Along with spring showers, the state budget season has arrived! This is the critical time of year when the state legislature makes important decisions about which services and programs to invest in and at what levels. The state budget is a statement of our values as a Commonwealth. In it we find the answers to questions like: Do we care about our most vulnerable residents? Are our legislators willing to invest in solutions and services for low-income families and individuals and youth experiencing homelessness?
Join us in fighting to make sure our elected officials have civil legal aid and youth homelessness on their list of budget priorities. For so many, this budget will determine if they will be able to stave off eviction, find shelter, achieve stability, and more in 2020.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ways & Means released its budget recommendations for FY20. Representatives are now busy filing amendments for various line items. Check out our focus areas below and what you can do to help.
Civil Legal Aid
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporations (MLAC) requested $26 million in state support for 2020, but the House Committee on Ways & Means allocated only $22.5 million. For low-income Massachusetts residents who are unable to afford an attorney, civil legal aid organizations are often the last place they can turn to when facing eviction, domestic violence, or other life-altering civil legal issues.
MLAC is the largest provider of civil legal aid services in the state and without increased funding, civil legal aid programs will be forced to continue to turn away thousands of Massachusetts residents in need and seeking help.
Representative Balser has filed an amendment to allocate $24 million for legal aid. This increase in funding is absolutely critical to ensure access to justice for thousands of vulnerable residents in Massachusetts.
Many representatives support legal aid, but we need them to make it a priority for the FY20 budget, and they’ll only do that if they hear from you!
Action You Can Take:
Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor Rep. Balser’s MLAC Amendment and directly communicate their support for the amendment to Speaker DeLeo and House Ways & Means Chair Michlewitz.
Housing and Support Services
Youth without homes can’t wait, but the House Committee on Ways & Means has recommended level funding of $3.3 million for housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007). Representative O’Day will be filing an amendment to raise this funding to $5 million – a much needed increase.
When youth experience homelessness, they are at a greater risk of poor health outcomes, exposure to violence, susceptibility to exploitation, and dropping out of school.
In the wake of reports of youth homelessness in Massachusetts on the rise, expanding funding to provide housing and support services throughout the state is absolutely vital. This increase in funding can build off the work of previous years and help create a sustained, systematic, and effective response to end youth homelessness.
Action You Can Take:
Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information and ask them to co-sponsor Rep. O’Day’s amendment by contacting his office before 3 p.m. today!
Massachusetts State ID
State ID is necessary to complete many important and daily tasks, such as opening a bank account, enrolling in education programs, getting a library card, entering certain government buildings, and more. But youth experiencing homelessness face several barriers that often prevent them from obtaining it.
Some service providers for people experiencing homelessness estimate that half of their clients lack identification cards.
Throughout 2018, we fought for a bill that would eliminate the barriers that stop youth experiencing homelessness from obtaining ID, and while it didn’t pass, it has been refiled this year and we will continue to advocate for its passage in 2019.
However, Representative Khan has gone one step further and filed two amendments addressing this issue, both of which draw from the bill:
- The first is an amendment to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund (line item 1595-6368);
- The second would add an outside section in the FY20 budget.
These amendments would establish a fee waiver process for youth experiencing homelessness, create an alternative application process to apply for state ID if they cannot meet existing criteria, expand the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ (RMV) efforts to better serve people experiencing homelessness, and add $50,000 to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund (line item 1595-6368) in order to offset the RMV’s lost revenue. They are common-sense reforms that will help ensure youth experiencing homelessness are able to access the resources they need.
Action You Can Take
Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information and ask them to co-sponsor Rep. Khan’s amendment and outside section.
Thank you for joining us for this first stage of the budget process and advocating for these important amendments and increases in funding. Please call your State Representative and urge them to include civil legal aid and support for youth experiencing homelessness in their FY20 funding priorities. With your help, we can start this budget season off right!
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