The Senate Ways & Means recommended funding the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $70 million, a $12.5 increase over current spending and $9.5 million over the funding recommended by the House last month.
New language was also inserted into the MRVP line item that says:
“… any new mobile vouchers distributed in fiscal year 2015 be distributed to families currently residing on existing or new statewide housing waitlists…the method used to distribute or redistribute vouchers under this item shall not take into account participation in the state’s emergency assistance housing program…”
So, does this mean that families in the state’s shelter system would not be eligible for new vouchers that would be funded? NO! While it is unclear of the process DHCD might use to distribute new vouchers under these guidelines, this language does not exclude EA families from receiving new vouchers as they become available. The language seems to infer that families accessing EA would simply not receive a priority over other standard applicants and would have to be on the waitlist (yet to be determined) in order to be considered.
The total dollar amount of $136.9M is less than the House proposal of $140M ($125M for shelter and $15M for motels) and significantly less that the Governor’s proposal of $179.6M ($167.3M for motels and $12.3M for motels). This will leave the program underfunded, as total spending in FY14 is approximately $160M, including shelter, motel and (pending and passed) supplemental budgets.
The language is largely unchanged from the FY14 budget in that there were no corrections made to the eligibility criteria and the other protections (like presumptive eligibility, due process and oversight language) and program mandates (like dv services, housing search, cribs) were maintained. Some changes are proposed. They removed the language saying those placed only presumptively cannot be barred by the 12 month rule (so a family in shelter less than 30 days and never found finally eligible could be barred for 12 months). The data and reporting requirements for DHCD are simplified, and the distinct line item for motels was eliminated and language was inserted into this line item authorizing motel spending.
The Senate proposes $24.2M for HomeBASE, which is $100,000 less than the Governor’s proposal and $1.7M less than the House proposal.
The Senate language would mandate DHCD to establish a new maximum per family annual cap by September 1, 2014. The language also states that the cap shall be $6,000 until a new cap is established. The language in this line item is simplified due to the elimination of the rental assistance component, so will require further analysis, but it does not appear other significant changes were made.