By Christina Hager

CHELSEA (CBS) – A long line of people stood along 6th Street in Chelsea Thursday where La Colaborativa runs its food pantry. It’s the fallout after months having the highest COVID-19 rate in the state. “They’re coming in just to ask us for $250 to pay for their phone, because that’s the only way they have to communicate and to look for employment,” said the organization’s Chief Operating Officer Dinanyili Paulino.

Finally, relief is in sight. Governor Charlie Baker announced $100 million will now go to not only Chelsea, but also hard-hit Everett, Methuen, and Randolph. They are all communities that were severely short-changed in the federal government’s recently passed American Rescue Plan. “It was pretty clear that there was a problem there, and we began a conversation, a series of conversations with the leaders in those communities,” said Governor Baker.

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Chelsea, for example was originally allocated $11.6 million, while Newton was awarded $65.3 million. “I felt it was unconscionable that a city with the COVID impact that Chelsea had, got treated so disproportionately bad in this formula,” said Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Things like hotel/motel room excise tax, motor vehicle excise tax. Chelsea’s probably lost somewhere between $10 and $15 million last year on those two revenue sources alone,” he said.

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The vaccination clinic at the center of town has helped people like janitor Sergio Asturas, who worked through the pandemic. “This is good. This is good for this moment. I’m happy,” he said after his second shot.

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But the scene at La Colaborativa’s food pantry is telling. Even as virus rates drop and vaccinations increase, the economic toll is far from turning the corner. “We have been hit very hard,” said Paulino. “This money will allow the city to really focus on our housing need, our economic recovery plan, so we are really thankful.”

Christina Hager