Update on the Supplemental Budget (AKA: A Supp-Date)

On February 27, the Governor filed a Supplemental Budget – “An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2015 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations and for Certain Other Activities and Projects.”  A “supp budget” is additional funding allocated during the budget year, which runs from July 1-June 30th.  The family shelter system has had to depend on additional funding year after year, due to the motel expenses.  This year is no different.  Included in the Governor’s bill was $44M for the Emergency Assistance line item (7004-0101) which funds family shelters and $300,000 for short term rental assistance (7004-0108) which funds the HomeBASE program.

The House of Representatives passed their version of the Supplemental Funding Bill on March 11th, which included $44M for the Emergency Assistance (EA) program, but did not include any additional funding for the HomeBASE (HB) program.

Upon further analysis of the shelter and HomeBASE programs, it was determined that additional funding would be required for both programs to keep them running through the fiscal year.  Accordingly, the Senate Bill increased the funding for EA to $55M and included $3M for HB.  The Senate Bill was passed on March 19th.

Also included in the bills are funding for snow and ice removal, the Department of Children and Families, and all sorts of discrepancies related to complicated budget and legislative items such as gambling and higher education.  The differences in budget amounts and other items require compromised to be made by a Conference Committee.  Both the House and Senate announced their conferees today, and they are:

The rapid passing of this Supp Budget, with the Senate numbers, is critical to the family shelter system.  The EA program is limping along with short term contracts, while a suspension of HomeBASE could result in a dramatic increase in motel numbers and further expenses.  The motel numbers have decreased to below 1,400.  This reduction, from a high of 2,200 in December of 2013, is much in part to the extreme efforts of the shelter provider community.  Providers have increased their capacity by over 1,000 units in the past two years; dramatically increased their housing placements- despite limited resources; and have increased their presence in local offices doing diversion and in motels doing case management.

It is almost ironic- and certainly counterproductive- that a system that is intended to move families to housing and economic stability – does not have the stability of 12 month contracts for the shelter providers doing the work.

LH

 

Baker-Polito Administration Issues their FY16 Budget Proposal: So what does it say about family #homelessness?

Our new Governor, Charlie Baker, has made family homelessness one of his priority issues. Monday, he held a press conference to announce some of his plan and on Wednesday, he released his FY16 budget proposal, which is called the House 1 Budget.  Click here for an article with the terms and definitions to follow along in the budget process. Below is a preliminary summary of what is being proposed, relative to family homelessness:

 7004-0101 Emergency Assistance

(Family Shelter)

FundingHouse 1: $154.8M. In FY15, or this fiscal year, the line item was funded at $140.2M, and there is a supplemental budget pending that would put the total amount at $184.4M.  By our calculations, this will still not be sufficient to cover all costs through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on June 30th, 2015.

Language: The Governor proposes further restrictions to eligibility.  He proposes to maintain the 4 categories  of eligibilities (1. Domestic Violence  2. Flood, Fire Natural Disaster  3. No fault eviction  4. Health and Safety), but to eliminate two of the subcategories under Health and Safety.  If the language is adopted, families in irregular housing situations (“couch surfing”) and families doubled up in units that are not meant for human habitation would no longer be eligible for emergency shelter.

 

7004-9024 Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)

Funding:  House 1: $75.4M; this is an increase of $11M from the allocated funding level in FY15. While a significant increase, it may not be sufficient to cost of the existing vouchers and new vouchers being leased up this fiscal year.

Language: The proposal does not include the language regarding voucher distribution that was in the FY15 Budget.  If adopted, this will give more flexibility to DHCD in distributing any new vouchers.

 

7004-0108 Short Term Housing Transition Program (HomeBASE)

Funding: House 1: $26.2M; this is a slight increase from the $25.9M allocated in FY15.  The HomeBASE funding is projected to run out before the end of this fiscal year.  There is $300,000 additional dollars pending in the supplemental budget filed by the Governor for FY15.

Language: The proposal raised the benefit cap to $8,000.  The current language caps the financial assistance at $6,000 and additional funding, up to $2,000, is available for families exiting shelters and motels through a trust fund.  Raising the cap to $8,000 in HomeBASE will simplify the rapid re-housing process.

 

The Governor also proposes $20M to establish an End Homelessness Reserve Fund to be administered at through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.  Here is the language proposed in the budget document:

 1599-0017 End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund 

For a homelessness prevention reserve at the executive office of health and human services; provided, that funds shall be used to provide tailored and flexible short-term assistance to families that are homeless with a goal of rapid housing stabilization; provided further, that the funds may be used for prevention, diversion, or stabilization; provided further, that the secretary of health and human services may, with the approval of the secretary of administration and finance, transfer from this item amounts necessary to meet any costs associated with the purposes of this item; and provided further, that the department may enter into interagency service agreements as needed

 Click here to review our budget tracking sheet chart, which lists funding levels of relative programs, including RAFT, DTA and other DHCD programs.

We want to hear from you.  What are your reactions, questions, concerns, hopes, and fears about policies and resources in FY16 Budget based on the Governor’s proposal?

