House Ways and Means Committee's FY'18 Budget Recommendations and the House Amendment Process
** Please sign our one-minute online action to your State Representative in support of key homelessness, housing, and benefits amendments. **
On April 10th, the House Committee on Ways and Means ("House Ways and Means" or HWM) released its recommendations for the state's 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Coming in at $40.33 billion, the HWM budget, House Bill 3600, includes positive and negative recommendations on homelessness, housing, and benefits issues.
On the plus side, House Ways and Means proposed a $13.5 million increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) from $86.5 million to $100 million, and a $2 million increase for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316), to raise homelessness prevention funding from $13 million to $15 million. (See below for more details on RAFT). HWM rejected the Governor's proposal to cut eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000).
On the minus side, while RAFT would see an increase in funding, House Ways and Means reverted to old RAFT eligibility language in line item 7004-9316 that 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. We are working with Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, who filed a RAFT amendment, Amendment #90: RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
HWM also eliminated line item 4000-0007, which currently provides $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults. The Coalition is seeking $4 million for the line item in FY'18, as well as explicit language and funding in line item 4000-0300 for the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. We are working with Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, who filed two youth homelessness amendments, Amendment #1088 and Amendment #1013: unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17) Also see the related amendment, Amendment #378, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker.
House Ways and Means also proposed 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). See the FY'18 EA campaign fact sheet. We are working with Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, who filed the EA amendment, Amendment #85: EA amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
While HWM maintained eligibility for the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), the budget proposal 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). We are working with Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, who filed an EAEDC amendment, Amendment #1055, to promote dignity, fairness, and opportunity for participants experiencing homelessness: EAEDC homelessness penalty fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
House members were able file amendments until 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 13th. Thank you for all of your work to get as many cosponsors as possible before that deadline. We will be working over the next week to secure even more House cosponsors. Please join us by calling your State Representative to ask her/him to sign onto amendments and to thank them for the ones they already have cosponsored.
Other Important Amendments to Support (Preliminary List)
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program amendment (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), Amendment #79: Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment would "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 #780:
- Representative Mike Connolly's amendment, Amendment #382, would 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.
- Representative Paul Donato's amendment, Amendment #780, would increase the proposed MRVP funding from $100 million to $120 million.
- Alternative Housing Voucher Program amendment (AHVP, line item 7004-9030), Amendment #298: Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment would increase 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.
- Emergency Assistance amendment (EA, line item 7004-0101), Amendment 344: Representative Aaron Vega's amendment would strengthen the tracking and reporting requirements to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and would 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: Representative Christine Barber's amendment would 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: Representative Kay Khan's amendment would reinstate this line item and provide $1 million for the work of the eight regional consortia established last year to coordinate on homelessness and housing issues.