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Trahan makes a play for more migrant aid

Trahan makes a play for more migrant aid

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: TRAHAN’S ASK — House Republicans won’t pass the bipartisan border deal that would send more money to states and cities sheltering migrants, so Rep. Lori Trahan is trying a different tactic to secure the funding.

Trahan and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) are urging lawmakers negotiating the federal Homeland Security budget to include $3 billion for the FEMA-run Shelter and Services Program in their appropriations bill, one of six fiscal year 2024 spending plans that need to be approved by March 22 to avert a partial government shutdown.

“Congressional gridlock on immigration reform has exacerbated the need for SSP dollars to support affected cities and towns,” Trahan and DeGette wrote in the letter they’re sending this morning that was shared first with Playbook. “There is a resounding need from cities and towns across the country for increased federal support to provide migrants with short term humanitarian services.”

The failed border deal included $1.4 billion for the SSP program, mirroring an earlier funding request from President Joe Biden. Trahan and DeGette doubled the dollar amount because they said the “actual financial need far surpasses” what was on the table.

Eighteen other Democrats signed onto the letter, including Reps. Jim McGovern, Bill Keating, Ayanna Pressley and Seth Moulton. But no Republicans joined in.

That will make Trahan’s request an even tougher sell in the Republican-controlled House where GOP leaders rejected the bipartisan border bill before it even hit their chamber. Trahan herself told Playbook last week that she believes Republicans would rather campaign on immigration issues than fix them. And appropriators tasked with negotiating the remaining budget bills have said the Homeland Security measure is proving to be the toughest to hash out. Trahan is already planning to request more money for the program in the fiscal year 2025 budget as a backup.

Either way, she’ll win points back home for trying, as state House Democratic leaders continue to swipe at Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey for casting a procedural vote against the border bill that was doomed no matter what they did. The state’s pleas for federal aid have “fallen on deaf ears,” House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz lamented to reporters last week. “Our own delegation has not necessarily been particularly helpful on this conversation.”

While state House leaders have given up on their congressional counterparts, Gov. Maura Healey seemingly hasn’t. She continues to call on Congress “to get us the funding that we need” for the state’s overburdened emergency assistance program. State lawmakers, meanwhile, are debating cost-control measures like capping how long people can stay in the shelter system.

Healey is “open” to limiting shelter stays — and has already given her administration authority to cap families’ time in the system. But she told GBH News that she’s less inclined to back residency rules like the six-month requirement Beacon Hill Republicans keep unsuccessfully pushing. “It’s more important to think about who we’re letting in, time limits, that sort of thing,” Healey said. “We’ve got to be careful when we’re talking about something like residency.”