 

LH

Press Release! #OnSolidGround

Homes for Families has been working with a cross-sector of advocacy organizations to develop a white paper aimed at building opportunities and preventing homelessness for families in the Commonwealth.  The report has been released and we are excited to expand the conversation, grow the coalition, and work together for positive systems change.

Here is the press release about the report.  There are links to additional information at the end.  We also invite you to comment on this post or join the twitter conversation.  We want to hear from those of you facing housing instability and homelessness – what do you need to be #OnSolidGround? And to those of you that are stable – what helps you to stay #OnSolidGround?

On Solid Ground Coalition Report Outlines Critical Components to Preventing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

 Boston, MA – The On Solid Ground coalition today released its first report on family homelessness. The report, On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness, documents the impact of the Commonwealth’s housing shortage on families with extremely low incomes, and outlines the critical components of a preventative approach to family homelessness.

The report makes the following recommendations to increase stability and reduce family homelessness:

  •  Systems Change: Appoint a Special Secretary to build a coordinated service delivery system across governmental departments. The coordinated system will support homelessness prevention, minimize cliff effects, and provide integrated case management services.
  • Housing: Expand the affordable housing stock and rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income households; preserve existing privately and publicly subsidized homes; and improve public housing.
  • Supportive Services: Invest in services that provide a path to increased incomes and economic mobility for extremely low-income families.
  • Tracking Progress: Collect and analyze data, and track progress – at state agencies and their nonprofit partners – toward an agreed upon set of goals related to housing stability and economic mobility.

On Solid Ground is a cross-sector group of more than 30 partners committed to a research-based approach to increasing housing stability and economic mobility. In preparing this report, On Solid Ground partners looked at factors that contribute to family instability, the gaps in programs meant to serve families with low incomes, the role of federal and state rental subsidy programs, and the interconnectedness of rental assistance, childcare, and employment assistance in increasing family incomes. The paper also looks at how stagnant wages, rising numbers of low wage jobs, and declining supports leave more than 60,000 families living in unstable housing situations and at risk of homelessness. The report demonstrates ways in which the Commonwealth’s service delivery system unintentionally limits the ability of families to increase their incomes and economic mobility, keeping people in poverty.

“If we continue to focus only on reducing shelter numbers, family homelessness will continue to rise,” said Rachel Heller, director of public policy at Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. “Shifting our focus to housing stability and economic mobility will result in better outcomes for children, families, and communities,”

“All I needed to save my family from the trauma of homelessness was enough financial help for a deposit on an apartment and to retain my CNA license,” said Christina [last name withheld], a homeless mother and survivor of domestic violence.  “With a housing subsidy to offset some of the high cost of rent I could have transitioned into an apartment. What I needed was nowhere near as costly as the alternative; just a little bit to keep me from falling off the cliff. Instead we lost it all.”

“Housing insecurity has a detrimental impact on the health and educational prospects for young children,” said Marie St. Fleur, president and CEO, Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children. “Low wages are one indicator of the structural trends that perpetuate these inequities. We need greater systemically aligned solutions to tackle the root of the problem and On Solid Ground begins to do just that.”

“Together, we can do more to reduce and prevent homelessness than any one person or organization can do alone,” said Michael K. Durkin, president and chief executive officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “Too many families are one financial disaster away from homelessness. Ensuring they have access to services that can help them increase their savings, build net worth and get better jobs will not only increase their household’s financial stability, but will strengthen the economic stability of communities across our Commonwealth.”

 Visit www.chapa.org/OnSolidGround for the full report.

To view research that informed the paper, visit: http://www.umb.edu/csp/publications/reports.

 ###

MRVP Cookie Day 2015: We have to GO BIG if we want to GO HOME

Save the Date Twitter

Join Homes for Families at our annual MRVP Cookie Day- a day for families, providers and nonprofits to come together and advocate for increased funding to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.

Cookie Day serves as an opportunity for those overcoming homelessness and hardship to share their support of the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program as an effective tool in ending homelessness. Cookie Day is an avenue to advocate for increased funding to MRVP, and it is also a day to recognize the strength, resiliency and dedication of those overcoming poverty in the mission to end it.  After hearing from a family in shelter and a family who received a voucer through the program, HFF will lead attendees in delivering house shaped cookies to state representatives and senators that are decorated in the amount of funding being advocated for.  The cookies are baked by Haley House Bakery and Cafe of Roxbury, an organization whose mission supports our shared values of providing opportunities for people facing significant barriers. 

Homes for Families will also be awarding Speaker Robert DeLeo with the Inspirational Leadership Award because of his dedication to the inclusion of families and survivors in growing the momentum to end family homelessness and the issues that surround it. Under his leadership, MRVP funding has been increasingly restored, and as a result, thousands of households across the Commonwealth have been stably housed. And for that, he gets the “Big Cookie Award”

We encourage you to make an appointment with your representatives and senators, you can find out who they are by clicking here. We will have information and cookies for you to share, just be sure to check in at the event to get them!

