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: