BOSTON (WWLP) – The clock is ticking on a deal to supply the emergency assistance program with necessary funding before time runs out on this legislative session.
Tuesday night the Senate reached a deal on a $2.8 billion spending bill, a vote that was along party lines. The bill itself will close out the books on the last fiscal year however it also includes funding that is needed to aid the existing emergency shelter crisis.
Now, both chambers have already agreed to the full amount of money, $250 million, that Governor Healey requested back in September. However, the chambers do not align on how the money should be spent.
The House allocated funding to specific needs, like $50 million to go to overflow sites, whereas the Senate allows for much more flexibility. Even though the vote for the final bill was along party lines, the Senate unanimously approved an amendment from Senator John Velis.
His amendment would create a study to figure out the impact and sustainability of the shelter program and the right to shelter law, recommendation would be due by this coming March. Velis said this issue will eventually financially break the state if the status quo remains.
“This calendar year, we are close to $600 million for this program. Tell us more, what’s driving this? What can we expect? How do we get out of this scenario? We can’t just go down the path of saying yup we’re gonna fund this, yup we’re gonna fund this, yup we’re gonna fund this, without answers,” Sen. John Velis told 22News.
As of Tuesday, there were 7,523 families and pregnant individuals in emergency shelters. Now, the two chambers must come to an agreement by Wednesday night on their supplemental budget bills, or they risk it being derailed by a single objection during an informal session.