Thanks to the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless for this legislative update:
Quick Analysis of the FY’14 Budget Conference Committee Issues and Outcomes
1. Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316)
Good news! The Conference Committee included the Senate’s proposal, creating a new temporary accommodations program, and funded RAFT at a compromise level of $10 million, a $1.2 million increase over FY’13.
2. Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Resources (via line item 4000-0300)
Good news! The Conference Committee adopted the House’s language and funding level to add $150,000 to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) administrative line item, 4000-0300. The funds would be used to 1.) pilot a survey of unaccompanied youth in 3-5 areas within Massachusetts and conduct youth outreach; 2.) fund a part-time staff person or consultant to oversee implementation, to analyze data, and to report to the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, and, if funding permits, 3.) fund 3-6 demonstration projects to identify service and housing models appropriate to support unaccompanied youth in their education and successful transition from childhood to adulthood.
3. HomeBASE Program (line item 7004-0108)
The Conference Committee included compromise language, based on the Senate’s recommendations.
Under the committee’s plan:
- The HomeBASE program will be funded at $58.96 million.
- Families receiving HomeBASE rental assistance will be able to regain their homelessness preference for state-funded subsidized housing. DHCD will be required to promulgate new regulations to this effect no later than September 3rd.
- DHCD “shall take all necessary steps to ensure that families reaching the end of their time limited rental assistance shall not become homeless again”. To do this, DHCD should help families who are timing out of HomeBASE rental assistance to access long-term subsidies (such as MRVP subsidies; see below). For those families who do become homeless and have nowhere else to go, families should be placed in Emergency Assistance shelter if they have complied with their housing stabilization plan and are income eligible for EA. In addition, families timing out of HomeBASE rental assistance will be able to access up to $4,000 in HomeBASE household assistance and/or RAFT funds. (Families would not be able to receive more than $4,000, though. The Senate had proposed allowing families to be able to combine RAFT and HomeBASE household assistance funds up to $8,000.)
- DHCD will be required to submit quarterly reports to the House and Senate Ways and Means about the program, the families assisted, and families transitioning out of the program.
4. Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024)
Amazing news! The Conference Committee adopted the Senate’s recommended appropriation of $57.5 million, a dramatic $15.5 million increase over FY13 allocation, allowing the program to service 1,000 more households with permanent housing subsidies. The language also will provide a priority for the new subsidies to certain families with disabilities who are timing out of the HomeBASE rental assistance program.
The committee also adopted language to shift income eligibility for the program from 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (currently $39,060 for a family of 3) to 50% of area median income (AMI), which is more commonly used in housing-focused programs. AMI varies across the state. For example, 50% AMI currently is set at $42,500 for a family of 3 in HUD’s Boston-Cambridge-Quincy-New Hampshire metropolitan fair market rent area (which includes Suffolk County and parts/all of Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk, and Plymouth counties in Massachusetts) and at $36,900 for Berkshire County and the Springfield area.
Other Important Conference Committee Requests and Outcomes
- Emergency Assistance Family Shelter and Services Program and Motel Program (line items 7004-0101 and 7004-0103): Adopt the House’s higher combined recommended appropriation of $106.5 million for EA shelters and motels. Outcome: The Conference Committee included $90.4 million for EA shelters and services and $6.3 million for EA motels, for a total of $96.7 million, which is significantly lower than the FY’13 spending level. The corresponding FY’13 supplemental budget that was released last night, House Bill 3539, includes an additional $1.2 million in funding for EA motels to cover FY’13 expenditures.
- Shelter and Services for Unaccompanied Adults At-Risk and Experiencing Homelessness (line item 7004-0102): Adopt the House’s recommended appropriation of $40.5 million, which would be level funding with the FY’13 appropriation. Outcome: The Conference Committee did fund the line item at $40.5 million!
- State-Funded Public Housing Authority Operating Subsidies (line item 7004-9005): Adopt the House’s recommended appropriation of $64.4 million. Outcome: The Conference Committee did fund the line item at $64.4 million!
- McKinney-Vento Funding for the Transportation of Students Experiencing Homelessness (line item 7035-0005): Adopt the Senate’s higher recommended appropriation of $7.35 million.Outcome: The Conference Committee did fund the line item at $7.35 million!
- Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104): Adopt the House’s recommended funding level of $1.8 million and language that would create a pilot program to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied young adults. Outcome: The Conference Committee funded the item at a compromise level of $1.6 million, and included the language to create the pilot program for LGBT young adults!
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): Adopt the Senate’s higher recommended funding level of $93.1 million. Outcome: The Conference Committee included $93.2 million for EAEDC! The language requires DTA to provide the Legislature 60 days advanced notice before making any changes in benefits or eligibility, so as to allow the Legislature to take action.
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000): Adopt the House’s higher recommended funding level of $306.2 million. Adopt the House language to provide a $40/month rental subsidy for program participants living in market-rate housing. Outcome: The Conference Committee adopted the Senate’s lower recommended appropriation of $302 million for TAFDC and the House’s proposed $40/month rental subsidy. The language requires DTA to provide the Legislature 75 days advanced notice before making any changes in benefits or eligibility, so as to allow the Legislature to take action.
- Related Welfare Issues: Reject the House’s proposal to require photos on the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards of participants in cash assistance and nutritional assistance programs. Adopt the Senate’s $40/month transportation reimbursement within the Employment Services Program (line item 4401-1000). Outcome: Unfortunately, the Conference Committee included an EBT photo ID requirement in the corresponding FY’13 supplemental budget, House Bill 3539. The language does, however, provide exemptions for elders, people who are blind, people with disabilities, people who are victims of domestic violence. The supplemental budget also would create a new Bureau of Program Integrity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to oversee DTA programs. The FY’14 budget includes the Senate’s earmark of $460,966 in line item 4401-1000 for transportation benefits for TAFDC participants.
1.) Please thank your State Representative and State Senator (and Conference Committee members) for their work to secure key language and funding for housing, homelessness, and safety net programs.
Legislators can be reached through the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000, or you can go here to search for your elected officials based on your address.
2.) Ask Governor Deval Patrick to support the Legislature’s investments in housing and homelessness programs by signing those sections of the FY’14 budget into law.
Stay tuned for more details about needed advocacy with the Governor’s office to improve the welfare reform provisions recommended by the Legislature in the supplemental budget.
Thank you for your continued advocacy!