5/15-5/19 What is happening Under the Golden Dome…

….relative to housing and homelessness?

 

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means will release their budget proposal on Tuesday, May 16th. The deadline to file any amendments to the SWM proposal is Thursday and debates will begin the following Tuesday, May 23rd.  Debates will wrap up in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

The budget proposal release is not the only action and activity taking place at the State House next week, click here for the full schedule of hearings and events for the month of May. 

There are three committee hearings on Monday – the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. Both the House and Senate will be in “informal session”.

Monday will be a good day to call your Senator’s office and let them know what you hope they will prioritize in the Senate Budget Debates.  Click here look up your State Senator and below is a sample script:

“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in the Senator’s district in _(your town)__. I am calling because I am concerned about (housing, homelessness, transportation, jobs, education…be specific) and I am asking that the Senator prioritizes these issues during the upcoming budget debates.

And it will also be a good day to write testimony in support of or against any of the bills that are being considered in the week ahead. Verbal testimony should be 3 minutes or less. Written testimony can be submitted to the committee.

Tuesday is the big day! Not only will the budget be released, but there are 12 hearings scheduled!! The Joint Committee on Housing is hosting an Oversight Hearing  (oversight hearings generally include invited panelists from State or Quasi agencies or other experts in the field and the public is open to listen). Other hearings focus on bills, many of which touch on the issue of family homelessness, and are open to the public to listen and/or give testimony:

Wednesday there is one hearing hosted by the Joint Committee on Transportation. Wednesday will be a key day for confirming sponsors for Amendments to the Senate Ways and Means Proposal and Thursday will be the deadline. Now is the time to sign up for our action alerts if you have not already.

Did you know that Massachusetts often near the top of the list for the number of bills filed; but is close to the bottom of the list of the number of bills passed. This slightly outdated article lists us as passing only 5% of all bills. However, hearings give us all a chance to be heard; to make our case, to elevate an issue, to interact with those that make decisions impacting our lives, to support legislators fighting the good fight, and to call out injustices of bad bills.

For more on Legislative and Budget advocacy, click here for a recent webinar (slides or full presentation with audio) we did with our colleagues on the On Solid Ground Coalition.

LH

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Following the Amendments on malegislature.gov

The House Committee on Ways and Means released their budget proposal on Monday, April 10th, a change from the typical Wednesday release to accommodate for Good Friday. Representatives had until 5pm on Thursday to add amendments to the $40.3Billion spending proposal.  Amendments can add additional funding and change line item language. Amendments must be filed by at least one representative, and others can add their name as co-sponsors after the amendment has been filed.  Historically, representatives co-sponsored an amendment by signing their names next to the corresponding number in a book in the clerk’s office with a quill pen.

Advocates and others would have to go to the clerk’s office at the State House and ask to see “the book” to see who had signed on. Now, legislators can use the “quill” feature on an online system that we can all track. Technology makes the process much more transparent.

The Massachusetts Legislature’s website had a bit of a face lift since last budget season. This blog post gives an overview of how to navigate the website so that you can read the various amendments, see what amendments your representative filed, and check to see if your State Representative is supporting the Budget Amendments that are important to you.

Step 1. Go to https://malegislature.gov/

Step 2. Go to the House Debate Page

Step 3. Use the Filter

When you enter your search terms, don’t forget to click the “filter” icon; use the “clear filter” feature to start a new search.  

Search Tips

  • If you don’t know who your State Representative is, click here
  • Housing programs all are listed with line item number 7004-
  • Line items we follow are: MRVP (7004-9024); Emergency Shelter (7004-0101); and HomeBASE (7004-0108)
  • Key words include: homeless, housing, voucher…

Step 4: Find your Amendment(s)

Step 5: Review the Amendment

Amendment #780 is an example of a funding amendment; striking the budget amount of $100M for MRVP and inserting $120M.

Click here to read the “technical amendment” #382 that was filed on MRVP 

Step 6: Take Action

If your Representative is signed on: say thank you!

If your Representative is not signed on: ask him/her to consider co-sponsoring.

