RESPONDING TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: HELP PUSH FOR AN EMERGENCY EXPANSION OF THE RAFT HOMELESSNESS PREVENTION PROGRAM
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Last updated June 15, 2020

**Please sign and share our one-minute online RAFT action here.**

The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, budget line item 7004-9316) program is a key tool to help families with children, unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households avoid or exit homelessness. RAFT provides funds for needs such as back rent payments, back utility payments, first month’s rent, last month’s rent, security deposits, and transportation costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Massachusetts households are falling further behind on rent, utilities, and other needs after facing job losses, work hour reductions, and unexpected costs. Read more on how to access RAFT during the pandemic here: English and Spanish.

Recently, MassHousing transferred $5 million to create a COVID-19 fund within RAFT*, and the Legislature has acted to decrease the documentation burden on households applying for funds (see Chapter 56 of the Acts of 2020, Section 5.)

In response to the pandemic and ongoing housing needs, the Coalition is taking a leading role in organizing allied organizations to ask the Legislature to appropriate $50 million for RAFT in FY’21. We also are working to make positive changes to improve access and eligibility for RAFT, including to make temporary FY’20 changes permanent:

  • Increase funding for the Upstream RAFT program so more households can access RAFT before having to begin the eviction or utility shut-off process
  • Clarify that households accessing the Upstream RAFT pilot program are eligible for up to four months of back rent or back mortgage payments, even if that exceeds the Traditional RAFT cap of $4,000
  • Raise the cap for Traditional and COVID-19 RAFT from $4,000/year to at least $10,000/year to more effectively and realistically meet needs
  • Further decrease the documentation burden on households applying for funds, and ensure accessibility in every region of the state
  • Protect access to funds for the lowest income households (with incomes at or below 30% area median income), while allowing a portion of any COVID-19 RAFT funds to go to households normally just above the income eligibility limits if they have been impacted by COVID-19
  • Allow households impacted by COVID-19 to receive additional RAFT funds, even if they already received $4,000 in RAFT payments in the past 12 months

Advocacy Opportunity:

Will you join us? Please contact your State Representative and Senator today to ask them to support $50 million in emergency supplemental funding and program improvements for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (line item 7004-9316).

**Please sign and share our one-minute online action here.**

Want to call your legislators? Find your legislators’ contact information here: www.wheredoivotema.com or www.malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Let us know how your emails and calls go by contacting Kelly.

Thank you for your collaboration and work to ensure that everyone has a safe place to stay at home during the stay at home advisory and beyond!

* Here is guidance from the Department of Housing and Community Development to the RAFT providers on using the COVID-19 RAFT funds.