Category Archives: Advocacy

Network Advocacy for Conference Committee Budget

The House and Senate Conference Committee has been named and is meeting now to determine its final FY16 budget.  The Network is continuing its advocacy for its priorities and asks you to join in communicating with your legislators directly.  The Conference Committee includes one Western MA legislator, Vice Chair of House Ways and Means Stephen Kulik (additional members are listed below).  It is useful to contact your senator and representative and ask them to weigh in with all the Conferees about Network priorities!  You can find your legislators by clicking here.

The Network requests the following:

1.  Adopt House funding of the $125,000 earmark for the Western MA Network to End Homelessness (Line item 7004-0102) in order for the Network to maintain its capacity to coordinate regional efforts and implement its soon-to-be-released Western MA Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness in FY16.
2.  Adopt Senate language and funding level of the Secure Jobs program of $750,000 which will provide the greatest possible assistance to homeless families seeking economic and housing stability.
3.  Adopt House funding level of Housing Consumer Education Centers of $2.6 million (Line item 7004-3036)  to restore funding to the FY14 level, enabling the centers to provide critical homelessness prevention services across the region and Commonwealth.
4.  Adopt Senate funding of Housing and Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Line Items 4000-0007 and 4000-0300) which will provide $2 million to implement the new unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014; and Adopt the House earmark of $150,000 to support the continuation of the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. 

This year’s House Conference Committee members are Representatives Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill, Chair of House Ways and Means), Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington, Vice Chair of House Ways and Means), and Todd Smola (R-Warren, Minority Member of House Ways and Means). The Senate Conference Committee members are Senators Karen Spilka (D-Ashland, Chair of Senate Ways and Means), Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett, Vice Chair of Senate Ways and Mean), and Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth, Minority Member of Senate Ways and Means).

Thank you for your advocacy!


Senate Budget Update

The Senate passed its budget last Thursday.  We are vey grateful to our Western MA Senators for their advocacy and support of Network priorities.

It’s now onto Conference Committee where the House and Senate will work out its differences.  Below is a breakdown of our priorities and next steps:

  • Secure Jobs received $750,000 in the Senate budget (up from $600,000 proposed in Senate Ways and Means and $500,000 in House budget), along with directive language to state agencies to work to support additional funding.  We will advocate for adoption of the Senate proposal in the final budget.
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers did not receive the desired restoration of funding to FY14 funding levels in the Senate budget (it was level funded, with earmarks to other programs included).  We will advocate for adoption of the House budget’s funding allocation to the HCECs.
  • Funding for individual emergency shelters received a slightly greater increase in the Senate budget than the House, but neither budget addresses the regional disparities in funding that will result in Friends of the Homeless in Springfield sustaining significant cuts.  We will advocate for the higher Senate amount to be used to help close the gap.  To learn more, see this informative article from the Springfield Republican.  Big thanks to Senator Humason, Senator Lesser and Senator Welch to address this issue.
  • Tenancy Preservation Project received $500,000 in the Governor, House and Senate budgets.  We were advocating with state partners for an increase to $1 million but clearly level funding of $500,000 is what it will be.
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth housing and wraparound services received $2 million in the Senate budget (no funding was allocated in the House budget).  The Senate proposal is a very exciting step forward for serving this population and we will be advocating to maintain it.
  • Network funding of $125,000 to support coordination and implementation of its regional Plan to End Homelessness did not get funded in the Senate budget.  We will continue to advocate for adoption of the House provision that will fund the Network.  Big thanks to Senator Downing and Senator Lesser for their leadership on this issue.

I am also passing along below the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless more comprehensive update on the Senate budget.

Please stay tuned for Conference Committee action alerts!

Continue reading

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.