The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretary Mayorkas:

The Massachusetts Municipal Association represents 351 cities and towns and the dedicated local officials working each day to provide essential municipal services that benefit residents, businesses, and local economies. The MMA is writing to urge strong federal action to mitigate the impact of the crisis currently facing the Commonwealth’s emergency shelter system. We also urge strong consideration to the recent requests by Governor Maura Healey to the Biden-Harris Administration for additional federal resources and coordination.

In August, Governor Healey declared a state of emergency due to an unrelenting increase of newly arriving migrants and refugees in need of safe shelter in Massachusetts. This has exacerbated an already daunting shortage of available shelter capacity, with the number of families in the system growing to now more than 7,000 families, almost 23,000 people, including many children and pregnant women.

To support this influx of families, short-term options utilize all avenues of shelter, including hotels and motels. This has resulted in emergency placements of 3,270 families in hotels and motels across roughly 90 communities in Massachusetts.

Municipal officials, in partnership with local nonprofit organizations and passionate volunteers, have stepped up to this collective challenge. This has included providing initial basic needs for food, formula and diapers, to a continual coordination for medical evaluations, transportation services, and connections to our local school districts.

On October 16, Governor Healey announced that the emergency shelter system will reach its maximum capacity later this month at 7,500 families. At that time, new shelter units will not be able to be added. The most effective way to assist migrant families exit the emergency shelter system will be through a pathway to self-sustainability and living independently. These new arrivals have brought extensive and in-demand skills, and all have come eager to work in Massachusetts.

As Governor Healey has stated, this is a federal problem that is now being carried by the states. Though we are grateful for the Department’s visit to Massachusetts last week to listen and evaluate needs, action is desperately needed now.

We respectfully urge the Biden-Harris Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the federal government to heed the calls from Governor Healey and the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation to provide expedited and provisional work authorizations, accommodate processing efficiencies, and dedicate further federal funding and support.

Local officials are on the front lines of this crisis, and it has presented our communities the ability to reflect their values and welcome new arrivals with open arms, all while maintaining strong support for families struggling with housing insecurity. But cities and towns do not have unlimited capacity, nor unlimited resources. There are several options for immediate assistance that will greatly improve this challenge facing the Commonwealth and its cities and towns — we respectfully urge you to act.


Adam Chapdelaine
MMA Executive Director and CEO

Her Excellency Maura T. Healey, Governor of Massachusetts
The Honorable Kimberley L. Driscoll, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation