First, last night the State Senate passed its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget of over $3.8 billion. Now the Senate and House budgets go to Conference Committee to resolve any differences before a final vote by November 17 (and then on to the Governor’s desk).

Both the House and Senate budgets are similar with regard to housing, including close to $600 million allocated for various housing initiatives, including funds for permanent supportive housing, affordable rental housing and affordable home ownership opportunities. Unfortunately, the Network priority amendments, including eviction representation, did not pass (stay tuned on next steps for our continuing advocacy).

The Senate ARPA budget also includes additional housing and shelter funds for Hampshire and Franklin Counties (thank you, Senator Comerford!) and Berkshire County (thank you, Senator Hinds!).  We may also learn of additional housing resources coming to our local districts, so stay tuned for that possibility.

Secondly, I am proud to report that 23 of our Western MA legislators – all 6 of our Senators and 17 Representatives – signed on to a joint letter to the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) urging reforms to meet the emergency individual shelter needs in our region.  A special thanks to Representative González and Senator Comerford for taking the lead on this letter and thanks to every legislator for their quick support.

DHCD issued this Request for Information as it prepares to procure the statewide shelter system for the first time, and this legislative letter is in concert with coordinated responses submitted by cities and towns from across the region (Pittsfield, Greenfield, Northampton, Westfield, Springfield, for example) and mirrors the Network’s own response, informed by its shelter providers and other partners.  The Network is doing what a network does.  And our shared sense of mission is making it possible.

Thank you to everyone at every level of this Network for your extraordinary efforts to bring these extraordinary resources home to prevent and end homelessness.  We’re at just the beginning of this process, and we know the urgency is as great as ever.  Looking forward to continuing the work together.

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