- The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a spending bill covering temporary shelters for homeless immigrant families after more than 100 Democrats showed up for an informal vote.
- Republicans have forced Democrats’ hand on the issue, setting rules for informal sessions, giving them unique leverage in the Bay State’s overwhelmingly blue House.
- The bill must now be approved by the state Senate before heading to Democratic Governor Maura Healey’s desk.
A spending bill that includes money for temporary shelter spaces for homeless immigrant families cleared the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Monday after more than 100 Democratic lawmakers showed up at an informal session of the chamber to defeat efforts by House Republicans to block the bill.
Republicans have repeatedly blocked efforts to pass the bill since last week, saying the measure should be brought up in a formal legislative session to allow for debate and a roll call vote.
The move forced Democrats to bring in dozens of lawmakers to overcome the parliamentary hurdle. In an informal session, debate and roll call votes are not allowed and a single lawmaker can filibuster the bill, giving Republicans, who are in the minority in both chambers, leverage to block efforts to pass legislation.
Massachusetts considers funding temporary shelter amid migrant and homeless crises
The bill now heads to the Massachusetts Senate.
Democrats are pushing a $2.8 billion spending bill that allocates $250 million to help provide shelter to vulnerable families, including up to $50 million for an overflow site for homeless families stuck on the state’s waiting list. The state’s emergency shelters are collapsing under the weight of migrant and homeless families.
Minority Leader Bradley Jones defended Republicans’ actions, saying they were trying to pressure Democrats to discuss the bill in a formal session.
“I think this highlighted the dysfunction on Beacon Hill and highlighted the flaws of the one-party monopoly,” Jones said. “This has hurt the taxpayers of the commonwealth.”
Massachusetts launches a $5 million grant program to provide temporary housing for homeless families
Demand for shelter has increased as temperatures drop and the state struggles to find places to stay for newly arrived migrants after reaching a state-mandated limit of 7,500 families in its emergency homeless shelter system last month.
More than 100 families were waiting for emergency shelters as of Friday. About 500 families have moved out of shelters since September 1, to make room for other families.
To create more space in the shelter system, the state worked with federal officials to help immigrants obtain the work permits needed to find a job.
The increase in demand for shelter is due in part to the entry of migrant families into the state, officials said.
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The state launched a $5 million grant program last month to help local groups provide overcrowded shelter space for those on the waiting list. The state is also allowing up to 25 homeless families to stay overnight at the State Transportation Building in Boston during evening and overnight hours.