Advocacy

FY 2018 (17)

FY 2017 (29)

FY 2016 (8)

FY 2015 (4)

The Senate Veto Override Debate Continues

The Senate Veto Override Debate Continues

September 28, 2017; last updated October 18th

** Please sign our updated online action on the RAFT veto override to State Senators here. **


The Senate continues to override FY'18 budget vetoes, while the House successfully overrode all of the Governor's vetoes in its chamber. 

During their September 28th veto override debate, the Senate overrode the Governor's elimination of funding for the unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness line item, 4000-0007, by a vote of 35-2. This means that $675,000 now will be restored to the FY'18 budget to once again provide housing and wraparound support services for young people experiencing homelessness out on their own. It previously was overridden in the House on September 13th by a vote of 140-12.

On October 4th, the Senate also took action to override the Governor’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) veto that would have reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This override was particularly important as the Governor was looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC which would have rendered an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or only eligible for reduced grants. The Senate vote was 35-2, and the House vote was 132-20.


The Senate will be back in formal sessions on October 19th. We will be advocating for the override of the Governor's Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) veto. A Senate override would restore the proposed $2 million increase to RAFT, and restore the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.

During FY’17, 3,980 households were served by RAFT. This included 124 households who previously were ineligible under the more limited definition of family, 56% of which were households with disabilities. With $15 million in FY’18 (including the earmark of $2 million for households without minor children), we anticipate that the state would be able to prevent homelessness for an estimated 4,878 households, based on the average FY’16 RAFT expenditure of $3,075/household (including the $539 administrative fee for each household approved). According to the 2015-2016 RAFT report published by the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, the state’s FY’16 RAFT investment of $12.5 million saved the Commonwealth an estimated $137 million. This veto override already was approved by a 135-20 vote in the House.

Please sign our updated online action on the RAFT veto override to State Senators here. Stay tuned for more details on this page; read more about our original list of veto override requests here.

RAFT veto override image for salsa
Legislative Action Day 2018: Save the date and plan to join us on Tuesday, February 27th

Legislative Action Day 2018: Save the date and plan to join us on Tuesday, February 27th


Legislative Action Day 2018 will be held on Tuesday, February 27th at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. Registration is now open, and will once again be hosted by Representative Jim O'Day. The event is free and open to the public. Please plan to join us and raise your voice to help end homelessness!

More details and links will be posted here shortly.
Take Action to Help Override Governor Baker's Vetoes to Key Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Budget

Take Action to Help Override Governor Baker's Vetoes to Key Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Budget

July 17, 2017; last updated August 17th; see also http://www.mahomeless.org/advocacy/item/senate-veto-override-debate for Senate debate updates.

Governor Charlie Baker just issued his FY'18 budget vetoes. Among the $320 million in vetoes were cuts to important language and funding related to homelessness, housing, and benefits programs. Fortunately, he does not have the final word. The Legislature can override his vetoes with 2/3 votes from both the House and Senate. Help make that happen by signing our one-minute online action to State Legislators.

What did he cut?

The Governor zeroed out the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item, 4000-0007, saying that the $675,000 appropriated by the Legislature was too small: "I am vetoing this item because it is too small to be effective at the enacted level of funding." (Fortunately, this veto did not cut the funding for the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. $150,000 will be provided for those initiatives through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services administrative line item-- even though there is no direct language/earmark.) See our latest campaign fact sheet here.

He also eliminated the $2 million increase to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316), and struck the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.

In the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), the Governor reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This is particularly concerning as the Governor is looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC and render an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or have their grants reduced.

The Governor also eliminated language from the Department of Housing and Community Development administrative line item (line item 7004-0099) that allows families participating in the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) to retain preferences and priorities for long-term state-funded subsidized housing opportunities.


In some good news, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, line item 7004-9024, increase to $92.7 million was approved.

We already started to push for veto overrides and will push for supplemental funding for programs that were vetoed. As noted above, the Legislature can restore language and funding by 2/3 votes in both the House and Senate. 


** Please sign our online action to State Legislators, asking them to override these vetoes swiftly. **

Please also join the Coalition in letting Governor Charlie Baker know that you are disappointed in his cuts to key programs like youth homelessness, RAFT, and TAFDC. Click here for the Governor's contact information. ** You also can call your legislators via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.

