MA Legislature Restores $3M to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)

Yesterday, both the House and Senate met in formation session on Beacon Hill.  On the agenda: veto overrides.

As you know, Governor Baker recommended reducing funding for MRVP in FY2016 from $90.9 million to $87.9 million. The Legislature has once again reinforced its support for MRVP by overwhelmingly overriding the veto and funding MRVP at the full $90.9 million.

Thank you for contacting your legislators to ensure they took this necessary step toward a full restoration of MRVP funding. Your calls truly make a difference in the shaping of the state budget and how that impacts the families we work with and the programs you run. In this work, it is not often that we take a moment to celebrate a victory because we move quickly onto the next task at hand.

Please take a moment to celebrate this victory with us and your elected officials by making 2 more calls- one to your State Representative and one to your State Senator- to say thank you.

And if you haven’t already done so, you can use this opportunity to remind them of another concern with Governor Baker’s recent proposal to further restrict access to family shelter. Below is a sample script you can use:

“Hi. My name is _______________, and I live/work in _____________. I am calling to thank the Representative/Senator for overriding the Governor’s veto of $3 million to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program. This funding will allow the state to continue its work to create desperately-needed affordable housing across the state.

The Governor has also proposed further restricting access to emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness. His supplemental budget would deny access to families who are otherwise eligible and staying in places unfit for human habitation or in irregular housing situations. Please do not adopt these restrictions when passing the supplemental budget.”

If you are uncertain of how to contact your elected officials, click here.

Again- thank all of you for raising your voices! Because of your voice, progress is possible!

Help Stop the Governor’s Proposal to Restrict Access to Shelter and Cut MRVP

While many have taken to the beach or a lake to cool off from this week’s summer heat, folks on Beacon Hill are still hard at work, as they attempt to close out the state’s FY2015 budget and finalize the FY2016 budget. You might be scratching your head and thinking, “hey wait, FY2015 ended June 30th and Governor Baker signed the FY2016 budget into law, soooooo… what’s this all about?

Actually, you’d be right. Both of those have come and gone, yet there remains some open business for our elected officials to handle before they break out of official session on July 31st. Here are the deets:

MRVP and the FY2016 Budget

8Overrides

 

screen shot from https://malegislature.gov/Budget/Process

The final FY2016 Conference Committee budget voted on by the MA Legislature funded the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program at $90.9 million, which would allow for approximately 800 new MRVP vouchers. Unfortunately, Governor Baker vetoed $3 million from the line item which would result in the loss of 300 of these vouchers. As you know, we cannot afford to forfeit even one voucher to budget cuts.

Please take a moment to contact both your State Representative and State Senator to ask that they override the MRVP veto. If you are uncertain how to contact your elected officials, click here. Below is a script for you to use:

“Hi. My name is ________________, and I live/work in __________________. I am calling to ask my representative/senator to work to override Governor Patrick’s veto of $3 million to MRVP and restore funding to $90.9 million for FY2016.

 

I support MRVP because: ___________________________________________________________.”

 

EA and the FY2015 Supplemental Budget

In his supplemental budget proposal to close out the FY2015 budget, Governor Baker inserts language that would change the regulations that determine access to Emergency Assistance, or family shelter in the 2016 fiscal year.     If supported by the legislature, families who are staying in units  unfit for human habitation and those in irregular housing situations would no longer be eligible for shelter.

Both the House and Senate rejected the governor’s attempt to bring these same restrictions through the state budget process. We are in communication with Legislative leadership to ensure that the state does not implement further restrictions by keeping this harmful language out of the final version of the supplemental budget. In the meantime, you can help by calling the governor’s office at 617.725.4005 and asking that he remove this harmful language from his proposal. Here is a sample script you can use:

“Hi. My name is _______________ , and I live/work in ________________ . I am calling to ask that Governor Baker reconsider Section 30 his supplemental budget proposal to further restrict access to homeless families applying for shelter. Please ask him to remove the language that would turn away children staying in places unfit for human habitation and in irregular housing situations from shelter in his FY2015 supplemental budget.

 

This issue matters to me because: _________________________________________________.”

Whether you are a family who is experiencing homelessness, have struggled to obtain shelter, a provider working with families in these situations or an otherwise concerned stakeholder, please share your concerns with Governor Baker. It is our voice that needs to be heard!!

