United Way: Governor Baker’s Eviction Diversion Initiative is an Important First Step

October 12, 2020

Less than one week before the statewide eviction moratorium was set to expire, Governor Charlie Baker today announced a $171 million eviction diversion plan to deploy assistance to Massachusetts tenants and landlords facing financial challenges related to COVID-19.

“These robust public investments in housing services and rent assistance are needed to match the philanthropic community’s efforts to keep residents safe, fed, and housed,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

“This is an important first step that will provide immediate relief to thousands of households across the Commonwealth.”

In addition, Mass 2-1-1, a statewide information hotline funded and operated by the United Way, has been designated as dedicated resource to help tenants access these critical programs and services. Operators for 2-1-1 are trained to answer questions and connect residents to the agencies that administer RAFT and ERMA. For more information on the Governor’s announcement and to access emergency housing assistance, please visit the state’s website: mass.gov/CovidHousingHelp.

The initiative includes $112 million in new funding for key housing stability programs, including:

  • $100 million commitment this fiscal year to expand the capacity of the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program to provide relief to renters and landlords impacted by COVID-19;
  • $48.7 million to HomeBASE and other rapid rehousing programs for when tenants are evicted and are at risk of homelessness;
  • $12.3 million to provide tenants and landlords with access to legal representation and related services prior to and during the eviction process, as well as community mediation to help tenants and landlords resolve cases outside of court;
  • $6.5 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), the “front door” for those facing a housing emergency; and
  • $3.8 million for the Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP), to provide case management support and to act as a neutral party to help tenants and landlords come to agreement.

“Massachusetts is in a make-or-break moment to prevent an impending tidal wave of evictions that will devastate our region and have a disproportionate toll on communities of color,” Gianinno said. “These state investments must be coupled with additional funding from the federal government and a comprehensive, long-term strategy to expand affordable housing and end homelessness in our region.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley has raised and distributed over $8 million to more than 300,000 households, providing financial assistance to help pay for food, rent/housing, utilities, and other basic needs.