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Three nonprofits to net $550,000 in $43 billion state budget

BOSTON — Three South Shore groups would get a combined $550,000 from this year's state budget if amendments proposed by a South Shore state senator are approved.

Sen. Patrick O'Connor, R-Weymouth, included the amendments in the $46 billion budget proposal passed by the Senate on Nov. 18.

If the amendments pass, the Talking Information Center in Marshfield would get $300,000,  The Company Theatre in Norwell would get $150,000, and the job training program One Life at a Time in Braintree would get $100,000.

O'Connor said that for the past five budgets, the amount earmarked for area groups has been $500,000, but with the pandemic, he is proposing more money. He said he tries to reach out every year to community organizations to see what is needed.

O'Connor's budget amendments must still make it through a conference committee made up of six House and Senate leaders. O'Connor is one of the senators on the committee.

Talking Information Center Executive Director Anna Dunbar said the appropriation would pay for a little less than 75 percent of the organization's yearly budget, which has been $500,000 the last few years, when the appropriation has been $350,000.

The Talking Information Center hosts fundraisers and drives to fund its radio towers and internet programming. The budget also includes six staff members, Dunbar said. The center was supposed to have a big gala in June, which turned into a virtual version of itself and raised $30,000, half of the usual goal.

Much of the labor -- reading from newspapers and magazines and disseminating information to the sight-impaired -- comes from a network of volunteers, she said.

The Talking Information Center has made sure that the community it serves has been getting up-to-date information on the pandemic, including the weekly state data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, which cannot be processed by screen readers.

In a statement, Company Theatre co-founder Zoe Bradford said the Norwell organization has "suffered tremendous loss" and the $150,000 would ensure that the theater is able to reopen. Board of directors Chairwoman Alyson Molloy Hussey said in the statement that the money will help keep the theater running through the pandemic.

O'Connor said he did not want the pandemic to claim The Company Theatre as one of its victims, especially because theaters will be one of the last sectors allowed to fully reopen.

"I wanted to make sure we gave them an extra cushion to continue along," O'Connor said.

One Life at a Time, which provides job help and training to people in recovery as well as other services, would receive $100,000 through an amendment O'Connor sponsored with Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton, and Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy. Executive Director Chris Driscoll O'Neill said her group had been scheduled to receive a much larger appropriation but then the pandemic hit.

O'Connor said he is "amazed" at the work O'Neill's organization is doing to help people with substance abuse disorders.

In addition to training and help with job applications and resumes, the group helps those in recovery get stable jobs, including helping them pay for expenses.

"We were hoping for a lot more money than that," she said. "We need a lot more."


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