|The Coalition’s Recommendations for Key Housing, Homelessness, and Benefits Line Items
Department of Housing and Community Development Line Items
Emergency Assistance Family Shelter and Services Program (EA, Line Item 7004-0101):
Appropriation and Line Item Language: We are concerned that both the House and Senate’s FY’11 funding levels of approximately $116.9 million for EA and EA housing subsidies are significantly below the FY’10 projected expenditures of $151.7 million for this line item. We are heartened, however, to know that both versions include critical language regarding access to Emergency Assistance shelter, prevention, and re-housing resources. A few key differences and recommendations are outlined below.
Advanced Notice Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the House language regarding 90-days advanced notice for the EA account.
Line Item Language vs. Outside Section Language: While both approaches have merit, we encourage the Conference Committee to adopt the House approach of retaining all EA language within the line item so that such provisions are conditions upon the appropriation and less vulnerable to a possible gubernatorial veto.
Families Living in Motels: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate language that would require DHCD to assess families and connect families with housing search services within 10 business days of motel placements, as well as Senate language that would require DHCD to use its “best efforts” to ensure that families placed by the program have “access to refrigeration and basic cooking facilities.”
EA Housing Subsidy Funds: House Separate Account vs. Senate Earmark: While both versions have their merits, the Senate version is slightly preferred, as the language is more explicit regarding helping to “more rapidly move families into permanent sustainable housing.”
Department of Housing and Community Development Administrative Account Language on Retaining Housing Priority Status (Line Item 7004-0099):
Line Item Language: Both the House and Senate included budget language to ensure that households receiving short-term housing subsidies can maintain existing priorities for permanent, state-funded housing opportunities. The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate version of this line item language. The Senate language is preferred as it would explicitly apply to households that have state or federally funded short-term subsidies (such as state-funded Emergency Assistance Flex Fund subsidies and federally funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing subsidies.) This language is especially important as thousands of households who have exited or avoided shelter with short-term subsidies are at risk of falling back into homelessness during FY’11, when those short-term subsidies expire.
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, Line Item 7004-9024):
Appropriation and Line Item Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s higher funding level of $37.9 million and language regarding the increased funding for the MRVP account, as the House budget did not explicitly include a contribution from MassHousing. We would, however, support the House appropriation, if the MassHousing contribution would yield a higher overall funding level. Increased funding will help to ensure that all current participants can continue to receive this assistance, and may allow DHCD to reissue vouchers upon turnover.
State-Funded Public Housing Operating Subsidies (Line Item 7004-9005):
Appropriation and Line Item Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s higher funding level of $64.5 million and language regarding the use of increased funding for the public housing operating subsidies account.
Shelter and Services for Unaccompanied Adults (Line Item 7004-0102):
Appropriation: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the higher House appropriation of $37.64 million for the individual homelessness assistance account.
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, Line Item 7004-9316):
Appropriation and Line Item Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s higher appropriation level of $1 million for the RAFT homelessness prevention program. At a time when homelessness continues at unprecedented levels, a renewed investment in RAFT will provide critical emergency cash assistance and homelessness prevention resources to families and individuals with disabilities who are at risk of losing their housing. While federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing resources currently are playing an important role here in Massachusetts, this time-limited program is not a substitute for RAFT.
Department of Transitional Assistance Line Items
Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC, Line Item 4408-1000):
Appropriation: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate appropriation of $88.8 million for EAEDC. This additional $4.1 million in funding over the House budget is needed to address anticipated caseload increases so that the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) can continue to provide EAEDC benefits to all eligible extremely low-income elders and persons with disabilities to help meet their basic needs.
Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (TAFDC, Line Item 4403-2000):
Appropriation and Line Item Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the House’s higher appropriation of $319.1 million and language regarding 90-days advanced notice for the TAFDC account. This additional $2.9 million in funding over the Senate budget is needed to address anticipated caseload increases. As with EAEDC, the 90-day advanced notice language would allow the Legislature time to take action after returning to formal sessions on January 5, 2011, in the face of a deficit.
Department of Transitional Assistance Administrative Account Language on Homelessness Prevention (Line Item 4400-1000):
Line Item Language: The Coalition urges the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate language that would require DTA to submit a report to the Legislature by December 1, 2010 regarding program design and cost estimates for creating a homelessness prevention program to assess DTA program participants for risk of homelessness, subject to appropriation in FY’12. This language is based on the Coalition’s No Place Like Home bill, also known as “An Act to Prevent Homelessness Among Recipients of Transitional Assistance” (Senate Bill 43/House Bill 169, sponsored by Senator Jehlen and Representative Provost). Inclusion of this language in the final budget will move closer to creating a DTA-based homelessness prevention program.