Connect with us

Arts

Mass. to Start Trimming Back Housing Assistance in Jan.

Avatar

Published

on

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.

Article: commonwealthmagazine.org

Arts

Choose Some Disney Tunes and I’ll Give You an “Encanto” Quote for Inspiration

Avatar

Published

on

“Even in our darkest moments, there’s light where you least expect it.”

View Entire Post ›

Original Post: buzzfeed.com

Continue Reading

Arts

Temperature Textiles Translate Climate Crisis Data Into Colorful, Graphic Knits

Avatar

Published

on

Design

#blanket
#climate crisis
#data
#knitting
#scarves
#socks
#weather

Temperature Textiles Translate Climate Crisis Data into Colorful, Graphic Knits

January 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images (C) Raw Color

Creating tangible records of weather patterns has been a long-running practice for crafters and designers interested in visually documenting the effects of the climate crisis over time. Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach, of the Eindhoven, The Netherlands-based studio Raw Color, join this endeavor with their new collection of knitted goods that embed data about temperature changes, the sea’s rising levels, and emissions directly within their products’ patterns.

In each design, the duo translates data from the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, into colorful, line graphics that represent four possible outcomes for the world through the year 2100. The titular Temperature Textiles rely on warm shades, sea level uses cool blues, purples, and greens, and emissions a combination of the two to visualize the changes.

Raw Color shares more specifics about the data behind Temperature Textiles on its site, where you can also shop the collection of flat and double knits. Follow the studio on Instagram to keep up with its latest designs. (via Design Milk)

#blanket
#climate crisis
#data
#knitting
#scarves
#socks
#weather

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member and support independent arts publishing. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, help support our interview series, gain access to partner discounts, and much more. Join now!

Also on Colossal

Related posts on Colossal about blanket climate crisis data knitting scarves socks weather

Feedzy

Original Article: thisiscolossal.com

Continue Reading

Arts

An Annual ‘Giant Letter’ Installation Displays a Heartfelt Note From a 100-Foot-Tall Boy Named Bobby

Avatar

Published

on

Art

#installation
#letters
#public art
#street art

An Annual ‘Giant Letter’ Installation Displays a Heartfelt Note from a 100-Foot-Tall Boy Named Bobby

January 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

2020 in Austin. All images (C) Giant Letter, shared with permission

Every year on December 12, a handwritten letter on oversized lined paper appears on a residential lawn in Chicago or Austin. The massive constructions, which stand between 8- and 12-feet high, are part of an ongoing project that shares heartfelt messages between an imaginary 100-foot-tall boy named Bobby and those who matter most in his life (aka his mother Lucinda, cat Mr. McFluffins, and Santa).

Chicago-based artists Caro D’Offay and Laura Gilmore began Giant Letter back in 2012 as a way to connect with their community following the tragic killings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Marj Wormald joined the pair a few years later, and together, they’ve installed 10 iterations. “We’re trying to create an atmosphere,” D’Offay said in an interview. “The person standing there can in a way feel very small but also have big emotions. It can be transformative for someone, and they’re just walking their dog.”

2021 in Chicago

During its decade-long run, Giant Letter displays have included microscopes and astronomy books, huge pencils and cups of tea, and of course, chocolate chip cookies and milk. Every piece also sets a “Bobby box” nearby that encourages visitors to drop in messages they’d like to share with the child. In the most recent version installed at the intersection of Glenwood and Albion avenues in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, a 35-foot tool stretches alongside a letter from Bobby’s mother detailing her cancer diagnosis. “I know this is a much bigger tape measure than you probably need but I want you to dream big and make giant magic!” it reads.

Organizers say the 2021 installation will stay in its current spot indefinitely, although they’re hoping to transfer the project to a museum or gallery in the future. You can follow their progress on Instagram.

2021 in Chicago

2019 in Austin

2016 in Austin

2016 in Chicago

2014 in Chicago

2013 in Chicago

2012 in Chicago

2012 in Chicago

#installation
#letters
#public art
#street art

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member and support independent arts publishing. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, help support our interview series, gain access to partner discounts, and much more. Join now!

Also on Colossal

Related posts on Colossal about installation letters public art street art

Feedzy

Source: thisiscolossal.com

Continue Reading

Trending

WVPU.com