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Legislative Action Day 2017: Join Us on Monday, February 27th at the State House!

Legislative-Action-Day-2017

We hope to see you at the State House for our annual Legislative Action Day on Monday, February 27, 2017 in the Great Hall. The event will be hosted by State Representative Jim O'Day. The day will begin with check-in and light breakfast catered by Haley House Bakery Cafe starting at 9 a.m., with the speaking program from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, participants will fan out across the State House to meet with legislators and their staff.


Registration is now open. 
Sign up today!


The day will focus on advocating for key FY'18 budget priorities and 2017-2018 bill priorities. For fact sheets and more details, please see our 2017-2018 bill priority page and the Present Policy Campaigns page.

Interested in sharing your story and being part of the call to action? Click here.

Want to be an event-day volunteer? Learn more and sign up here.

A key part of the day will be meetings with your state legislators and their staff to talk about why you support investments in housing, homelessness prevention, emergency shelter, income support programs, and related resources. We are happy to help you set up those meetings (just let us know on your registration form). Here are some tips to help guide your legislative meetings.


To help you prepare for Legislative Action Day, we will be holding a training call on Thursday, February 16th at 11 a.m. Please sign up to participate in the call or learn more.
LAD Training Call 2017 page 001


After you meet or call your legislators as part of Legislative Action Day, please complete this response form to share your feedback.

More details coming soon.
The Coalition's 2017-2018 Bill Priorities

The Coalition's 2017-2018 Bill Priorities

Coalition’s 2017-2018 Legislative Session Bill Priorities: Preventing Homelessness and Improving Quality of Life for Families, Youth, Elders, and People with Disabilities

Overview PDF

1.) An Act Relative to Assisting Elders and People with Disabilities in the Commonwealth
     Lead Sponsors: Representative James O’Day and Senator Patricia Jehlen
     House Docket 2295 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17) and Senate Docket to be determined (filed 1-30-17)
    Fact sheet (updated 2-2-17)


This bill would: 
  • Increase monthly grants under the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) to match the benefit levels provided under the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program for households of comparable size
  • Remove the 70% benefit reduction/penalty for individuals experiencing homelessness, who have their average grants reduced from $303.70/month to $92.80/month
  • Increase the allowable personal asset limit from $250 to $2,500
  • Create an annual cost of living adjustment for EAEDC program participants

2.) An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights/An Act Creating a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness
     Lead Sponsors: Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
     House Docket 1113 (PDF with cosponsors as of 2-3-17) and Senate Docket 1548
     Fact sheetorganizational endorsement description; online organizational endorsement form


 These bills would:
  • Ensure that people experiencing homelessness have the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts by seeking to prevent discrimination based on housing status
  • Reinforce the rights to move freely in public spaces, receive equal treatment by municipal agencies, experience freedom from discrimination in employment, receive emergency medical care, register to vote and to vote, experience freedom from unauthorized disclosure of records (in accordance with relevant laws), and have a reasonable expectation of privacy of property
  • Outline these rights as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies

3.) An Act to Further Provide a Rental Arrearage Program
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Marjorie Decker
     House Docket 1250 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17) 
     Fact sheet on HD 1250 and HD 1245

This bill would reestablish a rental arrearage program under the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), based on the successful homelessness prevention program administered by the Department for many years. The new program would continue to provide up to four months of assistance to pay for back rent or mortgage payments, and now would serve families, individuals, and unaccompanied youth with incomes up to 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. Agencies participating in the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness would collaborate with DTA to refer potential participants and provide wraparound support services.  


4.) An Act to Protect Families Experiencing Homelessness from Having to Sleep in Unsafe Places
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Marjorie Decker
     House Docket 1245 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17) 
     Fact sheet on HD 1250 and HD 1245

This bill would direct the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter to otherwise eligible families with children without requiring families to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a car, emergency room, or campground.


