Category Archives: Advocacy

Senate Ways and Means Budget: Thanks and some critical amendments!

The Senate Ways and Means (SWM) Committee released its Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal yesterday.  Please click here for a complete summary of how the Network priorities fared in the budget.

This budget proposal contains some great news for homelessness programs, including:

  • Youth homelessness demonstration project: $2.5 million ($2 million more than House budget; .5 million more than FY17 funding)
  • RAFT: $18.5 million (up from $13.5 million in FY17 and includes $2 million for expanded eligibility to include individuals as well!)
  • Secure Jobs: $800,000 (level with FY17 funding; up from $500,000 in House budget)
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers: $2.7 million (up from $2.6 million in FY17; and up from $2.3 million in House budget)
  • Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): $100 million (up from $86.5 million in FY17; consistent with FY18 House budget funding)
  • Craig’s Doors Shelter: $200,000 earmark to maintain FY17 level funding (up from $0 in House budget)
  • Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness: $125,000 earmark (consistent with FY18 House budget and level for FY17, which was actually cut this year due to the Governor’s 9C cuts).

These are significant investments that will make a meaningful difference in our efforts to prevent and end homelessness.  Please thank your Senator!

At the same time, we have some extremely important work to do in the next 2 days to close a couple of critical gaps:

  • Local Consortium prevention funds (Line Item 1599-0017) for families and individuals were zero funded. The region currently receives a total of $250,000 in prevention funds that would disappear without an amendment (the House budget also failed to fund this item).
  • The Berkshire Regional Housing Authority’s earmark for $150,000 (Line item: 7004-012) was not funded in the SWM budget (and is not funded in the House).  These funds provide critical emergency shelter and other services through the winter months to Berkshire area shelter providers.
  • Tenancy Preservation Project (Line Item 7004-3045) was funded at $500,000 while receiving an increase to 750,000 in the House budget.  We are hopeful the Senate will support an amendment to increase TPP funding to $750,000.

Please reach out to your Senator to both thank them and urge their support of these amendments.  I will forward more amendment information as I receive it.  But please call or email now to express your support and your urgency.

If you’re uncertain who your senator is, go here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.  And if you are reaching out on behalf of the people you serve, please contact them all!

Senate President Stan Rosenberg: 413-584-1649, Stan.Rosenberg@masenate.gov (as Senate President, it is worthwhile to contact him AND your own senator if he is not one and the same)
Senator Eric Lesser: 413-526-6501, Eric.Lesser@masenate.gov
Senator Adam Hinds: 413-344-4561, Adam.Hinds@masenate.gov
Senator Don Humason: 413-568-1366, Donald.Humason@masenate.gov (Senator Humason is on the SWM Committee, so you can thank him especially for his work on this budget proposal.)
Senator Jim Welch: 413-737-7756, James.Welch@masenate.gov

Thank you for this important work!

 

 

Network’s Updated FY18 Budget Priorities – House Outcomes; Senate Asks

Please see below or click here for a summary of the Network’s Budget Priorities that includes the House Budget outcomes and the Senate requests:

Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget Priorities

  • Fund the Youth Demonstration Project $4 million (Line item 4000-0007) to support unaccompanied homeless youth ages 18 to 24 with housing and support services. This effort, funded at $2 million in FY17, has already provided over 130 youth across the four counties with a range of services, including housing, educational, vocational and other case management support. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $2 million; the House Budget included $540,000. Funding at least $2 million in FY18 is critical to allow the current level of services to continue.
  • Level Fund the Local Consortiums to End Family Homelessness $1 million (Line item 1599-0017). Western Massachusetts hosts two consortiums- Hampden County and Three County (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire). Together, they have played a vital role in FY17 in preventing and diverting homelessness with flexible funding and innovative interventions. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $1 million; the House Budget provided no funding. Funding at $1 million in FY18 would allow for this vital component to reducing homelessness across the region.
  • Fund the Secure Jobs Initiative $2 million (Line Item 4400-1020) to maintain the statewide level of workforce development services for homeless families across the Commonwealth. Secure Jobs has facilitated employment for close to 500 families in Western Massachusetts alone. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $800,000; the House Budget included $500,000. Funding at least $800,000 in FY18 would allow for a minimal degree of continuity in this employment initiative for homeless families.
  • Fund the Tenancy Preservation Program $1 million (TPP, Line Item 7004-3045). This homelessness prevention program works with individuals and families with disabilities who face eviction. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $500,000; the House Budget included $750,000. Funding at least $750,000 in FY18 would preserve more tenancies and provide housing stabilization services to individuals before they are in housing court at greater risk of eviction.
  • Fund Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) $18.5 million and maintain language to include individuals (Line Item 7004-0108). This funding increase and language would allow for the RAFT program to provide prevention resources to families with children and expand them to include elders, people with disabilities, and other individuals. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $13 million; the House Budget included $15 million, neither including the expansion language for individuals. Funding at least $15 million and including the expanded language in FY18 would reduce the use of emergency shelter and provide significant savings.
  • Fund Housing Consumer Education Centers $2.6 million (HCECs, line item 7004-30036). Level-funding HCECs in FY18 (relative to the initial FY17 level, prior to the 9C cut of $300,000) is critical to maintaining the front line for housing crisis response in the Commonwealth in general and Western Massachusetts in particular. The Governor’s FY18 proposal and House budget included $2.3 million. Funding at $2.6 million in FY18 would bring HCEC’s back to the FY17 funding level.
  • Fund individual emergency shelter $50 million (Line Item 7004-0102) to provide an incremental but vital increase of $5 million from FY17 to support the increasing demand of emergency shelter statewide. This increase is especially critical to Western Massachusetts, which meets the emergency shelter needs of 13 percent of the population while receiving only 7 percent of funding statewide. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $45.2 million; the House budget included $47.4 million. Funding at $50 million in FY18 would provide a small but critical boost to Western MA shelters.
  • Fund Home and Healthy for Good $2.2 million (Line Item 7004-0104). This Housing First program provides permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, including a Western MA program for LGBTQ unaccompanied homeless youth that has served over 17 LGBTQ youth this fiscal year alone. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $2 million (level funding for FY17); the House proposal included $2.2 million. Maintaining the House funding proposal at $2.2 million in FY18 would provide more housing for the hardest to house population.
  • Fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program $120 million (MRVP, Line Item 7004-9024) to increase the number of vouchers available and to adjust the fair market rent guidelines so the vouchers are more usable. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $97.5 million; the House proposal included $100 million. Funding at least $100 million would recognize this program’s critical role in homelessness prevention.

Regional Earmarks Addressing Homelessness

Western MA Network to End Homelessness (Line item: 7004-0102) for $125,000 to support its collaborative efforts to end homelessness in Western MA. From FY15-FY17, the Network received this earmark, which was cut in FY17 as part of the Governor’s 9C cuts. The House Budget proposal included $125,000 in funding.

Craig’s Doors Emergency Shelter, Amherst (Line item: 7004-0102) for $200,000 to level fund 28 emergency shelter beds for homeless individuals from Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Counties. This is the only behavior-based shelter in Hampshire County. This earmark was not funded in House Budget. Senate support for this earmark is critical to maintaining this emergency shelter resource.

Berkshire Emergency Shelter Initiative (Line item: 7004-0102) for $150,000 to level fund 20 additional emergency beds in Berkshire County as well as diversion and other support services, providing assistance to over 150 Berkshire County residents annually. This earmark was not funded in the House Budget. Senate support for this earmark is critical to maintaining this emergency shelter resource.

