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!
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!
Action You Can Take:
Click here to find your State Representative’s contact information TODAY and ask them to support Amendment #1095.
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.
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:
- The first is Amendment #765 to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund;
- 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 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!
Want to stay informed on the latest issues Massachusetts Appleseed is working on?
Sign up for future action alerts.