Prevent Homelessness in Massachusetts During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic: Help Push for an Emergency Expansion of the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program

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The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, budget line item 7004-9316) program is a key tool to help families with children, unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households in Massachusetts avoid or exit homelessness. RAFT provides funds for needs such as back rent payments, back utility payments, first month's rent, last month's rent, security deposits, and transportation costs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Massachusetts households are falling further behind on rent, utilities, and other needs after facing job losses, work hour reductions, and unexpected costs. Read more on how to access RAFT during the pandemic here: English and

Spanish

Recently, MassHousing transferred $5 million to create a COVID-19 fund within RAFT. The Legislature has acted to decrease the documentation burden on households applying for RAFT funds (see Chapter 56 of the Acts of 2020, Section 5), and has passed the strongest eviction and foreclosure moratorium law in the nation. These efforts are important, yet more action and resources are necessary.

The Coalition is working with allied organizations to ask the Legislature to appropriate $50 million for RAFT in FY'21 to address ongoing and COVID-19-related needs. We also are working to make positive changes to improve access and eligibility for RAFT:


-Allow households to access more of the RAFT funds "upstream", before having to begin the eviction or utility shut-off process (In FY'20, up to $7 million has been available to help households pay for back rent through Upstream RAFT)

- Raise the cap for Traditional and COVID-19 RAFT from $4,000/year to at least $10,000/year to more effectively and realistically meet needs

- Clarify that households accessing the Upstream RAFT pilot program are eligible for up to four months of back rent or back mortgage payments, even if that exceeds the Traditional RAFT cap of $4,000

- Protect access to funds for the lowest income households (with incomes at or below 30% area median income), while allowing a portion of any COVID-19 funds to go to households normally just above the income eligibility limits if they have been impacted by COVID-19

- Further decrease the documentation/application process burden on households applying for funds

- Allow households to access more RAFT funds, even if they already have received $4,000 in RAFT payments in the past 12 months


Please join with us to take action to prevent and end homelessness in the Commonwealth!