By Aryan Rai
Boston University Statehouse Program
Boston — State lawmakers have approved the plan to divest state pension funds to companies with ties to Russia as part of the fiscal year 2022 supplemental budget.
The House had rejected a similar proposal earlier this month, setting up negotiations that ironed out the differences between the two bills. The final draft of the spending bill now goes to Governor Charlie Baker’s office for approval.
This is how the state can engage and make a statement — add our opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton.
The proposal directs the state pension board to divest any stakes in companies incorporated in Russia or companies that have been sanctioned by the US government as part of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Those holdings would be identified by a third-party research firm, the State House News Service reported.
According to the Pension Reserve Investment Board’s assessment, about $140 million of the $104 billion in state pension funds are tied up in Russia, or 0.2% of total funds.
The plan to divest the funds was presented a few weeks ago but could not be accepted as Russian stock markets were closed due to the war and subsequent sanctions announced by world leaders.
The FY2022 supplementary budget will also allocate $10 million to support resettlement efforts for incoming Ukrainian refugees.
“In addition to essential investments in health care, education, transportation, infrastructure and housing, this package also includes funding for the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees here in Massachusetts, ensuring that we are doing our part in the ‘global effort to help those who suffer from war,’ said House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-Quincy.
The Biden administration recently announcement that the United States will assist 100,000 refugees fleeing war from Russia through a “full range of legal avenues,” such as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
According to officials, some refugees will also receive visas or humanitarian parole which authorizes temporary residence “for urgent humanitarian reasons or an important public interest”.
“Unfortunately, we know the process because we just went through it with Afghanistan,” said state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton. “There are still approximately 42,000 pending parole applications for Afghan refugees.”
Funds to facilitate resettlement efforts will be allocated to local agencies by legislators and the Office for Refugees and Immigrants. Many organizations that have contributed to similar efforts in the past will again be called to action.
“In times like this, we individually and collectively seek to lend our moral voice and our work,” said Rabbi Justin David of the Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton. “We have provided volunteers for refugee programs like Springfield, and we will be happy to do so again.
Based in Springfield Jewish Family Services is one of the organizations that should participate in resettlement efforts as it has done for the past decade.
“We will also be in touch with the community to find out what their needs are and how to offer support,” Sabadosa said. “We know, immediately, that the needs are going to be housing and English lessons and probably financial contributions because the funds are never enough. We ask people to rebuild their lives when they come here. It’s difficult.
This article originally appeared in the Hampshire Daily Gazette.