DS

The Red Pen

GovAction

Photo from mass.gov

The 7th of 9 steps in the State Budget process: The Governor’s Action.  The Conference Committee released their $$38.1 billion in budget recommendations on July 7th. The Governor had 10 days to review their proposal and make any vetoes – to dollar amounts and language – and sign the budget. Today, the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget was signed into law, with $162 million getting vetoed, including $38 million in earmarks.  For the first time in the last 4 cycles, the budget does not draw on the state’s rainy day fund.

What got the red pen?

vetoes

 

screen shot from mass.gov

The Governor vetoed $3 Million from the $91M recommended by the Legislature for the MRVP program, stating, “ I am reducing this item to the amount projected to be necessary”

[Digression] While this is blanket language used to explain many funding reductions, it is hard to fathom any new dollar for housing subsidies to not be necessary.  We have over 4,000 families in shelters and motels; a well documented shortage of affordable housing across the Commonwealth; an ever growing gap between wages and rent, and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development just released a study highlighting housing subsidies as the best tool to combat homelessness

In addition, the Governor vetoed:

  • $2M in funding for unaccompanied homeless youth
  • $370,000 in earmarks in the DHCD Administration Line
  • $650,000 for the Housing and Consumer Education Centers
  • Language the HomeBASE and MRVP line items, citing administrative burdens
  • The Secure Jobs Line Item relative the mandate to target MRVP vouchers
  • Outside sections relative to the Housing Stabilization and Preservation Trust Fund, changing the source of some of the funding from the General Fund to Masshousing

The Governor also filed a Supplemental Budget to close out FY15 spending and add funding for certain initiatives in FY16.  Click here to read the full letter.  You will see in the letter that he recommends $5M for homelessness prevention for homeless families.  This is for the trust fund at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services that he initially recommended funding at $20M.  The Conference Committee budget included $1M. In addition, the Supp Budget includes the eligibility restrictions that the Governor proposed in Step 1 of the Budget Process. The Supp Budget is a proposal to the Legislature and any changes and funding is subject to legislative approval.

What happens now?

The legislature will have an opportunity to override the Governor’s vetoes to restore funding and language.  You can take action by calling your legislator. The message is simple: “My name is _________, and I am calling from the Senator/Representative’s District.  I am concerned about the Governor’s veto to the MRVP Line Item, 7004-9024.  Please advocate to override this veto”

We encourage you to add any other issues that may be important to you in your phone call.

We will be sending out a call to action and additional information- as well as a full analysis of the language and supplemental budget- so make sure you are signed up for our action alerts. To find your legislators, please click here.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. And if you have any comments, don’t hesitate to leave them below or on our Facebook page. Thank you for staying engaged in the budget process and for taking action to ensure it has the proper supports for families across Massachusetts!

Joint Committee on Housing Public Hearing: July 28

As we wait for Governor Baker to sign the FY2016 budget into law, the MA Legislature remains busy on Beacon Hill as the various legislative committees host public hearings on bills that were filed earlier this year. While the budget cycle runs from July – June each year, the legislative cycle runs for 2 years- beginning in January of odd-numbered years.

This is how the process works: Each filed bill is assigned to an appropriate committee which hosts the public hearing. The committee then meets in an executive session to determine if they should report out to the entire legislature favorably or unfavorably. Bills that are originally filed are often re-drafted throughout the 2 year process.

On Tuesday, July 28th the Joint Committee on Housing, led by Chairwoman Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and Chairman Representative Kevin Honan will be hosting a public hearing on bills relative to housing and homelessness. HFF staff will be providing testimony at this hearing, and we encourage you to consider doing the same. If you are interested in speaking on any of these bills, please let us know- we are happy to provide support as you prepare your testimony.

If you are not interested in providing testimony, still consider attending. Your presence says that you care about these issues. If you want to be heard but are unable to attend, you may consider providing written testimony. Again, we are happy to support you in your efforts. We encourage you to comment below with thoughts and questions as well so we can take them into consideration as we prepare our testimonies.

Please see the chart below for a list of the bills that will be discussed:

Housing Hearing

A message from the Secretary of Administration and Finance

forwarding a message from Secretary Lepore so YOU can participate in the process:

A&F Launches Regulatory Review Feedback Portal

Dear Interested Stakeholder,

As you are likely aware, on March 31st Governor Baker signed an Executive Order initiating a year-long review of Massachusetts regulations. Over the past two months, my office established clear lines of communication throughout the executive branch, developed an extensive internal database of existing regulations and is now putting the finishing touches on an elite team of subject matter experts from across state government.

When the Governor and I made this announcement, we said our goals were to make sure that state government speaks with one voice and that this review will help Massachusetts citizens and organizations of all kinds grow and succeed. An essential step towards achieving those goals is gathering feedback from you and your fellow stakeholders, the very people that are affected by state regulations on a daily basis.

To that end, we have established an online portal to solicit feedback. I hope you will consider sharing this link with any individuals or stakeholders you think are interested in participating in the process.

Link to Regulatory Review Portal: http://www.mass.gov/anf/a-clearer-code-regulatory-reform.html

Thank you in advance for your help. I look forward to both your feedback and a Massachusetts with a much clearer regulatory code.

 

Sincerely,

Kristen Lepore

Secretary

Executive Office for Administration and Finance

The Conference Committee Budget Recommendations: In word form, and in chart form.

Yesterday, the MA Legislative FY2016 Conference Committee released its final budget recommendations.

We have provided an analysis of our primary and secondary priorities.

Here it is in word form: 

Governor Baker now has 10 days to take action by signing the budget into law, vetoing the entire budget or vetoing line items within the budget.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the significant restoration of funding to the MA Rental Voucher Program which would be funded at $91 million in FY2016. This will maintain the current number of vouchers in use and will allow for the release of approximately 800 new vouchers. Along with members of the Housing Solutions Campaign, we will be meeting with folks from DHCD next week to discuss and make recommendations for a distribution plan for these new vouchers. Click here to view a recent letter sent to DHCD Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay highlighting these recommendations.

Also of note, eligibility for Emergency Assistance (EA, family shelter) remains the same. HomeBASE funding was increased to $31.2 million, allowing for families to access up to $8,000 to assist with moving out of shelter. While funding for TAFDC was decreased due to a decline in the caseload, the clothing allowance was increased to $200 per child.

And here is the analysis in chart form:

Priority Recs

Secondary Recs

We again want to take the opportunity to thank you all for your incredible advocacy work. Whether it is attending HFF meetings, coming to one of our advocacy events, or making calls and visits to your legislators, it is your work that continues to educate legislators on the importance of investing in policies and programs that support homeless and at-risk families. Please take a moment to celebrate these victories – we sure have! 

Happy New (Fiscal) Year!

We usually ask you to look at the numbers- the number of families in the system, the number that marks MRVP funding…the numbers that make up the Massachusetts family shelter system.

But today- we are going to ask you to look at the pattern of these numbers. And then we are going to ask for your help.

EA Shelter Entries Recent
Data from DHCD

Non-profit organizations like Homes for Families see an increase in donations at the end of the year. Logically, people donate because the weather reminds us how tragic it is for families to sleep in places other than a home, it is the season for giving, and for other reasons that make sense to those donating. And that support is always appreciated. 

However, while organizations see a spike in donations- and even a spike in concern for the issue- during these winter months, the family shelter system sees a spike in families utilizing the EA system during the summer months. We have theories about why this is, of course: Landlords are more flexible during those unbearably cold winter months, relatives or friends that let families sleep in their house don’t want to interrupt the child’s school year, and funding for prevention programs is often depleted by the end of the fiscal year.

So instead of looking at the numbers, this time we ask you to look at the patterns. The graph above highlights families accepted in to EA during Fiscal Year 2014 and the majority of Fiscal Year 2015. The graph below shows that this spike is consistent over time.

EA Shelter Entries
Data from DTA

So as school ends and summer begins, we ask you to consider supporting Homes for Families at this critical time.

But this donation is not just a regular donation; all proceeds will go directly towards our biggest event of the year- Visioning Day.

Visioning Day is a one of a kind event that convenes families overcoming homelessness, shelter providers, and community members to reflect on the previous fiscal year and strategize for the new fiscal year.  And with more families utilizing the system when Visioning Day is held, it is incredibly important that we provide the opportunity to raise their voice to end family homelessness.

Visioning Day is a free event, it has to be. In fact, we give transportation stipends and free childcare to families and others in need of financial assistance to make sure there are no barriers to keep anyone from coming.

This year, we are providing the community with the opportunity to support this event. As you know, HFF relies on the voices of families to guide our advocacy agenda- and Visioning Day is where it all begins. Without that voice, we cannot stay true to our mission to ensure that families have a seat at the policy making table.

You have the chance to catalyze a unique event that ensures that HFF hears from our community- an event that ensures that all families have a say in ending homelessness. With your help, we can make that true. We ask that you make a donation to HFF, with 100% of the money raised going to Visioning Day costs.

Click here to make a donation through our Go Fund Me account.

Checks can be mailed to:

Homes for Families

14 Beacon St, Suite 615

Boston, MA 02130

Thank you in advance for supporting HFF and the mission to end family homelessness.