The Massachusetts House and Senate have each completed their work on their respective FY23 budgets, which are now in “Conference Committee” where the six “Conferees” work out the differences. There are FOUR top budget priorities that need your help.
At the same time, the Massachusetts Legislature is deciding which of the 6,000+ bills filed this session will make it to the finish line. We need your support for the Hunger Free Campus Initiative, which we think has a serious shot of passing before the Legislative session ends in late July, thanks in large part to our incredible team of sponsors - including retiring Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler!
And we want to be sure you saw the powerful Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) survey which found that 1.8 million Massachusetts residents — 32% of the adult population, especially minority communities and families with children — are now food insecure. largely due to rising living costs. See Boston Globe coverage of 6/6/2022, Hunger on the rise in Mass as food prices soar. All of the rising costs impact every facet of life for Massachusetts most vulnerable families. Please help us address this crisis with the budget and legislative initiatives below.
The FY23 Budget – SNAP Coalition Priorities
· Common Application for means-tested programs: Good News! Both the House and Senate budgets contain language that requires the Baker Administration (and next Governor) to start working on a common application for SNAP, cash benefits, fuel assistance, childcare, shelter and more. We know this will take time and IT, but this sets the wheels in motion. The ASK: It’s simple. THANK your House and Senate members for including this language in their budgets and give special thanks to Senator DiDomenico and Rep Livingstone. Urge the Conference Committee to keep the language from both sides!
· Lift Our Kids Deep Poverty Amendment: The Senate did include a 10% Cost of Living increase for DTA cash assistance benefits (TAFDC and EAEDC) but effective April 1, 2023, which is 9 months into the upcoming fiscal year. The House budget was silent. The pandemic has exacerbated existing racial and economic inequities in Massachusetts, and our lowest income residents are facing continued and worsening challenges. Needy children cannot wait 9 months. The ASK: Urge the Conference Committee to build upon the increase included in the final Senate budget, by making the 10% increase to cash assistance grants in the FY23 budget effective July 2022.
· Universal School Meals: The House included $110M in funding to extend universal school meals through the next school year (SY22/23). The Senate did not include any funding. Yesterday’s Boston Globe editorial 6/8/22 highlights both growing food insecurity as reported by the GBFB survey and why it is essential we extend free school meals to children next year: Free School Meals, Yes we can do that! The ASK: Urge the Conference Committee to adopt the $110M House funding in the final Conference budget.
· Healthy Incentives Program (HIP): The Senate included $20M funding for HIP plus language requiring more transparency in the administration of the HIP program. The House included $18M. The ASK. Urge the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s $20M funding in the final Conference Budget as well as the Senate language calling for greater transparency and the Senate funding amount.
Hunger Free Campus Initiative – Help us Get this Bill Passed!
There is growing momentum to secure final passage of key state legislation that will address food insecurity on Massachusetts college campuses. H. 4697 and S.2811 received a "favorable" from the Joint Committee on Higher Education at the end of April, with redrafted language. See attached fact sheet and the letters from both the Mass Association of Community Colleges and UMass Campuses.
The Hunger Free Campus Coalition hosted a powerful press conference with our lead sponsors on June 1st including Senators Harriet Chandler and Joan Lovely, Representatives Andy Vargas, Mindy Domb and Joan Meschino. See State House News Service 6/1/22 article in WWLP news here.
And check out this Op Ed on both the Hunger Free Campus bill and the Universal Free School Meals initiative, published in the Salem News, Newburyport News, Eagle Tribune, Gloucester Times, CNHI, and Yahoo News Our View: Lawmakers must act fast on hunger bills School may be all but over across the state, but lawmakers have plenty of remedial work to do before the summer ends
Here’s some key quotes from the Op Ed: “So slowly, in fact, that there is real danger the relatively modest spending packages will be left to die a quiet death when lawmakers leave for their own summer vacations… More than 37% of the state’s 250,000 public college students struggle with food insecurity... Students of all ages deserve a life without hunger …We must support students outside the classroom so they’re ready to tackle the challenges inside the classroom ... and so they can go on and have fulfilling lives… For that to happen, lawmakers must act now.”
THE ASK: Urge your House and Senate members to support passage of H. 4697 and S. 2811, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Hunger Free Campus Initiative. The funding is there thanks to APRA funding, but we need this bill to ensure that both the federal fund and future state funds are spent wisely. See attached fact sheet.