SECTION 1. Chapter 23B of the Massachusetts General Laws is hereby amended by replacing section 24 with the following:
Section 24. As used in this section the following words, unless the context requires otherwise, shall have the following meaning:
“Community action agency”, a nonprofit agency which has previously been designated and authorized to accept funds from the federal Community Services Administration for community action agencies under the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, unless such designation is rescinded by the director in accordance with the provisions of this section, or any agency formed as may be designated as a community action agency by the director to succeed any agency that the director determines fails to meet federal requirements, or fair and reasonable requirements established by the director, or any agency designated as a community action agency by the director to serve previously unserved areas in accordance with the provisions of this section; community action agencies are the federally mandated antipoverty agencies in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the network of community based organizations they comprise shall be considered the federally mandated antipoverty network operating in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Department”, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.
“Committee”, the advisory committee established by this section.
“Fund”, The Community Action Trust Fund to Address Inequality, Promote Opportunity, and End Poverty established by this section.
“MASSCAP”, Massachusetts Association for Community Action.
“Community services block grant”, funds designated to ameliorate the causes of poverty in communities within the commonwealth, distributed by the federal government to the commonwealth pursuant to section 672(a) et. seq. of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, or its successor.
“Density of poverty”, percentage of total population in area to be served representing persons at one hundred per cent of poverty as defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget.
A community action agency shall maintain a board structure where one-third of the members shall be elected public officials, currently, holding office, or their representatives, except that if the number of elected officials reasonably available and willing to serve is less than one-third of the membership on the board, membership on the board of appointive public officials may be counted in meeting such one-third requirement; at least one-third of the members shall be persons chosen in accordance with democratic selection procedures adequate to assure that they are representative of the poor in the area served; and the remainder of the members shall be officials or members of the business, industry, labor, religious, welfare, education, or other major groups and interests in the community.
In order to qualify as a community action agency, such agency must be one which is community based and operated as set forth in this section which: -
(a) is designed to provide a comprehensive range of services and activities having a measurable and potentially major impact on causes of poverty in the community or those areas of the community where poverty is a particularly acute problem; plan systematically for an effective community action program; develop information as to the problems and causes of poverty in the community; determine how much and how effectively assistance is being provided to deal with those problems and causes; and establish priorities among projects, activities and areas as needed for the best and most efficient use of resources; in cooperation with community agencies and officials, undertake actions to improve existing efforts to reduce poverty, such as community agencies and officials are responsible; Initiate and sponsor projects responsive to needs of the poor which are not otherwise being met, with particular emphasis on providing central or common services that can be drawn upon by a variety of related programs, developing new approaches or new types of services that can be incorporated into other programs, and filling gaps pending the expansion or modification of those programs; establish effective procedures by which the poor and area residents concerned will be enabled to influence the character of programs affecting their interests, provide for their regular participation in the implementation of those programs, and provide technical and other support needed to enable the poor and neighborhood groups to secure on their own behalf available assistance from public and private sources; build collaborations and coalitions and join with and encourage business, labor and other private groups and organizations to undertake, together with public officials and agencies, activities in support of the community action program which will result in the additional use of private resources and capabilities, with a view to developing new employment opportunities, stimulating investment that will have a measurable impact on reducing poverty among residents of areas of concentrated poverty, and providing methods by which residents of those areas can work with private groups, firms, and institutions in seeking solutions to problems of common concern.
(b) has been developed and has organized and combined projects and has integrated and arranged and blended services, also known as “wrap around” services, so called, and has employed comprehensive case management as a fundamental component of its service approach and activities undertaken by the agency in a manner appropriate to carry out all the purposes of this section; and
(c) includes, but is not limited to, programs to assist low income participants, including the elderly poor, such as programs to: secure and maintain meaningful employment, attain an adequate education; provide and maintain adequate housing and a suitable living environment; receive energy assistance and weatherization services; obtain financial education; avoid homelessness; develop assets; obtain emergency assistance through loans or grants to meet immediate and urgent individual and family needs, including the need for health services, nutritious food, housing and employment-related assistance; remove obstacles and solve personal and family problems which block the achievement of self-sufficiency; and achieve greater participation in the affairs of the community.
From time to time, community action agencies, as represented by their association known as the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, shall convene with elected and appointed officials, allied organizations, low-income residents, and others, regional and statewide sessions on addressing poverty, the findings and information from which shall contribute to the adjustment and improvement of existing policies and programs and practices and the development of new policies and programs and practices to address inequality in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
There shall be established the Interagency Council to Address Inequality, Promote Opportunity, and End Poverty for the purpose of reviewing existing programs and making recommendations to ensure that programs aimed at addressing poverty and inequality, promoting opportunity, and otherwise fostering self-sufficiency among low income and working people are coordinated and provided in a productive manner; the Council shall be coordinated by the Department of Housing and Community and Development and will increase coordination among the several other state agencies and departments including but not limited to the departments within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and within the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (more to add) that help vulnerable people achieve stability and move on to economic mobility; members of the Council shall meet at least 6 times a year and consult on a regular basis with individuals or groups who have specific expertise in subject areas that the Council is addressing; the Council shall have the authority to review existing programs and recommend improvements to such programs and policies to ensure that such services are provided in an efficient, cost-effective, and productive manner, recommend legislation to improve the operation of the policies of the Commonwealth, recommend changes to regulations of any agency of the Commonwealth, recommend contracts, grants, or other, recommend partnerships with private entities, including corporate, philanthropic, and faith-based organizations, as well as the federal government and municipalities; the Council shall monitor the progress of any initiatives undertaken in response to the Council's recommendations.