You can call, email, use social media, visit the State House, attend an event.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or for more information.  For a sample script and a list of the amendments we are watching, click here

Stay tuned for more information; we will do our best to keep the blog updated as the budget process continues.  Representatives have up until the debates begin to co-sponsor and get educated about the amendments.

The debates begin on Monday, April 24th!

Get Ready, Get Set, Go Advocate!!

Summary of Key Line Items and Amendments Relative to Housing and Homelessness

Yesterday, the House Committee on Ways and Means released their FY2017 Budget Proposal. Representatives have until mid-day tomorrow, Friday 4/15, to file amendments.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funds MRVP at $100 million, which includes carry over funding unspent in FY2016.  However, this funding level is not sufficient to cover the cost of new vouchers and needed program fixes.

Amendment #52 filed by Representative Paul Donato: increases funding for MRVP to $120 million. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Sean Garballey: aligns MRVP mobile voucher rent cap with current HUD FMRs, allows for a data management system and requires DHCD to begin issuing new vouchers. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact John Rosenberry in Rep. Garballey’s office.  

 

Emergency Assistance (EA, family shelter, line item 7004-0101)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funded EA at $155.1 million and made no changes to eligibility for the program.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Marjorie Decker: allows access to shelter for families who are at imminent risk of staying places not meant for human habitation.  To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact Tim Mahoney in Rep. Decker’s office.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Danielle Gregoire: requires DHCD to report certain data tracking points to the Legislature, including basic demographics of families experiencing homelessness and reasons that families are denied access to shelter. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives, or their staff, should contact Jennifer Mercadante in Rep. Gregoire’s office

Amendment #66 filed by Representative Adrian Madaro: continues funding for Homes for Families to provide technical assistance. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108)

The HWM FY2017 budget proposal funds HomeBASE at $31.9 million, a slight increase over current funding. It also opens access to a limited amount of funding to families experiencing homelessness who are sheltered in domestic violence or treatment facilities.

Amendment to be filed by Representative Christine Barber: This amendment builds off of the pilot program proposed in the budget to make HomeBASE available to income-eligible families in domestic violence and substance abuse programs. The amendment also allows families to renew HomeBASE in order to avoid evictions, loss of housing stability, or the need to re-enter shelter, and the amendment continues forward funding of the program to the nonprofit organizations that administer HomeBASE on behalf of the state. To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or the their staff can sign on using the LAWS system.

 

Other Amendments:

Earned Income Tax Credit Amendments Sponsored By Representative Decker

  • To increase the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 23% to 50% of the federal credit
  • To allow victims of DV to be eligible for the credit and direct the Department of Revenue to increase EITC outreach.

To co-sponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff should contact Tim Mahoney in Representative Decker’s office

Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) Work Study Amendment sponsored by Representative Sannicandro
This amendment provides $2.35 million to fund paid work study for families on TAFDC at community colleges and to pay for staff to help these students succeed in college.

To cosponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Becca Miller at Rebecca.Miller@mahouse.gov or 722-2013 by noon on Friday

Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (DWD 7002-1074) Amendment sponsored by Representative Wagner
This amendment to provide $4 million to support sector orientated workforce training that reflects best practices in workforce development including collaborations between employers, education programs and community based organizations.

To cosponsor this amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Rory O’Hanlon at Rory.O’Hanlon@mahouse.gov or 722-2370

TAFDC Job Search Amendment sponsored by Representative Cabral               

This amendment requires proof of job search 60 days from application in order to be eligible for benefits.

To cosponsor amendment, representatives or their staff can contact Al Medeiros at Alves.Medeiros@mahouse.gov or 722-2017

Please stay tuned for more analysis and amendment information over the next two weeks.

In the meantime, we encourage you to follow along on the State’s Budget Page, read MLRI’s full budget analysis, and review the chart below with funding in key line items.

Click on the Picture to Enlarge

hwmBudget

LH

 

Help Stop the Governor’s Proposal to Restrict Access to Shelter and Cut MRVP

While many have taken to the beach or a lake to cool off from this week’s summer heat, folks on Beacon Hill are still hard at work, as they attempt to close out the state’s FY2015 budget and finalize the FY2016 budget. You might be scratching your head and thinking, “hey wait, FY2015 ended June 30th and Governor Baker signed the FY2016 budget into law, soooooo… what’s this all about?

