Action Alert

This week, the Conference Committee released its final, reconciled 2020 budget – a consolidation of the House and Senate versions totaling $43.1 billion. This year, our budget priorities included:

  • Support for Homeless Youth (Line Item #4000-0007)
    • $5 million to fund housing and support services for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Safe and Supportive Schools (Line Item #7061-9612)
    • $508,128 to fund the Safe and Supportive Schools program and ensure all students are empowered to succeed in school.
  • Civil Legal Aid (MLAC Line Item #0321-1600)
    • $24 million to provide civil legal aid to low-income individuals and families.

I’m happy to report that the Conference Committee has recommended full funding for all of these line items! Thank you to the House and Senate leadership, and a special thanks to you! Each time you raised your voice and called your legislators to support your most vulnerable neighbors, you have brought us one step closer to a 2020 where we are equipped to support all Massachusetts residents in shelters, in school, and in the courts.

This year’s budget battle is almost over…but not quite yet. The Legislature has voted on the budget and now it heads to Governor Baker’s desk, where he will have ten days to veto line items – potentially eliminating the vital funding for the line items listed above.

You have stood alongside us and fought hard for these line items as the budget made its way through the House, the Senate, and the Conference Committee. Don’t let Governor Baker veto them now.

Please join us in contacting Governor Baker’s office to let him know that you support the Conference Committee’s recommended funding for services for youth experiencing homelessness, safe and supportive schools, and increased access to justice through civil legal aid.

Click here to call or email the Governor’s office now!

You can read more about these important line items below:

Housing and Support Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Line Item #4000-0007

The Conference Committee adopted the Senate’s funding level of $5 million for support and services for youth experiencing homelessness! This is a long-overdue increase of $1.7 million from last year. Governor Baker’s administration highlighted its plan to end youth homelessness just a few months ago. Let him know that this funding level is a critical component of any solution to homelessness for young people in Massachusetts.

This increase to $5 million will fund vital services for one of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations and is an important step towards Governor Baker’s stated goal to address youth homelessness.

Please ask Governor Baker to adopt the Conference Committee’s recommended funding amount of $5 million.

Safe and Supportive School Environments

Line Item #7061-9612

In more good news, the Conference Committee has recommended $508,128 in funding for this essential line item, which is slightly ABOVE last year’s funding level. Many thanks to the Legislature for this welcome increase, particularly in a year when the question of school funding, and how well we are supporting our students, has been at the forefront of conversations across the state.

This increase will help continue the Safe and Supportive Schools program, which enables the development of school-wide Action Plans, facilitates the exchange of best practices, and ultimately works to empower all students to succeed in school.

Please join us in urging Governor Baker to include this funding level in the final budget!

Civil Legal Aid

Line Item #0321-1600

The Conference Committee has recommended the Senate’s funding level of $24 million in funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation line item, which funds free civil legal services that thousands of low-income residents of Massachusetts rely on each year. If Massachusetts believes in striving for 100% access to justice, this increase in funding is an absolute necessity.

The overwhelming need for increased civil legal aid continues to grow, with individuals and families in Massachusetts facing eviction, domestic violence, and other civil legal crises.

Please urge Governor Baker to adopt the Conference Committee’s recommended funding amount of $24 million in the final budget.


We’ve been fighting for these line items, which include much-needed increases in funding, since April, and you’ve been with us every step of the way. Please join us once again so that we can cross the finish line and ensure these line items make it into the final budget!

Click here to find the contact information for Governor Baker’s office. Then call or email and urge him to adopt the Conference Committee’s funding levels for support for youth experiencing homelessness, safe and supportive schools, and civil legal aid.

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy – we can’t do it without you!

