Action Alert

Because the Massachusetts Legislature passed a temporary eviction and foreclosure moratorium in late April, thousands of families economically devastated by the pandemic have been able to stay in their homes. While that law provides Governor Baker the opportunity to extend the moratorium at increments of up to 90 days until 45 days after the State of Emergency is lifted, the Governor has publicly signaled that he plans to let these protections expire on October 17th. 

It is estimated that anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 new evictions will occur when the moratorium expires! 

Massachusetts Appleseed has previously advocated for the creation of a Right to Counsel pilot program that could protect many of these renters from eviction and potentially homelessness once the moratorium ends. Initially, we asked for a pilot program that would allow nonprofit and legal aid organizations to offer representation within 5,000 eviction cases. 

But as the numbers of likely evictions continue to climb, addressing 5,000 cases is clearly not enough. The Right to Counsel Coalition has sent a letter to Governor Baker advocating for a comprehensive plan that ensures representation for tenants and landlords in 22,000 eviction cases. We need your help to make this happen before the eviction moratorium ends on October 17th!

 

What You Can Do

  1. Email Governor Baker and ask him to support S. 2785 to establish a COVID right to counsel pilot program, in addition to funding rental assistance.
  2. Call the Governor’s office TODAY (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and ask him to support S. 2785 to establish a COVID right to counsel pilot program, in addition to funding rental assistance. 
  • Main Office: 617-725-4005 
  • Toll-free: 888-870-7770
  • TTY: 617-727-3666

You can send Governor Baker an email like this: 

Dear Governor Baker,

Time is of the essence. Courts alone cannot handle the eviction crisis and protect people in our communities from being evicted. Massachusetts needs a comprehensive plan for tenants and homeowners to prevent mass eviction and we urge you to:
  1. Fund rental assistance to stabilize people’s housing and prevent homelessness.
  2. Adopt a framework to provide time, protection, and housing assistance to tenants, homeowners, and landlords to keep people housed.
  3. Implement a statewide right to counsel program to prevent eviction and preserve tenancies.

Tenants, landlords, municipal leaders, health care professionals, and advocates are worried about what will happen when the eviction moratorium ends. The CDC moratorium is not enough. We urge you to use COVID relief funding to prevent housing instability and keep Massachusetts residents safe. We need your leadership to get us through this. Thank you.

(Your name)

Send Governor Baker an email.

 

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From developing and sharing accessible legal resources in areas of urgent need to advocating for equitable policies to support those hit hardest by COVID-19 – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 93% of tenants facing eviction from their homes did not have lawyers, while 70% of landlords had representation. While the eviction moratorium ending October 17th protects many of these tenants for the time being, it is estimated that as many as 15,000-20,000 new evictions could be filed when the moratorium ends. Unless we take action, thousands of families – a significant majority of which are likely to be from communities of color – will be thrown into Housing Court on their own. Without any form of legal representation, these families are significantly less likely to remain in their homes. Action is needed now to protect these renters.  

A statewide Right to Counsel pilot program would allow non-profits to provide full legal representation in eviction proceedings for both tenants and landlords whose incomes do not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level. We now have two different opportunities to advance such a Right to Counsel pilot program within the legislature.  

  1. Senator DiDomenico has filed Amendment #175 for the creation of a Right to Counsel pilot program within S.2842An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth. This bill was debated in the House yesterday (Monday, July 27), and the Senate will start to debate its version of the bill tomorrow (Wednesday, July 29).  
  2. Senator DiDomenico also filed S.2785An Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention through a right to counsel pilot program in Massachusetts in response to the COVID-emergency. This bill was reported favorably out of the Housing Committee and is still in Senate Ways and Means. We need to get it to the Senate floor. 

How You Can Help

  1. Call or email your Senator and ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor to Amendment #175 within S.2842. Send this fact sheet. Find your Senator here or with this list of Senators
  2. Contact Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues to report S.2785 to the Senate floor. Call Senator Rodrigues’ office at (617) 722-1114 and email him at Michael.Rodrigues@masenate.gov and his staff attorney Jacob.Blanton@masenate.gov.  

