Category Archives: Advocacy

Senate Budget Amendment Requests – Act Today!

The Network is communicating with our Western MA Senators to request their support of the following amendments to the Senate Ways and Means (SWM) Budget, per our FY16 budget priorities.  Please email or call your Senator and add your Network voice ((find your Senator’s contact info by going here).  Note: If Senate President Rosenberg is your senator, while he cannot sponsor amendments in his position, it is still extremely important to communicate your support!

1.  Secure Jobs InitiativeAsk your senator to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senator Barrett’s amendment to increase Senate funding from $600,000 as proposed in the SWM budget, to $2 million.  This amount is necessary to effectively level fund the program statewide, enabling both Western Mass. and 6 other successful programs to continue to provide employment services and ultimately housing stability for hundreds of families.
2. Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC):  Ask your senator to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senator Wolf’s amendment to  increase funding for this critical homelessness prevention resource from $1.7 million (in SWM) to the House FY16 allocation amount of $2.6 million without any earmarks.  This funding increase would restore funding to FY14 levels and is essential to avoid significant losses in prevention services in every Western county and across the Commonwealth.
3.  Friends of the Homeless Resource Center funding for $350,000: Ask your senator to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senator Welch’s amendment (or thank him if he is your Springfield Senator!) to fund Friends of the Homeless in Springfield at $350,000 to preserve basic emergency shelter, re-housing and support services.  The Network initially sought an increase in the nightly bed rate to $32/night statewide to help close the gap in Western MA funding for individual shelters (FOH currently receives $25/night).  However, because this proposal has not been adopted by the House or SWM, we have shifted our focus to saving FOH from drastic cuts in services.  Our Network has recognized the role FOH plays across the entire region in providing services for homeless individuals and we are committed to ensuring it is able to continue to provide that role.
4. Tenancy Preservation Project funding for $1 million: Ask your senator to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senator Welch’s amendment (or thank him if he is your senator) to increase SWM funding of $500,000 to $1,000,000 in order to serve more disabled individuals and families who are threatened with eviction.  This is a critical homelessness prevention program for Western MA and statewide.
5. Network funding of $125,000: The House budget included $125,000 in Network funding that will allow us to continue the coordination and data-driven plan to end homelessness for Western MA.  We are currently in pursuit of a sponsor for a Senate amendment for this Network funding, so please stay tuned on any additional advocacy around this item.
Finally, we are so pleased that Senate Ways and Means included a new line item, 4000-0007, with recommended funding of $2 million to provide housing and wraparound services to unaccompanied homeless youth, allowing for the implementation of the new Chapter 450 law that mandated these resources for this under-served population.  This is great news, and please ask your senator for their continued support.

For additional Senate Ways and Means budget analyses, see Mass Budget and Policy Center report here and Mass. Law Reform Institute analysis here.

Senate Ways and Means Budget Analyzed

Thanks to the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless for this analysis below of the Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations released yesterday.  Stay tuned for the Network Action Alert on Network Budget Priorities.

Today, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means (“SWM” or “Senate Ways and Means”) unveiled its fiscal year 2016 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth. This $38.01 billion budget marks the next step on the path to developing the state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. This Thursday (May 14th) at 5 p.m. will be the deadline for Senate members to file amendments to the SWM budget, with the Senate budget debate scheduled for next week.
Please see the sections below for preliminary information on the Senate Ways and Mean’s budget proposals for housing, shelter, homelessness prevention, and cash assistance programs– including many positive proposals.
 
Please stay tuned in the days and week ahead for a more detailed analysis and additional information about amendments.

As we get closer and closer to the final FY’16 budget, your voice remains critical to helping to protect housing, homelessness, and safety net programs for families, individuals, and youth.

To learn more about the Coalition’s FY’16 budget priorities, please click here.

Senate Ways and Means FY’16 Budget Recommendations for Housing, Shelter, Homelessness Prevention, and Cash Assistance Programs

To access SWM’s complete budget recommendations, please go to SWM FY’16 budget recommendations.
To read SWM Chair Senator Karen Spilka’s “Lifting All Families” budget message, click here.
 

A Quick Look at Selected Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) Line Items

 1.  We are thrilled to announce that Senate Ways and Means included a new line item, 4000-0007, with recommended funding of $2 million to provide housing and wraparound services to unaccompanied youth and young adults through age 24 who are experiencing homelessness. The $2 million would be used to implement the new unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014 and to build upon the ongoing work of the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. The House only included $150,000 for the work of the Commission.
2. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance’s Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), to $78.9 million due to caseload decreases. For FY’15, the program is funded at $85.5 million. (As of March 2015, there were 21,431 households served by EAEDC, a decrease in caseload over last year’s figures.)

