Yesterday the Governor released his proposed fiscal year 2014 budget - which document is referred to as "House 1." MLRI monitors a number of programs and services that affect low income households in the Commonwealth in the areas of housing, shelter, cash assistance programs, nutrition, health care, child care and child welfare. Here's a link to our analysis of selected parts of the Governor's budget: http://www.masslegalservices.org/content/governors-fy-2014-budget-propos...
A couple of highlights:
House 1 thankfully does not propose major cuts in state benefits or eligibility for most of the accounts discussed here, but it unfortunately continues the Administration’s FY 13 policy of denying emergency shelter to many homeless families with children unless and until the children first sleep in a place not meant for human habitation, such as car or an emergency room or outside. This policy is putting families at great risk on a daily basis. House 1 does propose a modest but much-needed increase to the primary state rental voucher program (MRVP, item 7004-9024) and would establish a Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund to be used to supplement affordable housing resources.
On the nutrition front, House 1 preserves funding for core state nutrition programs including elder nutrition, WIC state funding, MEFAP and provides DTA administrative funding to keep the current level of front line staff to manage the SNAP caseload. Unfortunately, House 1 does not increase DTA admin to allow DTA to hire additional staff. It remains to be seen if DTA can successfully manage the current SNAP caseload (currently over 1,000 cases per SNAP worker in many DTA local offices), no less reach out to new populations in need of SNAP. SEIU and other groups are concerned that the current front line staffing level is inadequate for the SNAP task before them. Anti-hunger advocates are also concerned that MEFAP funding is insufficient for the level of demand for emergency food at local food pantries.
House 1 is the first official step in the annual state appropriations process and reflects the Governor's anticipated revenue sources and spending/policy priorities. The Massachusetts General Court (House and Senate) then draft and deliberate their own budgets in the coming months. After differences are reconciled by both sides during "Conference Committee," the final budget lands on the Governor's desk for signature and/or veto - hopefully by July 1st.
We will keep you posted as the budget unfolds. Coalition members who are working on specific budget priorities that might be of interest to Coalition members can let me know and I will send out an update of budget campaigns in the coming weeks. Send to Pat Baker, firstname.lastname@example.org.