You can send Chair Rodrigues a message like this:  

_____________________________ (who you are) and __________(why you care). We are bracing ourselves for tens of thousands of evictions when the eviction moratorium expires in October. Tenants are terrified of being evicted. 93% of tenants face eviction without legal representation. Alone – they are unable to navigate quick-moving deadlines and complicated court procedures. These procedures will be even more complicated as the court goes virtual. Providing legal representation is essential to housing stability. Providing lawyers for vulnerable tenants saves the state money. Providing lawyers prevents housing instability at a time when we need to keep people safe and housed. This is urgent. Pass Amendment #175 and Pass S. 2785. 

The legislative session may end this week! Time is of the essence and we need your voices now!  

 

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From developing and sharing accessible legal resources in areas of urgent need to advocating for equitable policies to support those hit hardest by COVID-19 – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

It’s our last chance to act!  

The Police Accountability Bills from the House and Senate have been sent to a six-member Conference Committee for reconciliation. We need your help to make sure the final Police Accountability Bill protects young people.  

Our School Resource Officer (SRO) Priorities:  

  • Adopt Sections 50 & 51 of S.2820 which require a public vote by school committees – rather than the decision of superintendents and police chiefs – to annually assign SROs to schools. These sections also require public reporting of arrests and mental health student support spending for a district to qualify for an SRO.  
  • Fix the error in Section 50 which can be read to require school committee votes, not in traditional school districts, but in charter schools, which don’t have school committees. This was a technical error from Senate Ways and Means, and we need to fix it by adding “by public vote of the relevant school committee” to the first sentence of Section 50. 
  • Avoid the new model MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) process in House 66, and instead use the current Model MOU from 2018 as the baseline for all school districts, while keeping the transparency requirements from Section 66 of the House bill. 
  • Ensure that whatever qualified immunity provision the bill adopts expressly applies to SROs and amend c. 71 s. 37P(f) accordingly. 

Our Juvenile Justice Privacy Priorities:  

  • Adopt Section 49 of S.2820 to keep school administrators from sharing student information with federal law enforcement databases, while removing the “germane to an incident or activity” standard and removing the requirement that the aforementioned databases be “designed” to track gang affiliation.  
  • Adopt Sections 59, 60, 61, & 71 of S.2820 to expand eligibility of juvenile expungement by allowing expungement of non-convictions, replacing the one-case restriction to a 3 to 7 year waiting period, and maintaining a list of ineligible offenses only to those with a felony conviction. 

The legislative session may be ending this month, which means we need your voice TODAY. 

 

What You Can Do

  1. Email your senators and representatives using this template, and tell them you support the priorities of the Coalition for Smart Responses to Student Behavior in addition to the expansion of expungement. 
  2. Be sure to attach these four attachments to your email: Amendment #88’s list of co-sponsors, Amendment #1’s list of co-sponsors, the Coalition’s testimony in support of the above provisions, and additional testimony from the AFT-MA, MTA, and BTU  in support of the school committee provision vote.
  3. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call.  
  4. Click here to find your legislators’ emails and phone numbers. 

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From developing and sharing accessible legal resources in areas of urgent need to advocating for equitable policies to support those hit hardest by COVID-19 – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

The House has introduced its police accountability bill, H.4860!

 
As the legislative session comes to a close, it is essential that we use the momentum of nationwide protests to fight for racial justice and police accountability within our schools. With your help we secured a number of provisions within the Senate police accountability bill S.2820 to limit the prevalence of School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools. 
 

Unfortunately, H.4860 does not include many of these essential provisions. When it comes to school policing, H.4860:  

  • Maintains the requirement that chiefs of police assign SROs to each district
  • Rejects the Senate language that would require a school committee vote to assign SROs to each district
That’s why we need your help. Call your legislator today and ask them to co-sponsor Amendment #1 to address these critical issues!  
  • Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa’s Amendment #1 places the decision to assign SROs in the hands of school committees by annual public vote. If a superintendent wants school resource officers each year, they have to inform the school committee and explain: 1) How much it will cost, 2) How much funding currently goes towards mental and emotional health support personnel, and 3) How many school-based arrests and referrals there were in the previous year. 

