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HUNTINGTON — Gov. Maura Healey’s $375 million in 9C budget cuts, announced last week due to flagging revenue collections, were gut-wrenching to the Hilltown Community Ambulance Association, a nonprofit ambulance service housed in Huntington that serves Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Montgomery, Russell and Worthington.

The ambulance service saw its grant to purchase a heart monitor and defibrillator cut from $50,000 to $25,000.

HCAA President Mary Ann Pease said this was not the first cut in the earmark. She said HCAA first met with state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa (D-Northampton) and Joel Dusoe from state Rep. Nicholas Boldyga’s (R-Southwick) office, and state Sens. Paul Mark (D-Pittsfield) and John Velis (D-Westfield), in early spring of 2023.

“The board expressed their concerns about HCAA’s ongoing budget constraints, in light of low municipal contributions and inadequate insurance reimbursement. They offered to put an earmark in the upcoming FY24 budget for HCAA, starting out at $150,000 in April 2023. This amount was reduced to $50,000 in July 2023. Subsequently, due to lack of state revenue, HCAA was informed on Jan. 9, 2024, that the state further reduced our earmark to $25,000,” Pease said.

Pease said the money was going to be used to purchase new cardiac monitors, which can cost up to $55,000 each.

“For HCAA to operate as an advanced life support ambulance, we are mandated to have cardiac monitors in all our ambulances. As these machines are aging out, we were looking forward to this funding to assist us with purchasing this expensive piece of equipment. This piece of equipment cost more than four of our member communities’ annual contributions,” she said.

Pease said the ambulance service now hopes that the final $25,000 does not get further reduced.

According to the HCAA website at hilltownambulance.org, In 2023 the service received 811 calls and responded at the paramedic level 92% of the time. As of Jan. 13, HCAA has received a total of 24 calls this year.

After the cuts were announced, Caitlyn Letourneau, director of communications for Velis, released a statement from the senator on the cuts.

“Under state law, the governor has unilateral authority to make reductions to the budget, a process that does not involve the Legislature, to maintain a balanced budget. Unfortunately, statewide programs and many organizations across the state were impacted by these reductions, which totaled $375 million. I am disappointed to learn that among the cuts announced this week included funding reductions to several programs and organizations in my district,” Velis wrote.

“We all understand that Massachusetts is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget, but these spending cuts are a warning shot about our financial stability, and especially, the continued financial pressures and growing costs we are facing as a result of our continued funding for the migrant crisis and our state’s emergency shelter program. A state dollar is a state dollar. There is no doubt that this migrant crisis is a humanitarian crisis, but it is also a financial crisis as well, and one that we desperately have to manage,” Velis added.

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