MASSACHUSETTS WILL MAKE several changes to its housing assistance program next year that will limit who can get assistance, how much, and for how long. The changes are meant to preserve the program’s funding so it will last for longer and help more families – but housing advocates worry that it will cut off vulnerable families from assistance with little notice amid the Omicron virus surge.
“We think that certainly we want the funds to be available longer, but the commonsense way to do that would be to seek additional funds,” said Kelly Turley, associate director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. “This is not the time for families, households, elders, to be experiencing additional housing instability in the midst of the ongoing public health crisis.”
A group of 160 organizations – housing agencies, social justice groups, organizations representing minority populations, and a wide range of social service agencies – signed onto a letter urging state officials to rethink the changes. “At a time when application numbers are increasing, these changes will place additional burdens on families and individuals already in crisis due to the pandemic,” the letter said. “These changes are being implemented on a very short timeline amidst another winter COVID-19 surge, without input from community stakeholders or notice to households counting on assistance to remain in their homes.”
On December 16, the Department of Housing and Community Development sent out an email notifying the agencies it partners with that the state would be changing its housing assistance programs – the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and Residential Assistance for Families in Transition.
“These changes will go live on January 1, 2022 and are being made to preserve our resources as long as possible, direct funds to most vulnerable households that have not yet been assisted by our programs, and streamline processes at the Regional Administering Agencies,” Undersecretary Jennifer Maddox wrote in the email.
The biggest change will be requiring a family to fall behind on rent before obtaining assistance, rather than making the money available in advance. Until now, under temporary rules put in place during the pandemic, low-income families that were about to fall behind on rent could apply for a three-month rental stipend. After those three months, they could submit paperwork to “recertify” that they remained eligible and get another three months of assistance, for up to 18 months. The new rules eliminate the recertification option and do not allow households to apply for help before they fall behind. Instead, a family must fall behind on rent for a month, and only then will they qualify for three months of assistance. If they still need help after those three months, they must reapply.
The administration will also no longer allow someone to apply for benefits through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program once they exhaust their Emergency Rental Assistance Program benefits until the next fiscal year. Until now, a family that reached the cap for getting pandemic-related emergency benefits could apply for more help through the residential assistance program. Now, households will only be able to get one benefit or the other in the same year. (The two programs are different in terms of benefits and eligibility.)
Additionally, the state Legislature passed language in the fiscal 2022 state budget lowering the maximum residential assistance benefit from $10,000 to $7,000 a year in 2022.
State officials say the changes are necessary because demand for money remains high, but the funds are running low. Cutbacks will make sure the program has enough money to get through the coming months. State officials have chosen to focus on opening the program up to new families who need help by limiting the benefits available to households already participating.
Part of the problem is the federal government initially suggested that states that use a large portion of their money might get additional money reallocated from states that distribute less. So Massachusetts rushed to get money out the door and reached the federal threshold of spending 65 percent of its money – $270 million benefitting 40,000 households – by October 1.
Through November, the state distributed $411 million to more than 55,000 households, out of the $768 million that is available.
But while no action has yet been taken on a federal level, observers say the federal government has rethought its reallocation plan due to the politics of giving money from one state to another. Government officials are now discussing reallocating money between programs within each state.
Stefanie Coxe, executive director of the Regional Housing Network, a trade association that represents the agencies that administer state housing assistance, said there is a need for more funding for the program – but without changes as well there is a real danger the money will run out before the fiscal year ends in June. She said the state is spending at a rate of $45 million to $48 million a month, and more than half the money is gone less than halfway through the fiscal year.
“Obviously there still remains tremendous need, but the question that is faced by policymakers is really two choices,” Coxe said. “Do you keep having bigger benefits for fewer people or do you try to help more households with less benefits?”
Coxe worried that if the state kept generous benefits in place, the money would run out and lead to a cliff effect where families were left with no assistance. Allowing the program’s funding to drop precipitously, rather than ramping it down slowly, Coxe said, is “asking for evictions, in which case we just kicked the can down the road.”
But the group of housing advocates counter that this is not the time to be lessening benefits, and the state could find other pots of money – like unspent money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act – to keep the benefits in place. Their letter expressed concern that the changes will result in increased eviction filings and displacement and will add confusion to an already complex process. “With so much money available for emergency relief, moving forward with these changes would be a disgraceful and unnecessary outcome,” they wrote.
Turley said when the Legislature introduced language in the budget lowering the size of the maximum residential assistance benefit, it appeared that Massachusetts would be in a better place in the pandemic than the state is today. She worried that communities of color that have been hardest hit by the virus will also be hardest hit by housing instability.