Read H.4860

Amendment #1

Fact Sheet on Amendment #1

Time is of the essence! The House will vote on amendments – and the bill itself – as early as Wednesday!  

What You Can Do

  1. Email your representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor Representative Sabadosa’s Amendment #1. You can say: By requiring a school committee vote, Amendment #1 gives parents, students, educators, and communities a necessary voice in deciding whether to place police in schools. As your constituent, I urge you to co-sponsor this amendment and vote for its adoption.
  2. Make sure to share this fact sheet from the Coalition for Smart Responses to Student Behavior as well!  
  3. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Representative will co-sponsor Amendment #1.   
  4. Click here to find your Representative’s emails and phone numbers. 

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From developing and sharing accessible legal resources in areas of urgent need to advocating for equitable policies to support those hit hardest by COVID-19 – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

The House is currently working on police reform! We need your help to secure the safety of the young people in our schools!  
 
Earlier this week after an all-night session the Senate passed S.2820, the Reform, Shift + Build Act. Now the House is evaluating its own police accountability bill. 
 
Massachusetts Appleseed has been working with the Coalition for Smart Responses to Student Behavior to advocate for the removal of mandatory School Resource Officers (SROs), and for greater public accountability when police come into contact with students. You can find the letter we have signed onto with this coalition here.  
 
Our first priority:  
  • Remove School Resource Officers from Massachusetts Schools. There is a simple legislative change your Representative can enact that would achieve this goal and keep schools safe. The definition of a “school resource officer” (SRO) in G.L. c. 71 § 37P(a) can be amended to include: A school resource officer shall not be located on school grounds but at the local police station and shall be charged with serving as the primary responder to calls from public schools. 
Legislative priorities from S.2820 we want included by the House:  
  • Senator Boncore’s Amendment 25 “Training and Certification for School Resource Officers” requires specific training for SROs on a host of important topics, to be developed in consultation with experts, and to be required before an officer can be assigned as an SRO. 
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 80 “School Committee Approval of SROs and Data Reporting” puts school committees – not superintendents and police chiefs – in charge of annually approving school policing by vote, and requires that the district and police department comply with the reporting requirements of school-based arrests to qualify to have an SRO. 
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 108 “Protecting Students from Profiling” strengthens existing provisions of S.2820 on information sharing by prohibiting Massachusetts school staff and school police from sharing student information to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center and other gang databases. 
  • Section 59-61 of S.2820 (initially filed by Representatives Decker and Khan in H.1386) “Expanding Expungement Eligibility” allows multiple cases on a juvenile’s record to be considered for expungement – rather than only one, which is current Massachusetts law – and reduces the list of offenses never eligible for expungement. 

Read S.2820

Read Our Testimony

What You Can Do

  • Email your Representative TODAY and ask them to support the priorities within amendments 25, 80, and 108, and section 59-61 of S.2820. Be sure to attach the Coalition for Smart Responses to Student Behavior’s testimony and Massachusetts Appleseed’s testimony to your email! 
  • Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Representative will support these priorities.
  • Click here to find your Representative’s emails and phone numbers. 

Thank you for working with us to improve this important legislation and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline!

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From developing and sharing accessible legal resources in areas of urgent need to advocating for equitable policies to support those hit hardest by COVID-19 – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

For years Massachusetts Appleseed has been working to bring an end to zero-tolerance school discipline policies, school arrests, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Amidst the wave of protests against police brutality, now is the time to demand more. Over-policing in Massachusetts schools disproportionally impacts Black and Latinx students, who are significantly more likely to be arrested at school than their white counterparts. School Resource Officers (SROs) are meant to protect our students, but instead many SROs actively place our students in danger. On December 3, 2018, a Springfield Massachusetts school resource officer assaulted a 14-year-old high school boy, grabbing him by the back of his neck and pushing him against the side of a school hallway. Subsequently, the officer filed a false incident report. We cannot allow this to go on any longer. We need change now.
 
Tomorrow the Massachusetts Senate will be voting on S.2800 An Act to Reform Police Standards and Shift Resources to Build a More Equitable, Fair and Just Commonwealth that Values Black Lives and Communities of Color, known as the Reform, Shift + Build Act.
 
