A Quick Look at Selected Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Line Items
The Governor’s budget would reduce funding for the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (line item 7004-0101) from the anticipated FY’10 spending level of $133.5 million to $113.5 million for FY’11. The Governor’s figure is very close to the final FY’09 spending level. In a conference call with stakeholders this morning, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which oversees the program, has indicated that the Administration hopes to save money in FY’11 by reducing the need to use motels to shelter families. It is unclear if those estimated cost savings are realistic, given the tremendous need for shelter, housing, and services by families with children. DHCD also said that the Administration wants to be able to provide 12-month contracts to providers at the start of the fiscal, in contrast to the 6-month contracts that were offered at the start of FY’10.
The Governor’s budget would change the rules around providing shelter placements to families who are in immediate need but lack one or more requested verifications. Families currently are eligible to receive “placements pending verification” for up to 30 days if they appear to be eligible for Emergency Assistance, but lack all of the requested documentation at the time of application. The House 2 budget would reduce the length of placements pending verification to 10 days.
Consistent with most gubernatorial budgets, the House 2 budget also eliminates critical language that would require the Administration to give the Legislature 60 days advanced notice before implementing any eligibility changes in the line item, as well as language that would require the Administration to track and report on who is approved for shelter, who is denied, the outcomes for families participating in the program, etc.
The Governor’s budget would level fund the line item that provides funding for shelter and services for unaccompanied individuals at-risk and experiencing homelessness (line item 7004-0102), and consolidate it with the line item that funds the HopeFound program (current line item 4590-0915). The FY’11 funding level would be $37.3 million. The line item also includes new language that would direct DHCD, Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, and at least three shelter providers to work together to standardize shelter rates and increase the number of programs providing transitional housing and Housing First models for individuals. See the chart for additional details.
The Governor’s budget would level fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $35.4 million. This would be accomplished by combining a proposed state appropriation of $32.7 million with a $2.7 million contribution from the Massachusetts Housing Financing Agency (MassHousing, an independent public authority). Level funding would allow DHCD to continue to serve all of the households currently participating in the program.
The Governor’s budget would slash funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) to $60,000 for FY’11. In developing the FY’10 budget, the Legislature initially funded RAFT at $5 million. Through gubernatorial vetoes and a transfer of funds to the MRVP program, the final FY’10 funding level was $160,000. In reducing the funding earlier this year, the Administration noted their hope that federal stimulus funds through the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) would be available to families who otherwise could have been served by RAFT.
The Governor’s budget would level fund public housing authority operating subsidies (line item 7004-9005) at the final FY’10 funding level of $62.5 million.
A Quick Look at Selected Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Line Items
The Governor’s budget would increase funding for the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000) to $88.8 million for FY’11. The Governor included this increase of $4.16 million over the FY’10 appropriation level as the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) anticipates an increased caseload. EAEDC serves extremely low-income elders and persons with disabilities, providing individual participants with a cash benefit of $304/month.
The Governor’s budget would increase funding for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children grants (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) to $319.2 million for FY’11. The Governor included increased funding over the FY’10 appropriation level as DTA anticipates an increased caseload. Recently, the Governor rescinded an FY’10 9C budget cut to the TAFDC account that would have terminated or reduced cash assistance benefits for approximately 9,000 households in which the parent has a severe disability and receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The Governor’s budget proposal would continue to fund the annual clothing allowance and the infant layette benefits as well.