5.) An Act to End Child Homelessness
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Denise Provost
     House Docket 969 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17)                                                                                                                     

This bill  would:
  • Protect many children and families who are at imminent risk or experiencing homelessness from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation                     
  • Require the Department of Children and Families (DCF), in consultation with the Department of Housing and Community Development to conduct an assessment to ensure that no child under the age of 18 would be forced to stay in a place not meant for human habitation upon a household’s eviction from subsidized housing or termination from a publicly funded shelter
  • For children at risk of having to stay in such conditions, DCF and DHCD would develop and implement a plan to ensure that they are housed in a safe location, with every reasonable effort being made to keep those children in the care and custody of their parents/guardians

6.) An Act to Prevent Homelessness among Recipients of Transitional Assistance
     Lead sponsor: Representative Denise Provost
     House Docket 968 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17)       

This bill, also known as the No Place Like Home Bill, would:

  • Establish a homelessness prevention and early intervention program within the Department of Transitional Assistance to give DTA the tools to help families and individuals remain housed.
  • Direct DTA to conduct housing stability screenings for families and individuals participating in DTA’s cash and nutritional assistance programs
  • Create a statewide homelessness prevention fund at DTA, targeting the lowest income family and individual households who are often ineligible for, or unable to access, other resources in a timely way
  • Create escrow accounts for families and individuals experiencing homelessness while they are participating in the Department’s cash assistance programs. Currently, households have their monthly cash assistance grants reduced if they do not have housing expenses. Under the No Place Like Home bill, these funds would be captured and directed into an escrow account to be used by the household to help in obtaining or retaining housing

7.) An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families
     Lead Sponsors: Representative Kay Khan and Senator Harriette Chandler
     House Docket 2272 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17) and Senate Docket 1467

This bill would direct the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to eliminate fees and reduce barriers for people experiencing homelessness, unaccompanied youth, and others, if needed to ease access to Massachusetts identification cards.


8.) An Act Relative to the Well Being and Care of a Child
     Lead Sponsors: Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Sal DiDomenico
     House Docket 1262 (PDF with cosponsors as of  2-3-17) and Senate Docket 1762
     Fact sheet


This bill would eliminate the so-called “family cap rule” that currently prohibits 9,400 children from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC) benefits because their family was participating in the TAFDC program at the time of their conception (or shortly thereafter). This punitive and misguided policy has left thousands of Massachusetts families further in poverty. The bill would allow Massachusetts to join 33 other states that do not punish families with such limits on access to vital welfare benefits.


9.) An Act Relative to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
     Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
     Senate Docket 1163

This bill would put the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) in state statute, and would connect allowable rent levels to the current fair market rents as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Currently, households receiving new subsidies are expected to find units at or below the 2005 FMRs, unless a waiver is issued. This makes the housing search process more arduous and sometimes impossible, given the current rental climate in Massachusetts.)


For more information, please contact Kelly Turley at 781-595-7570 x17 or kelly @ mahomeless.org.
Governor Baker's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Governor Baker's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

January 25, 2017; last updated February 1st

Today, Governor Charlie Baker released his recommendations for the state's 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. (The budget also is available on the Legislature's website.) Coming in at $40.5 billion, the Governor's budget includes positive and negative recommendations on homelessness. housing, and benefits issues.

On the plus side, Governor Baker proposes an $11 million increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program from $86.5 million to $97.5 million (line item 7004-9024; see related Boston Globe coverage) and $1 million to expand access to housing courts.

He also proposed level funding of $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, line item 4000-0007. This is below our request of $4 million, but at least would not undo important gains on youth homelessness.  

On the minus side, the Governor once again proposed drastic cuts to TAFDC welfare benefits for an estimated 5,800 families with disabilities by counting SSI benefits received by parents (line item 4403-2000; see related Boston Globe coverage). 

The Governor reverted to old RAFT eligibility language in line item 7004-9316, which would cut access to Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention benefits for households without children. For FY'17, the definition of family was expanded to include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and all household types. The Coalition is seeking to maintain the expanded eligibility and increase overall funding from $13 million to $18.5 million.

The Governor also is seeking to maintain current harmful Emergency Assistance (EA) 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 (line item 7004-0101) or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108).