This legislation:
  • Requires the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to report out the number of mental health counselors and school resources officers
  • Limits school personnel from disclosing student information to law enforcement, and subsequent entry of that information into shared law enforcement databases
By providing us data on the current number of counselors compared with school resource officers in Massachusetts public schools, this legislation will allow us to more deeply understand the practical solution of replacing SROs with mental health counselors. In addition, this legislation takes important initial steps to limit the ability of school administrations and SROs to share incident reports with local law enforcement.
 
This legislation is a solid foundation for dismantling the over-policing in Massachusetts schools. However, amendments are necessary to truly achieve our goal.
 
Amendments we support:
  • Senator Boncore’s Amendment 25 “Training and Certification for School Resource Officers” requires specific training for SROs on a host of important topics, to be developed in consultation with experts, and to be required before an officer can be assigned as an SRO.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 80 “School Committee Approval of SROs and Data Reporting” puts school committees – not superintendents and police chiefs – in charge of annually approving school policing by vote, and requires that the district and police department comply with the reporting requirements of school-based arrests to qualify to have an SRO.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 93 “Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” prevents students who have been merely accused of a crime from being excluded from school without any real due process, and clarifies the type of student behavior that would rise to the level of being a danger in the school to justify expulsion and suspension.
  • Senator Jehlen’s Amendment 108 “Protecting Students from Profiling” strengthens existing provisions of S.2800 on information sharing by prohibiting Massachusetts school staff and school police from sharing student information to the Boston Regional Intelligence Center and other gang databases.
These amendments require increased training for SROs, place the power to approve SROs within the community, provide students due with process in future disciplinary action, and keep school administrators from sharing disciplinary information with state and federal law enforcement such as the Boston Police Department, ICE, and the FBI. 
 
These measures represent an essential step in supporting the grassroots movements led by young people in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and across the Commonwealth advocating for the removal of SROs entirely.

Click Here to Read S.2800

Click Here for Amendments

What You Can Do

Time is of the essence! The Senate will be voting Tomorrow!

  1. Contact your Senator TODAY and ask them to support Amendments 25, 80, 93, and 108.
  2. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator will support these amendments.
  3. Click here to find your Senators emails and phone numbers.

Thank you for working with us to improve this important legislation and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline!

 


Our Response to COVID-19

From advocating for increased support for youth experiencing homelessness, to sharing multilingual resources to help immigrant and Limited English Proficient families withstand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

Amid record levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Massachusetts residents are struggling to pay rent and afford basic necessities. The statewide eviction moratorium prevents anyone from being forced out of their home for now, but if the Governor does not extend the moratorium, that protection could end on August 18th – flooding courts with eviction cases. According to landlord organizations, as many as an estimated 15,000 new evictions will be filed.

As part of the response to the tidal wave of evictions expected to hit when the moratorium lifts, Senator Sal DiDomenico has filed emergency legislation to establish a statewide Right to Counsel pilot project. The bill, SD 2971, would protect low-income renters and owner-occupants facing eviction in areas of the Commonwealth hit hardest by the pandemic by establishing projects statewide, within each of the Housing Court’s six divisions.

As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we know that without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom from the threat of eviction. This bill is an important step in ensuring a fairer, more balanced process, preventing homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and creating a path to housing stability in the wake of the pandemic.

SD 2971 Fact Sheet

What You Can Do

Time is of the essence!

  1. Contact your Senator & Representative TODAY and ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971 Emergency Right to Counsel Pilot.
  2. Check whether your Senator and Rep co-sponsored Right to Counsel bills earlier this year. If they did, thank them for their earlier support when you ask them to co-sponsor SD 2971. 
  3. Use the starter email below which includes links to the fact sheet and information about the Coalition.
  4. Because elected officials get a lot of emails, follow-up with a phone call to ask whether the Senator or Rep will co-sponsor the bill.
  5. Click here to find your Senator and Representative emails and phone numbers. 

