From email sent on December 7, 2020

Thank you for all of your work over the past week (and past 11 months!) to make sure the Legislature passed the strongest budget possible on homelessness, housing, and benefits programs.
 
On Thursday night, the FY21 budget Conference Committee, made up of House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, House Ways and Means Vice Chair Denise Garlick, House Ways and Means Ranking Minority Member Todd Smola, Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, Senate Ways and Means Vice Chair Cindy Friedman, and Senate Ways and Means Ranking Minority Member Patrick O’Connor, released their $46.2 billion compromise budget, House Bill 5164.
 
We are pleased to report that the conference committee budget included the higher of the House and Senate recommended funding levels for each of the key line items and much of the requested line item language listed in our advocacy letter to the conferees. See below and Column G of our budget chart for more details.
 
On Friday afternoon, the Legislature voted to pass the budget: 147-11 in the House and 40-0 in the Senate. The budget then was sent to Governor Charlie Baker, who has ten days to sign the budget and issue vetoes of appropriations and/or outside sections.
 
Action Steps:
 
Please join the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless in asking Governor Baker to retain key homelessness, housing, and benefits language and funding (noted below and in Column G of our budget chart) by signing these line items and outside sections into law. Please emphasize to the Governor that this is a key opportunity for him to make sure the Commonwealth is doing even more to prevent and end homelessness and housing instability this fiscal year, in every corner of Massachusetts, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A template letter is available here for you to cut, paste, send, and share.
 
The Governor‘s contact information can be found on the bottom of this page: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-governor.
 
Please also thank the conferees and your State Representative and State Senator for supporting key items in the fiscal year 2021 budget so as to prevent and end homelessness among families, unaccompanied youth, and adults. Follow the links above for the email addresses and phone numbers of the budget conferees. Find out who your State Representative and Senator are and their contact information by going to www.wheredoivotema.com or by calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000. After sending your emails or making your calls, please let us know by emailing us via kelly@mahomeless.org.
 
Thanks for your ongoing advocacy to create a budget to promote housing and economic stability! We’ll be back in touch soon with updates on budget signing and vetoes.
 
Overview of Outcomes for Key Housing, Homelessness, and Benefits Conference Committee Priority Requests
 
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316)
    • Funding Request: House and Senate funding level of $54.7 million in total funds allocated through the budget process (with additional funds from the Governor‘s Eviction Diversion Initiative)
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
    • Language Request:House version of language that would raise the maximum RAFT benefit to $10,00/household over a 12-month period and remove language that currently prohibits eligible households from maximizing RAFT and HomeBASE benefits, plus Senate language from Amendment #336. It is important to note that both the House and Senate proposed action on the RAFT cap and the RAFT/HomeBASE linkage issue. The Senate left in language that would limit eligible households to a combined total of $10,000 from the two programs, but also said the cap would not be in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 state of emergency.
    • Language Outcome: Language included to decouple the RAFT and HomeBASE programs so as to allow eligible households to combine and maximize benefits from the two programs during the current COVID-19 state of emergency, as well as language to simplify the application process and require additional tracking and reporting on program data
 
  • Emergency Assistance Family Shelters and Services (EA, line item 7004-0101)
    • Funding Request: Senate funding level of $184,785,750
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
    • Language Request: Senate tracking and reporting language
    • Language Outcome: Expanded tracking and reporting language included in the Conference Committee budget! The language includes requirements for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide more detailed data on reasons for denial; data on race and ethnicity of families that are approved for EA, denied EA, or not given a placement or formal denial; data on families applying for EA that do not enter EA with 48 hours of the time of application; data on families approved for shelter right before they otherwise would have to stay in a place not meant for human habitation, families approved for shelter after staying in places not meant for human habitation, and families that requested EA services from DHCD and then stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before ultimately being approved for shelter; data on families in congregate and other shared shelter placements during the COVID-19 pandemic; data on families on extended leave from congregate and other shared shelter placements during the pandemic related to social distancing, isolation, quarantine, and/or COVID-19-related care; and data on families with approved requests for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act who have not yet been transferred to new units that better accommodate their needs. In addition, the line item language authorizes DHCD to use funds to “ensure adequate and accessible services” during the pandemic.
 
  • Housing and Services for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness (line item 4000-0007)
    • Funding Request: House and Senate funding level of $8,000,000
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024)
    • Funding Request: Senate funding level of $135,000,000
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108)
    • Funding Request: Senate funding level of $29,058,618
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
    • Language Request: House removal of language that currently prohibits eligible households from maximizing RAFT and HomeBASE benefits (see above), so as to decouple RAFT and HomeBASE for the full fiscal year, even if the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted, plus expanded Senate tracking and reporting language
    • Language Outcome: Language included to decouple the RAFT and HomeBASE programs so as to allow eligible households to combine and maximize benefits from the two programs during the current COVID-19 state of emergency, as well as additional tracking and reporting language to require DHCD to report additional demographic details on families served and on children served and more detailed data on families re-entering Emergency Assistance shelter within 1, 2, and 3 years of exiting HomeBASE
 
  • Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000)
    • Funding Request: House funding level of $89,983,226
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
    • Language Request: House language to provide a 10% increase in monthly benefits
    • Language Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget, with language that this increase would be “deemed a permanent increase continuing past July 1, 2021”. This is welcome and long overdue, as this will be the first such increase for EAEDC since 1988. See coverage: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/economy/state-budget-raises-welfare-grants-for-poor-families/
 
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Grant Payments (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000)
    • Funding Request: House funding level of $240,967,007
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
    • Language Request: House language to provide a 10% increase in monthly benefits
    • Language Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget, with language that this increase would be “deemed a permanent increase continuing past July 1, 2021”. This is welcome and long overdue, as this will be the first such increase for TAFDC since 2000. See coverage: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/economy/state-budget-raises-welfare-grants-for-poor-families/
 
  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030)
    • Funding Request: Senate funding level of $12,526,596
    • Language Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Subsidies to Public Housing Authorities (line item 7004-9005)
    • Funding Request: House funding level of $80,000,000
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Shelter and Services for Adults Experiencing Homelessness (line item 7004-0102)
    • Funding Request: House funding level of $56,425,000
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104)
    • Funding Request: House and Senate funding level of $3,890,000
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Transportation for Students Experiencing Homelessness (line item 7035-0008)
    • Funding Request: House funding level of $13,449,605
    • Funding Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • SNAP Gap (via line item 4000-0300)
    • Language Request: Include Senate language from Amendment #271 to eliminate the SNAP Gap by creating a common application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and MassHealth
    • Language Outcome: Included in the Conference Committee budget!
 
  • Outside Section Language
    • Language Requests: Include language from these Senate Outside Sections: Outside Section 81 on Notices to Quit during the coronavirus pandemic; Outside Section 82 on eviction continuances during the pandemic; Outside Section 83 on Eviction Diversion Initiative data collection; and Outside Section 80 on creating a website to track the state’s uses of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.
    • Language Outcomes: Language on these issues included in the Conference Committee budget
 
For more details, please see our Conference Committee advocacy page and our budget chart or email Kelly. Thank you again for your advocacy!