Massachusetts Bill Would Boost Spending On Emergency Housing

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey unveiled a $282 million supplemental spending plan Monday that includes $85 million to help pay for the state's emergency assistance program and other services for eligible families in need of shelter.

The state's shelter system is at capacity and facing significantly elevated levels of demand by families facing homelessness, administration officials said.

In November, former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker opened a temporary shelter in Devens to ease the state’s migrant crisis.

The proposed supplemental budget — which now heads to state lawmakers — will also extend two food security programs that will soon run out of funding, according to Healey.

“Our administration is committed to ensuring that families in Massachusetts have access to the shelter, health care, education, food assistance and other services they need,” the Democrat said.

The proposed spending is intended to help expand the number of units available to provide temporary shelter to families facing homelessness and includes investments in housing infrastructure and the shelter provider workforce.

Massachusetts must provide emergency shelter to homeless families under its existing “right-to-shelter” law.

“The supp budget presented us with realistic options today,” Democratic House Speaker Ronald Mariano told reporters.

The bill also proposes nearly $22 million in school-based aid to help communities experiencing a large influx of families with school-aged children due to state shelter placements.

It also includes $65 million to extend the universal school meals pilot program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

To help the more than 630,000 Massachusetts families facing the end of extra federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in March, the proposed state spending plan includes $130 million to recipients equal to 40% of the previous federal benefit for three months.