Sample Language:

My name is _______ and I am a Massachusetts resident from _____________. I’m contacting you to ask that you co-sponsor Senate Docket 2971, a statewide right to counsel pilot program to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. It is urgent that we advance this bill quickly to avert the coming eviction crisis. Landlord organizations estimate 15,000 new evictions will be filed when the eviction moratorium ends. 

Over 90% of tenants face eviction without legal representation, while 70% of landlords have lawyers – an imbalance that may be felt even more when the moratorium ends. Massachusetts needs a comprehensive eviction prevention response that includes full legal representation in eviction cases to stabilize people’s housing. 

Over 130 organizations have joined together to support a right to counsel in MassachusettsI hope you will join with others to co-sponsor SD 2971. Please see the fact sheet with more information about SD 2971. Thank you for all of your work to keep Massachusetts residents safe and housed.

Your name ______________

Organization/Contact Information

 

Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking quick action to expand access to justice!

Resources

SD 2971 Fact Sheet

Find Your Legislator

Did Your Legislator Co-Sponsor a Right to Counsel Bill?

Growing List of Supporters for Right to Counsel

Join the Right to Counsel Coalition


Our Response to COVID-19

From advocating for increased support for youth experiencing homelessness, to sharing multilingual resources to help immigrant and Limited English Proficient families withstand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – there’s work to be done. Learn more about steps we’re taking to aid our most vulnerable communities during the pandemic and how you can help.

Our Response to COVID-19

 

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Action Alert

In 2018 alone, more than 40,000 households in Massachusetts were served with eviction papers, and over 92% of these tenants were unrepresented. Women, families of color, and households with children disproportionately face eviction, and are forced to fight it on their own. The stakes are high and without a lawyer, many tenants do not know how to protect themselves in and out of the courtroom. From uprooting neighborhoods, pushing families into homelessness, and more, the impact of eviction can be swift, traumatic, and devastating.

As a member of the Massachusetts Right to Counsel Coalition, we believe that by establishing a right to counsel in eviction cases, we can ensure a fairer, more balanced process, prevent homelessness, displacement, unjust evictions, and create a path to housing stability.

Join the Coalition

Where Are We Now

In November, the Right to Counsel Coalition submitted a consolidated proposal, guided by these principles, that calls for:

  • providing an attorney for low-income tenants facing eviction in court and certain low-income owner-occupants of 1 or 2 -family homes seeking possession of their own and only home;
  • building the capacity of organizations to prevent evictions and homelessness, such as proactive education, housing stabilization assistance, and “upstream” support prior to court.

The Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing bills, including this consolidated bill. It must report all the bills out of the committee by next Wednesday, February 5th, or seek an extension of further time to consider the bill.

Read the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

Summary of the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

Section-by-Section Analysis of the Coalition’s Proposed Bill

What You Can Do

Please call, write, or email your Senator and Representative before February 5th and urge them to contact the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Claire Cronin, and urge them to give the right to counsel bill a favorable report.

Sample Language:

Dear Senator/Rep______: 

One of the most important ways to fight homelessness is to prevent evictions. Over 92% of tenants facing eviction in court have no representation. Housing stability is one of the most pressing issues that our Commonwealth is facing. Over 120 organizations are part of a broad-based Right to Counsel Coalition. Please urge Judiciary Chair Cronin and Chair Eldridge to report a right to counsel bill out of the Judiciary Committee favorably. Now is the time. We can prevent the trauma that eviction is causing people in our community. Thank you.

If your Senator or Representative co-sponsored one of the Right to Counsel bills, please thank them and let them know we need their help to advance this bill. You can see if they co-sponsored one of the bills here!

Thank you for supporting low-income and unrepresented tenants and taking vital action to expand access to justice!

Resources

Find Your Legislator

Did Your Legislator Co-Sponsor a Right to Counsel Bill?

Growing List of Supporters for Right to Counsel

Fact Sheet

Letter from the Metro Mayors Coalition

Recent Press

Lawyers Weekly

Brockton Enterprise


Our 2020 Legislative Agenda

From ending student hunger, to preventing the suspension and expulsion of preschoolers, to ensuring youth experiencing homelessness can access the services and resources they need – there’s work to be done. Check out what other bills we’re supporting this year!

Our 2020 Legislative Agenda

 

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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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