Advocacy

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

Veto Override Votes

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