Please join us as we recognize and celebrate the people, programs and policies that work to keep families safe and housed! 

 

Agenda:

9:30: Resource Fair
10:00: Speaking Program Begins
10:30: Inspiring Leadership Award
10:45: Speaking Continues
11:30: Legislator Meetings

Organizations participating in the resource fair:
Boston Housing Authority
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD)
MA Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP)
Children’s Health Watch
Horizons for Homeless Children
Forsythe Dental
…and more!

RSVP HERE, and please share any and all things MRVP (especially that you are attending!) on twitter using hashtag #MRVP100m

But that’s not all!

We rely on our partners and supporters to be engaged in our advocacy efforts, and if there is any week to do it, it is the week of February 9!

We will be providing ways to ensure efforts are unified, strong and clear! Be on the look out for things like events, social media calls to action, a coordinated data sharing day, and more!
For now, please check out the event link above and join the On Solid Ground Coalition for a Press Conference on the release of the On Solid Ground Report on February 9!

As always, thanks for all you do. We couldn’t do this without you.

This is a Birthday Blog Post!

libbys bday

It’s our Executive Director’s birthday! 

So often we celebrate the milestones and achievements of our collective efforts, but it is also important that we recognize our own accomplishments, even if (or especially if) that accomplishment is turning another year older!

We are asking you to help us recognize Libby’s birthday. She has worked so hard this year (and every year before) to do what it takes to empower families- and those who work closest to support them- so that we can effectively influence the policy process and advocate for more housing, supports and safety for families across MA. If you know Libby, and have a special idea to celebrate her birthday, the HFF staff whole-heartedly supports it (see picture above).

But because it is so important to us, we wanted to provide you with other ideas:

  • Wish her happy birthday on Facebook! …and if you have pictures of her in action, even better!
  • Tweet to @HFFma using the hashtag #BirthdayBoss
  • Share a memory of when Libby was especially awesome (or in our case, #bossome) in the comment section below
  • Consider making a donation to Homes for Families so that we can continue to carry our efforts until Libby’s next birthday, and beyond.

We are so grateful for everything you are doing to support families, and to support HFF, but it would really mean a lot to us if you could take a few minutes to show Libby how appreciated, and how necessary, she is in our efforts to end homelessness by using the suggestions above.

We couldn’t do this, or anything, without you!

Sincerely,

HFF Staff

Weigh in on the draft regulation changes to welfare

Recently, former DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan (EOHHS Secretary Sudder has yet to name a replacement commissioner) issued draft regulation changes to implement the welfare reform laws passed by the MA Legislature last year. Public comment on the proposed changes is due by January 26m 2015.

While the proposed changed do contain some positive proponents for some families, there are also some provisions that will ultimately harm many families. To read a full analysis provided by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s Deborah Harris, please click here. Of particular concern are the two highlighted changes below.

  • The state disability standard for the work requirement and time limit exemptions will be eliminated. Rather, an applicant would have to meet the more stringent federal Social Security disability standards. This change was allowable but not required under the law and could potentially result in up to 3,000 disabled households from losing benefits.
  • In order to be determined eligible for TAFDC, an applicant would have to demonstrate their job search efforts within 60 days. This would eliminate an applicant’s assurance of receiving assistance within 30 days of the application submission and would extend it to 60 days.

Homes for Families will be submitting comments on the proposed regulation changes to the Baker Administration – and their potential to further our family homelessness crisis. We will also be signing onto comments being submitted by Greater Boston Legal Services on behalf of a broad range of organizations.

Please be on the lookout for a follow up blog containing these submissions, information on how your organization can sign onto GBLS’ comments, and for more information about submitting your own comments to EOHHS Secretary Sudders.

-Diane

Help us pick up the PACE!

In 2015, we want to pick up the PACE, and we need your help!

For the past twenty years, we have worked tirelessly to influence and promote Policy Advocacy and Consumer Engagement (PACE) to educate and empower families living in shelter, and those working closest with them.

We hold events like Visioning Day, Legislative Breakfasts and MRVP Cookie Day every year, where families have a chance to exhibit their expertise through leading conversations, making recommendations to policy makers, and following up with the media.

We travel to shelters across the state to train families and staff about the benefits and necessity of working together to accomplish systems change through drawing on the strength and resiliency that can only come from the lived experience of navigating systems.

We collaborate with organizations, policy makers, and the Administration to meet the immediate needs of families overcoming homelessness while creating a foundation for permanent solutions to family homelessness in Massachusetts.

But if we are to truly end family homelessness through holistic and permanent solutions, we need to pick up the PACE.

Please consider making your year end donation to Homes for Families so that families overcoming homelessness have an opportunity to play a role in the policies and programs that impact them.

It is through your generosity that we will be able to provide more trainings, increase the capacity and content at our events, and to further amplify our voice.

With your help, we can pick up the PACE so that every child can have a place to call home.

To make a tax-deductible donation online, please click here.

Or mail a check please send it to:

Homes for Families

14 Beacon St, Suite 615

Boston, MA 02108

Happy New Year from HFF, we look forward to picking up the PACE!