The Senate passed its budget last Thursday.  We are vey grateful to our Western MA Senators for their advocacy and support of Network priorities.

It’s now onto Conference Committee where the House and Senate will work out its differences.  Below is a breakdown of our priorities and next steps:

  • Secure Jobs received $750,000 in the Senate budget (up from $600,000 proposed in Senate Ways and Means and $500,000 in House budget), along with directive language to state agencies to work to support additional funding.  We will advocate for adoption of the Senate proposal in the final budget.
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers did not receive the desired restoration of funding to FY14 funding levels in the Senate budget (it was level funded, with earmarks to other programs included).  We will advocate for adoption of the House budget’s funding allocation to the HCECs.
  • Funding for individual emergency shelters received a slightly greater increase in the Senate budget than the House, but neither budget addresses the regional disparities in funding that will result in Friends of the Homeless in Springfield sustaining significant cuts.  We will advocate for the higher Senate amount to be used to help close the gap.  To learn more, see this informative article from the Springfield Republican.  Big thanks to Senator Humason, Senator Lesser and Senator Welch to address this issue.
  • Tenancy Preservation Project received $500,000 in the Governor, House and Senate budgets.  We were advocating with state partners for an increase to $1 million but clearly level funding of $500,000 is what it will be.
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth housing and wraparound services received $2 million in the Senate budget (no funding was allocated in the House budget).  The Senate proposal is a very exciting step forward for serving this population and we will be advocating to maintain it.
  • Network funding of $125,000 to support coordination and implementation of its regional Plan to End Homelessness did not get funded in the Senate budget.  We will continue to advocate for adoption of the House provision that will fund the Network.  Big thanks to Senator Downing and Senator Lesser for their leadership on this issue.

I am also passing along below the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless more comprehensive update on the Senate budget.

Please stay tuned for Conference Committee action alerts!

Take Action to Thank Senators for Their Commitment on Homelessness and Poverty Issues!

Please take a few minutes to thank your State Senator if she or he to co-sponsored any of the key amendments described below, in particular Amendments #760, 404, 422, 446, 356, 467, and 492. (You can find out by clicking on the hyperlinked amendment numbers below.) Thank your Senator for prioritizing housing, homelessness, and benefits issues in the Senate version of the budget, as well as the expansion of Earned Income Tax Credits, and ask your Senator to keep up the active support throughout the upcoming Conference Committee process.
Senators can be reached via the State House switchboard (617-722-2000) or directly through the links listed here.
Please also thank Senate leadership for their work to make such strong investments in housing, homelessness, and benefits programs in the Senate Ways and Means and final versions of the Senate budget. Their contact information is available through the links below.
Senate FY’16 Budget: Senate Recommendations for Housing, Shelter, Homelessness Prevention, and Cash Assistance Programs and Senate Amendments
To access SWM’s complete budget recommendations, please go to SWM FY’16 budget recommendations.


A Quick Look at Selected Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Line Items

 1. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA, line item 7004-0101) at $154.9 million for FY’16. We are very pleased to report that the SWM budget includes critical language that would require DHCD to provide shelter to otherwise eligible families who are at imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation:

” provided further, however, that a family who has no other feasible accommodation on the date of application for assistance and who would otherwise spend the night in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including but not limited to a car, park, abandoned building, medical facility, bus or train station, airport or camping ground, shall be eligible for assistance”

SWM also would preserve existing access to Emergency Assistance by rejecting the Governor’s proposed elimination of two sub-categories of eligibility that now cover ~33% of families in shelter.
Senate Ways and Means expanded the tracking and reporting requirements to direct DHCD to report on families denied access to EA and the reasons for denial, and would require 90 days advanced notice before DHCD could implement any negative eligibility or benefits changes to the program.

 We are grateful for the SWM recommendation to include this powerful language to protect families with no other feasible accommodations. In the weeks ahead, we will focus our advocacy on maintaining this Senate language in the Conference Committee budget.

Amendment Status: Senator Joan Lovely filed Amendment #416 to ensure that families staying in motels/hotels as part of the EA program have access to the same services and resources as other guests of those motels/hotels whose stay is not being paid for by DHCD. We are happy to report that this amendment was adopted after being redrafted!

Senator Jason Lewis filed Amendment #404 to prohibit the imposition of new shelter eligibility restrictions in FY’16. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected, even after being redrafted.

2. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) from $29 million in FY’15 (including the mid-year supplemental appropriation) to $26.2 million, but continue to provide shallow rental subsidies, diversion, and moving assistance for certain EA-eligible families. The SWM proposal would allow families to receive up to $8,000 in HomeBASE funds, up from the current limit of $6,000 per household. (During FY’15, some families have been able to receive up to $8,000 total, however, through a combination of $6,000 in HomeBASE funds plus $2,000 from the Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund.)

SWM improves upon the current draconian 24-month bar on families who are terminated from the program from re-accessing HomeBASE and Emergency Assistance by reducing that bar to 18 months.

Amendment Status: Senator Barbara L’Italien filed Amendment #760at the request of the Coalition and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute that would direct DHCD to waive the 18-month bar for families who are in need of additional HomeBASE or shelter resources, based on a family’s circumstances and if the application of the bar would not be “fair, just, and equitable”. See the amendment fact sheet here. This amendment was not supported by the Senate leadership, and ultimately was withdrawn.

Senator Joan Lovely filed Amendment #422 to increase HomeBASE funding to $33 million and to include language to expand access to families in domestic violence and substance abuse treatment shelters. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected.

3. The Senate Ways and Means budget would increase funding for the line item that provides funding for shelter and services for unaccompanied individuals at-risk and experiencing homelessness (line item 7004-0102) to $44.7 million, up from the FY’15 funding level of $42.9 million.

