The Legislature passed its final budgets this week. They included historic investments in affordable homes and homelessness prevention. There were over $400 million new dollars in the Capital Budget for housing, including $114 million for the Housing Trust Fund, $240 million for rapid housing acquisition, $60 million for the new Apple Health and Homes program, $15 million for homeless youth facilities, $2 million for manufactured housing preservation, and $9 million for affordable housing development utility connections. The Operating Budget included $2 million for pre-eviction legal aid, $55 million for frontline homelessness service providers, $68.5 million for rental assistance, $4.5 million for foreclosure prevention, and $45 million for services to help transition people from unsheltered homelessness into affordable housing. It also included a permanent increase to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled (ABD) cash grant from $197 to $417 per month. The total two-year capital investment for building or acquiring affordable homes and shelter is over $734 million.

Significant funds were also dedicated to behavioral health programs and priorities. To address the workforce shortage, the legislature allocated $100 million toward a workforce stabilization fund. Funding in the amount of $17 million was included to increase by 7% the rates for Medicaid behavioral health services, in addition to additional funds for non-Medicaid contracts that can be used for local crisis services, involuntary treatment judicial services, and other costs not covered via Medicaid. Operating dollars were included for funding youth and adult crisis stabilization facilities in the amount of $27 million. There are also significant dollars put into permanent supportive housing for those with behavioral health needs.

Blake funding was included in the final Operating Budget. While not as much as we had hoped, it will likely take us through until next session. The Legislature re-allocated the $44.5 million to counties for resentencing and vacating Blake convictions. They also reallocated, and doubled, the amount provided for the establishment of the Legal and Financial Obligations (LFOs) aid pool bringing that total to $46.75 million. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will set up a system by which it will eventually begin to directly refund LFOs to those individuals able to be reimbursed because of Blake. Cities were allocated separate Blake funds for municipal courts.

Finally, we had hoped to see the current temporary rate increase for providers in the Developmental Disability (DD) community that would allow the temporary rate to remain past the June 2022 expiration. However, this provision was stripped from the budget at the last minute. This is unfortunate because it means that those currently being served by these providers will have access to fewer hours and, ultimately, we will serve fewer individuals with DD. The Legislature did, however, include a rate study in the budget to be concluded by October 2022. Hopefully, we will be successful next session and get this much-needed rate increase.