Healey seeks $250m more for emergency shelter program
Even with 77% increase in funding, more money likely needed in future
THE HEALEY ADMINISTRATION said it needs another $250 million to keep the emergency shelter program afloat and will probably need additional funds if the number of migrants coming into the state continues to rise.
Under the right to shelter law, Massachusetts is required to provide shelter and support services to homeless families with children and pregnant women. The budget for the current fiscal year, which is less than three months old, appropriated roughly $325 million to provide services to 4,700 families.
With an influx of migrants from other countries and fewer people transitioning out of the program because of a shortage of housing, the number of families participating has grown to more than 6,300 and the $250 million is needed to help cover that extra cost. The $250 million represents a 77 percent increase in funding.
State officials expect the number of families covered by the program to keep rising, so more money is likely to be needed in the future. Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency earlier this summer because of the rapid runup in families participating in the shelter program and appealed to the federal government for help. So far, no help has been provided.
In a press release announcing the $250 million additional funding request, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll addressed the looming shortfall in the emergency shelter program.
“Our emergency shelter system has been rapidly expanding in recent months to ensure that families in need have a safe place to stay,” Driscoll said. “Our administration remains committed to providing these families with safe and temporary shelter and the services they need to remain healthy and find a permanent home. This funding will enable us to meet that need as it stands today, as well as continue to support the municipalities that are sheltering families in their communities.”
The $250 million would be drawn from a fund holding unused federal funds and state surpluses from prior fiscal years.
Matt Murphy, a spokesman for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance, said the rising cost of the shelter program does not affect the state’s ability to afford a major tax cut package. Healey and both branches of the Legislature have set aside funding in this year’s budget for tax relief, but so far the House and Senate have not come to terms on what tax breaks should be included in it.“We continue to believe it is affordable,” Murphy said.
The $250 million is included in a spending plan designed to close out the books on the fiscal year that ended June 30 and address a series of deficiencies in accounts in the current fiscal year.