COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133-1053
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 21, 2014
Senator Lovely Files Trio of Amendments to Address Homelessness Issue
(Boston) – As the state Senate begins debate today on the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget, it will consider three amendments filed by Senator Joan Lovely that address the issue of homelessness in Massachusetts. The amendments seek to allocate an additional $20 million to fund congregate-style shelter, reduce the loss of local motel tax revenues to cities and towns, and raise the quality of the motel services which the state is already paying for.
“I’ve visited with families at the motels in Danvers, and it’s clear that they need to be in better environments,” said Senator Lovely. “Transitioning the families from motel shelter to congregate shelters, where services are more centralized and effective, is the direction we need to be moving in. That’s why I’ve sought an additional $20 million in the budget to help with that the process.”
Senator Lovely also filed legislative language to the budget bill that would require the state to continue to pay local motel excise taxes on the motel rooms it rents for the Emergency Assistance shelter program. Under current state law a party no longer pays local motel taxes if the room is rented for a period of 90 or more days. Since the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) rents hundreds of motel rooms across Massachusetts for long periods of time, this can result in a loss of motel tax revenue for the host municipalities. Senator Lovely’s amendment would create an exception for rooms rented by the Emergency Assistance program—mandating that the state continue to pay the tax to local cities and towns for those rooms. “If the Commonwealth is occupying a significant amount of a city or town’s motel room stock, then it should continue to pay the local motel tax—to do otherwise, given the 90-day rule, would be to depress a municipality’s revenue stream,” said Senator Lovely.
Senator Lovely’s final amendment stipulates that motel owners must provide the same level of services to homeless families being sponsored by DHCD as they would provide to their normal guests. “If the state’s paying the cost of a nightly stay, then the family should get nothing less than the services normally provided to a motel guest—if we’re paying full price, we should expect the full spectrum of service,” stated Senator Lovely. Senator Lovely decided to file this legislative language after reviewing reports that some motels were delinquent in cleaning the trash rooms located by rooms occupied by homeless families. The amendment would enable DHCD to cancel its agreement with a motel if it finds such violations of standards.
The Senate’s budget debate, which begins today, will likely continue for several days. After the Senate approves the budget bill, it will proceed to the Governor for his approval. Massachusetts’ fiscal year 2015 begins on July 1, 2014.