Amendment Outcomes: Final House FY'18 Budget Recommendations
This week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives debated House Bill 3600, their version of the 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Representatives filed 1,210 amendments to the House Committee on Ways and Means budget, which was released on April 10th.
Thank you for all of your calls, emails, visits, and completed online actions to Representatives in support of key homelessness, housing, and benefits amendments! The final budget that emerged late last night includes some important improvements as the budget process now heads over to the Senate for the next phase. While many key amendments were not included in the final House budget, the high levels of support for those items will strengthen the likelihood that they will appear in the Conference Committee and final FY'18 budgets.
Please check out our database of the main House amendments for which we advocated, and which House members were sponsors/cosponsors. If your Representative was a sponsor or cosponsor, please thank them today. You can call them via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000, or look up their contact information via https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Check below to see if your Representative was a cosponsor on at least one key amendment and also is on Twitter, and then you can tweet your gratitude. (Twitter handles are listed alphabetically by last name of the House member.)
You also can thank Speaker Robert DeLeo (@SpeakerDeLeo, email@example.com) and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the positive elements of the House Ways and Means and final House budgets.
Key Amendment Outcomes:
Housing and Services for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults (line item 4000-0007): Good news! House leadership included language and partial funding from the unaccompanied youth homelessness amendments, Amendment #1088, filed by Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, and Amendment #378, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs includes $540,000 for the line item. It would provide up to $500,000 for the housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25 and an earmark so that no less than $40,000 would go to the Y2Y Harvard Square shelter in Cambridge. For the current fiscal year, FY'17, the line item is funded at $2 million: $1 million in direct appropriations and $1 million carried over from unspent funds from FY'16. The House Ways & Means Committee initially proposed zero funding for the line item for next year, so $540,000 is an important step forward. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (within line item 4000-0300): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the youth commission amendment, Amendment #1013, in Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs. Representative Jim O'Day had filed the amendment to add language and $150,000 in funding to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) line item, 4000-0300, for the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. While it is disappointing that the amendment was not adopted, EOHHS has indicated their intention to keep funding the Commission in FY'18. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the RAFT amendment, Amendment #90, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker, sought to increase RAFT funds from $15 million to $18.5 million and maintain the FY'17 expanded eligibility language allowing households without children under 21 (such as elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types) to access RAFT homelessness prevention benefits. On a positive note, the HWM budget (and final House budget) would increase overall RAFT funding by $2 million, from $13 million to $15 million. See the RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EA amendment, Amendment #85, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker. This means that the final House budget would maintain the current harmful Emergency Assistance eligibility criteria that requires many families to prove that they have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being approved for EA shelter or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108). See the general FY'18 EA campaign fact sheet and the EA amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EAEDC amendment, Amendment #1055, in Consolidated Amendment E on Social Services and Veterans. This means that the final House budget would maintain the "homelessness penalty" that leaves EAEDC participants experiencing homelessness with drastically reduced monthly benefits as compared to EAEDC participants with housing costs ($92.80/month vs. $303.70/month). Representative Jim O'Day filed the EAEDC amendment to promote dignity, fairness, and opportunity for participants experiencing homelessness. See the EAEDC homelessness penalty fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).
Outcomes for Other Important Amendments:
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program amendment (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), Amendment #79: The final House budget does not include Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment to "lift the cap on kids" so that children born after a family begins participating in the TAFDC program also would receive vital cash assistance benefits; fact sheet.
- Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program amendments (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), Amendment #382 and Amendment #780: The final House budget does not include Representative Mike Connolly's amendment, Amendment #382, to allow MRVP voucher holders to use the subsidies in units that are up to the current fair market rent (instead of 2005 FMR levels), require the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue new subsidies earlier in the fiscal year, and make other improvements to the MRVP program. It also does not include Representative Paul Donato's amendment, Amendment #780, to increase the proposed MRVP funding from $100 million to $120 million.
- Alternative Housing Voucher Program amendment (AHVP, line item 7004-9030), Amendment #298: The final House budget includes partial funding from Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment. While the original amendment would have increased AHVP funding from $4.85 million to $7.5 million to serve more adults with disabilities who are under the age of 60 and experiencing housing instability, the final House budget added $150,000 to bring the proposal to $5 million.
- Emergency Assistance amendment (EA, line item 7004-0101), Amendment #344: The final House budget does not include Representative Aaron Vega's amendment that sought to strengthen the tracking and reporting requirements to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and to allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the income limit for fewer than 90 days.
- HomeBASE amendment (line item 7004-0108), Amendment #1045: The final House budget does not include Representative Christine Barber's amendment that sought to allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE subsidies for an additional 12 months, reduce the bar on further assistance for families that have been terminated from 24 months to 12 months, and lift the $300,000 cap on funding to families in the domestic violence and substance use treatment shelter programs.
- End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund amendment (line item 1599-0017), Amendment #1052: The final House budget does not include Representative Kay Khan's amendment that would have reinstated this line item and provided $1 million for the work of the eight regional consortia established last year to coordinate on homelessness and housing issues.
- Home and Healthy for Good (line item 7004-0104), Amendment #534: The final House budget includes Representative Byron Rushing's amendment to add $200,000 to the Home and Healthy for Good line item, which would increase funding for "housing first" resources for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The final House budget would provide $2.2 million for the program.
For background materials, please see the Coalition's House Ways and Means and House debate webpage, our April 13th action alert, April 21st action alert, and our April 24th handout to Representatives.
For more details, email Kelly at kelly @mahomeless.org.