 Amendment Status: Senator Linda Dorcena Forry filed Amendment #431 to further increase funding for this line item up to $48.5 million. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected.

4. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $85.4 million, a $20.4 million increase from the FY’15 direct allocation. (This is a sizable increase, although less than the House’s recommended level of $90.9 million, which expressly authorized the carryover of some unspent funds from FY’15.) Like the House, SWM also removed language included in the FY’15 budget that prohibited DHCD from targeting new subsidies to families living in shelters.

 Amendment Status: Senator Linda Dorcena Forry filed Amendment #446 to carry over unspent funds from FY’15 into FY’16 for MRVP (“prior appropriation continued” language). Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected. 

5. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide increased funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) at $12 million. This matches the House’s recommendation.

Amendment Status: Senator Ken Donnelly filed Amendment #356 to increase RAFT funding to $13 million. We are happy to report that this amendment was approved!

6. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide $64 million in funding for public housing authority operating subsidies (line item 7004-9005), a $100,000 decrease from the FY’15 level. This is $500,000 less than the final FY’16 House recommendation.

Amendment Status: Senator Jamie Eldridge filed Amendment #471to increase state-funded public housing operating subsidy funding by $1 million, up to $65 million. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected.

7. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030) at $4.55 million, a $1 million increase over FY’15 funding and the House’s recommended funding level.

Amendment Status: Senator Jamie Eldridge filed Amendment #467 to increase AHVP funding by an additional $500,000 to $5.05 million. This amendment was redrafted twice and then approved. The final amendment would increase the funding by $200,000 (not the full $500,000)– still a victory!
8. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104) at $1.6 million.This program employs a Housing First model and historically has provided housing and services to unaccompanied adults who have experienced chronic homelessness. SWM removed earmark language to continue a pilot program that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied youth and young adults. In FY’15, that pilot is funded at no less than $200,000.

Amendment Status: Senator Thomas Kennedy filed Amendment #492 to restore the language and $200,000 in funding for the LGBT young adult pilot program. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected (by being placed in the so-called “No” bundle yesterday, as part of a technique used to speed up the debate process). 


A Quick Look at Selected Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Line Items

 1. We are thrilled to announce that Senate Ways and Means included a new line item, 4000-0007, with recommended funding of $2 million to provide housing and wraparound services to unaccompanied youth and young adults through age 24 who are experiencing homelessness. The $2 million would be used to implement the new unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014 and to build upon the ongoing work of the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. The House only included $150,000 for the work of the Commission.

Amendment Status: We are grateful for the SWM recommendation to create this new line item, and are not seeking any amendments. In the weeks ahead, we will focus our advocacy on maintaining this Senate language/funding in the Conference Committee budget.

Click here and here to see photos from Wednesday night of two of the Coalition’s young advocacy partners and Coalition staff being recognized by the Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and the full Senate for our leadership on youth homelessness issues.
2. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance’s Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), to $78.9 million due to caseload decreases. For FY’15, the program is funded at $85.5 million. (As of March 2015, there were 21,431 households served by EAEDC, a decrease in caseload over last year’s figures.)

SWM included 90-day advance notice language that would require the Administration to notify the Legislature before implementing eligibility restrictions or benefit cuts, up from the current 60-day requirement.

Amendment Status: We are not seeking any amendments to this line item, but will continue to push for major improvements to EAEDC via House Bill 529, An An Act Relative to Assisting Elders and People with Disabilities in the Commonwealth. To participate in our online action to legislators in support of this bill, please click here.

3. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children grants (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) to $231.8 million for FY’16, from the FY’15 level of $255.7 million, due to caseload decreases. (As of March 2015, there were 38,114 households served by TAFDC. For more DTA program data, see their April 2015 Facts and Figures report.)

The SWM budget would increase the annual clothing allowance to $200/child (up from the current $150/child), and would maintain the $40/month rental allowance for families living in private market apartments.

In addition, SWM included 90-day advance notice language in this line item (as in EAEDC) that would require the Administration to notify the Legislature before implementing eligibility restrictions or benefit cuts.

Amendment Status: We are grateful for the SWM recommendations, in particular for the clothing allowance increase, and we are not seeking any amendments.

4. The Senate Ways and Means budget would set aside $7 million for a homelessness prevention reserve fund at EOHHS to serve families who are experiencing homelessness or in danger of experiencing homelessness. The line item, 1599-0017, also would require EOHHS to report to House and Senate Ways and Means on the families served, families denied, and other measures. The funds could be used for prevention, diversion, or stabilization, building upon the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund idea recommended by Governor Baker in his budget proposal.

Amendment Status: Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz filed Amendment #849 to expand access to reserve fund services to families in certain non-EA programs, through line items”7004-0108, 7004-3036, 7004-9316 and to families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness through programs within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.” This amendment was adopted as part of the “Yes” bundle of amendments.


A Quick Look at the Education Transportation Line Item

The SWM budget would provide $7.35 million for reimbursements to cities and towns for costs associated with transporting students experiencing homelessness under the McKinney-Vento Act (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education line item 7035-0008). This would be level funding with the FY’15 appropriation, and a decrease of $1 million from the House’s recommended FY’16 spending level.

Amendment Status: Senator Joan Lovely has filed Amendment #569to increase McKinney-Vento transportation funding by $1 million, to bring the funding up to $8.35 million. We are happy to report that this amendment was adopted!

Senator Jamie Eldridge has filed Amendment #586 to increase McKinney-Vento transportation funding even further, to $20.82 million. This more ambitious amendment was rejected.

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