Maura Healey Wants More Discussion On Shelter Stay Limits For Migrants In Massachusetts

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By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service

Governor Maura Healey has said she supports efforts in the Massachusetts Legislature to put time limits on how long homeless families can stay in the state emergency shelter system, but she said Tuesday that she wants “to talk more about” exactly what the limit should be.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a nine-month limit on shelter stays with up to three months additional for certain families, while the Massachusetts Senate plans to take up a bill Thursday, March 21 to impose a nine-month limit with opportunities for multiple 90-day extensions. Either approach would be a significant change to the system — most families remain in the shelter system for about 13 or 14 months, according to the Healey administration.

Healey reiterated Tuesday, March 19 on WBUR’s Radio Boston that she supports time limits on family shelter stays, but demurred when host Tiziana Dearing asked if nine months is the right number.

“Well, we’re going to talk more about that,” the governor replied. “I think that what’s important also is that for people who have come here, and they are here through the federal government, that they are here and we are getting them work authorizations. These people, if you’ve watched the news you see what’s going on in Haiti, they’re fleeing desperate situations, and they come here seeking to make a better life for their family. What they’re most anxious to do is to work. And so I’m proud of my administration for working the process 3,000 people for work permits, people who right now are getting plugged in with employers who desperately need jobs filled, from our hospitals, to academic institutions to any number of businesses.”

Though Healey has often touted her administration’s efforts to get newly-arriving immigrants federal work authorization, the administration’s own reports have shown that the number of migrants in the shelter system with work authorizations has stagnated at around 2,700 people since late December 2023.

The state Senate plans to debate and pass its shelter policy and funding bill Thursday, and then the two branches would have to iron out their differences before sending a bill to Healey’s desk. Even before the Senate had gotten into potential amendments, there are many differences between the House and Senate bills — among them, how to cap shelter stays, how to fund the shelter system over the next year and a half, and whether to allow the pandemic-era cocktails-to-go policy to continue in perpetuity.

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