Andrea Park, a housing attorney for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute who crafted the letter with Turley, said the benefit changes were announced suddenly, giving people little opportunity to plan for having their benefits expire and without the opportunity for a public discussion with lawmakers and advocates about how to keep the program sustainable.
Park worried that some tenants signed agreements preventing their eviction on condition that they stay current on rent, with the assumption they would get 18 months of assistance. If those people need to fall behind on their rent to get the money, they could be evicted. She said the new rules will result in more people falling behind on rent, rather than letting people stay current by getting assistance when they know they will need it – for example, after a job loss or illness.
“It’s going to have a tremendous ripple effect on people who need the money the most,” Park said.
The post Mass. to start trimming back housing assistance in Jan. appeared first on CommonWealth Magazine.
25 One-Hit Wonders You Probably Haven’t Thought About Since Your Childhood, but They Look Good As HECK Today
Street Photography by Juri Nesterov Documents Ukrainian Life Across Decades
Photography, and street photography, in particular, has the power to preserve the fleeting, framing the brief encounters and dalliances that sometimes end as quickly as they began. This impulse to document the momentary permeates throughout Juri Nesterov‘s body of work that serves as a visual record of those he’s witnessed within the last five decades. “When I look into the camera’s viewfinder, something inexplicable happens: thousands of images appear in my memory,” he writes.
Nesterov was born in 1954 in Krasnyi Luch, a city in the Luhansk province of what is now Ukraine. At the time, the area was part of Soviet Russia, and this shift in borders parallels the photographer’s practice, which often centers on the transient and ephemeral nature of the human experience.
Because of revolution, war, and collapse, Nesterov’s photos also chronicle life under the control of governments that have since dissolved, and the context of being surrounded by such inability makes his focus on the fundamental humanity of his subjects even more impactful. He says:
After a while, looking at my prints, I feel like the photos are electric. Most of the time I hear the question: “Where was this picture taken” or “What kind of camera? What lens?” I really want to answer: “in the world of people with their thoughts, disappointments, and hopes.”…Does it matter where exactly I pressed the camera button?… Look at the world, we all have the same starry sky.
Nesterov worked in journalism for many years and has exhibited his photos throughout Europe, although some of his prints housed at a Ukrainian museum were destroyed during shelling a few years back. Head to Flickr to explore an incredible archive of his photos that until recently, he was still developing in his kitchen in Kyiv.
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Kourtney Kardashian Says She Got Therapy After She ‘Couldn’t Stop Crying’ Following Scott Disick Split
Kourtney Kardashian revealed therapy has made her ‘really sensitive’ and helped her deal with an ‘abundance of feelings.’
Kourtney Kardashian, 42, revealed she’s been on a “therapy journey” since 2017 — which would have began shortly after her split from longtime boyfriend Scott Disick, 39. “I would just start crying all the time,” she said in Bustle magazine’s March 3 issue of what made her seek mental health support. “‘I just have feelings; like, an abundance of them,” she added, noting that working with a therapist has made her more “sensitive.”
The Poosh founder and former beau Scott began their rocky romance back in 2007, and welcomed three kids together: Mason, 11, Penelope, 9, and Reign, 6. Shortly after the birth of Reign, and amid Scott’s on-going struggles with drugs and alcohol, the pair called things quits. Over the years, Scott has maintained a close relationship with the Kardashian-Jenner clan — particularly with Kourtney’s younger sister Khloe Kardashian and mom Kris Jenner. Kourtney has admitted that Scott continuing to be included by her family members on vacations and holidays made moving on from the relationship more difficult.
Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick began their romance in 2007, and split for good in 2016. (SplashNews)
After engaging in therapy, she says she experienced “growth” that helped her move forward. “I see the growth that comes from those unhappy places which make it all worth it. I’m like, ‘If we didn’t go through these roller coasters, you wouldn’t get to the good part,’” she added.
Kourtney Kardashian and fiancé Travis Baker. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)
Kourt is now in a much happier place in her life: the reality star began a romance with fiancé Travis Barker, 46, in early 2021 that lead to a proposal just 10 months later. This marks Kourtney’s first time being engaged, and the pair — affectionately named “Kravis” — seem happier than her. After her split from Scott, the 42-year-old also dated model Younes Bendjima on-and-off.
The health guru has previously opened about therapy, revealing she has a “double session” weekly to Health magazine. “I look forward to it every week! Having that awareness, I find that I can almost catch things before they become a bigger deal,” she said. “When those harder moments do happen, I think, ‘What’s the lesson that I’m supposed to be learning?’” she pondered.
Original Source: hollywoodlife.com
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