‘Amend the Right to Shelter Law’: Massachusetts senator blasts Healey for response to migrant crisis

BOSTON — A Massachusetts senator is calling for Gov. Maura Healey to amend the Right to Shelter law amid a migrant crisis in Massachusetts.

Sen. Peter Durant, a Spencer Republican, on Monday blasted the governor in a statement for her response to the influx of migrants into Massachusetts, and for her recent statement to a news outlet about not having a choice in the matter of the migrant crisis.

Durant said he wants Healey and Massachusetts leaders to amend the Right to Shelter Law so that the law applies to legal state residents.

“Our Governor has had plenty of choices. First and foremost, amend the Right to Shelter Law. We have been pushing for this for nine months to amend the Right to Shelter law so that it only applies to our legal residents. She has refused,” Durant said. “Moreover, the Governor could have made the amendment part of her budget proposal, but she did not. Instead, she filed legislation to allow communities to double the automobile excise tax, showing again the priorities of this administration.”

Boston 25 has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

Durant’s comments came after the state announced plans to use the former Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk as an emergency shelter amid a migrant crisis. Healey’s office said the former state prison, which is slated to open next month, will be able to house 140 families – or up to 450 people.

In March, state officials announced the former Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will be used as a “safety-net site.”

Durant said the governor “has had many choices” related to where to place migrants, how much to pay in food vouchers, and the contracts covering the costs of the migrant influx to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts officials have said the state’s Emergency Assistance family shelter system has been operating at capacity for months amid a large influx of migrants to the Bay State.

Moving forward, Durant offered the following suggestions for Healey:

• File legislation to amend the Right to Shelter law or call the Speaker and Senate President in support of Durant’s legislation;

• Reduce the meals voucher;

• Require bids on all projects and/or negotiate volume discounts;

• Require background checks and biometrics on those seeking emergency shelter; and

• Eliminate or limit ancillary services such as laundry service.

“Gov. Healey’s administration could have limited the food vouchers, but she decided to pay $64 per day per person which is significantly more than the average taxpayer spends per day on food,” Durant said. “The Governor chose to put the migrants in blue collar communities not the more affluent municipalities. That was a choice. The Governor could have put the contracts out to bid. She did not. That was her choice.”

In a statement Monday, Norfolk town officials said they were informed Friday of the state’s decision to use the former state prison as an emergency shelter, and they shared their concerns about how the new emergency shelter would impact local services.

“An unexpected influx of a large number of families poses many logistical challenges to Norfolk,” the town said in a statement.

In Taunton, city officials have filed a lawsuit against the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center operators for nonpayment of fines due to code violations for housing too many migrants at the property.

“Our Governor is not powerless. Healey has chosen this path and she has chosen to prioritize migrants over the taxpayers,” Durant said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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