Amendment #13 to H.4324

Emergency Shelter

Ms. Provost of Somerville move that the bill be amended adding the following new Section:



Section XX. Section 2 of chapter 139 of the acts of 2012 is hereby amended by striking out item 7004-0101 and inserting in place thereof the new item:-



7004-0101 For certain expenses of the emergency assistance program pursuant to section 30 of chapter 23B of the General Laws; provided, that eligibility shall be limited to families with incomes at or below 115 per cent of the 2011 or later-issued higher federal poverty level; provided further, that any family whose income exceeds 115 per cent of the federal poverty level while the family is receiving assistance funded by this item shall not become ineligible for assistance due to exceeding the income limit for a period of 6 months from the date that the income level was exceeded; provided further, that families that shall be eligible for assistance throughout a temporary emergency family shelter shall include: (i) families that are at risk of domestic abuse in their current housing situation or who are homeless because they fled domestic violence and have not had access to safe, permanent housing since leaving the housing situation in which they fled; (ii) families that, through no fault of their own, are homeless due to fire, flood, or natural disaster; (iii) families that, through no fault of their own, have been subject to eviction from their most recent housing due to: (a) foreclosure; (b) condemnation; (c) conduct by a guest or former household member who is not part of the household seeking emergency shelter and over whose conduct the remaining household members had no control; or (d) nonpayment of rent caused by a documented medical condition or diagnosed disability or caused by a documented loss of income within the last 12 months directly as a result of a change in household composition or a loss of income source through no fault of the family; and (iv) families who are in a housing situation where they are not the primary lease holder or who are in a housing situation not meant for human habitation and where there is a substantial health and safety risk to the family that is likely to result in significant harm should the family remain in such housing situation; provided further, that the health and safety risk shall be determined by the department of children and families through risk assessments; provided further, that no later than 15 days in advance of the implementation of this item, the department of housing and community development shall provide to the house and senate clerks, the house and senate committees on ways and means, and the joint committee on housing, the written criteria to be used to determine if a substantial health and safety risk is likely to result in significant harm under clause (iv); provided further, that the department shall report monthly, beginning August 1, 2012, to the aforementioned entities, the following information: (A) the number of families who were denied entry into shelter who would have been eligible in fiscal year 2012; (B) the reasons for which those families were denied entry into shelters; and (C) all other services to which those families were connected; provided further, that a family who receives emergency housing assistance due to domestic abuse shall be connected to the appropriate social service agency; provided further, temporary assistance under this item shall be terminated upon the offer of available housing or other assistance sufficient to maintain or stabilize housing; provided further, that a family may not decline an offer for available housing if that the offer adequately accommodates the size and disabilities of the family and the new housing placement shall not result in a job loss for the client; provided further, any family that declines an adequate offer of available housing or other assistance sufficient to maintain or stabilize housing shall become ineligible for assistance from this item; provided further, that families receiving benefits under this item shall have 30 per cent of their income set aside in a savings account, subject to reasonable exceptions as set forth in departmental regulations in effect in fiscal year 2012; provided further, that the amount saved shall be exempt from otherwise applicable asset limits; provided further, that the family may withdraw the amount placed in savings upon transition to permanent housing or losing eligibility for shelter services; provided further, that families who receive benefits under this item for longer than 32 weeks after July 1, 2012 shall not be eligible for household assistance under item 7004-0108 until 12 months from the date of exit from shelter; provided further, that that families receiving emergency assistance shall receive housing search assistance that attempts to facilitate a sustainable housing placement within 16 weeks of entry into the emergency assistance shelter, motel, or hotel; provided further, that families receiving assistance for longer than 32 weeks shall have an executable shelter exit plan that facilitates a housing placement in a new sustainable tenancy or in a safe residence, including, but not limited to, a placement for which the family is not the primary lease holder, as soon as possible; provided further, that benefits under this item shall be provided only to residents of the commonwealth of Massachusetts who are citizens of the United States or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise permanently residing under color of the law in the United States; provided further, that the department shall take all necessary steps to enforce the regulations to prevent abuse of the emergency assistance program, including a wage match agreement with the department of revenue; provided further, that eligibility for shelter by an otherwise eligible family shelter shall not be impaired by prior receipt of any non-shelter benefit; provided further, that an eligible household that is approved for shelter placement shall be placed in a shelter as close as possible to the household’s home community unless a household requests otherwise; provided further, that if the closest available placement is not within 20 miles of the household’s home community, the household shall be transferred to an appropriate shelter within 20 miles of its home community at the earliest possible date unless the