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Mass House State Budget Amendments Affecting Low Income Persons: ALERT - Call and Email Your State Reps.

The NEXT Food SNAP Coalition Meeting is Tuesday, April 24th from 10 to Noon at St Francis House.  We will give you a complete update on the federal and state budget deliberations.

As noted last week in various alerts, the House Ways and Means Committee budget proposal was released last Wednesday and contains some very harmful provisions for low-income families and individuals, including:

  • harsh restrictions on access to emergency shelter for homeless families with children,
  • elimination of the $40 TAFDC rent allowance, reduction of the $150 annual TAFDC clothing allowance to only $75 per year, and no express provision for TAFDC transportation benefits, and
  • less funding for DTA administrative expenses to process the high SNAP caseload.
  • In addition, Outside Section 35, as written, would prevent cash assistance recipients from buying any goods or services (really), expressly barring them from using cash assistance to pay their rent, pay taxes, buy any travel services, orpurchase necessities such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

At least one State Representative in House leadership has described the House Ways and Means budget as “war on the poor.”  The full House will debate the budget next week. Proposed amendments were filed on Friday and House Ways and Means members and staff will be making decisions this week on whether amendments should be adopted.  A copy of MLRI's analysis of the House Ways and Means FY2013 budget can be found at:  /content/MLRI-analysis-house-ways-and-means-fy2013-budget-proposal

Please call your State Representatives this week – and the State Representatives representing clients in your service areas– and urge them to demand that House leadership agree to adopt the first set of amendments discussed below and reject the second set of amendments. Agreeing to “vote” for or against the amendments is not enough, because the fate of most amendments is decided by Leadership before any vote is taken. Call now! Our low income clients are depending on us to prevent the harm the House Ways and Means budget would cause.

Priority Amendments to SUPPORT

1. Amendment 603 - Emergency Assistance shelter (7004-0101) – Lead Sponsors Representatives Wolf and Rushing: This amendment would (a) eliminate the proposed 8-month time limit on shelter stays that would kick families with children out of shelter with no place to go; (b) ensure that families at risk of sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, including cars or the streets, remain eligible for shelter; and (c) delay any new shelter restrictions until at least January to allow time to evaluate the impact of new housing resources on shelter demand. A fact sheet with the amendment number is attached.

2. Amendment 664 – TAFDC Rent Allowance, Clothing Allowance and Transportation – Lead Sponsor Representative Khan: This amendment would restore the $40 rent allowance for those in unsubsidized housing, the $150 clothing allowance, and add a $40 transportation allowance to the TAFDC line item to ensure low-income families don’t fall deeper into destitution.

3. Amendments 635, 502 and 842 – Eliminate Unreasonable Restrictions on Use of Cash Assistance Benefits – Lead Sponsors Toomey, Rushing and Conroy: Amendment 635 would remove the most egregious provisions of HWM outside section 35, amendment 502 would strike out section 35 and replace it with the recommendations of the recent EBT Commission, which are much less harmful, and amendment 842 would strike out section 35 and replace it with requirements that various studies be conducted before any restrictions are adopted.

4. Amendment 272 - SIEU's amendment to increase administrative funding for DTA case workers from $60.5 to $64.1M - Lead Sponsor O'Day; and Amendment 480 to increase DTA Central funding from $54.1 to $55.6M. These amendments will bring the DTA administrative funding to the level proposed by the Governor in his FY2013 budget to help DTA manage the huge caseload. Some local DTA offices report they have more than 1,000 SNAP cases per worker right now !  DTA projects the number of residents of Massachusetts to receive SNAP in Massachusetts to exceed ONE MILLION persons in this coming fiscal year.  

Additional amendments to SUPPORT

1. Amendments 694, 696, 701 – Asset Development Commission recommendations to allow education and training to count for TAFDC Work requirement for all 24 months and require DTA to give time limit extensions to allow completion (694), make one car per licensed driver in TAFDC and EAEDC households non-countable (696) and make $10,000 of lump sum income non-countable if used for responsible purposes or put in an account for later such use (701) – Lead sponsor Rep. Khan: These amendments would help lift families out of poverty and were all recommended by the Asset Development Commission.

2. Amendment 272 – Add $3.5 million to DTA workers account to allow for better client service – Lead Sponsor Rep. O’Day: This amendment would allow DTA to maintain current staffing levels so clients would hopefully receive better service at DTA.

Priority Amendments to OPPOSE

1. Amendments 804 (O’Connell) and 774 (Rogers) would bar cash assistance recipients from accessing any assistance as cash! These harmful amendments would allow TAFDC and EAEDC recipients only to access benefits as vendor rent and utilities or at point of sale. Recipients would have access to NO cash assistance, leaving them unable to pay rent where landlords or those they are doubled-up with do not accept vendor rent and unable to pay for babysitters, school fees, etc. where point of sale payments are not possible.

2. Amendments 414 (Cabral) and 660 (Kane) would deny homeless families MRVP vouchers (7004-9024) to move out of shelter and instead adopt vague language authorizing creation of supportive housing units which would bar families in shelter from receiving any priority for the new MRVPs. Given the proposed restrictions on access to emergency shelter that Amendment 603 seeks to redress to some extent, the one bright spot for homeless families in the budget was that some of them could get the new MRVP vouchers that are proposed. CHAPA and the regional nonprofit housing agencies (who would gain funding at the expense of vouchers) are behind these amendments that seek to deny homeless families these new housing resources. Ask the House to say no to these amendments.

In case it is helpful, here  are the full lists of sponsors and co-sponsors for the EA and TAFDC and DTA amendments as of April 16, 2012:

Amendment 272 - Increasing administrative funding for DTA staffing.  Representatives O'Day of West Boylston, Andrews of Orange, DiNatale of Fitchburg, Fresolo of Worcester, Provost of Somerville, Ross of Attleboro, Sciortino of Medford, Walsh of Framingham, Swan of Springfield, Smizik of Brookline and Creedon of Brockton

Amendment 480 - Increasing administrative funding for DTA Central.  Representatives Forry of Boston, Andrews of Orange, Sciortino of Medford, Walsh of Boston, Creedon of Brockton, Lawn of Watertown, Wolf of Cambridge and Conroy of Wayland .

Amendment 603 – Striking 8-Month EA Time Limit and Sheltering Children Otherwise on the Street
Representatives Wolf of Cambridge, Rushing of Boston, Fox of Boston, Canavan of Brockton, Aguiar of Fall River, Sullivan of Fall River, Hecht of Watertown, Schmid of Westport, Turner of Dennis, Kocot of Northampton, Provost of Somerville, Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, Cabral of New Bedford, Basile of Boston, Brady of Brockton, Ross of Attleboro, Smizik of Brookline, Swan of Springfield, Atkins of Concord, Lawn of Watertown, Forry of Boston, Malia of Boston, Andrews of Orange, Khan of Newton, Balser of Newton, Sciortino of Medford and Campbell of Methuen (not listed but also O’Day).