 

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Action Alert

Thank you to everyone who raised their voices and called their state senators to advocate for our FY20 budget priorities! The Senate debates have ended, the conferees of the Conference Committee have been decided, and the next stage of this year’s budget battle has begun! You can view the finalized Senate budget here, and take a look below to read more about where we stand on our budget priorities:

Housing and Support Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

As you may remember, the Senate Committee on Ways & Means released its FY20 budget proposal and recommended $5 million for support and services for youth experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007). Since this was the funding amount advocates requested, no amendment needed to be filed! However, since the final House budget only provided $3.3 million in funding for this line item, the Conference Committee is now tasked with determining the final funding level.

The funding level proposed by the Senate is an important increase to fund vital services for one of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations.

Please ask your legislators to urge the Conference Committee to include the Senate funding level of $5 million in the final budget.

Safe and Supportive School Environments

To ensure that all students are empowered to succeed in school, the Safe and Supportive Schools program needs continued funding at an adequate level. We are pleased to report that the Senate Committee on Ways & Means recommended $508,128 in funding for this essential line item (7061-9612), which is slightly ABOVE last year’s funding level. Once again, this meant that there was no need to advocate for an amendment to this line item during the Senate budget debate! However, because the House provided only $400,000 in funding for the Safe and Supportive Schools line item, it will be up to the Conference Committee to determine the final funding amount.

This line item provides critical funding to continue the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program, which enables the development of school-wide Action Plans and facilitates the exchange of best practices, and more.

Please join us in advocating for the Senate funding level of $508,128 in the Conference Committee’s final budget.

Civil Legal Aid

Each year we advocate for increased funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) because of the overwhelming need for civil legal aid for low-income families and individuals, which continues to grow.

The MLAC line item (0321-1600) funds free civil legal services that many low-income residents of Massachusetts rely on when facing eviction, domestic violence, and other civil legal crises.

Thankfully, Senator Cynthia Creem’s amendment to increase civil legal aid funding to $24 million was included in the Senate’s final budget! While still less than the $26 million MLAC initially requested, this is a much-needed increase that is greater than the $23.6 million in funding that the House allocated.

Please ask your legislators to urge the Conference Committee to adopt the Senate’s funding amount of $24 million in the final budget.

State ID for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Senators Chandler and Welch filed Amendment #464 that would work to eliminate barriers homeless youth face in obtaining IDs.

Without state ID, youth experiencing homelessness are prevented from accomplishing many critical and daily tasks, from enrolling in education programs to something as simple as getting a library card.

The amendment would have established a process to waive the prohibitive $25 state ID card fee and created an alternative application process for those who cannot meet existing criteria (such as providing proof of residency). Unfortunately, these policy provisions were not included in the final Senate budget.

While we are disappointed by this development, we will continue to advocate for legislation currently before the Joint Transportation Committee (S.2043/H.3066), which would also ease the process for youth experiencing homelessness to obtain state ID. Click here for more information, and stay tuned to see how you can help advocate to get these common-sense reforms passed this year!


On To the Conference Committee!

The Conference Committee, made up of six legislators – three representatives, three senators – will review both the House and Senate budgets and work to reconcile any differences. The Committee has until July 1st to pass a final reconciled budget and send it to Governor Baker’s desk for approval.

This is a decisive moment for our budget priorities, and we can’t do it without you. When you contact your legislators in support of these funding levels, especially at this final hurdle, you’re helping ensure some of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable communities are supported and empowered to succeed in 2020.

Click here to find your legislator’s contact information. Then call or email both your state senator and representative and ask them to urge the members of the Conference Committee (listed below) to adopt the Senate funding levels for each of these important line items described above.

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy. With your help, we can ensure these crucial line items receive the funding they need in the coming year.

 

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“Each line item, each number, is much more than just a number. It is a statement of the Senate’s priorities and our values and what we hold dear.”