More details can be found in our spreadsheet of key line items and our email update dated January 31st.
Strengthening the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program in FY'18

Strengthening the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program in FY'18

Working to increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and maintain expanded eligibilty

We are working to increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) homelessness prevention program from $13 million to $18.5 million and to maintain expanded eligbility criteria that has allowed households of all configurations to access RAFT in FY'17Campaign fact sheet

Before FY'17, only families with children under 21 could access RAFT. This year, we were able to get language in the final budget that expands eligibility to also include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types. This expansion is critical, as homelessness and housing insecurity exist among all household types.

raft endorsement jpg

Please consider supporting this year's RAFT campaign as an organization and as an individual. Read our letter to potential endorsers.
 
For more information, please contact Tina at tina @ mahomeless.org or 781-595-7570 x16.




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 An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129

Download the current fact sheet here.

Read Sherry's testimony and Charlie's testimony.

Summary

An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129, would establish a definition of those experiencing homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bill is modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation was passed in Connecticut and Illinois.  

Bill Status
House Bill 1129 was filed on January 14, 2015 by Representative William Smitty Pignatelli, and was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing on March 10, 2015. House Bill 1129 was filed on January 14, 2015, and was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing on March 10, 2015. The committee heard the bill on July 28, 2015, and reported out the bill favorably on December 17, 2015. House Bill 1129 now is before the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

[The bill also was filed last session (House Bill 3595), and was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in March 2014, before being sent to study by the Committee on Health Care Financing in July 2014.]


Why is it necessary to create a Homeless Bill of Rights?
The Homeless Bill of Rights would entitle those experiencing homelessness 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 included in the Homeless Bill of Rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies, 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 seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.

Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts: Support An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129!

Click here for the legislative page for the bill.

List of endorsing organizations:

American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program
Arise for Social Justice
Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee
Boston Public Health Commission
Boston Women's Fund
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
City Life Vida Urbana
City Mission Boston
Community Works
Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston
Family Promise MetroWest
First Church Shelter
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
My Brother's Table
Poor People's United Fund
Roca
Samaritans Steps Inc.
ServiceNet, Inc.
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Women's Lunch Place
Y2Y Harvard Square










Join Us in the Final Weeks of Informal Legislative Sessions to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness: Help Pass House Bill 1129

Join Us in the Final Weeks of Informal Legislative Sessions to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness: Help Pass House Bill 1129

December 21, 2016, updated January 3, 2017

With less than two weeks to go until the end of this two-year legislative session, please help us get House Bill 1129, An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (fact sheet) across the finish line. Currently, the bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Ways and Means.

We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Smitty Pignatelli, the bill's lead sponsor. Today, he and his legislative aide Gena Frank delivered a letter from 62 House and Senate members in support of the bill to House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey. Please read the letter (PDF) and thank your legislators if they participated.

Find your legislators contact information by going to www.wheredoivotema.com or calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000.

Here is the Coalition's press release on the sign-on letter and related efforts, and here are new testimonies from shelter and service providers in support of the bill.

Thank you!

H1129-joint-letter-to-HWM-chair-12.21.16-page-001
H1129-joint-letter-to-HWM-chair-12.21.16-page-002H1129-joint-letter-to-HWM-chair-12.21.16-page-003
Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness! Join Us in Boston on 10/18

Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness! Join Us in Boston on 10/18

No One Should Have to Sleep in a Place Not Meant for Human Habitation

Posted October 7, 2016; last updated November 30, 2016

Please join us on Tuesday, October 18th in Boston for an event to call for a change in state regulations so as to better serve families experiencing homelessness. Since 2012, many families experiencing homelessness have had to stay in places not meant for human habitation before being able to access shelter and rehousing services through the state's Emergency Assistance (EA) and HomeBASE programs.

According to the most recent report from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), for the first two months of FY'17, 141 families entered shelter only after first staying in an emergency room, car, campground, transit station, or other unsafe place not intended to be used for human habitation. These families were 22% of all families entering the EA system. We will be gathering on the 18th to amplify the call to end this policy, so families experiencing homelessness can access resources before having to subject themselves to such extreme living conditions.
 We also will be gathering to continue to call for deeper investments in housing that is affordable for the lowest income families and for more homelessness prevention resources.

We are asking the Legislature to include language in the pending FY'17 supplemental budget (House Bill 4506, line item 7004-0101) to require DHCD to provide shelter and services to otherwise eligible families who lack feasible, alternative housing before families are left to stay in places not meant for human habitation (updated fact sheet, 11-30-16). While the Senate included such language in their version of the FY'17 budget, the language was not approved by the House this summer. We hope that the Legislature will reconsider this decision so as to prevent further traumatization and suffering of children and families.
  
Scheduled speakers include:

  • Families who have stayed in places not meant for human habitation
  • Video testimony from Lynnette Martin, a mother from Framingham
  • Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, lead House sponsor of proposed budget language change
  • Representative Denise Provost of Somerville, lead sponsor of related legislation, House Bill 119, to protect families with children who are being evicted from subsidized housing or terminated from shelter from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation
  • Dr. Mia Kanak, pediatrician from Boston Medical Center and Boston Children's Hospital: Written testimony here
  • Dr. Amanda Stewart, pediatrician from Boston Children's Hospital
  • Kelly Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
  • Providers and advocates working on the front lines
Follow these links for the event agenda (PDF) and press release (PDF).

Please see the image above for additional details, and RSVP here or on the Facebook event page

** Please also share this invitation with your state legislators. You can find their information via www.wheredoivotema.com.**

Refreshments will be served.

The event wil be hosted by the Coalition, City Mission Boston, First Church Shelter, Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, and Poor People's United Fund.

Update:

Check out the Coalition's YouTube channel, EndHomelessnessMA, for videos from this event:

Supplemental Budget Update: Additional Housing and Services Funds Have Been Passed by the Legislature

Supplemental Budget Update: Additional Housing and Services Funds Have Been Passed by the Legislature

Posted September 29, 2016 

Great news! The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate passed the FY'16 supplemental budget this afternoon. 

As recommended by Governor Baker, it includes $1 million more for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007).

It also includes $3.6 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024).

In addition, the suppplemental budget restores this language to the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108):

SECTION 27. Item 7004-0108 of said section 2 of said chapter 133 is hereby amended by adding the following words:- ; provided further, that no family with a head of household who is over 60 years of age or who is disabled, who is in compliance with the requirements of a housing stabilization plan that reasonably accommodates disabilities, and who otherwise meets all program eligibility requirements shall be denied short-term housing assistance; provided further, that any such family with a head of household who is over 60 years of age or who is disabled shall not have engaged in, or be engaged in, any activity that threatens the health, safety or security of the family, other program participants or program staff.

See https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H4664, and check back on this page for any updates.

Please thank your State Representative and Senator for these deeper investments and budget language, and to Governor Baker for recommending the funding increases: www.wheredoivotema.com.

Thank you!









Key Housing and Homelessness Override Votes for the FY'17 State Budget

Key Housing and Homelessness Override Votes for the FY'17 State Budget

Veto Override Votes

Originally posted July 31, 2016; updated August 1, 2016:

With just minutes to go until the end of formal legislative sessions for this biennial cycle, the House and Senate passed key housing and homelessness prevention veto overrides. Today's votes followed on last Saturday's vote to override the Governor's veto to the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC). Please contact your State Representative and State Senator to thank them for their important work. (State House switchboard: 617-722-2000; additional contact information via www.wheredoivotema.com)  

Extra special thanks to some of the key legislators behind these victories: Representative Marjorie Decker, Representative Kevin Honan, Representative Byron Rushing, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Senator Harriette Chandler, and Senator Jamie Eldridge and to Leadership: Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey.