If you have any feedback from the Governor's office or from your State Representative and Senator, please share it with us: kelly @mahomeless.org or call 781-595-7570 x17.

Thank you so much for your continued support and advocacy. Please stay tuned and engaged!


Related Budget Materials:

youth and raft veto override image to members 7 26 17








Take Action with Us to Restore Funding for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Take Action with Us to Restore Funding for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Youth without homes can't wait

September 11, 2017, updated September 18th

Please invite your State Representative and Senator to join us this Tuesday, September 19th for a briefing at the State House on the need to restore funding for housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. See our campaign fact sheet, media advisory, and below for additional briefing details. To find out who your legislators are, use the Legislature's search feature  or go to www.wheredoivotema.com.


This event is organized by the Coalition and hosted by Representative Jim O'Day, Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative Kay Khan, and Representative Marjorie Decker. 

We also have room for a limited number of members and supporters to join us as well. RSVP here if you would like to attend.

If you haven't signed our online petition asking the Legislature to override the Governor's youth homelessness and other key vetoes, please click here and enter your address at the bottom to get started.

Who: Legislators, staffers, youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, providers, advocates, and others
What: Legislative briefing on restoring youth and young funding in the FY'18 state budget
When: Tuesday, September 19th, 1-2:30 p.m.
Where: Massachusetts State House, House Members' Lounge, 3rd floor (near the House Chamber)
RSVP: Online here or by emailing Kelly

youth budget campaign fact sheet, 9-18-17, page 1youth budget campaign fact sheet, 9-18-17, page 2
It's Time for the Annual TAFDC Clothing Allowance!

It's Time for the Annual TAFDC Clothing Allowance!

August 30, 2017

Good news for families participating in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program: For the month of September, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is once again increasing the income eligibility limits and payment standards for the TAFDC program. This increase in the payment standard is known as the children's , and occurs only for September. 

Families currently participating in the TAFDC program will receive an additional $250/eligible child. Families that are not currently receiving TAFDC benefits but apply before the end of September and are approved also will receive the full clothing allowance benefit in the fall. If you are looking to access the benefit, here is a link to local DTA office locations and contact information.

Families may receive an additional $50/eligible child later, too, if the Legislature overrides a veto issued by Governor Baker that reduced the benefit from the $300 recommended by the Legislature back down to $250. The Legislature will begin to take up veto overrides after Labor Day. Learn more about the veto override efforts here and sign our online action to your state legislators to encourage them to take this important action.
Join Us at the State House on October 11th for the EAEDC Bill Hearing!

Join Us at the State House on October 11th for the EAEDC Bill Hearing!

October 3, 2017; last updated October 11th

Join the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless for the bill hearing on An Act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities in the Commonwealth (House Bill 2077/Senate Bill 2039)!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Joint Committee on Elder Affairs Hearing
State House
Hearing Room A-1*
Boston, Massachusetts 02133


The Committee is chaired by Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire. Here is the full committee list and the list of bills that will be heard that day.

* If you are able to provide oral and/or written testimony, please RSVP here or contact Kelly. *

Relevant materials and links: More details and sample testimonies coming soon.

* For easy access to Room A-1, enter the State House through the Ashburton Entrance off Bowdoin Street, then go up one floor.

RSVP image
Legislators and Advocates Speak Up and Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness

Legislators and Advocates Speak Up and Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness

August 22, 2017, last updated August 30th

Learn more about House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places, here.

“Government policies or regulations should never deliberately put people, and especially children, in danger. This regulation without any nuance forces parents to place children in harm’s way in order to receive shelter. This is unjust and cruel.” - Representative Marjorie Decker, the bill's lead sponsor (D-Cambridge)


“I am proud to cosponsor H.659. Children and families who are facing homelessness shouldn’t be forced to risk their health and safety for even a single night before they are given access to Emergency Assistance shelter. I have supported this policy change for years, and I hope this session it will finally be enacted into law.” - Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton)

“Nobody should have to face the dangerous and undignified experience of sleeping in public areas, especially kids. This legislation affirms Massachusetts’ commitment to supporting families and providing all our kids with safe, happy childhoods. This starts with a roof over their heads, something which everyone deserves and which we will continue to pursue for everyone in the Commonwealth.” - Senator Barbara L'Italien (D-Andover)

“Being able to safely go to sleep every night with a roof over one’s head should be considered a basic human right. I cosponsored H. 84 and H. 659 because homelessness and housing instability remain chronic and still-too-common ills in our Commonwealth.  These important bills will take concrete steps to address and prevent homelessness and housing instability.” - Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester)

“I am proud to continue being a vocal advocate for increased investment in resources for families experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Preventing homelessness and ensuring that families are provided with support programs are imperative to the welfare of the Commonwealth.” - Representative David P. Linsky (D-Natick)

“The issue of ensuring safe shelter for our most vulnerable children and families experiencing homelessness is urgent and tragic. This bill would reduce the risk of harm to families by providing emergency housing assistance for those who would otherwise be sleeping in exposed, unprotected areas. The goal is to keep these families intact and their children safe.” - Representative Jim O'Day (D-West Boylston)

Organizational Testimony (PDF): 

For videos from the hearing, check out our YouTube playlist.

For audio from the hearing, check our new SoundCloud account.






Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness: Join Us for a State House Bill Hearing on August 22nd!

Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness: Join Us for a State House Bill Hearing on August 22nd!

July 27, 2017; updated August 25th

Massachusetts currently requires many families experiencing homelessness to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being eligible for a shelter placement through the state's Emergency Assistance (EA) program. In fact, between the policy's implementation in the fall of 2012 and June 30, 2017, at least 2,682 families with children first stayed in an unsafe place before ultimately being placed in shelter.

Please join us at the State House on Tuesday, August 22nd to show your support for House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places. This bill was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. See our bill fact sheet here and listen to the personal testimony of advocate/mother, Lynnette.

The Joint Committee on Housing will be taking testimony that day on this and other bills related to the Department of Housing and Community Development and manufactured housing. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m., and will be held in Room B-2. The committee is chaired by Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Kevin Honan.

Please contact Kelly if you are able to provide in-person, written, and/or video testimony in support of the bill. 

*Please also complete this form if your organization is able to be an official endorser of the legislation.*

Current endorsers include: 
  • Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness
  • Allston-Brighton Health Collaborative
  • Arise for Social Justice
  • Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
  • Central West Justice Center
  • EMPath
  • Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
  • Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
  • MetroWest Legal Services
  • MLPB
  • National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
  • Northeast Justice Center
  • Out Now
  • Partners HealthCare
  • Poor People’s United Fund
  • Project Hope
Important links: ea places not meant for human habitation chart 8 2 17 for website
Outcomes for Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Conference Committee Budget

Outcomes for Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Conference Committee Budget

July 10, 2017; last updated July 13th


7 13 gov with hyperlink

After some delays, the six members* of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Conference Committee released their recommendations, House Bill 3800, on Friday, July 7th for the fiscal year that began on July 1st. While both the House and Senate initially had released $40.8 billion recommendations, the Conference Committee budget reflected the newer consensus revenue estimate (lowered by $733 million) and included only $40.2 billion in spending. (See the previous $40.8 billion recommendations here: House Bill 3601 and Senate Bill 2076.) As anticipated, this meant lower appropriations and fewer positive language changes for many important line items, including some homelessness and housing programs.

To access a PDF of the budget without having to download it, click here. (The budget also is posted here, but the Legislature's website has been experiencing technical difficulties.)

On Friday afternoon, the House voted to approve the Conference Committee budget on a vote of 140-9, and the Senate voted to approve it 36-2. The budget was then sent to Governor Charlie Baker, who has 10 days to sign the budget and issue any vetoes. (In the meantime, the state has a temporary budget in place to cover July.)

Here are some quick highlights, with a full chart of outcomes for the Coalition's priorities here and a closer look at our top three priorities here (PDF):

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, Line Item 7004-9316): We are happy to report that the Conference Committee adopted the Senate's language to continue to serve households of all sizes and configurations. The Conference Committee budget earmarks up to $2 million to serve households without children under the age of 21. The committee adopted the House's funding recommendation of $15 million, which is $2 million more than the FY'17 appropriation. Click here and see the image below for more details on the importance of RAFT.

Emergency Assistance family shelter and services (EA, Line Item 7004- 0101): Unfortunately, the Conference Committee did not include the Senate’s language that would allow certain otherwise eligible families to access shelter before having to stay in a place not meant for human habitation. The committee also adopted the House’s lower funding recommendation of $155 million. 

Housing and wraparound support services for unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness (Line Item 4000-0007): Unfortunately, the Conference Committee included a compromise appropriation of only $675,000 for the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item ($635,000 for the general programs funded by the line item and an earmark of $40,000 for Y2Y Harvard Square). This dramatic decrease in funding from the $2 million FY’17 level will mean that many programs across the state will lose funding. Stay tuned for advocacy next steps for midyear supplemental funding.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, Line Item 7004-9024): The Conference Committee increased MRVP funding to $92.7 million, up from the FY'17 level of $86.5 million, but lower than the increase to $100 million that was included in both the House and Senate budgets.


** Please join the Coalition in asking Governor Charlie Baker to retain the RAFT language and funding increase, as well as the increased MRVP funding. Click here for the Governor's contact information. ** Read our letter to the Governor here.



Please also thank your State Representative and Senator for their work to support of the strongest possible budget for homelessness prevention, housing, and benefits programs. To find your legislators' contact information, please go to https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Related Conference Committee Materials:
If you have any feedback from the Governor's office or from your State Representative and Senator, please share it with us: kelly @mahomeless.org or call 781-595-7570 x17.

Thank you so much for your continued support and advocacy!

* The House conferees were Representative Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means; Representative Stephen Kulik of Worthington, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means; and Representative Todd Smola of Warren, the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The Senate conferees were Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; Senator Sal DiDomenico of Everett, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; and Senator Vinny deMacedo, the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.








The Rental Arrearage and No Place Like Home Bills Are On the Move!

The Rental Arrearage and No Place Like Home Bills Are On the Move!

Posted July 14, 2017

Great news: Two of our homelessness prevention bills, House Bill 84 and House Bill 114, are on the move! H.84 is An Act to further provide a rental arrearage program, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker
and H. 114 is An Act to prevent homelessness among recipients of transitional assistance (a.k.a. the "No Place Like Home" bill), filed by Representative Denise Provost.

Special thanks to the lead sponsors and cosponsors, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, Representative Kay Khan and Senator Jennifer Flanagan, and to the full committee. Both bills have been sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Please thank the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee members, and let House Ways and Means know that you want to see these bills moved forward. Links to their contact information are above, and the State House switchboard number is 617-722-2000.

Thank you!

For more information, please contact Kelly: kelly @mahomeless.org.
Advocating for Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Conference Committee Budget

Advocating for Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Conference Committee Budget

June 1, 2017; last updated July 1st

Happy New Fiscal Year! Even though it is July 1st, the Conference Committee budget still has not been released. Stay tuned for further details next week. In the meantime, state government continues to fund services and programs through a temporary budget covering the month of July.

* Please sign our one-minute online action to your State Representative and Senator in support of key Conference Committee requests! *

House and Senate Leadership have named the six members of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Conference Committee, who will be tasked with working out the differences between the House and Senate budget recommendations. (See their respective $40.8 billion recommendations here: House Bill 3601 and Senate Bill 2076.) The House conferees will be Representative Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means; Representative Stephen Kulik of Worthington, Vice Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means; and Representative Todd Smola of Warren, the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The Senate conferees will be Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland, Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; Senator Sal DiDomenico of Everett, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means; and Senator Vinny deMacedothe Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

The conferees will meet throughout the month of June to move closer to finalizing the Legislature's recommendations for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Unfortunately, the conferees will be working with updated, lower consensus revenue estimates, which mean lower appropriations for many line items.

Please join the Coalition in asking your State Representative and Senator to weigh in with the conferees in support of the strongest possible budget for homelessness prevention, housing, and benefits programs. You also can advocate directly with the conferees. To find your legislators' contact information, please go to https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. The conferees' contact information is available by clicking on their names above.

Conference Committee Materials:
If you have any feedback from your State Representative and Senator, please share it with us: kelly @mahomeless.org or call 781-595-7570 x17.

Thank you so much for your continued support and advocacy!

FY18 Conference Committee Advocacy






Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness

Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness

Please Actively Support House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46!

Last updated July 11, 2017

Great news! The House version of the bill of rights, House Bill 695, was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing on July 10, 2017. Now the bill heads to the House Committee on Ways and Means

Download the 2017-2018 legislative session bill fact sheet here (updated 6-19-17).

