This week, the House and the Senate passed a supplemental budget that would make significant changes to the HomeBASE and Emergency Assistance programs. The primary cause of these changes is the lack of funding combined with the tremendous demand for housing and shelter assistance. The supplemental will provide additional funding of $21 million to EA and $18.2 million to HomeBASE, but this increase will not be enough to allow the programs to continue operating as they have.
As a result, the supplemental budget calls on DHCD to collaborate with Administration and Finance and the Joint Senate and House Committee on Ways and Means to develop a plan making EA and HomeBASE sustainable programs for the remainder of the fiscal year. This plan must be completed by December 9th, 2012 and will obviously shape the debate around these programs for FY2013 as well.
The supplemental was passed with the following provisions, which may change, as the state develops the plan due on December 9th.
- Those who apply for EA/HomeBASE on or after October 29th will not have access to rental assistance under HomeBASE, which provides a 12 month rental subsidy that could be renewed for a maximum of 3 years. However, these families will have access to non-rental assistance, which provides up to $4,000 to help pay for a variety of expenses in order to keep a family housed.
- Families living in a short-term housing program such as Flex Funds or HPRP as of October 28th, those who were approved for rental assistance as of October 28th, and families who were already living in a temporary accommodation, shelter or motel as of October 28th will have access to rental assistance. Families who are already living in an apartment using HomeBASE rental assistance will continue to receive assistance.
- The Legislature clarified that eligibility for Emergency Assistance will be the same as it was during the previous fiscal year. Therefore, shelter will not be limited to families under the age of 21 and those who become homeless as a result of domestic violence, fire or natural disaster.
- The supplemental calls on DHCD to send a weekly report to the legislature outlining caseload data, information about applications for EA and HomeBASE, and how resources are distributed among families.
- DHCD now has to notify the Legislature of any changes to “regulation[s] or polic[ies] affecting eligibility, benefits or administration” of HomeBASE within 60 days of any proposed changes going into effect, as has been the mandate with EA.
The Governor still has to sign the supplemental budget before it is official, but we expect that he will. Homes for Families would like to thank everyone for their hard work on behalf of homeless families and for all of the phone calls and emails to the legislature and the administration over the past two and a half weeks. Please stay tuned for future updates and advocacy opportunities.