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Massachusetts budget deal on shelter funding calls for emergency overflow site, school support

Keller: Mass. must ensure "budget reflects what we value" with migrant housing
Keller: Mass. must ensure "budget reflects what we value" with migrant housing 05:21

BOSTON - Democrats in the Massachusetts House and Senate have reached a deal on a supplemental budget that fulfills Gov. Maura Healey's request to pour $250 million into the overburdened Massachusetts emergency shelter system.

House Speaker Ron Mariano and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, the chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said in a statement Thursday that the agreement requires Healey's administration "to identify an emergency overflow site" for families stuck on the shelter waitlist, and it supports schools that are seeing an influx of migrant students.

"The establishment of a state-funded overflow shelter is central to the goal of ensuring that no family in Massachusetts spends a night out on the street," Mariano and Michlewitz said. "That provision, along with the funding specifically allocated for school district costs associated with additional student enrollments, and for migrant and refugee workforce programs, ensures that the Legislature is doing everything that it can to support the Commonwealth's efforts to address this humanitarian crisis."  

What's in the shelter funding bill for Massachusetts?

Of the $250 million for the shelter system, at least $75 million would go to school districts that have had to enroll more students from migrant families.

With the state shelter system capped at 7,500 families, migrants arriving in Boston have had to spend the night at Logan Airport or stay temporarily at the State Transportation Building downtown. The lawmakers' deal calls for up to $50 million to be spent on identifying, acquiring and operating one or more emergency shelter sites for families who are stuck on the waitlist.

Mariano said in early November that one location being looked at as a potential overflow site is the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. 

""If we have Hynes, will that do it? Or do we need multiple locations all across the state?" he said at the time.

The bill also would spend at least $5 million on migrant and refugee workforce programs.

Will the shelter funding budget pass the Massachusetts Legislature?

According to The State House News Service, the Republican minority can stop passage of the bill with just a single objection because a deal was not reached before the end of formal legislative sessions.

"The fact that the Speaker, Senate President and Governor have been unable to reach consensus on the migrant issue shows that this is too contentious an issue to take up in an informal session," House Minority Leader Brad Jones said. "The House Republican Caucus believes this spending bill should receive a roll call vote in a full formal session, and not be passed in a sparsely attended informal session.  

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