New supplemental budget offers up to $4,000 to help individuals, families avoid homelessness

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to pass a supplemental budget for fiscal year two thousand and sixteen that includes stipulations to provide funding for eligible candidates to avoid homelessness.

The supplementary budget passed two weeks ago states that as of October 1, 2016, qualified individuals and families can receive up to $4,000 from Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) to cover moving costs, rent and utility arrears, and security deposits. RAFT can also be used to cover first and/or last month’s rent and furniture, though furniture costs may not exceed $1,000, according to the state’s Department of Housing and Economic Development website.

The State has capped funds for households without children under the age of 21 at $500,000 and funds are expected to run out quickly, according to a press release from the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. Those eligible for funding include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youths, and other households. Households and individuals who believe they may qualify for RAFT funding should apply through their local provider, which they can find on the Department of Housing and Community Development website, along with information on who is eligible to receive funding.

Families are RAFT eligible if they are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This is determined based upon income (at least 50 percent of RAFT funding is for families with an income at or below 30 percent Area Median Income [AMI], and a maximum of 50 percent of funding will go to families between 30-50 percent AMI), an assessment targeting tool created by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and the reasons for homelessness. Additionally, a family’s plan to find housing must demonstrate that RAFT funding will stabilize their housing situation and that their income will allow the family to remain in their current or new housing after RAFT.

To apply for RAFT funding, a family must complete a Housing Consumer Education Center Intake Assessment at their regional agency. Families can find their regional agency by calling 1-800-224-5124. After completing the initial assessment, the three-part RAFT screening will begin. Applicants will need to provide I.D., proof of current income, a copy of the lease, and proof of the amount of money needed, among other information. Full information can be found on the DHCD website.

The supplemental budget also set aside $3.6 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MVRP), and restored language that supports the HomeBASE program. The MVRP is the largest rental assistance program in Massachusetts to help low-income households avoid homelessness, while the HomeBASE program helps already homeless households by providing funding for first and/or last month’s rent, security deposits, furniture, monthly stipends to help pay rent and utilities for up to one year, and other expenses that would prevent a household from having a home.

Lizzie Short

Lizzie Short is a freelance writer in New England.

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