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Legislature Passess FY24 Supplemental Budget

Legislation funds emergency shelter system into 2025

APRIL 26, 2024

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a supplemental budget that funds the emergency shelter system for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2024 and provides a glide path into Fiscal Year 2025 while instituting reforms to ensure the integrity and financial stability of the program. The bill further extends certain COVID-era flexibilities, most notably allowing for permanent outdoor dining options and restaurants to sell cocktails to-go, as well as expanding nursing eligibility to graduate students and certain staff in assisted living facilities.


The bill includes targeted funding to support families exiting the shelter system, puts reasonable limitations on the length of time families can remain in the program, creates a recurrent certification requirement to ensure program participants are complying with eligibility requirements, and establishes a commission to study the future of the shelter program.

"There are several components to this supplemental budget that are noteworthy beyond the important reforms to the emergency assistance program,” said Driscoll, Chair of the House Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Management. “We are making permanent the ability for restaurants to sell mixed drinks, AKA cocktails to go, with takeout orders. The pandemic realities a few years ago provided a pilot program for this and a solid case study for how this can be done successfully and responsibly. I'm glad to see the compromise reached in this supplemental budget supports our restaurants as well as our package stores. Additionally, impoverished migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. continue to arrive to the Commonwealth in great need. The federal government, Congress, and the President need to do more to support Massachusetts in this effort to provide the basics. They know it, we know it, and this legislation reflects Massachusetts' commitment to caring for migrants and our common decency as people work to assimilate and get on their feet. But we cannot do this alone, the Feds need to step up more going forward and begin a program to retroactively reimburse Massachusetts' municipalities that are bearing the brunt of the crisis. Lastly, the workforce focused items in this bill are meant to continue approaches that have been successful in recent years regarding nursing students entering the workforce early and maintaining quality care in assisted living settings."


“I’m proud that this legislation puts us on a responsible path forward without sacrificing our values of treating families with dignity and respect,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “This legislative action was warranted because of inaction at the federal level on a challenge of their own creation. Massachusetts has once again shown that we can work together to address complicated issues, as we have done today. I’m grateful to Chair Rodrigues for his work, my colleagues in the Senate for their thoughtfulness, and to Speaker Mariano and Chair Michlewitz for their partnership.”


“Ensuring that people exit the shelter system in a timely manner is crucial to the emergency assistance program’s long-term viability. This is the current reality due to the status of the migrant crisis, the lack of federal support, the number of people on the waitlist, and the revenue challenges facing Massachusetts,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “It’s also critical that we ensure that folks in the shelter system receive ample support aimed at helping them to successfully enter the workforce, which is exactly what this legislation does. I want to thank Chairman Michlewitz for working diligently to ensure that we take action to ease the strain being placed on the Commonwealth’s shelter system and on our communities, and I am grateful to all my colleagues in the House, and to Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate, for their collaboration throughout this process.”


“Negotiating the differences between our two respective bodies is never an easy task, but in the end, we were able to reach a compromise agreement on the Fiscal Year 2024 supplemental budget that ensures our collective response to the ongoing emergency assistance shelter crisis is responsible, humane, and sustainable,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues, (D-Westport) Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget strikes an appropriate balance and establishes a fiscal glide path by providing sufficient resources to sustain support for the emergency shelter system into Fiscal Year 2025. It places families and children on a path to exiting the shelter system, and dedicates resources to support regional response efforts, assistance with rehousing, work authorization, workforce training, and English language learning. The agreement also creates a special commission to begin a more comprehensive conversation on the future of the shelter system. I’m pleased the supplemental budget has been approved, as we now turn our full attention to the Fiscal Year 2025 budget. I’m thankful to my fellow conferees, my Senate colleagues, and Senate President Spilka for her dedicated and compassionate leadership in these ever-changing times.”


“Since the beginning of the migrant crisis, we have attempted to uphold the Commonwealth’s right to shelter law while also being mindful of the long-term fiscal sustainability of the program. The reforms contained in this legislation will ensure that right to shelter is maintained by capping the length of stay. The bill also refocusing the emphasis on workforce development and job training so we can concentration on getting migrants the job skills they need while also enhancing the Commonwealth’s economic output,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “I would like to thank my colleagues in the Legislature for their work and support on this issue, specifically Speaker Mariano and my counterpart Senator Rodrigues.”


The legislation allocates $251 million for Fiscal Year 2024 shelter costs, which includes $10 million for approved workforce training programs; $10 million for a tax credit for companies that provide job training to Emergency Assistance (EA) participants; $3 million for family welcome centers; $1 million for supplemental staffing at emergency housing assistance program shelters, and $7 million for resettlement agencies and shelter providers to assist families with rehousing, work authorization, and English language learning.


Addressing the long-term needs of the shelter system, the supplemental budget additionally authorizes up to $175 million in funds from the transitional escrow fund to place the shelter system on a fiscally sustainable glide path into FY 2025.


The legislation requires the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) to create a rehousing plan and provide case management for all individuals in shelters to help them successfully exit the program, and requires recertification every 60 days for families to remain eligible. Beginning June 1, 2024, the total length of stay would be limited to nine months, at the end of which families would be eligible for up to two 90-day extensions.


Extensions would be based on circumstances that include employment or participation in a workforce training program, veteran status, imminent placement in housing, avoiding educational interruptions for children in public school, pregnancy or having recently given birth, diagnosed disability or medical condition, a single parent caring for disabled child or family member, a single parent without adequate childcare, and risk of harm due to domestic violence.


Families who face the end of their shelter time limit may be granted a hardship waiver from the Administration, and all families would need to be provided with 90 days' notice before terminating benefits.


To ensure the long-term sustainability of the shelter system, the legislation establishes a commission to study the future of the shelter program. It creates a tax credit for employers to provide workforce training to families in shelter and includes robust reporting to ensure close monitoring of how the administration is managing the shelter program.


The legislation also requires the Governor to seek federal approvals for a waiver from the federal Department of Homeland Security to permit expedited, temporary, and provisional work authorizations for newly arriving migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. These authorizations are key to creating pathways to work to ultimately alleviate the shelter capacity crisis.


Pandemic era policies made permanent in the legislation include allowing outdoor dining and craft-made mixed drinks to-go, allowing graduates and students in their last semester of nursing education programs to practice nursing, in accordance with guidance from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing; and permitting remote reverse mortgage counseling. It extends for one year the ability of nurses employed by assisted living residences to provide skilled nursing care in accordance with valid medical orders, provided the nurse holds a valid license to provide such care.


Having been passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, the supplemental budget now goes to the Governor’s desk for her signature.




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