SWM included 90-day advance notice language that would require the Administration to notify the Legislature before implementing eligibility restrictions or benefit cuts, up from the current 60-day requirement.

3. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the Department of Transitional Assistance’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children grants (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) to $231.8 million for FY’16, from the FY’15 level of $255.7 million, due to caseload decreases. (As of March 2015, there were 38,114 households served by TAFDC. For more DTA program data, see their April 2015 Facts and Figures report.)

The SWM budget would increase the annual clothing allowance to $200/child (up from the current $150/child), and would maintain the $40/month rental allowance for families living in private market apartments.

In addition, SWM included 90-day advance notice language in this line item (as in EAEDC) that would require the Administration to notify the Legislature before implementing eligibility restrictions or benefit cuts.

4. The Senate Ways and Means budget would set aside $7 million for a homelessness prevention reserve fund at EOHHS to serve families who are experiencing homelessness or in danger of becoming homeless. The line item, 1599-0017, also would require EOHHS to report to House and Senate Ways and Means on the families served, families denied, and other measures. The funds could be used for prevention, diversion, or stabilization, building upon the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund idea recommended by Governor Baker in his budget proposal.

 

 

A Quick Look at Selected Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Line Items

 1. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA, line item 7004-0101) at $154.9 million for FY’16. We are very pleased to report that the SWM budget includes critical language that would require DHCD to provide shelter to otherwise eligible families who are at imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation:

” provided further, however, that a family who has no other feasible accommodation on the date of application for assistance and who would otherwise spend the night in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including but not limited to a car, park, abandoned building, medical facility, bus or train station, airport or camping ground, shall be eligible for assistance”

SWM also would preserve existing access to Emergency Assistance by rejecting the Governor’s proposed elimination of two sub-categories of eligibility that now cover ~33% of families in shelter. Senate Ways and Means expanded the tracking and reporting requirements to direct DHCD to report on families denied access to EA and the reasons for denial, and would require 90 days advanced notice before DHCD could implement any negative eligibility or benefits changes to the program.

2.. The Senate Ways and Means budget would decrease funding for the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) from $29 million in FY’15 (including the mid-year supplemental appropriation) to $26.2 million, but continue to provide shallow rental subsidies, diversion, and moving assistance for certain EA-eligible families. The SWM proposal would allow families to receive up to $8,000 in HomeBASE funds, up from the current limit of $6,000 per household. (During FY’15, some families have been able to receive up to $8,000 total, however, through a combination of $6,000 in HomeBASE funds plus $2,000 from the Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund.)

SWM improves upon the current draconian 24-month bar on families who are terminated from the program from re-accessing HomeBASE and Emergency Assistance by reducing that bar to 18 months. (The Coalition and allied groups are looking to reduce that bar to 12 months.)

3. The Senate Ways and Means budget would increase funding for the line item that provides funding for shelter and services for unaccompanied individuals at-risk and experiencing homelessness (line item 7004-0102) to $44.7 million, up from the FY’15 funding level of $42.9 million.

4. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $85.4 million, a $20.4 million increase from the FY’15 direct allocation. (This is a sizable increase, although less than the House’s recommended level of $90.9 million, which expressly authorized the carryover of some unspent funds from FY’15.) Like the House, SWM also removed language included in the FY’15 budget that prohibited DHCD from targeting new subsidies to families living in shelters.

5. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide increased funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) at $12 million. This matches the House’s recommendation.

6. The Senate Ways and Means budget would provide $64 million in funding for public housing authority operating subsidies (line item 7004-9005), a $100,000 decrease from the FY’15 level. This is $500,000 less than the final FY’16 House recommendation.
7. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030) at $4.55 million, a $1 million increase over FY’15 funding and the House’s recommended funding level.
8. The Senate Ways and Means budget would fund the Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104) at $1.6 million.This program employs a Housing First model and historically has provided housing and services to unaccompanied adults who have experienced chronic homelessness. SWM removed earmark language to continue a pilot program that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied youth and young adults. In FY’15, that pilot is funded at no less than $200,000.

 

A Quick Look at the Education Transportation Line Item

 The SWM budget would provide $7.35 million for reimbursements to cities and towns for costs associated with transporting students experiencing homelessness under the McKinney-Vento Act (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education line item 7035-0008). This would be level funding with the FY’15 appropriation, and a decrease of $1 million from the House’s recommended FY’16 spending level.

More Budget Analyses on House Ways and Means Budget

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute offers this initial analysis:

http://www.masslegalservices.org/content/house-ways-and-means-fy-16-budget-proposal-mlri-analysis-selected-issues

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center offers this  HERE, along with this summary narrative:

The House Ways and Means Committee released its budget blueprint for fiscal year 2016. It recommends targeted investments in some important areas including early education and care, affordable housing, and opiate abuse prevention and treatment. The HWM budget also rejects some cuts proposed by the Governor, including the elimination of Kindergarten Expansion Grants.

