As our prior blog post illustrates, we wanted a lot from the House budget debates relative to housing:
- We wanted families at imminent risk of homelessness to be eligible for shelter
- We wanted more data and reporting to know why families are not eligible
- We wanted increased access to HomeBASE for families in Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse shelters and for those receiving prior assistance
- We wanted technical changes to the language of certain line items for smoother administration
We supported our amendment sponsors the best we could from outside of the ropes in front of the House Chambers (no matter how far the ropes are expanded!). We gave them information and talking points, educated and encouraged other legislators to join them in the closed door discussions, and relied on you- our HFF community- to rally your legislators.
Unfortunately, none of our priority amendments for housing were passed. But as the Rolling Stones say, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
But thankfully, the House Budget proposes things that we need:
A significant increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
A rejection of the Governor’s proposal to further restrict shelter eligibility
More funding for prevention, diversion and re-housing through RAFT and HomeBASE
And an increased cap to the HomeBASE benefit
The House Budget proposes the Emergency Assistance Line item be funded at $155,058,948, which is about a $15M increase from the appropriated amount for this fiscal year and about $40M less than the total spending on shelters and motels in FY15 including supplemental funding. Earmarks were added to the line item for playspaces and to provide additional services to families in certain motels. The line item received a bump of $180,000 to cover the cost of those additions.
The House Budget provides a strong proposal for addressing the family homelessness crisis in fiscal year 2016, and will help us to focus on maintaining and fine tuning the line items in the Senate.
Do you want to stay involved and take more action? No problem, here are a few ways:
1. We invite you to listen to this song to remind you of our MRVP ask. We hope it inspires you to call your Senator and remind them of the need for HOUSING SOLUTIONS TO THE HOMELESSNESS CRISIS! We are very pleased with the $90.1M proposed by the House, but more $ = more vouchers! #MRVP100!
2. Stay tuned for more information about the House Budget relative to our other priority areas and for action you can take to address the shelter and HomeBASE access issues in the Senate.
3. You can also say thank you to:
- Speaker DeLeo; Chairman Dempsey of Ways and Means; Chairman Honan of the Housing Committee; and Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing with a simple call or email saying “Thank you for the protections and investments for homeless families in the House Budget”
- Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge for sponsoring and fighting for important amendments related to shelter, HomeBASE, welfare benefits, and EITC….and for giving an impassioned speech about her own history in public housing, the role of Government and the need for housing for all families of the Commonwealth
- Representative Barber and Representative Gregoire for sponsoring the HomeBASE access and EA reporting amendments, respectively
- and your representative if they signed on to the amendments that you care about
Finally, we leave you with this- a video taken at the State House. No filming is allowed from the House Gallery where we watch the debates and the votes are taken, but thankfully this video was made of the evacuation of the State House on Wednesday morning to give you a sense of the fun and energy that is House Debate Week!
video credit: Mike Deehan from MASSter List
Thank you for all YOU do to end homelessness!