Residents and officials on Martha’s Vineyard worked to find emergency housing for 50 Venezuelan migrants in September. (Photo courtesy Rep. Dylan Fernandes)

As the Commonwealth experiences a dramatic increase in demand for emergency shelter from migrant and refugee families, Gov. Charlie Baker on Nov. 18 filed a $139 million supplemental budget bill to provide additional funding for state agencies addressing the crisis, as well as dedicated funding for municipalities who are hosting school-aged children.

The fiscal 2023 supplemental budget would build on $20 million included in an economic development bill signed on Nov. 10 by creating a $130 million reserve fund to address ongoing needs. The remaining $9.2 million in the bill would go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to implement the Work and Family Mobility Act, which was upheld by voters on Nov. 8 as Question 4.

The reserve fund would:
• Provide funding for the projected caseload increase in the Emergency Assistance program through the end of fiscal 2023
• Provide funds to recruit and retain service providers
• Support the renovation and construction of new shelter units
• Establish a temporary centralized intake center

Recognizing that placing migrant families with children in communities can present challenges for local officials, the bill sets aside $37 million of the reserve for emergency aid to local school districts for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year and all of the 2023-2024 school year.

An outside section of the bill would authorize the commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, after consultation with local school districts and subject to appropriation, to enroll students from state-placed families in nearby districts in situations where the host community would experience a sudden and significant increase in enrollment due to the placement. It would also allow the commissioner to allocate transportation costs among school districts as the commissioner deems reasonable.

An additional outside section would prohibit municipalities from adopting stricter sanitary codes for emergency shelters in order to prevent homeless shelter expansion in their communities. This outside section is intended to give housing agencies flexibility to stand up non-traditional, temporary shelter facilities in compliance with the state’s sanitary code.

The MMA hosted a webinar on Nov. 1 about the migrant crisis with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and members of the administration, where municipal officials were able to ask questions and give feedback on how state and local governments can best respond to this crisis.

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