  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): The Governor maintained the Legislature's $13 million appropriation, but vetoed language that would open access to RAFT to elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and households without children under the age of 21. Today's override means that RAFT eligibility will be expanded. We will work with the Department of Housing and Community Development and other stakeholders on implementation.
  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024): The Governor cut MRVP funding from $85.3 million to $82.9 million. The Legislature added back the $2.4 million to the line item.
    • Status: Overridden on Sunday, July 31st!
    • Votes: House 142-15 and Senate 36-3
  • Public Housing Operating Subsidies (line item 7004-9005): The Governor cut public housing operating subsidies from $65 million to $64.5 million. The Legislature restored the $500,000 to the line item.
    • Status: Overridden on Sunday, July 31st!
    • Votes: House 146-12 and Senate 36-3
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000): The Governor vetoed language in this line item that would have prevented the Department of Transitional Assistance from being able to count Supplemental Security Income when calculating TAFDC benefits for families with one or more members living with a disability. This could have led to over 8,500 families having their TAFDC benefits eliminated or greatly reduced. He also vetoed language that would have increased the TAFDC annual clothing allowance to $250 per eligible child (the Governor replaced that figure with the FY'16-level benefit of $200/child). This means that the Governor will not be able to move ahead to limit acesss to TAFDC benefits and that the clothing allowance will increase in September. The override also adds back $23.6 million to the line item.

Veto override votes 7-31-16

Looking Ahead to Informal Sessions:

While the 189th General Court is about to end formal sessions, the Legislature will continue to meet in informal sessions until early January, when the next two-year legislative cycle will get underway. During informal sessions, the Legislature can move forward non-controversial legislation. If one legislator objects to an item moving forward, a bill can be derailed during informal sessions; sometimes the objections are related to the cost of implementing the legislation.

We are hopeful that the bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness, House Bill 1129, can move forward during this period. We also will be looking to move ahead lower cost portions of the EAEDC bill, House Bill 529 to improve the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program, as a redrafted bill or as part of the FY'17 supplemental budget request. (For example, we estimate that it would cost $1.8 million/year to implement section 1 of the EAEDC bill, which would allow participants who are experiencing homelessness to receive full grants. Currently, participants without housing costs have their grants reduced from an average of $303.70/month to only $92.80/month.)

As noted in our previous post, there are two pending supplemental budgets related to homelessness, housing, and cash assistance, which have been submitted to the Legislature by the Governor.
 One supplemental budget, House Bill 4506, is to address anticipated FY'17 budget shortfalls, and includes requests for $26.0 million more to support Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter and homelessness services (line item 7004-0101), $2.5 million more for HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108), and $1.9 million more for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program benefits (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000).

Another request is to close out FY'16, House Bill 4517, and includes requests for $1 million for the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item (line item 4000-0007), $3.6 million for MRVP (line item 7004-9316), and $1 million for the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund (line item 1599-0017) .

** Once again, please thank your legislators for supporting the override requests. Please also ask them to support House Bill 1129, House Bill 529, and supplemental budget requests during the informal sessions. You can reach your legislators by calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000 or you can find additional contact information here: www.wheredoivotema.com. **
It's Time to Ask Your Legislators to Override the Governor's Budget Vetoes!

It's Time to Ask Your Legislators to Override the Governor's Budget Vetoes!

Originally posted July 11, 2016; last updated July 31, 2016:

On Friday, the Governor issued his fiscal year 2017 budget vetoes, which included cutting out the RAFT expansion language and other priority funding/language we have been promoting since last fall. Please help us push the Legislature to take up override votes. In order to overturn a particular veto, 2/3 of the members in both the House and the Senate must vote in favor of that override. Veto overrides must start in the House. As formal legislative sessions will end for this biennial cycle on July 31st, time is short.

Key vetoes of concern:

  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): The Governor maintained the Legislature's $13 million appropriation, but vetoed language that would open access to RAFT to elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and households without children under the age of 21. RAFT override fact sheetCoalition's letter from last week to the Governor on the importance of this language; testimonies in support of the RAFT override
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000): The Governor vetoed language in this line item that would have prevented the Department of Transitional Assistance from being able to count Supplemental Security Income when calculating TAFDC benefits for families with one or more members living with a disability. This could lead to over 8,500 families having their TAFDC benefits eliminated or greatly reduced. He also vetoed language that would have increased the TAFDC annual clothing allowance to $250 per eligible child (the Governor replaced that figure with the FY'16-level benefit of $200/child). TAFDC-SSI override fact sheet 
    • Update: Great news! The House and Senate overrode the Governor's veto on July 23rd! This means that the Governor will not be able to move ahead to limit acesss to TAFDC benefits and that the clothing allowance will increase in September. The override also adds back $23.6 million to the line item.
  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024): The Governor cut MRVP funding from $85.3 million to $82.9 million.
  • Public Housing Operating Subsidies (line item 7004-9005): The Governor cut public housing operating subsidies from $65 million to $64.5 million.
Its Time to Stand Up for Housing 1

