The Senate Ways and Means Budget was released on Tuesday afternoon. The budget proposal, entitled INVESTING FOR A RESILIENT COMMONWEALTH, begins with a message from Chairwoman Karen Spilka about resiliency:
Resilience is most often defined as the ability to achieve a good outcome in the face of adversity. Resilience can—and must—be built on a community-by-community and statewide basis, but there is no more important place to plant the seed of resilience than within our children. Strong, resilient children will grow up to be active contributors to a productive and thriving Commonwealth.
The Executive Summary gives an overview of the allocations by category with some of the reasoning of the committee:
Stable, safe housing is critical for family wellbeing and the physical, emotional and educational success of children. In line with the mission of the Special Senate Committee on Housing, this budget invests $441M in low income and homelessness programs to help connect individuals, families and vulnerable populations with housing and supportive services, key foundations for resilience at all ages.
And notes regarding specific investments or initiatives:
As recommended by the Special Senate Committee on Housing, this budget requires the Executive Offices of Housing and Economic Development, Health and Human Services, Labor and Workforce Development and Education to enter into a memorandum of understanding to identify cross-agency solutions to the challenges faced by low income Massachusetts residents at risk of homelessness.
Program funding is listed, by line item, in the allocation section. Below are the key programs impacting families experiencing homelessness, listed with the proposed funding level, language, and key amendments. We will compile a full list of relative amendments when they are filed.
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (7004-9024)
SWM Proposed Funding Amount: $100,083,891
SWM Proposed Language: Adds reporting language and elimination of some technical changes related to program administration
Amendment: Housing Chair Linda Dorcena Forry’s amendment #779 proposed to increase funding to $120 million and make important adjustments to the program, including: establishing the Fair Market Rent (FMR) Cap at the current FMR; establishing a data management system; and mandating rapid voucher distribution. Click here for our MRVP Action Alert. Let your Senator know it is #779!
Emergency Assistance (7004-0101)
SWM Proposed Funding: $155,058,948
SWM Proposed Language: Includes language that families at imminent risk of homelessness would be eligible for shelter; increases advance notice language from 60 to 90 days; reduces reporting requirements
Amendment: Senator Jason Lewis’s Amendment #669 will increase reporting requirements to include the reasons why families are determined not eligible for EA and basic demographic information
SWM Proposed Funding: $31,943,664
SWM Proposed Language: Includes increased access to families in domestic violence and substance abuse family sober living programs
Amendment: Senator Sonia Chang Diaz’s amendment #426 will increase funding to $39,200,000; remove the funding cap for the expansion to domestic violence and substance abuse program residents and clarify eligibility for participants in those programs; and add language for voucher renewal
Other Useful Information
For more information on selected programs related to benefits, child welfare, housing and homelessness from Mass Law Reform Institute, click here
For a full analysis from Mass Budget and Policy Center, click here
Thank you to our partners in the advocacy community for this great work!
For tips of navigating the list of amendments, refer back to our blog post on the House Amendments; the Senate Amendments are a bit easier to navigate as they are listed by category.
And thank you, yes YOU, for your advocacy on these key issues!