Actually, you’d be right. Both of those have come and gone, yet there remains some open business for our elected officials to handle before they break out of official session on July 31st. Here are the deets:

MRVP and the FY2016 Budget

8Overrides

 

screen shot from https://malegislature.gov/Budget/Process

The final FY2016 Conference Committee budget voted on by the MA Legislature funded the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program at $90.9 million, which would allow for approximately 800 new MRVP vouchers. Unfortunately, Governor Baker vetoed $3 million from the line item which would result in the loss of 300 of these vouchers. As you know, we cannot afford to forfeit even one voucher to budget cuts.

Please take a moment to contact both your State Representative and State Senator to ask that they override the MRVP veto. If you are uncertain how to contact your elected officials, click here. Below is a script for you to use:

“Hi. My name is ________________, and I live/work in __________________. I am calling to ask my representative/senator to work to override Governor Patrick’s veto of $3 million to MRVP and restore funding to $90.9 million for FY2016.

 

I support MRVP because: ___________________________________________________________.”

 

EA and the FY2015 Supplemental Budget

In his supplemental budget proposal to close out the FY2015 budget, Governor Baker inserts language that would change the regulations that determine access to Emergency Assistance, or family shelter in the 2016 fiscal year.     If supported by the legislature, families who are staying in units  unfit for human habitation and those in irregular housing situations would no longer be eligible for shelter.

Both the House and Senate rejected the governor’s attempt to bring these same restrictions through the state budget process. We are in communication with Legislative leadership to ensure that the state does not implement further restrictions by keeping this harmful language out of the final version of the supplemental budget. In the meantime, you can help by calling the governor’s office at 617.725.4005 and asking that he remove this harmful language from his proposal. Here is a sample script you can use:

“Hi. My name is _______________ , and I live/work in ________________ . I am calling to ask that Governor Baker reconsider Section 30 his supplemental budget proposal to further restrict access to homeless families applying for shelter. Please ask him to remove the language that would turn away children staying in places unfit for human habitation and in irregular housing situations from shelter in his FY2015 supplemental budget.

 

This issue matters to me because: _________________________________________________.”

Whether you are a family who is experiencing homelessness, have struggled to obtain shelter, a provider working with families in these situations or an otherwise concerned stakeholder, please share your concerns with Governor Baker. It is our voice that needs to be heard!!

DS

We interrupt our regularly scheduled (#NHHAW #VDAY) Blog Posts, to give you an important 9C cut update

According to Massbudget Policy Center. Section 9C of Chapter 29 of the Massachusetts General Laws requires that when projected revenue is less than projected spending, the Governor must act to ensure that the budget is brought into balance.  With a projected shortfall for this fiscal year, Governor Patrick has acted and proposed a series of cuts.  There are a lot of cuts and dings across programs- many to administrative lines, incentives, reserves, earmarks, and uncommitted grants.

Housing and shelter line items were essentially unscathed- less a reduction to the DHCD administration line, less than $1M from MRVP and a $76,000 reduction to the DMH subsidy program.  From our understanding the cut to MRVP will not impact the distribution of vouchers as the lease up time will result in a surplus in the line item.  The Salary Reserve was also preserved

Relative Human Services programs did take some significant cuts including the following:

DPH Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment ($50,000)
DPH Healthy Relationships Grant Program ($150,000)
DMH Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services ($5M)
DMH Mental Health Services Including Adult Homeless and Emergency ($2M)
DMH Emergency Services and Mental Health Care ($3.6M)
Inpatient Facilities and Community-Based Mental Health Service ($790,000)
DTA Pathways to Self Sufficiency ($10M…out of $11M)
DTA Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Grant Pmt ($5M)
DTA Emergency Aid to the Elderly Disabled and Children ($2M)

 

We will be in communication with our partners that work on the Pathways to Self Sufficiency Program and the Welfare Coalition to learn more about the impact of the cuts.