Good news update on Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101): The state's budget website has been updated to reflect that the Governor did not veto language that would have required the Administration to provide 90 days advanced notice before implementing eligibilty changes and benefits reductions within this program that provides shelter and support services to families with children experiencing homelessness.

In better news, however, the Governor also submitted multiple supplemental budgets to the Legislature. One supplemental budget, House Bill 4506, is to address anticipated FY'17 budget shortfalls, and includes requests for $26.0 million more to support Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter and homelessness services (line item 7004-0101), $2.5 million more for HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108), and $1.9 million more for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program benefits (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000).

Another request is to close out FY'16, House Bill 4517, and includes requests for $1 million for the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item (line item 4000-0007), $3.6 million for MRVP (line item 7004-9316), and $1 million for the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund (line item 1599-0017) .

** Please ask your legislators to support both the override requests and the supplemental budget requests. You can reach your legislators by calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000 or find additional contact information here: www.wheredoivotema.com. **

State House Call-In Day on Legislation to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness and Poverty: House Bills 529 + 1129

State House Call-In Day on Legislation to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness and Poverty: House Bills 529 + 1129

Take Action Today to Help Pass House BIlls 529 and 1129!

July 17, 2016

Thank you for helping to promote last week's legislative briefing on the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program and the campaign to establish a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness. The event focused on House Bill 529, An Act relative to assisting elders in the Commonwealth (fact sheet), and House Bill 1129, An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (fact sheet). Both bills are awaiting action by House Ways and Means. This week we need your help to make our State House call-in day on these two bills a success. 

Please make two calls today or tomorrow: One to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and one to House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey. Let them know that you stand with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and you would like to see them take action to pass House Bills 529 and 1129.
  • Speaker DeLeo can be reached at 617-722-2500. You also can tweet him a message: @SpeakerDeLeo
  • Chairman Dempsey can be reached at 617-722-2990.
Need some inspriation before making your calls? Read moving testimonies from Cochise W. of Rosie's Place (on the Coalition's blog) and Christine Ciulla, whose poetry recently was featured on the Coalition's blog and whose personal story was featured in Spare Change News. Here is the Coalition's press release on the call-in day and briefing.
legislative briefing on House Bills 529 and 1129 7-14-16-page-001 1

legislative briefing on House Bills 529 and 1129 7-14-16-page-002
For more details or to share feedback from your outreach, please contact Kelly Turley: kelly (at) mahomeless.org or 781-595-7570 x17. 

Thank you!

briefing on h529  1129

 
State House Briefing on Legislation to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness and Poverty: House Bills 529 + 1129

State House Briefing on Legislation to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness and Poverty: House Bills 529 + 1129

Please invite your State Representative and Senator to join the Coalition and our legislative hosts, Representative Jim O'Day, Representative William Smitty Pignatelli, and Senator Pat Jehlen, for a legislative briefing on House Bill 529, An Act relative to assisting elders in the Commonwealth (fact sheet), and House Bill 1129, An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (fact sheet). Both bills are awaiting action by House Ways and Means. The event will take place on Thursday, July 14th from 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at the State House in the House Members Lounge.

Speakers will include our legislative hosts, Christine Ciulla, whose poetry recently was featured on the Coalition's blog and whose personal story was featured in Spare Change News, and Cochise W. of Rosie's Place.

Find your legislators contact information by going to www.wheredoivotema.com or calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000.

Legislative offices can RSVP by completing this brief form, emailing Kelly: kelly (at) mahomeless.org, or calling 781-595-7570 x17.

Thank you!

