses related to:

  • Postponed spring local elections;
  • Postponed state special elections;
  • Mail-in ballots and early voting for the September state primary election; and
  • Mail-in ballots and early voting for the November general election.
Additionally, Bump asked communities to provide an accounting of funding they received from the federal CARES Act, the Secretary of State's Office, or other private sector grant funding to cover all or a portion of these expenses. Bump’s office will use this information to ensure communities are not reimbursed twice for these expenses.

"Thanks to the efforts of election administrators, in 2020, voters had the opportunity to make their voices heard in a way that was safe and convenient, despite the pandemic," Bump said. "However, these added efforts came with additional costs. Prompt response by city and town clerks will ensure municipalities are quickly reimbursed for these expenses."

Once Bump's office has received responses from all municipalities, it will provide a certification of those net expenses to the Secretary of State, who will reimburse cities and towns for those costs.

Bump's office already certified the unfunded, mandated costs of providing early voting for the March 2020 presidential primary election. As a result of this certification, cities and towns were reimbursed $727,170.