FY'19 Budget Advocacy: Senate Amendments to Improve Homelessness Prevention, Housing, and Benefit Programs
May 14, 2018, last updated on May 25th
*Read about the Senate debate outcomes here and below. *
As we posted previously, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means ("Senate Ways and Means" or "SWM") released its fiscal year 2019 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth on May 10th. Read about key highlights in our recent Senate budget release action alert.
While the SWM budget was strong, we worked with Senators who filed several key amendments. Thank you to everyone who signed our one-minute online action and asked their State Senator to cosponsor these amendments and actively support them in caucuses, conversations with Senate Leadership, and debates. Please see our overview sheet for Senators, amendment action alert, and sample script, as well as more details below.
- Emergency Assistance family shelter program (EA): Senator Barbara L'Italien filed Amendment #533 to ensure that families with children that are experiencing homelessness can file in-person applications for family shelter with staff from the Department of Housing and Community Development in at least the ten cities and towns that had offices as of January 1, 2018. This is in response to efforts to shift to a more telephonically based system, which would present challenges to many families lacking access to phones, computers, scanners, and fax machines. The amendment would add language to the DHCD administrative line item, 7004-0099, to maintain in-person application sites (in addition to telephonic options.). EA amendment fact sheet
Amendment outcome: We are happy to report that this amendment passed unanimously on a roll call vote! We will work to make sure that the Conference Committee includes the Senate language on maintaining in-person access to Emergency Assistance applications, and will share next steps soon. In the meantime, please thank your Senator for passing it. Special thanks to Senator L'Italien for speaking on the Senate floor about the importance of maintaining statewide in-person access to applications, and to Senate President Harriette Chandler, Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, and Senate Ways and Means Vice Chair Joan Lovely for all of their work to pass the amendment.
-Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT): We were thrilled to see that the SWM budget included the full recommended funding for RAFT of $18.5 million, as well as language to maintain access for elders, people with disabilities, and unaccompanied youth. Senator Jamie Eldridge filed Amendment #680 to tweak the language in line item 7004-9316 so that at least $3 million is set aside for households without children under the age of 21, instead of no more than $3 million. RAFT amendment fact sheet
Amendment outcome: We are happy to report that this amendment passed! (It passed on a simple voice vote, not a roll call vote.) We will work to make sure that the Conference Committee includes the Senate language and funding for RAFT, and will share next steps soon. In the meantime, please thank your Senator for passing it. Special thanks to Senator Eldridge for speaking on the Senate floor on the critical need to expand access to and funding for homelessness prevention resources for individuals, and to Senate Leadership for their work to pass the amendment.
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC): Senator Pat Jehlen filed Amendment #453 to remove the EAEDC homelessness penalty so that participants experiencing homelessness receive full monthly grants of $303.70/month instead of only $92.80/month. Based on FY’18 numbers year-to-date, an estimated 542 individuals would benefit each month from this change, at a cost of only $1.4 million/year. The amendment would add language to line item 4408-1000. EAEDC amendment fact sheet
Amendment outcome: Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected, but the language still is alive for the Conference Committee deliberations, as it was included in the House version of the budget. Please thank your Senator if they are listed in the amendment link above as a cosponsor.
To call your Senator, you can dial the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000. You also can look up who your Senator is via www.wheredoivotema.com. Please let us know if you receive any feedback from your Senator in response to your outreach.
We anticipate the Conference Committee members officially will be named by the first week in June. The Conference Committee will aim to develop a consensus budget by late June, before the new fiscal year begins on July 1st. We will send out a follow-up action alert then with the next steps.
Thank you for all of your advocacy!