If passing the FY’19 State Budget is a marathon, we’re in the final stretch! The Senate Debates have ended and the Conference Committee met for the first time last Thursday.
This Committee is comprised of three Senators and three Representatives with one job: to reconcile differences between the House and Senate budgets.
Now it’s our job to make sure they don’t forget about the many important items you’ve helped us fight for over the past two months that need funding. The budget is more than just a list of line items. It’s a chance for all of us to stand up and tell our legislators what we care about and why.
The following are our priorities:
- Civil Legal Aid (Line Item #0321-1600)
- $21 million to provide civil legal aid to low-income individuals and families.
- Housing Court (Line Item #0336-0003)
- $2.6 million to fully fund the Housing Court expansion, a key component of expanding access to justice in the state.
- Lunch Shaming and Student Hunger (Line Item #7053-1909)
- Requiring schools to publish their meal charge policies to better track and combat lunch shaming.
- Support for Homeless Youth (Line Item #4000-0007)
- $3.3 million to fund housing and support services for homeless youth.
- Language Access in Schools (Outside Section 126)
- Establish and task force regarding school interpreters to break down language barriers in education settings.
Please contact your legislators and ask them to urge the members of the Conference Committee to include the critical funding and policy language described below in the final budget they send to the Governor.
Don’t wait – contact them now!
You can read more about these important line items below.
Civil Legal Aid
Line Item #0321-1600
The Senate has recommended a $21 million appropriation, a $3 million increase from last year and a $210,000 increase from the House appropriation, for Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest funding source for civil legal aid programs. These programs provide critical free legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney.
Due to a lack of funding, legal aid organizations are ALREADY forced to turn away 64% of people in need of help.
We need the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s recommendation of $21 million in funding for MLAC, so that more low-income residents of Massachusetts can gain access to legal advice and representation. Please tell your legislators to advocate for this funding level in the final Conference Committee budget!
Line Item #0336-0003
The Housing Court has already proven itself to be an indispensable resource for those experiencing a housing crisis – for those who have access. Now, the Senate has recommended $2.6 million, an increase of $1.6 million from last year and a $100,000 increase from the House appropriation, for the full expansion of the Housing Court needed to protect the nearly one-third of all Massachusetts residents who currently have no access.
Neighborhoods under attack from gentrification and families faced with eviction must have access to a Housing Court.
If we truly believe in access to justice, funding the necessary expansion of the Housing Court must be a priority. Please ask your state senator and representative to advocate for $2.6 million in funding for Housing Court in the Conference Committee’s final budget.
Lunch Shaming and Student Hunger
Line Item #7053-1909
Lunch shaming is the practice of humiliating and punishing children who are unable to afford lunch. In order to fight to end lunch shaming, we need the Conference Committee to adopt the language recommended by the Senate that requires school districts to publish and disseminate their meal charge policies. This would create more transparency about different schools’ meal policies for parents, and enable advocates like us to track them.
This will help us end lunch shaming in Massachusetts altogether.
If protecting low-income students from being subjected to unjust humiliation is important to you, please tell your legislators to urge the Conference Committee to include this language in line item #7053-1909 in the final budget.
Support for Homeless Youth
Line Item #4000-0007
Last year, funding for services for homeless youth was insufficient to meet the demand and almost forced a shelter critical to many youth in Cambridge to close its doors. This year, the Senate has called for $3.3 million in funding, a $2,625,000 increase from last year and a $2.3 million increase from the House appropriation!
This important increase will fund vital services that will allow homeless youth to stay safe and healthy so that they can focus on their education.
Please ask your legislators to urge the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s funding amount of $3.3 million in the final budget.
Language Access in Schools
Outside Section 126
Limited English proficient (LEP) parents have a right to accurately and effectively receive information about their child’s education, but without trained interpreters, they can face staggering language barriers. Outside Section 126 of the Senate budget would establish a task force to collect information and make recommendations on the training and certification of language interpreters in schools to better serve the needs of each child and family.
As many as 113 school districts are currently not meeting the needs of LEP students and families in Massachusetts.
Please ask your legislators to urge the Conference Committee to include Outside Section 126 in the final budget.
Click here to contact your legislators and ask them to urge the members of the Conference Committee (pictured below) to include these funding levels and policy initiatives in the final budget.
Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy.
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