Other cuts to human services, according to the Provider’s Council (cut and pasted from their email) are:

Department of Mental Health

DMH will see a $11.6 million reduction resulting in delayed programs and a loss of funds in emergency funding for the uninsured.

Department of Developmental Services

DDS will have its budget reduced by $5.5 million. Much of this will come from reduction of funds to Day and Employment Services and Family Support Services.

Department of Youth Services
DYS will see a reduction of about $385,000. The costs will be absorbed through delaying the opening of two programs, according to DYS.

Executive Office of Elder Affairs
Elder Home Care Purchased Services (line item 9110-1630) will see a 9C cut of about $1.5 million. The FY ’15 final budget included $104.4 million for services in this line item which will be reduced to $102.9 million.

Local Aid

Governor Patrick proposed a $25.5 million reduction in local aid, which will require  legislative approval when the formal session starts in January.

There were also cuts to libraries, ANF, Fish and Wildlife, and Conservation and Recreation, and in education programs.

We are grateful for the Administrations commitment to preserving our housing programs and the safety net of shelter and the thoughtfulness to minimize the impact of the cuts on vulnerable populations.  We will work to understand the impact of the cuts to programs and people and do support the use of the rainy day fund to further minimize the of the budget shortfall.

Here is the link to the State’s website with additional information.

Now that you have digested all of that information, remember that this is the Governor’s proposal. There is already push back from the Legislature, as this Globe article reports.

Stay tuned!

LH

A New Holistic Approach to Family Homelessness?

CHAPA Homelessness Committee White Paper Sub-Committee Meeting

March 10, 2014

CHAPA,  a non-profit organization for affordable housing and community development activities in Massachusetts, Homes For Families and several other members of their Homelessness Committee, which advocates for more permanent affordable housing and prevention programs among other services, convened last week to discuss their new white paper proposal.   A white paper is an informative report created to propose solutions that can influence decision-making processes.  The White Paper Sub-Committee is working to create a policy document that coordinates the different organizations’ findings and efforts to make policy recommendations to help the commonwealth reduce homelessness.  One of the overall goals of this document is to coordinate three areas that affect families: housing, childcare, and jobs and economic development.

The agenda of the meeting discussed the major goals of the white paper along with the potential priority focus areas.  Since homelessness is not a simple or straightforward issue, the committee is facing some difficulty in narrowing its scope while sticking to their goal of creating an integrated approach.  With an initiative of this nature, Massachusetts can approach homelessness by attacking its root causes as opposed to just focusing on short term solutions.  The committee is planning on organizing and creating a proposal to provide guidance for the upcoming 2014 gubernatorial race. 

A commonality between these organizations is that they are all dedicated to supporting a preventative, holistic approach to family homelessness in Massachusetts, which means that to make it work- we need your input!

Which areas do you think would be most effective to address in ending family homelessness?  

[The organizations present at the meeting included CHAPA, Horizons for Homeless Children, Crittenton Women’s Union, MBHP, Regional Housing Network of MA, HomeFunders, United Way of Mass Bay and Merrimack Valley, UMASS Boston Center for Social Policy, Mass Public Health Association and several others.]

Becca, Intern

Conference Committee Budget Analysis

On June 27th, the Conference Committee released their FY13 Budget which was voted favorably in both the House (3 nays, the rest yays) and Senate (unanimously).  Now, the Governor has 10 days to sign the budget and make any vetoes.  He does not have to take the full ten days.  The FY13 fiscal year began on July 1, and Massachusetts is currently operating with a short term budget.  Below is a chart outlining the key differences in the language, HFF’s recommendations and the final outcome from the Conference Committee is listed in red.

