A big thanks to our partners at the Mass Coalition for the Homeless for summarizing what we need to do ASAP. The Senate will begin debating its supplemental budget on Thursday at 11 am. Senators can co-sponsor and push these amendments up until the debate starts Thursday morning. Keep calling or emailing until then!

Find your senator here and use this script to communicate (feel free to copy and/or adapt as inclined):

“My name is {name}. I live at {address} in {city/town}. As a constituent, I am asking the Senator to cosponsor and actively support key amendments to the supplemental budget to strengthen and expand access to emergency rental assistance and strengthen homelessness prevention efforts, including:

  • Amendments #16, 10, 15, 17, and 18 on the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program;
  • Amendments #50, 9, and 8 on Chapter 257 eviction protections;
  • Amendment #35 to limit Housing Court defaults; and
  • Amendment #33 to provide homeowner protections and resources to supplement the Homeowner Assistance Fund.

These policies and investments will help ensure that families and individuals in our community and across the Commonwealth can obtain housing stability. Thank you!”

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means (SWM) released its version of the FY22 supplemental budget on Thursday, Senate Bill 2776 (a.k.a. Amendment S.2776). In the $1.6 billion proposal, SWM recommended $100 million in additional funds for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) and $10 million in additional funds for the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), as well as extensions of Chapter 257 eviction protections until March 21, 2023. Now we are working to build upon these important components through the amendment process.
Senators had until yesterday afternoon to file amendments. The full Senate is scheduled to debate the supplemental budget this Thursday, so we have just two days to secure as many Senate cosponsors and as much support as possible for key amendments related to rental assistance and housing stability.

More Detail on Key Amendments:

Increase and strengthen emergency rental assistance resources under the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316)

Amendment #16 from Senator Keenan and Amendment #10 from Senator Gomez (thank you Senator Gomez!) both would increase supplemental funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT) by $100 million to $200 million.

Amendment #15 from Senator Keenan would restore the RAFT cap to $10,000/household/year from $7,000/household/year.

Amendment #17 from Senator Keenan would carryover any unspent RAFT funds from FY22 into FY23, to make them available to eligible families and individuals next fiscal year.

Amendment #18 from Senator Keenan would improve tracking and reporting of rental assistance application data, outcomes, and demographics.

Further extend and strengthen eviction protections under Chapter 257 of the Acts of 2020

Amendment #50 from Senator DiDomenico would move Chapter 257 protections upstream and prevent unnecessary eviction filings.

Amendment #9 from Senator Jehlen would close “non-payment” loopholes in Chapter 257 so that more households can benefit from Chapter 257 protections.

Amendment #8 from Senator Jehlen would extend Chapter 257 protections until a household’s pending rental assistance application is approved or denied, instead of leaving the length of the continuance at the discretion of the court.

Limit Housing Court defaults

Amendment #35 from Senator Eldridge would continue the current two-tier system for summary process cases through March 31, 2023 and prohibit defaults during Tier 1 Housing Court events.

Expand resources and supports for low-income homeowners at risk of foreclosure

Amendment #33 from Senator Gomez would provide $50 million in supplemental funds to cure arrearages that the federal Homeowner Assistance Fund (“HAF”) will not cover and that threaten the displacement of lower-income homeowners in Massachusetts. The funds would be administered by Massachusetts Housing Partnership in conjunction with, and consistent with, the income eligibility requirements of the HAF program, and require notice to at-risk Massachusetts homeowners about the benefits available to help maintain their housing stability. The amendment also would provide a pause on foreclosure activities for homeowners with pending applications for benefits authorized under this provision.

Why Is Your Advocacy Vital?
As noted last week, swift action is especially vital as the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has formally announced that they intend to stop taking applications for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) on/around April 15th, less than one month away. The ERAP program has been a lifeline for tens of thousands of renters across the state since March 2021. See the Baker Administration’s press release on suspending ERAP application access, as well as State House News Service/Channel 7 coverage of our advocacy efforts to protect access to ERAP and RAFT: “Window to seek enhanced rental assistance closing as fed funds dry up”

Now let’s reach out to our Senators!

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