The Council shall be considered a permanent panel and shall report any findings or recommendations, including any recommendations for legislation or regulation, to the Governor at such periods as determined by the Chair on January 15th of each year.
Subject to appropriation, for a program to provide community investment support for community action agencies operating in Massachusetts, as defined by this section;
Provided that the resources from this line-item be used for the same purposes by community action agencies that the federal fund known as the community service block grant, as defined by this section and 42 U.S.C. et seq. is used;
Provided further, that the resources from this line-item be distributed to the community action agencies by the department of housing and community development;
Provided further, that not less than two percent of the resources from this line item be provided to the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP) to provide training and technical assistance to community action agencies operating in Massachusetts.
There shall be a separate fund to be known as the Community Action Trust Fund to Address Inequality, Promote Opportunity, and End Poverty which shall be sited within the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Department shall administer the fund, according to guidelines promulgated by the Department and in consultation with the advisory committee. The fund shall assist in the creation of projects to assist low income individuals and families in the commonwealth out of poverty, for the benefit of households whose incomes are not more than 200 per cent of the federal poverty level as determined by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The fund shall be an expendable trust fund and shall not be subject to appropriation.
There shall be credited to the fund, revenue from appropriations or other monies authorized by the general court and specifically designated to be credited to the fund and other monies may be utilized, including gifts, grants, private contributions, and all other sources. Money remaining in the fund at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.
The agency shall maintain the fund as a separate fund, and shall cause it to be audited by an independent accountant on an annual basis in accordance with accepted accounting principles.
The agency shall administer assistance from the fund using only the criteria set forth under this chapter for projects sponsored by MASSCAP or Community Action Agencies. The Department may enter into agreements with MASSCAP or Community Action Agencies to administer assistance from the fund for projects that may be developed and implemented in partnership with other nonprofit organizations, after consulting the advisory committee established by this section.
The fund shall finance innovative community based programs and services that address current and emerging needs that to have a measurable impact on alleviating the causes of poverty. Activities eligible for assistance from the fund include, but are not limited to:
(1) Projects to assist low-income participants;
(2) Projects to secure and maintain meaningful employment;
(3) Projects to offer financial education;
(4) Projects to help families avoid homelessness;
(5) Projects to offer energy assistance and weatherization services
(6) Projects to offer emergency assistance to meet immediate and urgent individual and family needs;
(7) Projects to help individuals attain an adequate education.
There shall be established an advisory committee to the fund, which shall make policy recommendations to the department of housing and community development regarding the fund’s program and funding activities.
The committee shall be comprised of the following members: the director of the Department of Housing and Community Development or his designee; the director of Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) or his designee; two representatives appointed by the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives; two representatives appointed by the President of the Massachusetts State Senate; two municipal officials appointed by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, one of whom shall be from a city and one of whom shall be from a town; and a representative appointed by each of the following organizations: the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP), the Massachusetts Energy Directors Association (MEDA), the Massachusetts Head Start Association (MHSA). Committee members shall serve at the pleasure of the appointing authorities.
The department of housing and community development on annual basis shall file a report with the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means which will detail all expenditures from the fund, including but not limited to the recipient of the funds, the cost of administration, and the number of low-income families and individuals assisted by the fund.
The commonwealth, acting by and through the director, may enter into contracts with community action agencies, and such other organizations as the director determines, to provide services consistent with the purposes of this section. Any such agency shall comply with such requirements as the director may establish by regulation or otherwise, including, but not limited to, reporting and monitoring requirements, and evaluation procedures, and, in the case of community action agencies, procedures for the designation and the suspension or recision of designation as a community action agency. Procedures for the suspension or recision of designation as a community action agency shall include adequate notice and an opportunity for a hearing.
The director may designate an agency as a community action agency to serve a previously unserved area, if the director finds that: there are sufficient additional community services block grant funds appropriated to provide for the addition and continuing operation of such agency, and that such agency will serve an area having a population in excess of seventy-five thousand and a density of poverty which exceeds seven per cent.
The provisions of this section shall be applicable to the awarding of contracts by the director under the federal community services block grant program. Not less than ninety per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth during any fiscal federal year shall be contracted directly with community action agencies in existence at the beginning of such fiscal year. Not more than five per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth shall be allocated to the director for administrative expenses. Not more than five per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth, at least fifty percent of which, shall be awarded by the director for innovative anti-poverty projects or programs operated by MASSCAP or community action agencies.
The commonwealth, acting by and through the director, may, subject to appropriation, provide supplementary funds to community action agencies in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Recognition of a community action agency by the director shall not preclude the agency from receiving other grants or contracts from federal or local agencies, private organizations, or individuals or state agencies to pay the cost of providing services to the poor.
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