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  • Writer's pictureMichael Hays

Advocates Speak with One Voice at Capitol

While a lot of focus over the past year has been on county actions to combat housing insecurity, the spotlight shifted to Harrisburg on Tuesday for a busy Day of Action that included a morning rally and meetings with elected legislators and their staff members.

Katie Maiorano (center) rallies for housing during a morning press conference and rally in the Main Rotunda.

Organized by Bucks-Mont Collaborative, the Day of Action included a press conference and rally, followed by scheduled meetings with 13 legislators and several staff members and appointees, including DHS Secretary and former Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh.

The day was bipartisan in nature, featuring remarks from Bucks County Senator Frank Farry (R-6th) and Montco's Senator Art Haywood (D-4th) during the press conference.

At a basic human level, people shouldn’t go hungry, worry about going without services, or be left without options for housing after a long week at work, Farry said.

Haywood, turning to face the advocates gathered on the Main Rotunda steps, implored the crowd to raise their voices so that everyone could hear them.

"Housing is a Human Right!" Haywood began chanting.

Montco 30% participated in meetings with staff members from Sen. Haywood and Sen. Amanda Cappelletti's staff. We discussed eviction prevention, land use zoning reform, and raising the PHARE cap to increase capacity for new low-income housing. Additionally, mental health priorities included:

  • Increasing base funding to counties that supports the behavioral health continuum of care.

  • Standing up for mental health parity.

  • Stabilizing and expanding the behavioral health workforce to right-size staffing response to growing health needs.

My last meeting of the day was a larger group gathering with Sec. Arkoosh. She thanked all for making the trip to advocate for mental health access and more affordable housing. She noted the Housing Summit, recently convened in Blue Bell on April 29 and organized by Montgomery County Commissioners. 

A special assistant is on her staff who focuses exclusively on housing issues, Arkoosh said. Also, Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposal contains noteworthy increases in funding for the following: 

  • Increasing the PHARE program funding cap to $100 million by 2027-28, with $10 million per year increases

  • $50 million for the Whole Home Repairs Program

  • $10 million for the Homeless Assistance Program

  • $5 million for legal representation in eviction proceedings

  • $5 million to local governments for rapid response to emergency housing situations 

Arkoosh also highlighted new funding that could be disbursed by early 2025. "Bridges to Success” is a pilot program utilizing federal dollars under the 1115 waiver. DHS is having meetings with CMS now (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services). Its impact areas: 

  • “Food is Medicine” - 6 months of support (medically tailored meals) 

  • Housing – rental assistance or eviction prevention for 6 months (unhoused or about to be unhoused) 

  • Re-entry from criminal justice – restarts Medicaid coverage 90 days before release with medications in hand and priority listing for housing 

  • Continuous health care coverage for infants and children from birth to age 6.

Stay tuned for additional opportunities to engage with elected officials to push for our priorities for accessible, affordable, safe, and attainable housing.

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