The Senate Amendment Edition

Today, the Senate will begin debating the 1,167 amendments to determine which ones will help to build a more resilient Commonwealth.

We found about 50 that directly or indirectly relate to family homelessness; including earmarks or money for particular programs or initiatives (including one for HFF), others that could negatively impact families or the system, and others that could make a positive impact.  To review this full list, click here.

To review the HFF Priority List click here.

Here is a list of the co-sponsors from the the MRVP and HomeBASE Amendments:

MRVP: Ms. Forry, Mr. Moore, Ms. Lovely, Ms. L’Italien, Messrs. Lewis, Barrett and Eldridge, Ms. Chang-Diaz, Messrs. Donnelly, Joyce, Brownsberger and McGee, Ms. Donoghue and Ms. Gobi

HomeBASE: Ms. Chang-Diaz, Ms. L’Italien, Mr. Eldridge, Ms. Forry and Ms. Donoghue

Don’t forget to follow along on Twitter; we are @HFFma and will be using joining the #SenBudget conversation.  Retweets and quoted tweets are encouraged! Let’s amplify #OurVoice

The SWM Budget and Key Programs Relative to Family Homelesness

The Senate Ways and Means Budget was released on Tuesday afternoon.  The budget proposal, entitled INVESTING FOR A RESILIENT COMMONWEALTHbegins with a message from Chairwoman Karen Spilka about resiliency:

Resilience is most often defined as the ability to achieve a good outcome in the face of adversity. Resilience can—and must—be built on a community-by-community and statewide basis, but there is no more important place to plant the seed of resilience than within our children. Strong, resilient children will grow up to be active contributors to a productive and thriving Commonwealth.

The Executive Summary gives an overview of the allocations by category with some of the reasoning of the committee:

 Stable, safe housing is critical for family wellbeing and the physical, emotional and educational success of children. In line with the mission of the Special Senate Committee on Housing, this budget invests $441M in low income and homelessness programs to help connect individuals, families and vulnerable populations with housing and supportive services, key foundations for resilience at all ages.

And notes regarding specific investments or initiatives:

As recommended by the Special Senate Committee on Housing, this budget requires the Executive Offices of Housing and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Labor and Workforce Development and Education to enter into a memorandum of understanding to identify cross-agency solutions to the challenges faced by low income Massachusetts residents at risk of homelessness.

image screenshot from Click to enlarge


Program funding is listed, by line item, in the allocation section. Below are the key programs impacting families experiencing homelessness, listed with the proposed funding level, language, and key amendments. We will compile a full list of relative amendments when they are filed.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (7004-9024)

SWM Proposed Funding Amount: $100,083,891

SWM Proposed Language: Adds reporting language and elimination of some technical changes related to program administration

Amendment: Housing Chair Linda Dorcena Forry’s amendment #779 proposed to increase funding to $120 million and make important adjustments to the program, including: establishing the Fair Market Rent (FMR) Cap at the current FMR; establishing a data management system; and mandating rapid voucher distribution.  Click here for our MRVP Action Alert.  Let your Senator know it is #779!

Emergency Assistance (7004-0101)

SWM Proposed Funding: $155,058,948

SWM Proposed Language: Includes language that families at imminent risk of homelessness would be eligible for shelter; increases advance notice language from 60 to 90 days; reduces reporting requirements

Amendment: Senator Jason Lewis’s Amendment #669 will increase reporting requirements to include the reasons why families are determined not eligible for EA and basic demographic information


HomeBASE (7004-0108)

SWM Proposed Funding: $31,943,664

SWM Proposed Language: Includes increased access to families in domestic violence and substance abuse family sober living programs

Amendment: Senator Sonia Chang Diaz’s amendment #426 will increase funding to $39,200,000; remove the funding cap for the expansion to domestic violence and substance abuse program residents and clarify eligibility for participants in those programs; and add language for voucher renewal

Other Useful Information

For more information about the Senate Ways and Means Budget Relative to Housing, please click the links for CHAPA’s full analysis and amendment list.

For more information on selected programs related to benefits, child welfare, housing and homelessness from Mass Law Reform Institute, click here

For a full analysis from Mass Budget and Policy Center, click here

Thank you to our partners in the advocacy community for this great work!

For tips of navigating the list of amendments, refer back to our blog post on the House Amendments; the Senate Amendments are a bit easier to navigate as they are listed by category.

And thank you, yes YOU, for your advocacy on these key issues!


PS: Bonus thanks to any retweets of our #SenBudget tweets on Twitter! 


The Senate Budget Is Coming…

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives have finalized their budget proposal, and now it is the Senate’s turn. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means, lead by Chairwoman Karen Spilka, will be releasing their proposal on Tuesday, May 17th.  Amendments will be due on Thursday May, 19th.  Debates will begin on Tuesday, May 24th.

We are not certain about what will be in the budget; and therefor what amendments may or may not be needed, but we do know that Senate President Stan Rosenberg is focused on “Kids First”. And we also know that Chairwoman Spilka has been a strong advocate on issues of housing, prevention and access to shelter, as evident in this video.

The Senate also established a Special Senate Committee on Housing which started meeting in April of 2015 and issued a report in March of 2016. The report may offer some insight as to what will be in the Senate Budget proposal:


And we also know that revenues have been low, and that there are multiple priorities for the elected officials and people of the Commonwealth.  Your voice will be important as Senators work through the budget process.  If you want to look up your State Senator and their contact information, click here, and get ready to advocate! Let #OurVoice be heard!


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.


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….

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:


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:


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.


You can always go to 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:


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, 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!



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 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’ 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 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




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!