News & Events

Hospitals, colleges rake in Mass. stimulus cash

By Jay Fitzgerald
Friday, March 12, 2010 –

Massachusetts’ top universities and hospitals are getting a healthy dose of federal stimulus spending, leaving some hard-hit blue-collar workers wondering where the money is for “shovel ready” construction jobs.

The University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and Boston universities, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham & Women’s Hospital all ranked within the top 20 list of state recipients of federal stimulus funds last quarter – hauling in a combined $554 million in government grants, according to a Herald review.

The vast majority of the money to universities and hospitals is slated for cutting-edge scientific and medical research as well as purchases of high-tech lab equipment, according to federal data.

A large chunk of UMass’ money went to general operations, to avoid hundreds of layoffs at the system’s schools, while tens of millions of dollars is earmarked for medical and scientific research.

Leaders of Boston’s largest construction unions said yesterday they don’t begrudge the money going to universities and hospitals, which they say have become the “engines of the Massachusetts economy.” But they expressed frustration that more money isn’t being funneled to construction projects that would employ trade workers, whose industries are now enduring unemployment rates of 30 percent or more.

“When they put together the stimulus program a year ago, they were talking about ‘shovel-ready’ jobs and a second WPA,” said Mark Erlich, head of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, referring to the Works Progress Administration’s building programs during the Great Depression. “That clearly hasn’t happened.”

The Herald reported last month that about 70 percent of the stimulus jobs the state claimed it created or saved last quarter were public-sector jobs.

A follow-up Herald review has found that the federal government’s own direct spending is also heavily tilted toward government entities or nonprofits with traditionally close ties to Washington funding – such as universities and hospitals.

Only two private-sector firms – Reveal Imaging Technologies and Novartis – were in the top-20 list of federal stimulus spending last quarter in the Bay State, according to data.

At the top of the list of recipients were the commonwealth of Massachusetts, state Department of Education, UMass, Massachusetts Water Pollution and Abatement Trust, and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Harvard ranked sixth on the list, followed by MIT (seventh), Mass. General (12th), Brigham & Women’s (13th) and BU (15th). Other major recipients included the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center.
A Harvard spokesman said the Cambridge university’s stimulus money is going straight to researchers and labs, helping the state’s economy in the process.

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