Senate President Karen Spilka

With the House budget settled, it’s the Senate’s turn to look ahead towards 2020. The Senate Committee on Ways & Means released its budget earlier this month, and while several of the line items we support have been fully funded, there is still a funding gap for one critical issue — civil legal aid. And there’s also a chance to advance opportunities for youth experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts. Please take a moment and check out our budget priorities below and the amendments Senators Creem, Eldridge, Chandler, and Welch have filed for civil legal aid and for youth experiencing homelessness.

Your vocal support for these amendments and line items makes all the difference, and we can’t do this without you. Please join us and call your State Senator to ensure these key areas are fully funded and included in the Senate’s final budget!

First, the Good News…

Safe and Supportive School Environments

The Safe and Supportive Schools law, passed in 2014, was enacted to make the vision of safe and supportive whole-school cultures that address many barriers to learning a reality. I’m pleased to report that the Senate Committee on Ways & Means has recommended slightly above level funding ($500,000) for the Safe and Supportive Schools line item (7061-9612). This funding will be used to continue the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program, develop school-wide Action Plans, collect feedback from students, and more.

Youth Homelessness: Housing and Support Services

The Senate Committee on Ways & Means has recommended $5 million for housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007)! With reports of youth homelessness on the rise, it is critical that the state continue to invest in long-term solutions to build on past progress and provide much-needed support to vulnerable youth in Massachusetts. We look forward to advocating for the Senate’s recommendation when the Conference Committee convenes!

Budget Amendments That Need Your Support!

Civil Legal Aid

Civil legal aid organizations are often the last place low-income residents facing a civil legal crisis can turn to. For those dealing with life-altering legal issues such as eviction, domestic violence, and more, civil legal aid is a lifeline. We thank the Senate Committee on Ways & Means for recommending $22 million in its budget for civil legal aid, an increase of $1 million over last year.

But with civil legal aid organizations forced to turn away a MAJORITY of eligible residents seeking help every year, it’s still not enough.

Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem and Senate Judiciary Chair Jamie Eldridge have filed Amendment #976 to increase funding for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) line item (0321-1600) to $24 million.

As Senate President Karen Spilka said, the budget is a statement of our priorities and our values. We know civil legal aid is among our priorities, and we know it’s among yours. We must ensure it’s among the Senate’s as well.

Click here for more information about this issue.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your State Senator’s contact information TODAY and ask them to support Amendment #976.

Youth Homelessness: Massachusetts State ID

Without government-issued identification, youth experiencing homelessness are unable to complete many important and routine tasks, such as opening a bank account, enrolling in education programs, getting a library card, entering certain government buildings, and more. Right now, there are barriers in place that prevent youth experiencing homelessness from easily obtaining ID.

Some service providers for people experiencing homelessness estimate that half of their clients lack identification cards.

While we will continue to advocate for the passage of a refiled bill throughout the year that would eliminate these barriers, Senators Chandler and Welch have filed Amendment #464 that would address this issue now!

This amendment would establish a process to waive the $25 state ID card fee for youth experiencing homelessness (adding $50,000 to the Transportation Trust Fund, line item 1595-6368) and create an alternative application process if they cannot meet existing criteria (such as providing proof of residency). These are common-sense reforms that will enable youth experiencing homelessness to access the life-saving resources they need.

Click here for more information about this issue.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your State Senator’s contact information TODAY and ask them to support Amendment #464.


This time of year is so important, and I want to thank you for raising your voice and helping us get this year’s budget battles off to a great start.

By ensuring Amendments #976 and 464 are included in the Senate’s budget, we will have a better chance of obtaining adequate funding for civil legal aid and support for youth experiencing homelessness in the final budget that the legislature sends to the Governor this summer. Please call your State Senator and urge them to include civil legal aid and state ID for youth experiencing homelessness in their FY20 priorities.

Thank you for your continued support and advocacy.

 

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Action Alert

The Massachusetts House of Representatives will debate its FY20 budget proposal this week and several key amendments have been filed that still need support! These amendments fill in funding gaps when the amount allocated in the House Committee on Ways & Means’ budget recommendations (released April 10th) fell short of supporting the clear needs of our communities.

