Aug 15, 2023 - Politics

Advocates urge lawmakers to spend remaining federal COVID aid on shelter crisis

Illustration of the Massachusetts State House with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Housing advocates are calling on Massachusetts leaders to spend the state's remaining federal American Rescue Plan Act funds on its shelter crisis, according to a letter shared with Axios.

Why it matters: Massachusetts' emergency family shelter population has increased by 80% in the past year, in large part because of an influx of migrants. That prompted Gov. Healey to declare a state of emergency last week.

Driving the news: The Aug. 14 letter called on Healey and legislative leaders to make more investments in future spending bills, pass an affordable housing bond bill and use federal aid to address the situation.

  • The letter, signed by more than 60 nonprofits, also praised Healey's support of the family shelter system and the inclusion of eviction protections, rental vouchers and housing investments in the latest state budget.

State of play: Massachusetts has an estimated $1.4 billion-plus in fiscal 2022 surplus revenue and federal aid in an escrow account, with roughly $300 million believed to be remaining ARPA money, per a July 31 analysis by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. The state has not released those numbers itself.

  • The legislature must appropriate the ARPA funds by 2024.

The other side: Neither Healey nor legislative leaders responded to the specific policy recommendations in the letter.

  • Healey spokesperson Karissa Hand wrote in a statement that the administration appreciates housing advocates' partnership in addressing the problem and "in advancing long-term solutions to our housing crisis."

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