Read the Coaliton's testimony from the June 20th hearing, as well as testimony for people experiencing homelessness, gathered last session: Sherry's testimonyCharlie's testimony, and shelter residents' testimony.

Add your organization as an official endorser of the campaign here.

Summary

An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (House Bill 695) and An Act creating a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness (Senate Bill 46) would establish a definition of homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bills are modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation has since passed in Connecticut and Illinois.

Bill Status

The bills were filed in January 2017 by lead sponsors Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. House Bill 695 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Housing, and will be heard by the committee on June 20, 2017. Senate Bill 46 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, and does not have a hearing date set yet. The bills are nearly identical to House Bill 1129 from the 2015-2016 session. That bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in December 2015 and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means. In spite of considerable support, the bill did not pass last session. We are hopeful that the momentum from last session and the pressing need to uphold human rights and dignity will propel the bills forward this session.

Why Is It Necessary to Create a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness?

People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts. The bill of rights seeks to outline those rights so as to prevent discrimination based on housing status. The legislation recognizes the increased prevalence of homelessness in Massachusetts due to widespread economic hardship, the insufficient availability of safe, affordable housing, and a weakened social safety net.

“No person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is experiencing homelessness.”

The rights specifically included in the bill of rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property.

The bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.

Click here for the legislative pages for the bill: House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46.

List of Endorsing Organizations:

Allston Brighton Health Collaborative
American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program
Arise for Social Justice
Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee
Boston Women's Fund
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
Children's League of Massachusetts
City Life Vida Urbana
City Mission Boston
Community Works
Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston
Family Promise MetroWest
First Baptist Church, Everett
First Church Shelter
Horizons for Homeless Children
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance
My Brother's Table
New Bedford Homeless Advocates Inc.
Poor People's United Fund
Roca
Samaritans Steps, Inc.
ServiceNet, Inc.
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Tapestry Health
Women's Lunch Place
Y2Y Harvard Square

(List as of 6-21-17)

Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts, Regardless of Housing Status: Actively Support the Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness, House Bill 695/Senate Bill 46!


Thank Your State Senator for the Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Thank Your State Senator for the Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations


senate twitter thank you part 2

May 31, 2017


Here is a database of the key amendments, which Senators signed on, and their contact information. Please reach out to your State Senator today to thank them for their support of the key amendments and key priorities.  

Find out who your Senator is here, or call the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.

For more in depth coverage of the FY'18 Senate budget, please follow this link.

Thank you for all of your work thus far to make the FY'18 budget as strong as possible on homelessness, housing, and benefits issues!
The Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

The Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

May 16, 2017; last updated May 30th

On May 16th, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means (SWM) released its version of the FY'18 state budget. We are thrilled to report that Senate Ways and Means has recommended:
  • A $5.5 million increase to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (line item 7004-9316) to bring the funding to $18.5 million, the retention of language that will allow families of all configurations to access the program-- including elders, people with disabilities, and unaccompanied youth, and an earmark of up to $2 million to serve households without children under 21 (up from the FY'17 earmark of $500,000)
  • Language to ensure that families experiencing homelessness are able to access the Emergency Assistance family shelter program (EA, line item 7004-0101) before being forced to stay in places not meant for human habitation
  • An increase in funding to serve unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness to $2.5 million, up from the FY'17 funding level of $2 million and $2 million more than the House's recommended FY'18 funding level of $500,000 (line item 4000-0007)
  • An investment of $100 million in the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), a $13.5 million increase over the final FY'17 funding level so as to provide 350-400 new housing subsidies
  • An increase to HomeBASE benefits (line item 7004-0108) so that families can access up to $10,000 to be diverted from entering shelter or rehoused from Emergency Assistance shelter (up from the current $8,000/family cap) and language that would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to change their regulations so that families terminated from the program can access services again after 12 months, instead of the current 24-month bar
  • An increase to the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (line item 7004-9030) from $4.6 million to $5.5 million 
  • An increase to $300/child for the annual clothing allowance for children participating in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (line item 4403-2000)
Wow! We are so grateful to Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Senator Karen Spilka, Chair of Senate Ways and Means, and the full SWM Committee for their support of so many of the Coalition's key budget priorities. Our work continued through the amendment process. 

