Of the 1,307 Amendments….

Members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives proposed 1,307 Amendments to the House Ways and Means Budget Proposal. Today, the House is beginning their budget debate to determine which amendments will be adopted as part of the final House Budget proposal.  We invite you to explore the lists of priority amendments, and encourage you to continue to educate your Representatives on issues of housing and homelessness so that they can be active leaders in the debates. Click here for information on the process and how to navigate the full amendment lists and contact your Representatives. 

We pulled out a list of Amendments relative to the core principles identified in our 2015 Visioning Day report:

click on the picture to enlarge
click on the picture to enlarge

And here is a list of key Amendments that we are monitoring during the debate process; note that the amendment number and Representative names are hyperlinks:

Program # Sponsor Title Notes
MRVP 52 Paul J. Donato MRVP Funding
MRVP 1018 Sean Garballey Massachusetts Rental Voucher Technical Amendment Policy, data, administrative
MRVP 446 Bradley H. Jones, Jr. MRVP Voucher Management System Data
EA 754 Marjorie C. Decker to protect children experiencing homelessness Program Access
EA 1100 Danielle W. Gregoire Emergency Assistance Data and Reporting Technical Amendment Data
EA 66 Adrian Madaro Homes for Families HFF Technical Assistance Contract
HomeBASE 1102 Christine P. Barber HomeBASE Expansion, Renewal, & Forward Funding Funding, program expansion
Public Housing 1149 Russell E. Holmes Housing Authority Improvements Funding
Housing Court 15 Jay R. Kaufman Housing Court Expansion Program Expansion
Housing Court 18 Jay R. Kaufman Statewide Housing Court Program Expansion
Housing Court 1180 Chris Walsh To Fund the Expansion of the Housing Court Program Expansion
Child Care 1103 John W. Scibak Early Education and School Age Rate Reserve Funding
Child Care 878 Stephan Hay Early Childhood Education Workforce Payrate Funding
Child Care 1209 Jay D. Livingstone Early Education Quality Improvement Funding
SNAP/MassHealth 1041 Jay D. Livingstone Common Application Portal/SNAP Gap Amendment Technology
New Commission 1037 Gloria L. Fox Economic Mobility and Stability Program Commission/Study
EITC 747 Marjorie C. Decker increasing the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 23% to 50% of the federal credit Funding
EITC 751 Marjorie C. Decker granting victims of domestic violence and abandoned spouses access to the EITC, and EITC outreach Program Expansion
TAFDC 756 Marjorie C. Decker updating state disability standard Program protections
TAFDC 896 Antonio F. D. Cabral TAFDC Job Search Program protections
TAFDC 1152 Paul McMurtry Caring for Family Members with Disabilities Program protections

We thank all of the amendment sponsors and co-sponsors and the Committee on Ways and Means for their thoughtfulness in drafting the budget proposal. We hope that these amendments will be considered as part of our collective effort to reduce homelessness and promote housing stability and economic mobility in the Commonwealth.

LH

Navigating the sea of amendments

As I type this, the final wave of amendments uploading onto the House Ways and Means Website.  A lot of amendments are anticipated to this fiscally conservative budget proposal.  Just as ship captains used to navigate with paper charts and now use fancy radars; lawmakers, lobbyists, and advocates once relied on budget books, but can now use technology and so can you!

Budget Books of Yesteryears
Budget Books of Yesteryears

This blog post will help you navigate the website of the 189th General Court  to follow along with the Amendment Process in the House of Representatives, so that – together with our amendment lists – you can have the information you need to help raise our collective voice for solutions to family homelessness in Commonwealth.

Go to https://malegislature.gov/….

This is the Legislature’s homepage on the State’s Website. Here you can explore the laws of the Commonwealth, see the status of Bills, learn about legislators, the state budget process, review past budgets, watch a live stream of democracy in action, and more. The State Budget Tab is your portal to the amendment process: HomePage

Clicking on the FY2017 Budget will bring you to this page, which includes a Letter for the Chairman of Ways and Means, a summary of the proposal and sections of the budget itself:

HWMBudgetPage

Clicking on the Amendment tab will bring you to a full list of all the amendments, in the order in which they were filed.  Each amendment is listed with a number, the name of the lead sponsor and a title. The additional columns will post the status of the amendments once the budget debates begin. You can scroll through all the amendments or use the search box:

Amendments

For example, we will enter in  line item numbers, such as 7004-0101 for shelter; 7004-9024 for MRVP, and key words, such as “homeless” to compile a fill list of amendments relative to housing and homelessness, or a legislators name to see what they filed or co-sponsored. The the Sponsor Name is a link to that legislator’s page, and the Amendment Number is a link to the actual amendment. Here is the MRVP Funding Amendment, #52. You can check the Amendment Text to see if your legislator has co-sponsored an amendment.

AmendmentText

You can always go to www.wheredoivotema.com to look up your legislator and/or use the People Tab to find your State Representative’s contact information.  The House option under the People Tab gives a full list of Representatives with their party, room number, phone number and email.  Each Representative also has a page; this is Representative Fox’s page as an example:

Fox

I chose her page, because after 31 years of championing issues of housing and justice, she will not be seeking re-election, and because nobody reminds us that the State House is “The People’s House” like she does.