Contact: Pamela Schwartz, Director, 413-219-5658, pschwartz77@gmail.com

The Final House Budget and Network Priorities

As you may know, the MA House of Representatives passed its final budget this week.  Click here for an updated summary of the outcomes for the Network’s FY18 budget priorities.
For your ease, below is a bulleted summary:
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth: $540,000 (amended from $0; Gov’s budget includes $2m)
  • Consortium funding for homelessness prevention: $0 (amendment failed; Gov’s budget includes $1m)
  • Secure Jobs: $500,000 (amendment failed; Gov’s budget includes $800,000)
  • Western MA Network: $125,000 (amendment passed)
  • Tenancy Preservation Program: $750,000 (amended from $500,000; Gov’s budget includes $500,000)
  • RAFT: $15m (amendment failed to include language to expand to individuals; Gov’s budget includes $13m, also no language expansion)
  • Mass Rental Voucher Program: $100m (Gov’s budget includes $97.5m)
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers: $2.3m (Gov’s budget includes $2.3m)
  • Individual shelter line-item: $47.4m (Gov’s budget includes $45.2m)
  • Home and Healthy for Good: $2.2m (amended from $2m; Gov’s budget includes $2m)
Our Western MA delegation was supportive as usual!  The list below includes our key budget items that did well in the final budget and the Western MA sponsors of each amendment:
The Network’s amendment for $125,000:  Rep. Peter Kocot was the lead sponsor (and always has been!) with support from Representatives Goldstein-Rose, Farley-Bouvier, Mark and Tosado.
The Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Program’s amendment to fund at $2 million ($540,000 passed) included Representatives Goldstein-Rose, Gonzalez, Kocot, Tosado, Vega and Velis.
The Tenancy Preservation Program’s amendment to fund at $1 million ($750,000 passed) included Representatives Goldstein-Rose, Farley-Bouvier, Mark and Tosado.
Please thank your representative for their support!  To find their contact information, you can call the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000 or go to https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator 
Next up is the Senate, where our advocacy will continue.  Thanks for your support!

House Budget Update

The House Ways and Means Committee released its FY18 budget last week and will be debating it next week.  The Network Leadership Council met last week to adjust the Network budget priorities in relation to the House budget proposal, which are copied below.  Please contact your state representative (click here to find your legislator) to ask them to co-sponsor the budget amendments pertaining to these priorities and/or to thank them for their support.
Specifically, Representative Peter Kocot (Northampton) has submitted an amendment for the fourth consecutive year to support the Network itself. Also co-sponsoring this amendment are: Representatives Goldstein-Rose (Amherst), Mark (Peru), Puppolo (Springfield), Tosado (Springfield), Vega (Holyoke) and Williams (Springfield).  Representative Joe Wagner (Chicopee) is sponsoring the Secure Jobs Amendment to provide sufficient funding to maintain the Secure Jobs program statewide.  Many of our legislators are attaching their names to various Network priorities, so please don’t hesitate to ask your legislator to confirm their co-sponsorship of these amendments.
We can be pleased and proud of our Western MA delegation on homelessness issues and this is an important opportunity to both ask and thank.
Below are the Network’s funding priorities in order of their priority:
  • Youth program funding: please co-sponsor Rep. Jim O’Day’s amendment to fund youth programs $4 million ($0 in HWM budget)
  • Local Consortium funding (homelessness prevention funds): please co-sponsor Rep. Kay Kahn’s amendment to fund the Local Consortiums $1 million ($0 in HWM budget)
  • Western MA Network to End Homelessness earmark: please co-sponsor Rep. Peter Kocot’s amendment (#849) for $125,000 ($0 in HWM budget)
  • Secure Jobs Initiative: please co-sponsor Rep. Joe Wagner’s amendment for $2 million ($500,000 in HWM budget)
  • Tenancy Preservation Program: please co-sponsor Rep. Byron Rushing’s amendment (#531) to fund TPP $1 million ($500,000 in HWM budget)
  • RAFT language to include individuals: please co-sponsor Rep. Marjorie Decker’s amendment (#90), particularly regarding the insertion of language that provides eligibility for individuals.
Of course the Network’s other priorities – from MRVP to HCECs to individual shelter funding to the sub-regional earmarks for Craig’s Doors and Berkshire overflow winter shelter, are extremely important to the Network’s goals and we are encouraging our legislators to support them as well.  The Network Leadership Council analyzed the additional statewide or local support available for these other initiatives in determining their top Network priorities.
For additional House budget analyses, please go here:
Any of the above links offer great ways to stay immediately up to date on budget developments, and I will also keep you posted as the budget process unfolds
Thanks,
Pamela
Pamela Schwartz, Director
Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
413-219-5658