After many months of COVID-19-related delays, the state budget process is moving ahead swiftly. Thank you to everyone who sent an email and/or called their Senator today and over the weekend. If you haven’t had a chance yet, we still need your help to further strengthen the final Senate version of the FY21 state budget.
As we reported in our previous message, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released their $46 billion budget proposal for the current fiscal year on Thursday. The Senate Ways and Means (SWM) budget included important proposed investments in housing, homelessness, and benefits programs. We are grateful to Senate President Spilka, Senator Rodrigues, and Senate leadership for prioritizing these issues.
We are honored to work with several Senators to draft and support key amendments to the Senate budget to make sure the Commonwealth is doing even more to prevent and end homelessness and housing instability this fiscal year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Senate budget debate beginning tomorrow, now is the time to build up momentum for these amendments. Please ask your State Senator to cosponsor and actively support the key amendments listed below, and thank them if they already have signed on.
** Find out who your State Senator 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 email@example.com.
For a closer look at how the SWM recommendations compare to our key homelessness, housing, and benefits line item requests, and how the House amendments fared, please see our budget chart.
Thank you again for your advocacy and responsiveness!
Ask Your Senator to Support These Key Housing, Homelessness, and Benefits Amendments
Please ask your State Senator to cosponsor and actively support these amendments:
- HomeBASE Amendment #405, on extending HomeBASE benefits for families timing out of the program facing a return to homelessness and improving data collection, sponsored by Senator Chang-Díaz
- Emergency Assistance Amendment #283, on improving data collection, equity, and access for the Emergency Assistance family shelter program, sponsored by Senator Chang-Díaz
- EAEDC Amendment #279, on increasing the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program 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 Senator Chang-Díaz
- Mass ID Amendment #149, on increasing access to Mass IDs for people experiencing homelessness by eliminating the $25 fee and decreasing the verification burden, sponsored by Senator Rausch
- Eviction prevention Amendment #388, on promoting housing stability during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery, sponsored by Senator Jehlen
- RAFT Amendment #394, on improving and streamlining the Residential Assistance for Families
in Transition program, a cornerstone of the state’s response to the eviction crisis, sponsored by Senator Crighton
- MRVP Amendment #398, on improving the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program by increasing the number of housing vouchers issues and ensuring that the Department of Housing and Community Development uses more of the funding allocated for the program, sponsored by Senator Crighton
- MRVP Amendment #393, on improving affordability and sustainability for MRVP voucher holders by lowering the tenant portion of rent to no more than 30% of income, instead of 30-40% of income, filed by Senator Eldridge
- Progressive Revenue Amendment #82, on raising revenue in a progressive way to meet the unprecedented needs in the Commonwealth during the pandemic and recovery, sponsored by Senator Comerford
Please ask your Senator to sign on as soon as possible, and actively express their support for these amendments with Senate Leadership and in caucuses and debates.
For more details or questions, please email Kelly. Thank you again for your consideration and support!
In Case You Missed It: Senate Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Highlights
Here are just a few of the highlights of what the Senate Ways and Means budget would do:
- Provide $8 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, matching our request
- Provide $54.7 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program, including $50 million in direct appropriations and $4.7 million from the Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund, in line with our request; to be combined with additional funds allocated by the Governor through the Eviction Diversion Initiative
- Include language that temporarily allows families to maximize needed resources from the RAFT and HomeBASE programs during the COVID-19 state of emergency, a step toward our request
- Provide $135 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $125.5 million in direct appropriations and $9.5 million in unspent funds from FY20, matching our appropriations request
- Provide $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), above our request of $12 million
- Increase funding for shelters and services for unaccompanied adults and families with children, in line with our requests
- Require courts to provide continuances in eviction cases during the pandemic for households impacted financially by COVID-19 that have applied for emergency rental assistance
As SWM highlighted in their budget narrative, “Affordable housing, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19 in Massachusetts, is another key building block of our recovery. Access to housing is, for many, the same as access to economic security and stability, while also being intrinsically linked to public health. The Committee’s budget maintains the Senate’s commitment to increasing access to quality, affordable housing, investing over $540M in housing and homelessness services and supports to maintain stability and keep people in their homes during this time of crisis.”