For a full analysis of this HWM proposal, please read our Budget Monitor available HERE.

The HWM budget also proposes new cuts to some important programs including workforce training for low income parents and youth jobs and violence prevention efforts. Like the Governor’s proposal, the HWM budget relies heavily on temporary strategies. Both versions spend $300 million in capital gains tax revenue that would have gone into the Rainy Day Fund under current law. They also both count on $100 million from a tax amnesty and $116 million from putting off paying some of our FY2016 MassHealth bills into FY 2017.

Ultimately, the shortcomings of this budget proposal mirror those of the Governor’s and reflect ongoing challenges that our Commonwealth has faced for more than a decade: after cutting the income tax by over $3 billion dollars between 1998 and 2002 we have experienced deep cuts to things that strengthen our communities and our economy. Between 2001 and 2015, for instance, funding for higher education has been cut 21 percent, environmental protection and recreation (parks, swimming pools, rinks) has been cut 33 percent, local aid has been cut 44 percent, early education and care has been cut 24 percent and funding for public health has been cut 24 percent (all numbers adjusted for inflation).

Please click HERE to read the full Budget Monitor.

Budget Action IMMEDIATELY for Network priorities!

Today at 5 pm is the deadline to file amendments to the House Ways and Means Budget.  I have summarized below (or find here to print Network Co-Sponsorship Requests) the amendments pertaining to Network priorities and the relevant representatives on each.  Our job is to either thank those who have filed the amendments or to ask for our representatives to join as co-sponsors.

Top on our list to thank from our region:

Representative Peter Kocot (Northampton) – Peter.Kocot@mahouse.gov – for sponsoring the amendment to continue Network funding at $125,000 (this funding is critical to allow us to continue our work as a Network) and for his support of Secure Jobs and all Network priorities!

Representative Joseph Wagner (Chicopee) -Joseph.Wagner@mahouse.gov – for sponsoring the amendment to level fund the Secure Jobs program at $2 million.

Representative Aaron Vega (Holyoke) – Aaron.Vega@mahouse.gov – for his ardent support of Secure Jobs (and I trust the other amendments as well, I just have not heard back from him yet).

Representative John Scibak (South Hadley) John.Scibak@mahouse.gov, Representative Farley-Bouvier (Pittsfield), Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.gov, Representative John Velis (Westfield), John.Velis@mahouse.gov – for immediately signing on as co-sponsor to all of our amendments.  I’m sure there will be more but that is who we know for now!

Then I would ask that you contact your own representative to ask him/her to add their names in co-sponsorship to each of the amendments below.  Please contact ASAP as some offices have deadlines sooner than 5 pm.

Finally, the great news on one of our priorities – funding the Housing Consumer Education Centers at FY14 levels – made it into the House Ways and Means budget.  So the thing to do there is thank Rep. Kulik -Stephen.Kulik@mahouse.gov – for his leadership on this!

Thanks for your support and your advocacy.  I will keep you posted!

Best,
Pamela

Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness – Line item 7004-0102 (Representative Kocot):  This amendment of $125,000 to the Network is vital to the continuation of the Network’s efforts to facilitate regional coordination and implement the Western Massachusetts Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness.

Secure Jobs Initiative – Line Item 7004-9322: (Representative Wagner) – This initiative has proven tremendously successful in the Western region and the state in providing homeless families with job opportunity and stable housing.   In order to level fund this initiative and its 7 programs statewide, this amendment will fund these partnerships at $2,000,000.

Individual Homeless Emergency Shelters:  Line Item 7004-0102 (Representative Mahoney):  This amendment would increase funding from $43,200,335 to $48,5000 to address the funding gap for Western Massachusetts shelters while serving to better meet the need of all individual emergency shelters statewide.  We are continuing to advocate for an amendment to increase the nightly bed rate to the average of $32/night from the current $25/night and will keep you posted if an amendment to that effect is filed.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Representative O’Day):(1) Amendment to EOHHS administrative line item, 4000-0300: This amendment would provide $1.5 million for support services to unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness, and (2) Amendment to DHCD administrative line item, 7004-0099:  This amendment would provide $2.5 for housing to unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.  Together, these amendments will enable the Commonwealth to fulfill its commitment to better meet the housing and service needs for the increasing numbers of unaccompanied homeless youth across our region and state.

Tenancy Preservation Project: Line Item 7004-3045(Representative Brady): This amendment will increase funding to the Tenancy Preservation Project from $500,000 to $1 million statewide to provide eviction prevention services to disabled individuals and families