household requests otherwise; provided further, that the department shall notify local school departments of the placement of a family in its district within 5 days of placement; provided further, that the department shall make every effort to ensure that children receiving services from this item shall continue attending school in the community in which they lived prior to receiving services funded from this item; provided further, that the department shall use its best efforts to ensure that a family placed by the emergency assistance program shall be provided with access to refrigeration and basic cooking facilities; provided further, that should a family with a child under the age of 3 be placed in a hotel or motel, the department of housing and community development shall ensure that the hotel or motel provides a crib for each such child under the age of 3 that meets all the state and federal safety codes; provided further, that notwithstanding any other general or special law to the contrary, the department shall immediately provide shelter for up to 30 days to families who appear to be eligible for such shelter based on statements provided by the family and any other information in the possession of the department, but who need additional time to obtain any third-party verifications reasonably required by the department; provided further, that shelter benefits received under the preceding proviso shall not render a family ineligible under any regulation providing that families who previously received shelter is ineligible for shelter benefits for a period of 12 months; provided further, that families receiving such shelter benefits who are found not to be eligible for continuing shelter benefits shall be eligible for aid pending a timely appeal pursuant to chapter 23B of the General Laws; provided further, that the department shall not impose unreasonable requirements for third-party verification and shall accept verifications from a family whenever reasonable; provided further, that this item shall be subject to appropriation and, in the event of a deficiency, nothing in this item shall give rise to or shall be construed as giving rise to any enforceable right or entitlement to services in excess of the amounts appropriated herein; provided further, notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, 60 days before promulgating or amending any regulations, administrative practice or policy that would alter eligibility for or the level of benefits under this program, other than that which would benefit the clients, the department shall file with the house and senate committees on ways and means, the clerks of the senate and house of representatives and the joint committee on children, families, and persons with disabilities, a written report setting forth justification for such changes, including, but not limited to, any determination by the secretary of housing and economic development that available appropriations will be insufficient to meet projected expenses; provided further, that no funds shall be expended for personnel or administrative costs; provided further, that no funds shall be expended for costs associated with the homeless management information system; provided further, that the department shall endeavor to convert scattered site units to congregate units and, as allowed by demand, reduce the overall number of shelter beds through the reduction of scatter site units; provided further, that the department shall provide to the house and senate committees on ways and means a report of the most recently available weekly data on the number of applications for services provided for in this item and in item 7004-0108; provided further, that the report shall include, but not be limited to, caseload data, including applications, admissions and the distribution of benefits from this item and item 7004-0108; provided further, that not more than $54,680,321, less the cost of associated interdepartmental service agreements or programmatic costs, shall be expended to establish a single contract per service provider, which shall include all contracted and supportive program expenses, for the first 7 months of fiscal year 2013; provided further, that upon written approval from the secretary of administration and finance, funds herein may be transferred to item 7004-0103; provided further, that the secretary of administration and finance shall notify the house and senate committees on ways and means 30 days prior to approving any such transfer; provided further, that the department shall report quarterly to the house and senate committees on ways and means detailing the number of families transitioned from shelter benefits to affordable, subsidized or otherwise assisted housing through this program; provided further, the report shall include the average, minimum and maximum cost per family of such assistance, the number of families served who required further assistance at a later date, the type of assistance later required and provided, and the current housing stability of each family who received transitional housing or short-term housing assistance within the prior 12 months; provided further, that the report shall detail the savings realized by any such changes to benefits or eligibility; provided further, the report shall also include the following information from the department of children and families: (a) the number of families assessed in the previous quarter; (b) the number of families determined to be at a substantial health and safety risk; (c) the number of families receiving multiple health and safety assessments within the previous 6 month period; and (d) the standards used to determine a substantial health and safety risk; provided further, that funds shall be expended for the Playspace Program operated by Horizons for Homeless children; and provided further, that funds shall be expended for the purpose of technical assistance by Homes for Families; provided further that, notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department shall not implement the proposed revised regulations and policies submitted to the Legislature for review on July 17, 2012 or any other policies or regulations restricting access to emergency shelter without express authorization from the Legislature enacted on or after July 25, 2012. ......................................................................... ... $95,042,354