And in that vein, please consider the website the same.  Forget Facebook, mass.gov is “The People’s Page”

Next week, we will post a full list of amendments, we encourage you to use the information in this blog post to check to see if your legislator is supporting the issues you care about.  Remember, they work for you! If they are, don’t forget to say thank you.  If they are not, give them a call, email, or use social media to ask them to consider.

Please let us know if you have any questions and thank you for being engaged!

BeAnAdvocate

LH

Get Ready, Get Set, Go Advocate!!

Summary of Key Line Items and Amendments Relative to Housing and Homelessness

Yesterday, the House Committee on Ways and Means released their FY2017 Budget Proposal. Representatives have until mid-day tomorrow, Friday 4/15, to file amendments.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funds MRVP at $100 million, which includes carry over funding unspent in FY2016.  However, this funding level is not sufficient to cover the cost of new vouchers and needed program fixes.

Amendment #52 filed by Representative Paul Donato: increases funding for MRVP to $120 million. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Sean Garballey: aligns MRVP mobile voucher rent cap with current HUD FMRs, allows for a data management system and requires DHCD to begin issuing new vouchers. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact John Rosenberry in Rep. Garballey’s office.  

 

Emergency Assistance (EA, family shelter, line item 7004-0101)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funded EA at $155.1 million and made no changes to eligibility for the program.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Marjorie Decker: allows access to shelter for families who are at imminent risk of staying places not meant for human habitation.  To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact Tim Mahoney in Rep. Decker’s office.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Danielle Gregoire: requires DHCD to report certain data tracking points to the Legislature, including basic demographics of families experiencing homelessness and reasons that families are denied access to shelter. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact Jennifer Mercadante in Rep. Gregoire’s office

Amendment #66 filed by Representative Adrian Madaro: continues funding for Homes for Families to provide technical assistance. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funds HomeBASE at $31.9 million, a slight increase over current funding. It also opens access to a limited amount of funding to families experiencing homelessness who are sheltered in domestic violence or treatment facilities.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Christine Barber: This amendment builds off of the pilot program proposed in the budget to make HomeBASE available to income-eligible families in domestic violence and substance abuse programs. The amendment also allows families to renew HomeBASE in order to avoid evictions, loss of housing stability, or the need to re-enter shelter, and the amendment continues forward funding of the program to the nonprofit organizations that administer HomeBASE on behalf of the state. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

 

Other Amendments:

Earned Income Tax Credit Amendments Sponsored By Representative Decker

  • To increase the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 23% to 50% of the federal credit
  • To allow victims of DV to be eligible for the credit and direct the Department of Revenue to increase EITC outreach.

To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff should contact Tim Mahoney in Representative Decker’s office

Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) Work Study Amendment sponsored by Representative Sannicandro
This amendment provides $2.35 million to fund paid work study for families on TAFDC at community colleges and to pay for staff to help these students succeed in college.

To cosponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Becca Miller at Rebecca.Miller@mahouse.gov or 722-2013 by noon on Friday

Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (DWD 7002-1074) Amendment sponsored by Representative Wagner
This amendment to provide $4 million to support sector orientated workforce training that reflects best practices in workforce development including collaborations between employers, education programs and community based organizations.

To cosponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Rory O’Hanlon at Rory.O’Hanlon@mahouse.gov or 722-2370

TAFDC Job Search Amendment sponsored by Representative Cabral               

This amendment requires proof of job search 60 days from application in order to be eligible for benefits.

To cosponsor amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Al Medeiros at Alves.Medeiros@mahouse.gov or 722-2017

Please stay tuned for more analysis and amendment information over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, we encourage you to follow along on the State’s Budget Page, read MLRI’s full budget analysis, and review the chart below with funding in key line items.

Click on the Picture to Enlarge

hwmBudget

LH

 

See Me….the whole, valuable, powerful me.

Today’s blog post, brought to you by Nilaya, our Director of Leadership and Community Building:

There’s an element to becoming homeless that can often make us feel invisible

The shame and rejection from being put out and denied access to systems in our attempts to keep our children safe can make us feel desperate and at the mercy of others – systems, friends, relatives or strangers.

During the process of asking for and obtaining services, parents are forced to repeat that they are homeless time and time again. Inevitably it becomes in large part how they identify.

Often times when I ask parents who they are, they introduce themselves by saying “I’m [name] and I live in a shelter.”  While there should be no shame for families in disclosing current or past homelessness, it is also extremely important to introduce the complete picture of who they are, and particularly the things that make families so powerful.

During the 5th session of the Public Policy Series – participants did an exercise entitled, “See Me.”

The purpose was for parents to create a visual of their titles / roles / attributes /goals / values / passions / strengths and then present it to the group as a form of re-introducing themselves … making their whole, valuable, powerful selves visible.

In that vein, we invite you to see the strong, beautiful, dynamic, caring, advocates that have been meeting weekly over the past couple of months to raise our collective voice for housing, economic and social justice!

