Senate passes supplemental budget, creates roadmap for emergency shelter system 

Legislation pairs emergency assistance with long-term shelter framework and workforce training 

BOSTON (03/21/2024)—Today, after extensive debate, the Massachusetts Senate passed S.2708, a supplemental budget which would make additional appropriations to the emergency shelter system while taking proactive and fiscally responsible steps to ensure its long term effectiveness. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) voted in favor of the legislation, which also supports workforce training programs for families who have recently migrated to Massachusetts.  

The bill requires each family in shelter to receive an individualized rehousing plan; eligibility for shelter after nine months would be contingent upon compliance with the rehousing plan, with certain categorical exemptions. The bill comes on the heels of Congress torpedoing bipartisan, commonsense federal immigration reforms which would have brought assistance to the Commonwealth.  

“This supplemental budget addresses some of the biggest challenges our Commonwealth’s Emergency Assistance shelter program has faced in recent months,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Understanding the extreme complexity of the shelter system, the Senate plan balances the financial impacts of this program with the humanitarian interests of our state, ensuring that we remain a welcoming and supportive destination for families fleeing devastation in other areas of the world. It also provides important supports for Massachusetts families who are homeless, currently making up over half the families living in our shelter system. This supplemental budget contains provisions that allow for our state government to take a regional focus on resettlement and workforce training initiatives to prevent homelessness and improve self-sufficiency and outcomes for those families i.” 

The legislation authorizes the Office of Administration and Finance to spend $75 million per month for the remaining months of Fiscal Year 2024 from the Transitional Escrow Fund to help shelter families and promote self-sufficiency, and thereafter in FY25 articulates clear, decreasing amounts that the Office of Administration and Finance can spend per month from the Traditional Escrow Fund for this purpose. It also appropriates an additional $10 million in funds for regional housing intervention services and workforce supports in the emergency shelter program and provides $15 million to fund settlement obligations and judgements.  

In a drafting effort led by Senator Friedman and other colleagues representing Western and Central Massachusetts, the bill further creates a special commission to study and make recommendations on the sustainability, efficiency and effectiveness of the emergency housing assistance program. The commission would also be tasked with studying how to best support and ensure the long-term sufficiency of those seeking shelter while also helping to shore up regional based responses concerning the support of families in need of shelter. 

The supplemental budget continues to require the Executive Office for Administration and Finance to submit biweekly reports regarding certain metrics of the Emergency Housing Assistance program. It also contains an array of other measures to support the Commonwealth’s businesses, students, and residents, including:  

  • Allowing a city or town to approve requests for expansion of outdoor restaurant service. 
  • Allowing graduates and students in their last semester of nursing education programs to the practice nursing, in accordance with guidance from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing. 
  • Extending the ability of nurses employed by assisted living residences to provide skilled nursing care in accordance with valid medical orders, provided the nurse holds a valid license to provide such care. 
  • Making technical changes to certain line items from the fiscal year 2024 budget. 

A version of this supplemental budget recently passed the House, the differences will now need to be resolved between the House and Senate.