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 Senate fiscal '19 supplemental budget includes $30M for low-income heating aid

Cindy Friedman

 Plan cuts ‘Cap on Kids,’ Friedman's office reports: House version OK'd

UPDATED, March 14: Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues March 7 in passing a supplemental budget for fiscal 2019, which includes $143.9 million in spending to address deficiencies, as well as institute time-sensitive policy and spending items. The proposal is $21.4 million less than Gov. Baker's original proposal in January.

Furthering the Senate’s continued commitment to support working families and those in need, the Senate’s proposed supplemental budget eliminates the so-called “Cap on Kids” and includes $30 million for the Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program, among other considerations.

MassLive, March 14: House bill on kids passes

“This supplemental budget takes vital steps to provide important protections for our children and families, low-income residents, and sexual assault survivors,” Friedman, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, said in a March 8 news release. “I want to thank Chairman Rodrigues for pushing this supplemental budget forward in a fiscally responsible manner while upholding our values in the Senate to ensure that every family has equitable access to critical benefits and resources.”

'Cap on Kids' background

The state's “Cap on Kids” policy was established in 1995 and was designed to discourage welfare clients from having additional children while receiving aid by excluding additional children from the calculation of benefits. The Senate’s supplemental budget repeals this discriminatory policy, and an amendment adopted on the floor makes the repeal retroactive to Jan. 1, 2019.

Upon implementation, those 8,700 children who are, or would be, excluded from grant calculations will now be included, resulting in higher monthly benefits for their families. The fiscal '19 budget already provides funding for this change, which was included in the House and Senate conference committee report but vetoed by the governor.

This year, Massachusetts received a 7.6-percent cut in its federal fuel-assistance allocation, which had already dropped from $200 million to $136 million in recent years. In response to this shortfall in federal funding, the Senate proposes to provide an immediate state allocation of $30 million to the fuel program. This will help over 40,000 vulnerable low-income households – including low-income families with children, seniors and veterans – stay warm through the winter. Eligibility for the fuel program is based on household size and the annual income of every adult household member, and it provides assistance for electric and gas utility bills and other heat sources including oil and propane.

Building on the commitments of last session’s criminal-justice reform, the Senate’s supplemental budget includes $16 million for sexual-assault evidence kit testing by the State Police Crime Lab to end the backlog of untested rape kits.

The Senate’s proposal includes $1 million to the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and pediatric SANE programs. These programs provide trauma-informed, expert forensic nursing care to sexual-assault patients, including children, across the state.

What's included

The proposed supplemental budget for fiscal '19 includes: 

  • $39M for collective bargaining agreements;
  • $28.1M for the Department of Correction for a new medical vendor contract and CARE Act implementation;
  • $16.5M for the Health Information Technology Trust Fund;
  • $10M to fund emergency assistance shelters;
  • $1.5M for Gas Infrastructure Evaluation;
  • $680K for the Contingency Contract retained revenue account;
  • $495K for the Sex Offender Registry Board;
  • $438K for the DCAMM Rents retained revenue account; and
  • $230K for the Department of Labor Standards. 

In addition, the supplemental budget includes a number of legislative fixes to address the administration and implementation of paid family leave and the expansion of the room occupancy excise to apply to short-term rentals, as well as allowing for permits to grant the growing of hemp on Agricultural Preservation Restriction land.

The supplemental budget will also allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services to declare an emergency related to care and protection cases in a county and authorizes the committee to temporarily raise the rates for new assignments by not more than $75 per hour. It also waives the annual cap on billable hours, up to 2,000 hours until July 1, 2020.

The Senate’s fiscal '19 supplemental budget will now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed the preceding week. 

This news announcement was published Monday, March 11, 2019, and updated March 145, to add a link.

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