 

 

PPSSeeME

NM

Community Meeting: What roles do schools have in addressing family homelessness?

Today, we were at Horizons for Homeless Children discussing the need for access to child care.  At the end of 2015, there were more than 7,500 children in the state’s emergency shelter system.  More than half of those children are younger than 5 years old.

Which means, a little less than half are older the age 5 and in school. In fact, in the 2014/15 school year, over 19,000 students across Massachusetts were identified as homeless. Recent data shows that in Boston alone, there are over 3,000 students who are homeless.

We know the impact homelessness can have on students, and the impact consistent quality education can also have on young minds.

As the rates of homelessness have increased and student homelessness is a reality for many teachers, what is the role of schools in addressing homelessness?

Join us and bring your ideas! ComMeeting39

Some context and charts around the Governor’s Proposal For Family Shelter in FY17

On January 27th, Governor Baker released his recommendations for the state’s operating budget as a bill to the House of Representatives.  This year, his budget proposal is referred to as the House 2 Budget.  This is the Governor’s opportunity to recommend spending levels and any changes to the language or policies directing how the funding should be spent and the programs run.

The chart below highlights a few of the key line items relative to housing and homelessness.  The remainder of this post will specifically focus on the Emergency Assistance, or family shelter, line item, which is [affectionately] known as line item 7004-0101 in the State Budget.

H2HousingLinesFY17

No changes were recommended relative to shelter eligibility or other program functioning.  However, the proposal removed all oversight and reporting language [and earmarks].  This is the language that mandates the Legislature have 60 day advance notice of regulatory changes, and that charges the Department on Housing and Community Development (DHCD) with basic data reporting requirements [like monthly and quarterly reports].  It seems to be commonplace for the Administration to remove this language [and the Legislature to put it back in].

As the chart indicates, the Governor has recommended $191, 893,513 for the Emergency Assistance Program.  This program funds over 3,500 shelter units; as well as the corresponding staff, service and operating costs; overflow capacity in motel rooms; additional diversion dollars; and some earmarked funding for plays spaces, transportation and food pilots, and technical assistance from Homes for Families. While this funding [$191M] is considerably higher than the $154M Governor Baker recommended last year – or the $155M the Legislature allocated in their final budget – it is less than the $197.9 that is projected to be spent this fiscal year.

Each year, since the state has had to rely on motels to meet the need for shelter, a supplemental budget has been required as the total dollar amount needed for motels is somewhat of a moving target.  Typically, 7004-0101 is underfunded from the start, much like the snow and ice line item, and additional funding is requested once actual demand and dollar amounts are determined.  Last week, the Governor filed a Supplemental Budget proposal with the Legislature; included was $41M for EA.

There is some logic to under-funding EA.  The goal is always to get out of motels – to increase prevention, to increase housing, to use short term resources, for the rent wage gap and other realities of inequality to disappear on the basis of good intentions and incremental policy changes – so why invest upfront? The graphic below, a newly updated version from last year, provides an answer:

TimeLineFY16

Click Picture to Enlarge

Not adequately funding EA from the start causes complications in a system that is constantly adapting to policy changes and new initiatives. Simply put, it is inefficient. It places an unnecessary administrative burden on shelter providers and staff at the Department of Housing and Community Development, and on the Legislature who have to field panicked calls from Homes for Families and shelter providers as they process the supplemental budget, which may include complicated issues that require more time than the shelter contracts have.

So, what do you think? Is this the year that we try stability for a system that is charged with supporting families to achieve housing stability?

Here is an idea – how about the Legislature re-inserts the advanced notice language, adds some more data and reporting language to better track the use of the funds and functioning of the program, and provides adequate funding? That way, the shelter providers can have 12 month contracts and the Legislature can keep a close eye on the program. The motel number is at its lowest since 2010.  The overall caseload is also down. These accomplishments could not have been made without shelter providers’ hard work to expand programs and implement and adapt to new policies and programs. So, hey, if there is money left over at the end of the year, the state can invest it in HOUSING!

LH

45; 60; 87.5; 100; 120

CookieDayCoverShot

Cookie Credit: Haley House

These cookies represent so much more than the than the seemingly random numbers and repetition of 4 letters that decorate them.

They represent a movement.

They represent thousands of formerly homeless children and parents that now are stable in homes they can afford.

They represent the hundreds of individuals and families now accessing supportive housing to assist with wrap around services to aid in their success.

They represent the thousands of elders who rely on this lifeline to afford rent, and maintain a life of dignity.

They represent the scores of our local veterans experiencing homelessness who right now have vouchers in hand and are seeking a place to call their own.

They represent the preservation of affordable housing units where developers might otherwise jump ship after the federal government decided its affordable housing agenda shouldn’t include so much affordable housing.

They represent a coalition of homeless and formerly homeless families and individuals, shelter and service providers, advocates, scholars, researchers, medical professionals, those in faith, elected officials, and so many more.

Please join us at MRVP Cookie Day this Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Great Hall at the State House in Boston as we make our request to the MA Legislature for full restoration back to early 1990’s spending on the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program at $120 million.

-DS