Pass House Bills 529  1129
Happy New Fiscal Year! FY'17 Conference Committee Budget Outcomes

Happy New Fiscal Year! FY'17 Conference Committee Budget Outcomes

Happy New Fiscal Year!
FY'17 Conference Committee Budget Outcomes for Key Housing and Homelessness Programs

Initially posted July 1, 2016

Yesterday, the House and Senate adopted House Bill 4450, the Conference Committee's budget recommendations for the new fiscal year that begins today. With the projections for state revenues decreasing over the past few weeks (with estimates ranging from $450 million - $950 million less than anticipated), the Legislature's Joint Conference Committee on the FY'17 budget engaged in difficult deliberations to work out the differences between the House and Senate proposed budgets for the year ahead. The compromise budget now has been sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature and line item vetoes. The Governor has 10 days to review the budget.

Thank you to everyone who weighed in with support for the Coalition's top priorities and full priority list with their own legislators and this year's six budget conferees*.

One highlight from the Conference Committee budget is an increase of $500,000 for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) homelessness prevention program, which is set to be funded at $13 million for FY'17. The Legislature included an important change that now will expand access to these critical homelessness prevention funds beyond just families with children under the age of 21 to include households of all sizes and configurations, including elders, unaccompanied youth, and people with disabilities. Until now, households without minor children have had very limited access to prevention resources from the state, which has led to increased evictions and foreclosures, heightened housing instability, and longer stays in homelessness. We are hopeful that with expanded access to RAFT and the allocation of increased funding, the state can continue to build out a network of homelessness prevention funding and housing stabilization services to help households avoid homelessness altogether when possible and greatly decrease how long families of all types spend without safe, permanent housing. 

Here are the outcomes for our top three priorities: 
  • Expanding access to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) homelessness prevention program: For the Conference Committee phase of the budget process, we were asking Legislators to support the Senate version of the RAFT line item (7004-9316), which would provide $13 million for the program. The Senate language would expand the definition of family to include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types and add $500,000 to serve these households, while retaining level funding of $12.5 million for families with children under the age of 21. The RAFT Conference Committee fact sheet and one-minute online action are here.
    • Outcome: The Conference Committee budget includes $13 million for RAFT and language clarifying that "family" includes households of all sizes and configurations! While the language does not match the Senate version, we will work with the Department of Housing and Community Development, RAFT providers, and advocates on an equitable implementation of the expanded RAFT program.
  • Allowing families to access Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter before they are forced to stay in places not meant for human habitation: For the Conference Committee phase of the budget process, we were asking Legislators to support the Senate version of the EA line item (7004-0101), which would allow otherwise eligible families to enter EA without having to prove that they already have stayed in an emergency room, car, campground, etc. The Emergency Assistance Conference Committee fact sheet is here. The recent front page Boston Globe coverage of the EA budget debate is here.
    • Outcome: Unfortunately, the Conference Committee budget did not include key language to ensure that families do not have to first stay in places not meant for human habitation before accessing EA shelter. As the budget deliberations continued, the Baker Administration issued revised cost estimates for the language change. While we believe that the change would cost less than $300,000/year, the Administration cited inflated potential costs of $40.8 million - $54 million, which made the House conferees more reticent to accept the Senate language. We proposed compromise language that would have capped the potential expenses at $500,000, but given the intense need for conferees to find cost savings, this also was not included. The Conference Committee did include Senate language to require the Administration to provide 90 days advanced notice before implementing any benefits reductions or eligibility restrictions in the EA program. (The House initially proposed 60 days advanced notice.)
  • Funding housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults at at least $2 million: For the Conference Committee phase of the budget process, we were asking legislators to support the Senate version of the unaccompanied youth line item (4000-0007), which was $1 million more than the House version. The unaccompanied youth Conference Committee fact sheet is here.
    • Outcome: The Conference Committee included the House funding level of $1 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, and the Senate version of the line item language requiring the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to track and report on a number of data points, including how many young people:
      • Are served by the programs funded under the line item and the services young people receive
      • Transition into stable housing and the zip codes of that housing
      • Stay in stable housing for at least 90 days
      • Are denied services
** Please join us in asking Governor Charlie Baker to retain the positive elements of the FY'17 budget, and avoid vetoing key language and funding. The Governor's office can be reached via the contact information listed here. Our letter to the Governor is here (PDF) and below:

mch letter budget letter 7-5-16-page-001

This page will be updated shortly with even more budget details. Stay tuned!

