Last week, DHCD unveiled the Governor’s budget proposal for the Emergency Assistance (EA)program, which would drastically alter how Massachusetts assists homeless families. It is important to note that these changes come within the Governor’s budget recommendations for next fiscal year, which is one step in a lengthy budget process which includes proposals by the House and Senate. Thus, these changes will only take affect after July 1, 2011 if approved by the legislature as they finalize next year’s state budget.
Now, lets look at the proposed changes. To begin, when a family seeks assistance, they will still go to the DHS Homeless Coordinator located in the DTA local office who will determine if they are eligible for EA. If not eligible they will be referred to the local Community Action Programs and Regional Non-profits, or other community based agencies for other forms of assistance, which is what is supposed to happen now. If the household is found EA eligible, they will be placed into one of 3 programs depending on their circumstances.
If the parent is between the ages of 18 and 21, they will be referred to a new “Young Parents” program, which will include placement into a congregate shelter and wraparound services tailored to this population.
The next option will be targeted to those who have become homeless due to an emergency situation such as fire, domestic violence, housing condemnation, natural disaster, medical issues,and immediate child prtotection. These households will be placed into an emergency shelter. These families would then leave shelter by utilizing one of the several traditional housing programs or the new HomeBASE program; described below.
Finally, families who do not fall into these categories will be eligible to recieve HomeBASE (Building Alternatives to Shelter) flexible cash assistance and stabilization services.l. So, families who are homeless due to overcrowding, being asked to leave, eviction and some emergency situations will not be elibible to entero shelter but, can receive cash assistance and services through HomeBASE.
The proposed amount of HomeBASE assistance will be determined by the needs of the individual family, ranging from negotiating with a current landlord or primary tenant to start up cost and up to a diminishing housing subsidy capped at $8,000 per year for up to 3 years.. After the first year, the family will be eligible for a second and third year if they follow their plan and increase their income. However, their subsidy amount will decrease by 5% each year, and apartments have to be priced at 80% of Fair Market Rent or below.. It is proposed that the 9 regional non-profits will be operating HomeBASE The stabilization services through HomeBASe wil focus on self-sufficiency including 1. Increasing income 2. basic budgeting and banking 3. investing in basic education 4. advancing school enrollment for children 5. promoting good tenancies.
With all of these changes, the allocation of resources within EA will certainly change. Above are charts displaying current budget allocations and the proposed budget for the new plan.
The information we have so far only allows us to understand a skeleton framework. We will have a greater understanding when the Governer’s budget is released on Wednesday and as conversations with DHCD and the ICHH progress.
To view DHCD’s power point from the meeting click here.
Read Liz Rogers, Executive Director of the ICHH, comments here.
For notes from the meeting, which provide additional info to the power point, click here.