Please take a moment and check out a few of our budget priorities below and the amendments Representatives Balser, O’Day, and Khan have filed. Loud and vocal support for these amendments and line items makes all the difference, so please join us and call your State Representative to ensure our elected officials have civil legal aid, youth homelessness, and Massachusetts schools on their list of budget priorities!

Safe and Supportive School Environments

The Safe and Supportive Schools law, passed in 2014, was enacted to make the vision of safe and supportive whole-school cultures that address many barriers to learning a reality. Level funding for the Safe and Supportive Schools Line Item (7061-9612) is critical to continue the Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program, develop school-wide Action Plans, collect feedback from students, and more. But the House has proposed allocating only $400,000, a decrease from the $500,000 in funding it received last year.

Funding for this line item is necessary to continue expanding and improving strategies and tools so all students are empowered to succeed in school.

Representative Balser has filed Amendment #1099 to provide level funding of $500,000 to ensure adequate funding for these important programs. Please join us in supporting Rep. Balser’s amendment and standing up for students across Massachusetts!

Click here for more information about this issue.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information and ask them to support Amendment #1099.

Civil Legal Aid

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. But the House Committee on Ways & Means provided only $22.5 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) line item (0321-1600).

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 Ruth Balser has filed Amendment #1095 to provide $24 million in funding for legal aid. While still less than MLAC’s request of $26 million, this increase in funding is absolutely critical to ensure access to justice for thousands of vulnerable residents in Massachusetts.

Many representatives are aware of the importance of legal aid, and may support it, but this year, they MUST make it a priority. Your call can be the difference!

Click here for more information about this issue

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information TODAY and ask them to support Amendment #1095.

Youth Homelessness

Housing and Support Services

Youth homelessness is on the rise in Massachusetts – but the House Committee on Ways & Means has recommended only level funding ($3.3 million) for housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007). Representative Jim O’Day has filed Amendment #883 to increasing funding for these services to $5 million.

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.

This increase in funding is absolutely vital and can help create a sustained, systematic, and effective response to end youth homelessness.

Click here for more information about this issue. 

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information and ask them to support Amendment #883.

Massachusetts State ID

Government issued identification 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 ID.

Some service providers for people experiencing homelessness estimate that half of their clients lack identification cards.

While we will continue to advocate for that passage of a refiled bill that would eliminate the barriers that stop youth experiencing homelessness from obtaining ID throughout the year, Representative Kay Khan has filed two amendments addressing this issue now:

  1. The first is Amendment #765 to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund;
  2. 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.

Click here for more information about this issue.

Action You Can Take

Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information and ask them to support Amendment #765 and Rep. Khan’s outside section.


Ensuring these amendments are included in the House proposed budget will set us up for success when it comes time for the Legislature to finalize a budget to send to Governor Baker. Please call your State Representative and urge them to include civil legal aid and support for Massachusetts students and youth experiencing homelessness in their FY20 funding priorities. Your advocacy is vital this time of year, and I want to thank you for your continued commitment to our work!

 

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Action Alert

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!

Click here for more information about this issue

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.

Youth Homelessness

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.

Click here for more information about this issue. 

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:

  1. The first is an amendment to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund (line item 1595-6368);
  2. 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.

Click here for more information about this issue.

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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Action Alert

For homeless youth, moving through the world without a state identification card can make an already impossible situation worse. Without state ID, they cannot: 

  • Apply for a job
  • Enroll in education programs
  • Obtain a library card
  • Pick up a package from the post office
  • Open any financial accounts
  • Enter certain government buildings
  • Interact with law enforcement
  • Access social services

But homeless youth face unique barriers that prevent them from easily obtaining state ID. 

Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families, would eliminate the $25 fee required for Massachusetts IDs for applicants experiencing homelessness and reduce verification barriers. This bill is an important step to help homeless youth access potentially life-saving resources. 

But the legislative session ends at MIDNIGHT tonight.

This bill passed the Senate unanimously WEEKS AGO. It’s time for the House to do the same. Please join us in urging House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez to strongly support its passage in the House before the deadline TONIGHT!

Having a state ID is critical to ensure homeless youth are able to access the resources and opportunities they need, and today is the final day of formal sessions for this two-year legislative cycle. They need your call today more than ever. 

Call Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez to pass Senate Bill 2568 TODAY!

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

617-722-2500

House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez

617-722-2990

Sample Call Script: 

Speaker DeLeo/Chairman Sánchez, 

I am calling to urge you to support the passage of Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families. This bill is an important step in ensuring homeless youth can more easily obtain Massachusetts state ID, which they need to access vital resources and opportunities. 

Without state ID, homeless youth cannot apply for a job, enroll in education programs, get a library card, or accomplish many other important everyday tasks. 

This bill will break down barriers that homeless youth face daily and make an important difference in their lives. I ask that you please support the passage of Senate Bill 2568 to ensure we continue to care for vulnerable youth in our state. 

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy on behalf of the homeless youth of Massachusetts.

 

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Action Alert

For homeless youth, obtaining a state identification card is necessary to accomplish everyday tasks and access potentially life-saving resources. They must have ID to:

  • Apply for a job
  • Enroll in education programs
  • Obtain a library card
  • Pick up a package from the post office
  • Open any financial accounts
  • Enter certain government buildings
  • Interact with law enforcement
  • Access social services

But homeless youth face unique barriers that prevent them from easily obtaining state ID.

Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families, would eliminate the $25 fee required for Massachusetts IDs for applicants experiencing homelessness and reduce verification barriers. These are common-sense solutions to ensure homeless youth are not left behind.

CALL TODAY to help homeless youth access the resources they need.

This bill has already passed the Senate UNANIMOUSLY. Now we need your help to ask House Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez to strongly support its passage in the House. 

The Legislature’s formal session is scheduled to end on July 31st, which means we must act now. Having a state ID will allow homeless youth to access the resources and opportunities they need, and your call today could be the difference.

Please join us and take action today to pass Senate Bill 2568. Click here for a one-minute online action with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless or call Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez and let them know they must support this critical bill:

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

617-722-2500

House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez

617-722-2990

Sample Call Script:

Speaker DeLeo/Chairman Sánchez,

I am calling to urge you to support the passage of Senate Bill 2568, An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families. This bill is an important step in ensuring homeless youth can more easily obtain Massachusetts state ID, which they need to access to critical resources and opportunities.

Without state ID, homeless youth cannot apply for a job, enroll in education programs, get a library card, or accomplish many other important everyday tasks.

This bill will break down barriers that homeless youth face daily and make an important difference in their lives. I ask that you please support the passage of Senate Bill 2568 to ensure we continue to care for vulnerable youth in our state.

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy on behalf of the homeless youth of Massachusetts.

 

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Action Alert

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!

Housing Court

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.

Chairwoman Karen E. Spilka

Senator Joan B. Lovely

Senator Viriato M. deMacedo

Chairman Jeffrey Sánchez

 

 

 

 

 

 

Representative Stephen Kulik

Representative Todd M. Smola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for your ongoing support and advocacy.

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Action Alert

The Senate’s FY’19 budget recommendations, while including some big wins for the housing court and homeless youth, do not include funding for several critical areas.

Senators have submitted their amendments, and now the debates are on!

This is your chance to join us and stand up for civil legal aid, low-income kids in schools, and an exciting new amendment focusing on parents and students facing language barriers in the classroom! One quick call to your senator could make the difference.

Civil Legal Aid

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporations (MLAC) has requested an additional $5 million in state support this year (for a total of $23 million).

