(Boston, MA) - The Massachusetts State Senate passed a supplemental budget yesterday for Fiscal Year 2019 of $143.9 million in spending to address deficiencies, as well as policy and spending items that are time sensitive in nature. The proposal is $21.4 million less than what Governor Baker originally proposed 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 (LIHEAP), among other considerations.
"The children and families of our Commonwealth deserve our support, particularly when they are in need, and so I am proud that the Senate has acted once again to do away with the outdated and ineffective ‘Cap on Kids,’” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I’d like to thank Chair Rodrigues for moving this supplemental budget forward, which takes important steps to care for our residents while being fiscally responsible.”
“I am proud of this supplemental budget, and what its passage shows about the priorities of the Senate: when the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable members are in need, we take action,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport). “By eliminating an outdated policy that harms families, supporting heating assistance for seniors and veterans, protecting sexual assault survivors, and other vital appropriations, this budget reflects the Senate’s goal of striving to ensure that all people in Massachusetts are treated equally and fairly.”
“I am thrilled that the Senate’s supplemental budget repeals our state’s ineffective and unjust family cap policy,” said Assistant Majority Leader Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), the Senate sponsor of legislation to repeal the cap on kids. “Lifting the ‘Cap on Kids’ is simply the right thing to do to ensure that families are not denied basic benefits simply because of when their children were born. This is a critical policy change that will help thousands of children and families across the Commonwealth, and I would like to especially thank Senate President Spilka and Chairman Rodrigues for continuing to make this a Senate priority by addressing this issue at the very beginning of our session.”
“Eliminating the antiquated and discriminatory ‘Cap on Kids’ sends the message that the Senate values families of all income levels,” said Assistant Majority Whip Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “The $30 million in additional funding we passed for heating assistance will help 40,000 low income households — today’s action lets seniors, veterans and children know we will not leave them out in the cold. Locally, I am glad to have shepherded through legislative fixes facilitating an easier process for Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to join the Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund. My sincere thanks to Senate President Spilka and Chairman Rodrigues for their leadership on this progressive and fiscally responsible supplemental budget.”
The Massachusetts ‘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 January 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 year 2019 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% cut in its federal fuel assistance (LIHEAP) 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 LIHEAP 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 LIHEAP 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 also 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 also includes $1 million to the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Pediatric SANE Programs. These programs provide trauma-informed, expert forensic nursing care to sexual assault patients, including children, across the state.
The proposed supplemental budget for Fiscal Year 2019 also includes:
In addition, the supplemental budget also 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 (APR) land.
The supplemental budget will also allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) to declare an emergency related to care and protection cases in a county and authorizes CPCS 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 Year 2019 supplemental budget will now be reconciled with the House’s version, which was passed last week.