Mar 5, 2024 - News

Massachusetts House Democrats take up shelter limits

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Massachusetts House Democrats on Wednesday plan to take up a spending bill that limits how long migrants can stay in state-funded family shelters.

The big picture: Several U.S. cities have imposed shelter limits as they struggle to meet the needs of recently arrived asylum seekers and others.

  • Massachusetts has spent more than $395 million this fiscal year on the emergency family shelter program and foresees needing more than $900 million to cover costs in fiscal 2025.

Zoom in: The budget bill would set aside another $245 million for the family shelter system but also limit a family with children or pregnant woman's shelter stay to nine months.

  • A family could stay in shelter for up to one year if eligible family members work or join an approved work training program.
  • The one-year limit could also apply to family members who can't work because they're pregnant, sick, disabled, caring for a disabled family member or lack child care.

Yes, but: Families whose shelter benefits end could reapply, under the bill, but they could also end up on the waitlist until beds open up.

What we're watching: While Democrats take up this spending bill, the federal government is considering a request from the Healey administration to amend its Medicaid waiver and help cover the cost of temporarily sheltering migrant families.

  • If approved, Massachusetts would get some $2 billion to help cover temporary shelter costs, post-hospitalization housing supports for certain homeless adults and other services.

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