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:
- Sen. Karen Spilka, Chair, Senate Ways and Means
- Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Vice-Chair, Senate Ways and Means
- Sen. Vinny deMacedo, the ranking Republican on Senate Ways and Means
- Rep. Brian Dempsey, Chair, House Ways and Means
- Rep. Stephen Kulik, Vice-Chair, House Ways and Means
- Rep. Todd Smola, the ranking Republican on House Ways and Means
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.