SECTION 1. Chapter 23B of the Massachusetts General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking section 24 in its entirety, and inserting in place thereof 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for community action agencies under the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, unless such designation is rescinded by the director in accordance with the provisions of this section, or any agency formed as may be designated as a community action agency by the director to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.
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.
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.
A special commission known as the Commission to address inequality, promote opportunity and end poverty is established for the purpose of investigating, developing, and recommending statewide strategies to address inequality, promote equity and inclusion, and create and expand opportunity for people living with low incomes and end poverty including but not limited to support and enhancement of the social safety net, analyzing structural barriers that cause poverty such as racism, the wage gap, and the cliff effect, so called. The commission shall consist of: 2 members of the senate, one of whom shall be appointed by the senate president and one to be appointed by the senate minority leader; 2 members of the house of
representatives, one of whom shall be appointed by the speaker and one of whom to be appointed by the house minority leader; the secretary of administration and finance or her designee; the secretary for health and human services or her designee; the commissioner of the department of public health or her designee; the undersecretary of the department of housing and community development or her designee; the commissioner of the department of transitional assistance or her designee; the secretary of labor and workforce development or her designee; the secretary of education or his designee; the secretary of transportation or her designee, the commissioner of the department of early education and care or her designee; a representative from the McCormick Graduate School, University of Massachusetts, Boston; a representative from each of the following organizations: the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Association of Community DevelopmentCorporations, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, the Massachusetts Association for Early Education and Care, the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Citizens Housing and Planning Association, the Massachusetts Coalition for Homeless, the Massachusetts Workforce Association, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Association, Children’s Health Watch, the United Way of Mass Bay, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts; 2 persons to be appointed by Black and Latino Caucus; 2 persons to be appointed by the Commission on the Status of Women; 4 persons to be appointed by the governor including one from a community foundation, two from community based organizations including, but not limited to community action agencies, and one from a city or town including, but not limited to a mayor, selectman/woman/or town manager. The governor shall designate a member of the commission to serve as one co-chairperson and the members of the commission shall elect a member of the commission to serve as one co-chairperson.
The commission’s activities shall include but not be limited to performing research, conducting listening sessions and/or hearings, organizing expert panels and presentations which will support its development of a comprehensive set of public policy, program, and practice recommendations, including a consensus budget proposal, to address inequality, promote opportunity, and reduce poverty in Massachusetts by 50 percent over 10 years and develop a comprehensive strategy to be implemented over a 5 year period.
The commission shall file its strategic plan, including a timeline for implementation, cost estimates and finance mechanisms, its recommendations, and its budget proposals together with drafts of legislation and regulations, if any, necessary to carry out its recommendations with the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives, the joint committee on children and families, the joint committee on housing, the joint committee on education, the joint committee
on community development and small business, and the senate and house committees on ways and means not later than June 30, 2023. The Commission may report preliminary findings and recommendations on a variety of topics related to its research and deliberations, including but not limited to the cliff effect, before June 30, 2023. The Commission shall remain in operation for a 10 year period, will monitor and report on the progress of its recommendations each year, and may issue report cards, so called, on an annual basis summarizing the progress of its recommendations.
The commission may request from all state agencies such information and assistance as the commission may require.
The commission may accept and solicit funds, including any gifts, donations, grants or bequests or any federal funds, for any of the purposes of this section. Such funds shall be deposited in a separate account with the state treasurer, be received by said treasurer on behalf of the commonwealth, and be expended by the commission in accordance with law
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