We worked with Senator Jason Lewis and Senator Julian Cyr on two youth homelessness amendments. Senator Lewis' amendment, Amendment #481, focused on increasing the unaccompanied youth homelessness funding to $4 million in line item 4000-0007, and Senator Cyr's amendment, Amendment #306, sought to add language and $150,000 in funding to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) line item, 4000-0300, to support the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. Amendment fact sheet.

Amendment outcomes: Unfortunately, Amendments #481 and #306 did not pass. We did, however, receive assurance from EOHHS that they intend to fund the work of the Commission at $150,000 for the year ahead, and we are working with them to develop a plan for allocating the funds for the Commission, the annual Youth Count, and a second year of hiring young people with lived experience of homelessness as consultants to the Commission. 

Senate youth homelessness amendment outreach

We also worked with Senator Tom McGee on an amendment to eliminate the homelessness penalty in the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), Amendment #323. Here is the amendment fact sheet

Amendment outcome: Unfortunately, this amendment was withdrawn after it was rejected (put in the "no" pile) behind the scenes.
eaedc senate amendment fact sheet 5 17 17 page 001
In addition, we worked with allied organizations and Senators on amendments to strengthen housing and benefits line items, including amendments to:
  • Further increase funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (line item 7004-9024) to $120 million and allow participants to use the subsidies in units at the current fair market rents: Amendment #656, filed by Senator Joe Boncore. Amendment outcome: Withdrawn.
  • Strengthen tracking and reporting requirements for the Emergency Assistance family shelter program (line item 7004-0101)  to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and to allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the program's income limit of 115% of the federal poverty guidelines for fewer than 90 days: Amendment #720, filed by Senator Jason Lewis. Amendment outcome: Redrafted version was approved; the redraft included the tracking and reporting language.
  • Allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108) subsidies for an additional 12 months and to further increase HomeBASE funding: Amendment #651, filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. Amendment outcome: Rejected, but a related amendment reiterating Senate Ways and Means decrease in the period of ineligibility following a HomeBASE termination, Amendment #667, filed by Senator Vinny deMacedo, was included in the final Senate budget. (Under current practice, a family cannot access HomeBASE or EA benefits for 24 months following a HomeBASE termination. The Senate is recommending reducing the ineligibility period to 12 months.)
  • Eliminate the family cap rule in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000): Amendment #389, filed by Senator Joan Lovely. Amendment outcome: Rejected.
Here is a database of the key amendments, which Senators signed on, and their contact information. Please reach out to your State Senator today to thank them for their support of the key amendments and key priorities. (The link above can help you figure out who your Senator it, or you can call the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.)

Now, we are waiting for the House and Senate to officially name the members of the FY'18 Budget Conference Committee. The Conference Committee will meet throughout June to work out the differences between the two budgets.

Thank you for taking action and for your ongoing commitment!

Amendment fact sheets:
Amendment Outcomes: Final House FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Amendment Outcomes: Final House FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Posted April 26th
This week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives debated House Bill 3600, their version of the 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Representatives filed 1,210 amendments to the House Committee on Ways and Means budget, which was released on April 10th.

Thank you for all of your calls, emails, visits, and completed online actions to Representatives in support of key homelessness, housing, and benefits amendments! The final budget that emerged late last night includes some important improvements as the budget process now heads over to the Senate for the next phase. While many key amendments were not included in the final House budget, the high levels of support for those items will strengthen the likelihood that they will appear in the Conference Committee and final FY'18 budgets.

Please check out our database of the main House amendments for which we advocated, and which House members were sponsors/cosponsors. If your Representative was a sponsor or cosponsor, please thank them today. You can call them via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000, or look up their contact information via https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Check below to see if your Representative was a cosponsor on at least one key amendment and also is on Twitter, and then you can tweet your gratitude. (Twitter handles are listed alphabetically by last name of the House member.) 


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You also can thank Speaker Robert DeLeo (@SpeakerDeLeo, robert.deleo@mahouse.gov) and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey (brian.dempsey@mahouse.gov) for the positive elements of the House Ways and Means and final House budgets.

