Apr 23, 2024 - News

Massachusetts' migrant shelter funding still in flux

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Massachusetts lawmakers haven't reached a deal on a supplemental spending bill that could prevent the emergency family shelter system from running out of money in weeks.

Why it matters: The fates of more than 7,000 unhoused families — migrants and locals — are in the hands of a state legislature that is infamous for leaving critical legislation to the 11th hour.

Catch up fast: A group of state lawmakers entered negotiations earlier this month on the spending bill.

  • The House wants to allot $245 million toward the shelter system.
  • The Senate backs Gov. Maura Healey's request to spend from an $863 million escrow fund over the next two years.

State of play: A spokesperson for Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Michael Rodrigues declined to say whether the lawmakers negotiating the bill are meeting this week.

  • Meanwhile, the House plans to spend the week taking up its fiscal 2025 budget bill, which would allot $325 million to the shelter system for fiscal 2025.

Zoom in: The state estimates the system will cost at least $915 million in fiscal 2025, about $590 more than the state can afford, according to its bi-weekly shelter reports.

  • But Healey proposed allowing $325 million to the shelter system while using the escrow fund to cover gaps over the next two years.

The big picture: Several cities and states are struggling with how to fund resources for new arrivals.

  • Massachusetts recently received approval to use millions in federal Medicaid funding for temporary shelter services.
  • Chicago city councilors approved $70 million in aid for migrants, on top of another $150 million that was already earmarked for 2024, per Axios Chicago.
  • Mounting costs prompted Denver officials to implement a new immigration strategy. It limits shelter, job and food assistance to 1,000 people and kicks migrants out of the city's congregate shelter if they don't get a slot in the new program within 72 hours of arriving.

Threat level: Senate budget chief Michael Rodrigues said recently the system is expected to run out of money before the end of the month.

  • Neither his office nor Matt Murphy, spokesperson for the state's administration and finance department, would say exactly when they believe it will.
  • Murphy did tell the State House News Service last week the state can move around some funds to keep the system running in the short term, specifically funds from the last spending bill that weren't earmarked for shelters.

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