Housing and Homelessness Programs

FY2013 Conference Committee Budget

Compared to Homes for Families’ Recommendations

Line item Issue House Senate HFF Recommendation/Outcome
7004-0101Emergency Assistance Funding $88.9 million (+$16.6 million for motel funding, see 7004-0103 below = $105.5 ) $96.7 million Adopt House versionSenate amount but with the two line items: $80 million (+$16.6 million for motel funding)
  Families who go over income (115% FPL) EA benefits terminated 3 months after going over income EA benefits terminated 6 months after going over income Adopt Senate version Maintained 6 month language (Senate version)
  Eligibility “Includes” certain categories of families Restricts access to certain categories of families and protects eligibility for certain populations Adopt Senate versionSenate Language Adopted
  Time limit Places a 9 month time limit for families in shelter Families in shelter for more than 32 weeks are required to develop a shelter exit plan Adopt Senate versionSenate Language Adopted
  Access to HomeBASE No provision Disallows access to HomeBASE for families who have been in shelter for longer than 32 weeks Adopt House versionSenate Language Adopted;

Families remaining in shelter for longer than 32 weeks will not have access to HomeBASE Assistance

  Savings requirement Requires families to escrow a portion of income Requires families save 30% of their income Adopt House versionAdopted Senate language with exemptions based on FY12 regulations
  Advanced notice to legislature Requires 60 days advanced notice of changes to EA regulations Requires 30 days advanced notice of changes to EA regulations Adopt House versionAdopted House requiring 60 days notice for a reduction of benefits
  Scattered-site units No recommendation Requires DHCD to attempt to convert scattered site units into congregate shelters Adopt House versionAdopted Senate version
  Housing search No provision Requires DHCD to provide housing search for all families (including those in motels) within 16 weeks Adopt Senate versionAdopted Senate version
  Shelter contracts Requires DHCD to enter into 12 month contracts with providers No provision Adopt House versionLanguage was added, similar to the House language, mandating 7 month contracts
  Technical Assistance No provision Designates funding shall be allocated to HFF for tech. asst. Adopt Senate versionSenate language adopted
7004-0103Hotel/Motel Funding $16.6 million Does not exist Adopt House versionNew Line Item adopted, as proposed by the House
7004-0108HomeBASE Funding $83.4 million $90.8 million Adopt Senate version$83.4M- House Amount

 

  Per household funding Up to $4,000 per household Up to $6,000 per household Adopt Senate versionHouse Version Adopted
HomeBASE (cont.) Rent cap 80% of HUD defined Fair Market Rent No cap Adopt Senate versionAdapted Senate version

 

  End of rental assistance, EA access Family who is terminated is ineligible for shelter  and/or HomeBASE for 1 year Family who is terminated is ineligible for shelter and/or HomeBASE for 2 years Adopt House versionAdopted House version
  Over income families Families entered prior to July 1, 2012 have 6 months to exit after income exceeds 50% AMI; families entering after July 1 have 6 months to exit after income exceeds 115% FPL All families whose incomes exceed 50%AMI have 6 months to exit program Adopt Senate versionAdopted House Version
  Access for EA families No reference Disallows access to EA families who have been in shelter longer than 32 weeks Adopt House versionAdopted Senate Version
7004-3045Tenancy Preservation Program Funding $250,000 $500,000 Adopt Senate version$350,000
7004-9005 Public Housing Operating Subsidies Funding $64.5 million $62.5 million Adopt House versionHouse Funding: $64.5M
7004-9024Mass. Rental Voucher Program Funding $46 million $42 million Adopt House versionSenate Funding: $42M
  Targeting of new vouchers 923 vouchers for families residing in shelters or motels Sets aside $800,000 for the development of supportive housing for families and individuals Adopt Senate supportive housing, any additional vouchers, House versionNo targeting language
  Income eligibility 200% FPL 50% AMI Adopt Senate versionHouse Language: Maintaining the  200% of FPL as the cap
  Administrative fee $30 per voucher per month $32.50 per voucher per month Adopt Senate versionSenate version adopted
7004-9316Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Targeted population to be served Not less than 65% of funding goes toward families at or below 15% AMI Not less than 90% of funding goes toward families at or below 30% AMI, prioritizing families who would otherwise be eligible for shelter Adopt Senate versionSenate Language Adopted
  Per household funding Up to $4,000 Up to $6,000 ($4,000 from RAFT, additional 2 from HomeBASE if deemed appropriate) Adopt Senate versionHouse Language Adopted

Click here for Mass Law Reform’s Analysis of how the budget will impact homeless and low income families. 

LH