Bill Would Extend Food Aid, School Meals, To-Go Cocktails

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers approved a spending plan Thursday that would extend programs launched during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic including outdoor dining regulations, remote access to public meetings and support for assisted living residences.

The $389 million supplemental budget also includes $130 million to help extend enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP food benefits — long known as food stamps — just as the federal government is ending the extra money provided to low-income people since the start of the pandemic.

The spending bill also includes $68 million for an early education grant program, $65 million for the continuation of free school meals, $45 million for emergency shelter assistance, and more than $40 million to support affordable housing for immigrants and refugees.

Another popular pandemic-era innovation — allowing the to-go sale of beer, wine and cocktails — would be extended for a year under the bill.

The legislation now heads to Democratic Gov. Maura Healey for her signature.