* This year's six budget conferees were: Representatives Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill, Chair of House Ways and Means), Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington, Vice Chair of House Ways and Means), and Todd Smola (R-Warren, Minority Member of House Ways and Means) and Senators Karen Spilka (D-Ashland, Chair of Senate Ways and Means), Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Mean), and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth, Minority Member of Senate Ways and Means).

Update, July 11, 2016: On Friday, the Governor issued his vetoes, which included cutting out the RAFT expansion language. We will be sending out an action alert shortly. In better news, the Governor also submitted a supplemental budget to the Legislature. It includes requests for $26.0 million more to support Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter and homelessness services, $2.5 million more for HomeBASE + $1.9 million more for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) benefits. Please ask your legislators to support these requests: www.wheredoivotema.com


In the Homestretch: Help Shape the FY'17 Conference Committee Budget! Advocate with Us for Housing and Homelessness Programs

In the Homestretch: Help Shape the FY'17 Conference Committee Budget! Advocate with Us for Housing and Homelessness Programs

In the Homestretch: Help Shape the FY'17 Conference Committee Budget!
Advocate with Us for Housing and Homelessness Programs

Initially posted June 2, 2016

Though the Senate and House both have gone through their initial budget recommendation and debate processes for fiscal year 2017 we're not done yet! After the Senate's adoption of its version of the FY'17 budget on May 26th, we have now moved to the next phase of the budget process: Conference Committee. 

Once the House and the Senate vote on their respective budgets, each branch appoints three members to a joint committee (the "Conference Committee") to work out and resolve all differences between the two budgets. The compromise budget that comes out of Conference Committee is then brought to the House and Senate members for a final vote before being sent to the Governor.

This year's House Conference Committee members are Representatives Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill, Chair of House Ways and Means), Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington, Vice Chair of House Ways and Means), and Todd Smola (R-Warren, Minority Member of House Ways and Means). The Senate Conference Committee members are Senators Karen Spilka (D-Ashland, Chair of Senate Ways and Means), Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Mean), and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth, Minority Member of Senate Ways and Means). 

In order to ensure that the Conference Committee's budget has the best language and highest levels of funding possible for housing and homelessness issues, we need you to help urge the committee members to create a compromise budget that prioritizes these programs. We will update this page shortly, so you can contact your own legislators and ask them to convey their support to the Conference Committee and to Leadership for the language and funding levels to be detailed in our upcoming Conference Committee letter. Read our letter to the conferees here, outlining our complete Conference Committee priorities, and our preliminary action alert and follow-up alert. See below for more details on our top three priorities.

Top priorities:

raft advocacy image
Advocate Along with Us to Improve the Senate Version of the FY'17 State Budget

Advocate Along with Us to Improve the Senate Version of the FY'17 State Budget

Support key amendments to the Senate Ways and Means budget recommendations

(Initially posted May 17, 2016)

Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means ("SWM" or "Senate Ways and Means") unveiled its fiscal year 2017 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth, with the theme of building "resilient children, families, and communities". This $39.5 billion budget marks the next step on the path to developing the state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. (Thursday, May 19th) will be the deadline for Senate members to file amendments to the SWM budget, with the Senate budget debate scheduled to begin next Tuesday, May 24th.

Read our Senate Ways and Means budget action alert: web version and PDF.

As this is only the next of several proposals on the way to the final FY'17 budget, your voice will be critical to helping to protect housing, homelessness, and safety net programs for families, individuals, and youth.

To learn more about the Coalition's FY'17 budget priorities, please click here.

We are truly grateful that you are advocating with us to protect and promote investment in these programs!

Important links:


Quick List of Outcomes and Lead Sponsors on Key Housing, Shelter, Homelessness Prevention, and Cash Assistance Amendments
(Updated May 26, 2016; 4:30p.m.)

Thank you for all of your advocacy!