The House yesterday passed a $260 million fiscal 2024 supplemental budget bill that prioritizes funding for the state’s emergency shelter system, while codifying pandemic-era authorizations related to outdoor dining and to-go cocktails.

The bill (H. 4460) is funded through the state’s transitional escrow account, which was created in recent fiscal years when the state realized substantial surplus revenue.

The majority of the spending in the House bill, $245 million, is dedicated to the emergency assistance shelter system, but the bill includes policy provisions aimed at putting limitations on the length of stay in emergency shelters. Under the House bill, families would be limited to nine consecutive months of eligibility for the program if unemployed, or 12 months if employed, with some exceptions.

The House adopted an amendment that would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide a report at the end of the fiscal year that includes the number of students in the emergency shelter program and the costs associated with transportation and language services, among other data broken down by school district.

Some of the bill’s shelter funding is dedicated to workforce development, with the goal of helping families exit the system.

There are roughly 7,500 families enrolled in the state’s emergency assistance shelter program, according to the administration’s shelter data dashboard, with about half of them living in overflow accommodations in hotels and motels in 100 or so communities across the state.

Regarding COVID pandemic-era authorizations, the House bill would codify in state law the local licensing authority for permits for expanded outdoor dining and allowing restaurants to sell to-go cocktails with take out food orders. Both provisions are currently set to expire on April 1.

The House’s bill is a slimmed down version of a $375 million fiscal 2024 supplemental budget bill that Gov. Maura Healey filed in January. In consideration of the upcoming deadline, the House added in the dining and to-go cocktail provisions that the governor proposed in the Municipal Empowerment Act she also filed in January.

The supplemental budget bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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