EMPath and our partners achieved some exciting policy successes during the Massachusetts Legislature’s 2021 fiscal year. Each legislative session, EMPath surveys our program participants and direct service staff to inform our budget and legislative priorities, and our Advocacy Department works tirelessly to push them forward.

We know this is not enough and that as long as there are families living in poverty, we must continue advocating for change. However, these successes are a step in the right direction and will have a direct impact on many families in MA. A huge thank you to EMPath staff, our Voices Advocacy Council of current & former EMPath participants, and our coalition partners for working together to make these successes possible.

Note: This is not a comprehensive list but highlights funding and policy changes we worked on and helped to get funded and/or passed.

Funding Increases

  • $54.7 million for Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT): This funding was in addition to $100 million from the Governor’s Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI). It is extremely useful but we know it is not enough to meet the current need. We will continue to advocate for more funding to ensure families experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness can access and maintain housing.
  • $185 million for the Emergency Assistance Family Shelter program: This was the amount we were seeking. This funding supports 50+ family shelters across the state including EMPath’s shelter sites (Hastings House, Hosmer, STEPS and Horizons). The MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) now has to track race and ethnicity when collecting information on who is in shelter, which we supported.
  • $135 million in funding for The Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): This is an increase of $19 million from FY20. It matches our funding ask and will allow for some new vouchers to help individuals and families access affordable housing.
  • $40 million and the creation of a new line item to cover parent co-payments for subsidized child care: This funding will allow for parent co-payments to be covered completely for the rest of this fiscal year (through the end of June 2021).
  • Nearly $11 million in funding for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund and the Learn to Earn Initiative (LTE) to provide job training to low-income families in high demand occupations: The LTE pilots are exploring ways to minimize cliff effects (loss of public benefits as income rises) for workers with children. This is an increase of $3 million from FY20.
  • $3 million in funding for the Secure Jobs Initiative to help currently and formerly homeless families access the training, job search and support services they need to move forward. This is an increase of $1 million from FY20.
  • $820,000 for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites: VITA was funded at 3 times the level of FY20. VITA sites help to ensure people can access free tax assistance as well as access recovery payments, tax credits, etc.

Policy Changes

  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) cash assistance grants were increased by 10% (also for Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children - EAEDC). This increase is a critical first step, as grants have not been raised in over 20 years. The increase is NOW in effect so participants should see the 10% increase monthly.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Gap efforts were included in the FY21 budget. This is a major policy win and will ensure those eligible for Mass Health can easily access to SNAP via a common application. We are part of the coalition which will be working on implementation of this new policy change.
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) changes were made in the FY21 budget. Eligible households can combine and maximize benefits from RAFT and HomeBASE during the COVID state of emergency. The maximum amount was increased to $10,000 for RAFT. The application process for RAFT was also simplified to help people access the program more quickly.
  • Eviction protections were enacted via a new law: The law passed requires notices to quit for COVID-related evictions, delays eviction cases if there is a pending application for rental assistance, requires specific reporting for the Governor’s Eviction Diversion Initiative and creates a task force to make recommendations to improve the Initiative.