Key Amendment Outcomes:

Housing and Services for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults (line item 4000-0007): Good news! House leadership included language and partial funding from the unaccompanied youth homelessness amendments, Amendment #1088, filed by Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, and Amendment #378, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs includes $540,000 for the line item. It would provide up to $500,000 for the housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25 and an earmark so that no less than $40,000 would go to the Y2Y Harvard Square shelter in Cambridge. For the current fiscal year, FY'17, the line item is funded at $2 million: $1 million in direct appropriations and $1 million carried over from unspent funds from FY'16. The House Ways & Means Committee initially proposed zero funding for the line item for next year, so $540,000 is an important step forward. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (within line item 4000-0300): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the youth commission amendment, Amendment #1013, in Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs. Representative Jim O'Day had filed the amendment to add language and $150,000 in funding to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) line item, 4000-0300, for the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. While it is disappointing that the amendment was not adopted, EOHHS has indicated their intention to keep funding the Commission in FY'18. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the RAFT amendment, Amendment #90, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker, sought to increase RAFT funds from $15 million to $18.5 million and maintain the FY'17 expanded eligibility language allowing households without children under 21 (such as elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types) to access RAFT homelessness prevention benefits. On a positive note, the HWM budget (and final House budget) would increase overall RAFT funding by $2 million, from $13 million to $15 million. See the RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EA amendment, Amendment #85, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker. This means that the final House budget would maintain the current harmful Emergency Assistance eligibility criteria that requires many families to prove that they have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being approved for EA shelter or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108). See the general FY'18 EA campaign fact sheet and the EA amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EAEDC amendment, Amendment #1055, in Consolidated Amendment E on Social Services and Veterans. This means that the final House budget would maintain the "homelessness penalty" that leaves EAEDC participants experiencing homelessness with drastically reduced monthly benefits as compared to EAEDC participants with housing costs ($92.80/month vs. $303.70/month). Representative Jim O'Day filed the EAEDC amendment to promote dignity, fairness, and opportunity for participants experiencing homelessness. See the EAEDC homelessness penalty fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Outcomes for Other Important Amendments: 
    • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program amendment (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), Amendment #79: The final House budget does not include Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment to "lift the cap on kids" so that children born after a family begins participating in the TAFDC program also would receive vital cash assistance benefits; fact sheet
    • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program amendments (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), Amendment #382 and Amendment #780The final House budget does not include Representative Mike Connolly's amendment, Amendment #382, to allow MRVP voucher holders to use the subsidies in units that are up to the current fair market rent (instead of 2005 FMR levels), require the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue new subsidies earlier in the fiscal year, and make other improvements to the MRVP program. It also does not include Representative Paul Donato's amendment, Amendment #780, to increase the proposed MRVP funding from $100 million to $120 million.
    • Alternative Housing Voucher Program amendment (AHVP, line item 7004-9030), Amendment #298: The final House budget includes partial funding from Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment. While the original amendment would have increased AHVP funding from $4.85 million to $7.5 million to serve more adults with disabilities who are under the age of 60 and experiencing housing instability, the final House budget added $150,000 to bring the proposal to $5 million.
    • Emergency Assistance amendment (EA, line item 7004-0101), Amendment #344: The final House budget does not include Representative Aaron Vega's amendment that sought to strengthen the tracking and reporting requirements to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and to allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the income limit for fewer than 90 days.
    • HomeBASE amendment (line item 7004-0108), Amendment #1045: The final House budget does not include Representative Christine Barber's amendment that sought to allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE subsidies for an additional 12 months, reduce the bar on further assistance for families that have been terminated from 24 months to 12 months, and lift the $300,000 cap on funding to families in the domestic violence and substance use treatment shelter programs.
    • End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund amendment (line item 1599-0017), Amendment #1052: The final House budget does not include Representative Kay Khan's amendment that would have reinstated this line item and provided $1 million for the work of the eight regional consortia established last year to coordinate on homelessness and housing issues.
    • Home and Healthy for Good (line item 7004-0104), Amendment #534: The final House budget includes Representative Byron Rushing's amendment to add $200,000 to the Home and Healthy for Good line item, which would increase funding for "housing first" resources for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The final House budget would provide $2.2 million for the program.

For background materials, please see the Coalition's House Ways and Means and House debate webpage, our April 13th action alertApril 21st action alert, and our April 24th handout to Representatives.

Thank you!

For more details, email Kelly at kelly @mahomeless.org.