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means’ budget includes $19 million in funding for MLAC, which is $1 million less than the House’s budget and still short of MLAC’s request of $5 million in additional funding

MLAC is the largest provider of civil legal aid services in the state and without full funding, civil legal aid programs will be forced to turn away thousands of people in need.

Senator Creem and Senator Brownsberger have filed Amendment #992 that would provide the full $23 million in funding MLAC has requested and help provide aid to those with critical unmet legal needs across the state.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to email your senator TODAY and ask them to support Amendment #992.

Lunch Shaming and Student Hunger

Lunch shaming is the practice of humiliating and punishing children who are unable to afford lunch, and is unfortunately the policy of many schools in Massachusetts. With a recent bill aiming to ban lunch shaming that we supported unlikely to pass this session, Senator Creem has filed Amendment #167.

This amendment would require cities and towns to publish their meal charge policies so that parents are fully informed about the consequences of accruing school meal debt. It would also enable advocates like us to track different schools’ meal policies to better combat lunch shaming.

This would be an important step in the fight to protect children from harmful lunch shaming policies.

The publication of meal policies will allow us, along with our community partners, to hold school districts accountable and continue this important discussion at the local and statewide levels.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your senator’s contact information and ask them to support Amendment #167.

Language Access in Schools

Despite federal laws and regulations outlining the responsibilities schools have in communicating with limited English proficient (LEP) parents in a language they understand, too many families continue to face staggering language access barriers, in up to as many as 113 school districts in the state.

In response to this widespread problem, Senator Welch has introduced Amendment #284. This amendment would enable the creation of a Task Force to develop recommendations regarding the training, assessment, and certification of interpreters in educational settings to improve language access for LEP parents.

Too often, bilingual school staff – including secretaries, school counselors, janitors, and cafeteria workers – are being asked to stand in and interpret, despite not being appropriately trained as an interpreter.

The establishment of this Task Force will set standards for interpreters and will allow schools to better serve the needs of each unique child and family, regardless of the language they speak.

Action You Can Take:

Click here to find your senator’s contact information and ask them to support Amendment #284.

Thank you for standing with us throughout this budget process as we fight for necessary funding and policy changes in these critical areas. Please join us again and tell the Senate why these issues are important to you. When we stand up and we speak out, we win!

 

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Action Alert

Last month, the House Committee on Ways and Means released its 2019 budget proposal and you stood with us to defend Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations.

We need your help once again.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, and there is plenty of good news to go around! The Senate Committee has recommended $3,300,000 for services and support for unaccompanied homeless youth, a massive increase from last year’s $675,000! Additionally, the Senate has recommended the full $2.6 million in funding necessary for the expansion of the Housing Court!

Your ongoing support has shown our legislators that they need to prioritize these issues. Let’s remind them once more about the importance of access to justice! We’re asking you to join us again and raise your voice in support of civil legal aid.

Civil legal aid programs across the state are forced to turn away nearly 45,000 people each year due to lack of funding.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC), the largest provider of legal aid services in the state, has requested an additional $5 million in state support this year to meet the unmet need of legal services for low-income folks.

The Senate Ways and Means’ budget includes $19 million in funding for MLAC, which is $1 million less than the House’s budget and still short of MLAC’s request of $5 million in additional funding.

Without full funding, civil legal aid programs will be forced to turn away thousands more people in need of representation.

Senator Creem and Senator Brownsberger will be filing an amendment to increase funding by $4 million, for a total of $23 million. This amendment is an important step in providing access to justice for some of the most at-risk residents in Massachusetts.

Action You Can Take:

Contact your state senator TODAY to ask them to co-sponsor Senators Creem and Brownsberger’s amendment for civil legal aid.

Don’t wait! The deadline to file amendments is Monday, May 14th at NOON!

Click here to email your senator today.

As the second budget battle of the season commences, I want to thank you once again for your continued commitment to our work. With your help, we can guarantee greater civil legal support for low-income families and individuals in 2019.

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