Families are starting to be turned away from the overcrowded shelter system as that plan, which also provides $250 million for the system that has become overburdened by an inflow of new immigrants, makes its way through the parliamentary process.
According to a community organizer, these families have turned to community groups for assistance. There, they seek churches to sleep in at night and seek cover from the cold during the day.
With more than 7,500 families registered, the Emergency Assistance Shelter System in Massachusetts reached its maximum capacity last Thursday, as mandated by Governor Maura Healey. Families were put on a waiting list by shelters to enter the EA system as of Friday.
In the meantime, nighttime lows have started to fall below freezing.
The La Colaborativa community group, located in Chelsea, has Norieliz DeJesus as its policy and organizing director. According to DeJesus, her group has been assisting some of the first families put on a waiting list to get shelter.
DeJesus stated, “We have families who have lived their entire lives packed into trash bags or suitcases, just lying around and sleeping.”
According to her, La Colaborativa has been organizing nighttime sleep-ins with neighborhood churches.
Some of the families have been graciously placed in their homes, but space isn’t always available, and they can only do it for the night. So we can anticipate that family right back at our office in the morning,” DeJesus said. “At six in the morning, calls start being received by our workers. from churches, alerting them of the arrival of families. Our crew does not even have time to eat because we don’t even open till ten, but because of the chilly weather, we have started accepting them.
In order to help extremely low-income families with children and pregnant individuals in urgent need of emergency shelter, United Way of Massachusetts Bay announced late on Monday afternoon that it had opened an online application for the administration’s “SafetyNetShelter” grant program.
Short-term stay overflow possibilities for the EA system are supported by community-based groups with money from the grant program, which launched on Monday. $5 million in government funding is available to the program to support the awards.
“We have so many appointments and walk-ins back-to-back that our staff is really overworked, you know? They’re also in excruciating pain. It’s rather painful to hear about these incidents, according to DeJesus.
The idea that was introduced to the House bill to increase the nutritional benefits available to more immigrant families excited her. Every week, La Colaborativa feeds approximately 7,000 individuals through its food bank, according to DeJesus.
Last Wednesday, the House voted to accept an amendment brought up by Representative Jessica Giannino to extend SNAP benefits to families impacted by the shelter shortage as well as other immigrants. The approval also included increased financing for the shelter system.
The “Feeding Our Neighbors” measure (H 135/S 76), which would increase food assistance for low-income, lawfully present immigrants who are prohibited by federal regulations, is comparable to the Giannino amendment.
In essence, it would allow a greater number of immigrants to continue receiving SNAP benefits subsidized by the state for the balance of the fiscal year.
Senior policy advocate Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute claimed that there is a “complicated patchwork” of regulations governing which immigrants can get federal assistance.
Some immigrants who apply for asylum, those who have been given temporary protected status, those who are lawfully present and have work permission but are not deemed “qualified” for benefits, and those who hold lawful permanent resident status or have been on parole for less than five years are among the ineligible immigrants.
According to Baker, this includes a large number of recent immigrants from South America who are in the country with official government authorization.
Furthermore, the federal government is changing the immigration status of Ukrainian refugees to “temporary protected status,” which means they will no longer be eligible for benefits and will no longer be able to access SNAP.
According to MLRI, the maximum monthly SNAP benefit in Massachusetts is $291 for an individual, $535 for a couple, and $766 for a family of three.
“The state is directing families to [the Department of Transitional Assistance] for any benefits they may collect now that the EA system has stalled, to put it that way. However, Baker pointed out that DTA offers nothing to immigrants who are present in the country with legal status.
Giannino’s proposal would allow SNAP to be used by humanitarian parolees and any other lawfully residing immigrant in the United States who satisfies the income standards. Remarks were not returned by the representative.
According to Baker, it is associated with a $6 million line item that will remain active until the conclusion of the fiscal year.
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance’s Paul Craney predicted that the House-approved program would increase immigration to the state.
For want of a better phrase, Craney described this as “kind of a backdoor attempt to offer welfare benefits to people that are not U.S. citizens.” “They are approving the use of state funds for these benefits for non-citizens of the United States.” And that, in my opinion, represents a significant policy change—we’re starting to draw in visitors on purpose.”
Since this time last year, the number of people in the EA shelter system has more than doubled, with more than half of the new arrivals being nationals of foreign countries.
According to Baker, Massachusetts was formerly one of the six states that provided SNAP and other state assistance to all lawful immigrants who satisfied the income requirements. After five years, the state discontinued the policy in 2002, according to her. These advantages are still available in the other five states.
“Immigrants labor in extremely low-paying occupations and are frequently crucial workers. They are able to avoid waiting in long lines at food pantries because to their SNAP benefits, according to Baker.
Concerned that the $6 million set aside for the initiative “is not going to be enough,” Craney expressed his concerns.
“They’ll need to return and make further requests. It’s unfair to the taxpayers in this case,” he remarked. “I believe that Massachusetts taxpayers want to be helpful in general. People become upset when you ignore the fundamental issue and ask them to bear the consequences. And the Legislature is acting just in that manner.