The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget last week. The budget contains many positive advances for housing and homelessness (go here for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless breakdown and here for the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance summary of key provisions).

Urgent improvements are still needed. This week – as soon as possible! – is the time to contact your State Senator to request their co-sponsorship of our key amendments. The Senate will debate and vote on its budget next week. Please feel free to copy and paste the list below and send to your senator ASAP (find your senator HERE):

Please urge your Senator to co-sponsor the following amendments:

Amendment #555 for Safe Havens Program (filed by Senator Jo Comerford) to fund the Department of Mental Health Homelessness Support Services (5046-2000) at $25.615 million, $1 million over the Governor’s FY23 budget proposal for three new Safe Havens programs to provide this critically needed intensively supported shelter for chronically homeless individuals.

Amendment #252 for individual shelter (filed by Senator John Keenan) to provide $100 million to the shelter funding line-item 7004-0102 to provide the necessary funding to meet shelter needs

Amendment #237 for Eviction Protections (filed by Senator DiDomenico) to close loopholes in Chapter 257 eviction protections and moves protections upstream by requiring landlords to participate in the rental assistance process in good faith before being permitted to file an eviction case in court. 

Amendment #253 to Expand Access to RAFT (filed by Senator Keenan) to increase access to RAFT to all otherwise eligible households with incomes up to 60% of the area median income (AMI) instead of the general cap of 50% AMI; ensure upstream access to RAFT benefits; and direct the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to authorize 4 months of forward rent payments and stipends to otherwise eligible applicants.

Amendment #297 to Expand RAFT Eligibility to ERAP Levels (filed by Senator John Keenan) to create a $10 million pilot program within RAFT to serve households with incomes up to 80% of the area median income, provide up to 12 months of rental assistance, and require DHCD and the RAFT administering agencies to make direct payments to tenants in cases where the property owner is not responsive.

Amendment #298 to Improve MRVP (filed by Senator Keenan) to cap tenant rent share to 30% income instead of 40%; shift to a payment standard model to allow mobile subsidy holders greater autonomy and opportunity in choosing where to rent; and expand mobile vouchers to cover tenant-paid utilities.

Amendment #836 to Prevent Housing Court Defaults (filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge) to prohibit default judgments from entering in eviction cases during tier-1 housing court events or equivalent proceedings while the 2-tier system for summary process cases remains in effect. 

Amendment #225 for Foreclosure Prevention (filed by Senator Adam Gomez) to provide additional funds for at-risk homeowners facing barriers accessing the Homeowners Assistance Fund; and prohibits foreclosure for homeowners seeking HAF assistance.

Amendment #206 to Improve HomeBASE (filed by Senator Patricia Jehlen) to increase the value of HomeBASE subsidies to $30,000 over 2 years, with the possibility of renewals at $15,000/year; and lift the income eligibility limits for families once they are enrolled in HomeBASE to allow families to maximize their incomes.

Amendment #465 to require Public Posting of Report Regarding Field Offices for Children and Families Applying for Emergency Assistance Shelter (filed by Senator Adam Gomez)This amendment would amend the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) administrative line item, 7004-0099. SWM language already would require DHCD to produce a report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means on the Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter program with details on staffing, access to the ten local DHCD offices where families can apply for EA shelter (which has been severely limited since the start of the pandemic), and the ways families can apply remotely. This amendment would increase transparency by requiring DHCD to publicly post a copy of that report on their website at the same time the report is shared with Ways and Means.

Amendment #475 for Housing and Supportive Services for Unaccompanied Youth (filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz) to add $1.5 million to the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item to increase the proposed funding to $10 million for FY23.

Amendment #445 – Pilot to Address Impacts of the Cliff Effect (filed by Senators Eric Lesser and Adam Gomez) to mitigate the cliff effect for low-income individuals/families who are receiving public assistance and to do so in partnership with the Working Cities Group and to increase participation and persistence in the workforce.

Amendments #885 & #886 for our Regional Transit Authorities (filed by Senator Harriette Chandler with Senator Jo Comerford, Senator John Velis) to make a total of $103.5 million available to RTAs for service, workforce development and fare pilot programs. 

Amendment #326 for The United Way of Pioneer Valley (filed by Senator Adam Hinds) to support the continuing regional effort to prevent and end homelessness in Western Massachusetts.

We’ve got a great delegation – let’s make sure all of them hear from us on all of these priorities ASAP!

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