Additional perspective on the the Governor’s FY15 Budget Proposal
In FY14, as in previous years, the Department of Housing and Community Development has had to depend on supplemental funding to fulfill their mandate to provide shelter for all families that meet the eligibility criteria. There are distinct shelter and motel line items in the State Budget; the family shelter line was funded at about $90M, while motels were underfunded at $6M, which only covered about two months of motel bills. Additional funding was required this year for the shelter line, as well as the motel line, as part of a collective effort to move families from motels to congregate shelter- by adding 650 units of contracted shelter space. One supplemental budget was passed by the Legislature in the Fall- approximately $13M for motels, and the other request is currently pending (approx $12M for motels and $32M for shelter). The graph below shows the spending levels through the appropriated and supplemental budgets. By my math, based on an average motel census number of 2,000 per night, additional motel funding may be needed by the end of the fiscal year.
The Governor’s budget proposes to fund Emergency Assistance at $179.3M ($167.3 for shelters and $12M for motels) at the start of the fiscal year. This will allow DHCD to continue to shift capacity from motels to shelters, give programs 12 month contracts, provide an increased level of services and opportunities to families, be more strategic and efficient, and avoid the scramble for supplemental funding. With the current economic challenges, strains of the housing market and lack of federal resources, the need for shelter is projected to remain at a historic high in the Commonwealth and across the nation….so a realistic budget for the program is a responsible proposal.
The funding amount in the House 2 budget represents an overall increase in funding to the EA line items, above the supplemented budgets. This amount may be consistent with the actual FY14 expenditures if there is no decline in the motel census, but it is also due to the higher program cost of shelter versus motels. The motel line item covers only the actual room, and does not include any case management, housing search, and other program related expenses. Housing search services for families in motels is paid for, and administered, through the HomeBASE line item. The graph below compares the FY14 budget and the Governor’s proposal for FY15:
Oh, I know what you are thinking….how does this compare to the money proposed for housing- and specifically MRVP….am I right? As our previous posts have mentioned, the Governor proposes to level fund the Mass Rental Voucher Program, but below is a graph of the total spending level of the program compared to the shelter/motel spending. Please note, unlike the EA program that providers shelter to children and their parent(s), MRVP also provides subsidies to elderly and disabled households. Therefore the actual MRVP spending on households with children is even less than the graph depicts:
The bottom line: we need more funding for HOUSING. We propose using the cost saving incurred from the premature ending of HomeBASE rental assistance to be invested in the MRVP program. This would be a big, $30M step towards restoring the program, which was once funded at over $120M.
Join us on Monday, February 24 at 10:30am at the Grand Staircase in the State House for MRVP COOKIE DAY!
Together, we can use Our Voice to advocate for Housing Solutions to Homelessness!