Gov. Maura Healey speaks to reporters about the migrant housing crisis after a meeting with legislative leaders on Sept. 19, 2023.

Massachusetts Delegation Pushing For 500% Increase In Shelter Aid


Colin A. Young
State House News Service

The entire Massachusetts delegation in Washington late last week got on board with a request for five times more money that what the federal government has already allocated to the Bay State to provide new arrivals in the state with shelter and humanitarian services.

In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, the delegation wrote that Massachusetts is struggling, as the only state in the country with a legal requirement to shelter homeless families, to provide and pay for services for 7,377 families living in state shelters and an additional 800 families on a waiting list.

“With shelter facilities at capacity, families have been forced to sleep outdoors and in cars, in a state with below-freezing temperatures for months of the year. Some have turned to airport lobbies and hospital emergency rooms for makeshift shelter. The Commonwealth is now running out of shelter funding and faces a shortfall in its shelter budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” the delegation wrote.

Massachusetts applied for $34.5 million in FEMA Shelter and Services Program (SSP) funding, and has been allocated almost $7 million, the lawmakers said. The delegation said this year’s allotment is “more than triple the $1.9 million the Commonwealth received in 2023,” but “hardly makes a dent in the over $900 million that the Commonwealth expects to spend on shelter in the upcoming fiscal year.”

The delegation members said they “recognize that the total pool of SSP funding is inadequate,” pointing out that Congress this year appropriated $650 million for the program, down from $800 million a year before and less than half of the $1.4 billion President Joe Biden requested. The delegation said FEMA has already allocated $275 million of the $650 million to states, and will now award about $341 million through a competitive process (keeping the remainder in reserve).

Beacon Hill leaders have seldom discussed the shelter crisis, which has been fueled by an influx of migrant families to Massachusetts over the last year, without calling on the federal government to reform immigration laws, provide additional funding and work permit flexibility for states housing migrants, or both.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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