Shelter, Housing and ‘EBT reform’
The Conference Committee assigned to work through the discrepancies between the House and Senate Budgets has sent their proposed FY2014 budget to Governor Patrick. The Governor has 10 days to review it and present vetoes any language or funding contained in it, which then the legislature would then have the opportunity to override. Please contact the Governor’s office to ask for his support of housing and shelter programs while thanking your legislators for their support.
Additionally, a supplemental budget for FY2013 has been presented to Governor Patrick which contains language to require a photo ID on EBT cards for the majority of TAFDC and SNAP households. Please ask the governor to simply VETO this provision (see below for additional information). You can reach the governor’s office at 617.725.4005 or 888.870.7770.
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024)
Funding: Perhaps most worthy of celebration is the committee’s recommendation to fund MRVP at $57.5 million (a $15.5 million increase form current funding).
Language: Language is included to prioritize new vouchers to families timing out of HomeBASE rental assistance to families with a disability that limits a family’s ability to maintain housing without assistance. The line item also states that “prior appropriation continued,” meaning that any FY2013 surplus can be carried over, increasing the total allocation amount.
Emergency Assistance [line items 7004-0101 & 7004-0103(motel funding)]:
Funding: $1.3M short of the Governor’s proposal, which is the amount requested by the Department to meet the program obligations. However, the $90.4M is $10.3M higher in the FY2013 GAA proposal. There was a significant supplemental budget, most of which was transferred to the motel line item. There is no transfer-ability language in the FY2014 EA line item, thus disallowing the use of EA funds to cover motel costs.
The total costs of shelter contracts are approximately $84M, meaning that there should be sufficient funding to cover full year contracts, along with other expenditures; including Department of Children and Families, Department of Public Health- For Families, technical assistance from Homes for Families, transportation and other programs. (Note that the motel line item is distinct and was funded at $6.3M. At the current motel census of 1,320, the funding will only cover 2 months, requiring supplemental funding. The motel spending in FY2013 was approximately $40 million).
Language: Most of the language is consistent with the current FY2013, except for the transfer-ability language and some slight reporting language changes. Maintained in the language is the mandate to provide services to families in motels, presumptive eligibility, and advanced notice to the legislature before any eligibility changes. The language regarding converting scattered sites was also included.
HomeBASE (HB, line item 7004-0108)
Funding: $58.9, which is $24.3M less than the FY13 GAA. HomeBASE also received supplemental funding during the fiscal year.
Language: As anticipated, the original 36 month commitment was not restored; however, there is significant language to provide flexibility and resources to prevent families from becoming homeless again. Families transitioning off of HB may access RAFT and HB for a combined amount greater than $4,000. Families accessing Household Assistance as a means to avoid or exit shelter are capped at the $4,000 per year assistance (“provided further, that excluding families receiving rental assistance, a family shall not received more than a combined sum of $4,000 in a 12 month period from this item and item (RAFT)…”
The line item later states that: “families that received rental assistance under this item prior to July 1, 2012 shall remain eligible for assistance greater than $4,000 under this item provided that the monthly rent for the housing does not exceed the amount approved by the department of housing and community development” In addition, the language states that the Department (and therefore its vendors) shall take all steps necessary to ensure that families transitioning off of rental assistance do not become homeless again – through MRVP, federal housing, Household Assistance and RAFT, and if there is no other option, and families have complied with their re-housing plan and meet the income eligibility, families are eligible for EA shelter. Please note that families that were terminated from the program will not be eligible for EA for 24 months. Additional reporting requirements were also included, and the CAP agencies were included to provide additional services.
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316)
Funding: $10M a $1.2M increase from $8.7M. Up to $500,000 of RAFT funding may be utilized for temporary emergency accommodations for up to 7 days.
Language: Significant language was added to this line item to address the concerns caused by the shelter regulations. Funding may be used, administered through this line item/by the program administrators, to provide temporary shelter to families that are within 24 hours of staying in a place not meant for human habitation, have an income less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level, and who are not eligible for shelter. Additional language regarding the referral process and reporting was included. The line item language also specifies that families transitioning off of HomeBASE Rental Assistance can receive a combined sum of RAFT and HB over $4,000.
‘EBT Reform’ (appears in Outside Sections of the FY2013 supplemental budget)
Of significant note is the supplemental budget requires photo IDs on EBT cards for TAFDC and SNAP beneficiary households. While the provision exempts elders, persons with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence, it would not exempt their caregivers or working families who would now be burdened by having to go to a DTA office to have their photo taken.
As stated by Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute in a memo to the SNAP Coalition members, we should “Urge Governor Patrick to VETO the EBT photo ID provisions in the Supp Budget as a costly, wasteful and punitive initiative. An EBT photo ID will only undermine important SNAP outreach work efforts to encourage needy Massachusetts households to apply for these critical 100% federall-funded nutrition benefits [refers to SNAP only]. An EBT photo ID serves only to further stigmatize and humiliate SNAP recipients at the checkout line. Massachusetts should not lead the nation in imposing such harmful, costly and punitive initiatives.”
Other Items of Note
- The Housing Stabilization Fund, which would allow the Administration to create a funding mechanism to recapture savings on spending on homeless programs and divert them into funding for housing originally proposed by the Governor was funded at $10 million.
- Public Housing Operating Subsidies were funded at $64.4 million.
- Small funding increases were also recommended for the Housing Consumer Education Centers, Young Parents Programs and Comprehensive Integrated Employment Services.
- The Salary Reserve which would provide funding for a COLA for 19,000 low-paid human service workers was funded at $11.5 million.
- Creates a new Bureau of Integrity Program within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to oversee program integrity at the DTA.
- Teen Living Shelter Program was funded at $9.19 million, which should cover the additional funding required to maintain current services levels once mandated provider rate increases take effect.