In an unprecedented week in an unprecedented year, we are grateful for all you do to promote housing and economic stability during and beyond the pandemic for low-income households across the Commonwealth.

As we reported on Thursday, the FY21 proposed budget from House Ways and Means includes important proposed investments in housing, homelessness, and benefits programs. Now we need your help to strengthen the final House version of the FY21 state budget even more. Please reach out to your State Representative this weekend or on Monday to ask them to cosponsor and actively support the key amendments listed below. The budget debate is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

** Find out who your State Representative is and what their contact information is by going to www.wheredoivotema.com or calling the State House switchboard on weekdays at 617-722-2000. After sending your email or making your call, please let us know by responding to this message or emailing us via kelly@mahomeless.org.

For a closer look at how the HWM recommendations compare to our key homelessness, housing, and benefits line item requests, please see our budget chart. See the full list of amendments filed here.

Preliminary Details on Key Housing, Homelessness, and Benefits Amendments

Please ask your Representative to cosponsor and actively support these amendments (in numerical order):

  • Amendment #350, on extending HomeBASE benefits for families timing out of the program facing a return to homelessness and improving data collection, sponsored by Representatives Ferrante, Barber, and Vargas

Please note that we are working with Reps on a further amendment to remove the language in the initial amendment linking HomeBASE and RAFT benefits. HWM removed from their version of the budget long-standing language that limits families from accessing more than $10,000 in combined funds from the two programs, and we want to keep this language out to help families maximize assistance and opportunities for housing stability.

  • Amendment #397, on improving data collection, equity, and access for the Emergency Assistance family shelter program, sponsored by Representative Decker

This amendment would require the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to track and report additional, vital data on the Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter program and related HomeBASE program. The amendment seeks to secure race and ethnicity data on families requesting access to EA, approved, and denied; detailed information on why families are denied access to EA; data on families that begin an EA application and then stay in places not meant for human habitation while completing the application process and awaiting an eligibility determination; more detailed data on families re-entering shelter after timing out of the HomeBASE program, in particular in the current absence of HomeBASE benefit extensions; more detailed data on families awaiting accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the nature of their accommodation requests; more data on families placed outside of their home community and children’s school districts; data on families staying in congregate and shared settings during the COVID-19 pandemic; and data on families approved for extended leave from shelter to better allow for COVID-19 social distancing, isolation, quarantine, and care of family member or self. Such information is critical for better serving children and parents who are experiencing homelessness, examining racial and ethnic inequities in the program, and addressing the unmet needs of families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Amendment #459, on increasing the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC) asset limit for elders and people with disabilities from $250 to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for households of two or more, sponsored by Representative O’Day

This amendment builds on our multi-year campaign to improve access and benefits within the EAEDC program.

  • Amendment #585, on promoting housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery, sponsored by Representative Hendricks

As described by our colleagues leading the Homes for All Campaign, this amendment would provide three key protections to help stabilize housing in the face of the pandemic: create a legal defense to eviction where unpaid rent is due to the COVID-19 emergency; restore critical protections for homeowners and landlords at risk of foreclosure; and establish a relief fund for landlords to quickly access funds for lost income due to COVID-19.

  • Amendment #595 on improving the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT), a cornerstone of the state’s response to the eviction crisis, sponsored by Representative Honan

This amendment would ensure that households can access up to four months of back rent in the Upstream RAFT program, addressing the issue of DHCD artificially capping benefits; create a COVID-19 Eviction Diversion Initiative fund within RAFT; streamline the application process, and establish self-certification of income; allow households to access RAFT to maintain their current housing situations during the pandemic even if they cannot prove long-term stability beyond the period for which RAFT benefits cover; increase the flexibility of using benefits for combinations of back rent, future rent, and other needs in order to be most useful; and carryover any unspent RAFT funds into the next fiscal year.

  • Amendment #667, on increasing access to Mass IDs for people experiencing homelessness by eliminating the $25 fee and decreasing the verification burden, sponsored by Representatives Khan and O’Day

This amendment would add $75,000 for an initiative to provide no-cost standard Mass IDs to Massachusetts residents experiencing homelessness who lack an ID. This language builds on our multi-year #EveryoneNeedsID campaign.

Please ask your Representative to sign on as soon as possible, and actively express their support for these amendments with House Leadership and in caucuses and debates.Find out who your State Representative is and their contact information by going to www.wheredoivotema.com. You can call your Representative by dialing the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.

We also will be adding amendment details to our budget chart. For more details or questions, please email Kelly. Thank you again for your advocacy support!