As you know, the Governor proposed dramatic alterations to the family shelter system in his FY 2012 budget recommendations. This includes limiting shelter to families who became homeless due to domestic violence, natural disaster or fire and also creates a new shelter program for parents under the age of 21. The remaining families will be placed in a new 3-year housing subsidy program called HomeBASE. The House recently released the first draft of their budget recommendations for FY 2012 know as the House Ways and Means budget, and this draft included the same basic framework that the Governor proposed. However, many changes needed to be made to this first draft through the amendment process. On Tuesday amendments affecting housing and homelessness programs were finalized and voted on. Below is a summary of what was passed.
HomeBASE: TheHouse Ways and Means budget proposed that families could only access housing at 80% Fair Market Rent or less, which in some areas may be too low of a threshold and may force families into unsafe housing. The House amended this by inserting language allowing the administering agencies of HomeBASE to go above 80% FMR if safe housing cannot be attained or if a family is transitioning into HomeBASE from a flex funds or HPRP unit that was above 80% FMR. RCAP Solutions was also added as an administering agency of the program.
Emergency Assistance: The House added language that EA funds could be used for prevention activities including landlord/tenant mediation, legal assistance to prevent eviction, housing search services, and stabilization services. Community action programs and other community based organizations will administer the program, but no money was designated for these activities, which means that DHCD can spend very little money on prevention if they choose.
Advocates had asked for housing search within 14 days of a family being placed in a motel and stronger language ensuring families could access shelter if they could not quickly find housing through HomeBASE. Neither of these were passed.
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards: The House passed an amendment prohibiting store owners from accepting EBT cards to pay for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or lottery tickets.