COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133-1053
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 16, 2015
Senator Lovely Files Bills Relative to Emergency Assistance Housing Program
(Boston) –Senator Joan Lovely announced today that she has filed two pieces of legislation related to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) emergency assistance housing program and its practice of housing families in hotels and motels across the Commonwealth. The two bills, An Act Relative to the Emergency Assistance Housing Program and An Act Creating the Home Works Program, aim to support children, families, and communities affected by the hotel and motel program.
“As the state works to connect families in need with permanent housing, these proposals are designed to take steps in the short-run to help families currently living in motels across Massachusetts, and to give special consideration to the communities these families are living in,” said Senator Lovely.
“I look forward to working with Senator Lovely on her proposals to assist our cities and towns which have been disproportionately carrying the burden of hosting the large number of homeless families,” said Representative Theodore Speliotis, who has co-sponsored both pieces of legislation.
An Act Relative to the Emergency Assistance Housing Program includes a section to reduce the loss of local motel tax revenues to cities and towns hosting families through the hotel and motel program. Current state law does not require local motel taxes to be paid after a room is rented for 90 days. Since DHCD rents motel rooms across Massachusetts for extended periods of time through the emergency assistance program, this can result in a loss of significant revenue for the host municipalities. This bill would mandate that the state continue to pay the hotel and motel tax to local communities for motel rooms under the emergency assistance program regardless of the length of stay.
Senator Lovely proposed this change as an amendment in May 2014 during the Senate’s FY15 budget debate, but the amendment was not adopted. “I’ll continue to advocate for this issue because after visiting the motels in Danvers and meeting with town officials, I know this is a top priority.”
An Act Creating the Home Works Program would establish a program within DHCD entitled the “Home Works Program.” The Home Works Program would create additional placements at current afterschool and summer programs specifically for children, ages five through fourteen, living in motels. Afterschool and summer programs wishing to participate in the Home Works Program would apply to DHCD. Subject to appropriation, DHCD would help cover the cost of the additional placements, including transporting the children to and from the out of school time program. “The North Shore already has some great out of school time programs in place, but it’s difficult for children living in motels to access these opportunities because of where they live and the transportation challenges that it presents,” said Senator Lovely. “The YMCA and Boys and Girls Club have been great partners on this legislation and I want to thank them for collaborating with me on this effort.” The additional placements created through the Home Works Program would be allocated proportionally by the areas in the Commonwealth that have the highest number of children residing in motels through the emergency assistance program.
Senator Lovely also co-sponsored a bill filed by Representative Speliotis entitled, An Act Relative to Emergency Hotel/Motel Housing Requirements. The bill establishes a six month residency requirement in order to be eligible for placement through DHCD emergency housing and suspends the placement of individuals in hotels and motels if the Massachusetts unemployment rate is less than or equal to six percent.
The Legislature began its new session on January 7, 2015. The deadline for legislators to submit timely petitions to the General Court was January 16, 2015. Petitions or bills filed prior to the deadline will be given a bill number and referred to a committee. Over the course of the two-year session, committees will schedule public hearings to give citizens an opportunity to express their views on specific bills.