The House's top Democrat said Monday he's only now begun evaluating Gov. Maura Healey's supplemental budget request filed last month to fund the state's over-capacity emergency shelter system that is set to run out of money this spring.

"Well, we're just taking a look at it now. We're taking a look at how people are going to address it," House Speaker Ron Mariano told reporters when asked about the status of Healey's request to drain a state fund to accommodate the surge of new arrivals and homeless families seeking shelter in Massachusetts.

Accompanying Healey's fiscal 2025 budget proposal, which maintained level-funding of $325 million for the state's emergency shelter system, the administration also filed a supplemental budget to drain the remainder of the state Transitional Escrow Fund balance of $863 million. The additional money is needed to cover shelter caseloads, school districts costs, case management, and health and community services for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, administration officials have said.

House budget chief Rep. Aaron Michlewitz said in November that he expects a $250 million funding injection that lawmakers approved this fall to get the state's shelter system through the winter months and into the spring. The initial $325 million that state officials allocated for shelter costs in the state budget ran out this month.

"To be clear," Michlewitz said in November, "we face some hard decisions and choices ahead for 2024 and beyond."

Following a private meeting with Healey and Senate President Karen Spilka Monday, when asked whether there was urgency to tackle Healey's request with the existing money slated to run out this spring, Mariano said, "Sure, we know when it expires."

Pressed for more specifics on when the existing shelter funds will expire, the speaker replied, "Not right at this moment."

Mariano said he was waiting to see the administration's latest shelter report, which tracks spending and caseloads, due Monday to the Legislature.

"We'll continue to work with the administration as they make changes in how they're dealing with the overflows in the folks coming in," he said.

Download PDFEA Shelter Report - Feb. 26, 2024

The administration's latest report, shared with the News Service on Monday, showed the state has spent $395 million on emergency assistance costs in fiscal 2024 -- an increase of $35 million compared to the last report on Feb. 8 and $70 million above what was originally allocated for the fiscal year.

This leaves about $180 million left until the state has spent the now $575 million they have to fund shelters this fiscal year -- with each report showing that they spend around $40 million every two weeks.

The administration has spent $16.6 million to pay shelter providers, the report from Secretary of Administration and Finance Matt Gorzkowicz and Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Augustus says.

Spilka, asked about her branch's timeline to consider Healey's request, said, "We have to wait for the House, and they are looking at it now. We will take it in short order after the House does it."

Mariano in January cited slowing tax collections as a factor in making decisions about shelter funding. "As revenues continue to bottom out and flatten, it becomes harder and harder to support some of these things," he said last month.