Category Archives: Advocacy

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

 

House Ways and Means Budget Update (Mass. Coalition for the Homeless)

Mass. Coalition for the Homeless has provided this update on the House Ways and Means Budget, released yesterday:

The House Committee on Ways and Means (“HWM” or “House Ways and Means”) unveiled its fiscal year 2016 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth. This $38 billion budget marks the next step on the path to developing the state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Friday afternoon (Friday, April 17th) will be the deadline for House members to file amendments to the HWM budget, with the House budget debate scheduled for the week of April 27th.
Please see the sections below for preliminary information on the House Ways and Mean’s budget proposals for housing, shelter, homelessness prevention, and cash assistance programs.
Please stay tuned in the days and week ahead for a more detailed analysis and additional information about amendments.

As this is only the next of several proposals on the way to the final FY’16 budget, your voice will be 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.
Thank you.

Kelly Turley
Director of Legislative Advocacy
House Ways and Means FY’16 Budget Recommendations for Housing, Shelter, Homelessness Prevention, and Cash Assistance Programs

To access HWM’s complete budget recommendations, please go to HWM FY’16 budget recommendations.
 

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

 1. The House Ways and Means budget did not include direct funding under DHCD for housing resources for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. We are working with Representative O’Day to file an amendment to call for funding to implement the housing portion of the new unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014.

2. The House 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. The HWM budget does not include needed 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. We are working with Representative Decker to file an amendment to serve families at imminent risk. At the same time, HWM 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.

3. The House Ways and Means budget would increase funding for the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) from $29 million in FY’15 (including the mid-year supplemental appropriation) to $31.25 million, to continue to provide shallow rental subsidies, diversion, and moving assistance for certain EA-eligible families. The HWM 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.) The language maintains the draconian 24-month bar on families who are terminated from the program from re-accessing HomeBASE and Emergency Assistance.

4. The House 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 $43.2 million.

5. The House Ways and Means budget would fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) at $90.9 million, an incredible $25.9 million increase from the FY’15 direct allocation. This amount includes up to $8 million in unspent FY’15 funds that could be carried over into FY’16. HWM noted that they anticipate 737 new mobile vouchers could be offered in FY’16. HWM also removed language included in the FY’15 budget that prohibited DHCD from targeting new subsidies to families living in shelters.

6. The House 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.

7. The House 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.

8. The House Ways and Means budget would level fund the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030) at $3.55 million.

9. The House Ways and Means budget would level fund the Home and Healthy for Good Program (line item 7004-0104) at $1.8 million. This program employs a Housing First model and historically has provided housing and services to unaccompanied adults who have experienced chronic homelessness. HWM included language to continue a pilot program that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) unaccompanied youth and young adults, funded at no less than $200,000.

10.  The House Ways and Means budget would provide $11.5 million to “the depleted Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund to offer affordable housing for low-income families and individuals”.

 

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

 1. The House Ways and Means budget includes $150,000 in funding under the EOHHS administrative account (line item 4000-0300) to better address the needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults through age 24 who are experiencing homelessness. We are working with Representative O’Day on an amendment to secure an additional $1.5 million in funding to provide wraparound services to unaccompanied youth, so as to implement the services portion of the new unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014.

2. The House 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), bringing the funding level down to $81 million. [As of March 2015, there were 21,431 households served by EAEDC, a decrease in caseload over last year’s figures.] HWM would maintain the 60 day advance notice language that requires the Administration to notify the Legislature before implementing eligibility restrictions or benefit cuts.

3. The House 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 $222.2 million for FY’16.

The HWM budget would eliminate the long-standing $150/child annual clothing allowance and the $40/month rental allowance for families living in private market apartments. (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.)

 

 

A Quick Look at the Education Transportation Line Item

 The HWM budget would provide $8.35 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 an increase of $1 million over FY’15 expenditures.

EA Shelter Contract Funding Update from Homes for Families

This update was provided by Homes for Families on Friday, March 27.  By the end of business on 3/27, EA shelter providers were given a 3 day contract extension.  The Conference Committee continues to meet today.

The Time Has Come Today…(so what will happen with EA?)

by Homes for Families

The Time Has Come Today…

..when the 7 day shelter contract extension, from the 21 day contract extension, from the 7 month contract will expire.  This article from the State House News, and heard/posted on public radio, makes is clear that everyone knows we have a serious timing issue:

When Gov. Charlie Baker urged the Legislature to act quickly on his midyear spending bill filed late last month, he likely had this very situation in mind, cautioning that there were agencies and programs with “time-sensitive” funding needs demanding action before the end of March.

 “We need the money that’s in the supp. From our perspective this is a timing issue. The shelters are not going to close. No families are in danger and we’re working diligently with the Legislature to get the money they need,” said Paul McMorrow, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

House budget leaders said Thursday they were aware of “funding timelines” for the emergency assistance family shelter program, but could not comment on whether they would consider separating the shelter funding from the budget bill to get it approved faster.

It seems like an appropriate time, to share Homes for Families’ time lines illustrating the chaotic contract lengths for family shelters:

Here is what this year is looking like so far:

fy15sheltercontract

And here is how this year fits in with recent years:

timeLineEAfy15

So, what impact does this have on shelter programs you ask?

  • Well, for starters, right now providers can’t be paid. On April 1st, rent will due to landlords that lease apartments and buildings that are used as shelter units
  • When providers can’t be paid, they may have to rely on lines of credit, which they will have to pay back with interest
  • It is extremely burdensome on finance staff to manage funds when programs are not being reimbursed, and to have to amend budgets and do unnecessary paperwork
  • Last minute contract signing is a distraction and can be complicated, especially if shelters are dealing with crises, or if authorized signers are out of the office
  • DHCD contract managers have to manage the signing, resigning, and processing, when they are also responsible for monitoring programs and other assistance to providers
  • Legislators have to deal with the sudden blitz of calls from panicked advocates and shelter providers
  • Feel free to leaves comment about the other impacts that short term contracts have on you and your programs

We are hoping, and asking, that the EA supplemental funding get separated and passed independently.  This will allow the contracts to get issued, and time for the Conference Committee the time to thoughtfully work out the other compromises between the Senate and House Bills.