For up to date information on the status of legislative and budget efforts please visit our Take Action page and/or contact Chelsea Sedani, Director of Advocacy, at 617-259-2936 or csedani@empathways.org.

FY17 Budget Priorities

$120 million for the Mass Rental Voucher Program (DHCD 7004-9024)

The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) helps low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors access affordable housing. An appropriation of $120 million will increase the number of vouchers available, help preserve affordable housing developments, and make needed programmatic fixes. This funding request would allow the state to maintain the over 7,000 vouchers in circulation and increase the number of vouchers by approximately 1,500 to expand this vital program.

$2.35 million to fund two new line items in order to create the TAFDC state work study program and support program

The proposed funding would establish a Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) Career Pathways Trust Fund to provide students receiving TAFDC with access to paid work study positions and partner with an education opportunity coordinator who would support them in earning a certificate or two-year associate’s degree.

$5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund (DWD 7002-1075)

Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund supports workforce training for high demand jobs. These programs reflect best practices in workforce development including collaborations between employers, education programs and community based organizations. This funding level would include $2 million in funding for the Economic Opportunity Fund.

Priority Legislation 2015-2016

An Act Relative to Breaking Generational Cycles of Poverty (S2099)

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury), Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland)

This bill seeks to create higher rates of community college graduation, employment and job retention by improving coordination and supports for low-income parents who are students. Improvements include: providing state work-study jobs for community college students and placement of an education opportunity coordinator at community colleges to assist with career and education planning, financial aid and work study, and obtaining other supports such as childcare and transportation.

An Act Relative to Family Financial Protection (S2230/H4194)

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose)

This bill protects individuals with consumer debt by ensuring they retain a basic level of earnings to pay for essential needs. It provides protections from unscrupulous practices of certain debt collectors by requiring that collectors provide evidence of the debt, limits the additional fees and interest that collectors can charge after the judgment, and prohibits the arrest of a borrower who does not pay a judgment.

An Act Establishing a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (S136)

Lead Sponsor: Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell)

This bill creates a Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF) which can reimburse students who are entitled to a refund of tuition and fees due to a private occupational school’s closure or failure to meet certain standards. Twenty-one other states have STRF’s or similar funds in order to provide some relief to student loan borrowers.

An Act to Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (S1477/H2479)

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Rep. Majorie Decker (D-Cambridge)

This bill would increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 23 percent to 50 percent of the value of the federal EITC for all eligible recipients to reward work, increase mobility, reduce inequality, and improve children’s health. This bill would also improve outreach efforts to increase awareness and usage of the EITC as well as ensure victims of domestic violence could access the credit.

An Act to Promote Employment (S107/H1698)

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich), Rep. Majorie Decker (D-Cambridge)

This bill would help unemployed parents receiving welfare get the education and training they need to get and keep a job. The bill would require the Department of Transitional Assistance to provide information about education and training opportunities to recipients, screen recipients so they attend appropriate programs, and to allow education and training to count toward the work requirement for 24 months for parents who need basic education or are attending vocational programs (same as allowed for degree and certificate programs).

Additional FY17 Budget Priorities

MA Earned Income Tax Credit

Increase the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from 23% to 50% of the federal EITC for all eligible recipients would reward work, reduce income inequality, and improve children’s health.

Child Care

$220 million for Supportive and TANF Child Care, $259 million for Child Care Access and $12 million for Birth through Pre-school (EEC Line Items 3000-3060; 4060; 4040) (Level Funding) For families with young children, child care is the second most expensive item in a family budget after housing. Low-income families need access to affordable, high-quality, reliable child care so that they can work and/or go to school.

Emergency Assistance Family Shelter Program

Adequately fund the Emergency Assistance (EA) Family Shelter Program (DHCD Line Item 7004-0101) and include “imminent risk” language to allow families to access shelter before they end up sleeping in a place that is not meant for human habitation. EA must be funded at a level that allows providers to adequately shelter, rehouse, and stabilize families and language needs to be added to ensure families are not left sleeping in unsafe places before they can access shelter.

Domestic Violence Services

$26 million for Domestic Violence Services (DCF 4800-1400) This line item supports domestic violence shelters across the state. Families escaping abuse often lose their housing in the process. Ensuring we have enough shelter beds for domestic violence victims is vital. (Level Funding)

Other Legislative Priorities 2015-2016

An Act Regulating the Use of Credit Reports by Employers

This bill would bar employers from using credit checks as a criterion for an employment and would prevent employers from requesting credit checks unless they are required to by state or federal law. Lead Sponsors: Sen. Michael Barrett (D-Lexington), Rep. Elizabeth Malia (D-Jamaica Plain)

(S2271)

An Act to Promote Personal Savings

This bill authorizes credit unions to offer Prize-Linked Savings Accounts – a financial product that enters members into a raffle for each minimum deposit into a qualifying savings account. These products, currently available in eight other states, encourage savings and have been shown to increase savings among low-income and non-traditional savers. Lead Sponsor: Sen. Ben Downing (D-Pittsfield)

(S495)

An Act Relative to Financial Literacy in Schools

This bill calls on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to develop financial literacy curriculum for grades kindergarten to 12 and make resources available to help school districts start financial literacy programs. Lead Sponsor: Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham)

(S2254)

An Act to Keep People Healthy By Removing Barriers to Cost Effective Care

This bill will alleviate the cost-sharing burden that affects low-income and chronically ill patients. The bill establishes a panel to recommend high-value treatments and prescription drugs, and eliminates co-pays and deductibles for the recommended services. Lead Sponsors: Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield)

(S606/H984)

An Act Relative to Ensuring the Wellbeing of all Children in the Commonwealth

This bill ensures children can utilize resources that will help them thrive. The bill makes policy changes that would increase access to subsidized food programs, health care and child care. The bill would also make families as risk of homelessness immediately eligible for emergency shelter, ensure children in emergency shelter get to medical appointments and assess the capacity of schools to screen for medical conditions that are impediments to learning. Lead Sponsors: Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston)

(S94/H429)

An Act to Establish Pay Equity

This bill promotes pay equity by clarifying the legal language to ensure equal pay for comparable work. It also requires that employers include minimum payment in advertisements and prohibits them from paying less than that amount as well as allows for employees to discuss their salaries.Lead Sponsors: Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville, Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston)

(S2119)