Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Please help us advocate for victims of domestic violence by establishing a local Housing Court

     The Housing Court is a layer of protection for women who rent. MA has adopted the key provisions of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and parts are related to issues with landlords. Housing Courts are where women can enforce these protections. The Housing Court has judges and staff with expertise in housing law and who are trained to provide tenants and landlords with a fair court process. Both landlords and tenants can access the resources that only Housing Courts have, including the Tenancy Preservation Program, Lawyer for the Day Programs and Housing Specialists. Homeless can be prevented and municipalities can address serious housing and health code violations efficiently and effectively.
     Currently, one -third of the state’s population does not have access to Housing Court, including Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties. 
     An attempt was made to include funding for these courts in the budget this year.
Due to the extreme budgetary constraints this year, no housing court expansion budget amendment was filed in the House as part of the FY18 budget. Representative Walsh and Representative Donato are working on advancing the housing court expansion as legislation (House) H978 and (Senate) S946.
     The Cape Cod and Islands Commission on the Status of Women is among many organizations that now support the bills that are being filed. We are asking you to contact your legislators, see details below under "Next Steps."

This information is from Greater Boston Legal Services, in the form of advice for victims of domestic Violence:
How does VAWA protect me?
     VAWA means that a housing authority can not refuse to rent to you just because you are or were a victim of abuse.
     VAWA means that you can not be evicted from public housing just because of your abuser or your abuser’s actions.
     If you and your abuser live together, the housing authority can evict your abuser for his or her acts of abuse, but you must be allowed to stay. Acts of abuse include domestic violence, threats, dating violence or stalking.

Can I be evicted for violating my lease?
     Under VAWA, a housing authority can not evict you for violating your lease because you are a victim of abuse.
     It also can not evict you for criminal activity related to domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
     But, a housing authority could evict you for serious or repeated lease violations that are unrelated to domestic abuse.

What can the housing authority do?
      A housing authority can evict you if it can prove that other tenants or staff are in actual and imminent (immediate) danger that cannot be addressed by security or other steps. If the housing authority can prove this, you could be evicted even if you are a victim of domestic abuse.
     But without proven danger, the housing authority can not evict you or penalize you in any way.
     Also, the housing authority can not hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it uses for tenants who are not victims of abuse.

From Annette R. Duke, Esq.,Housing Attorney,Massachusetts Law Reform Institute:
 (Find your legislators here, after typing your info into the search form, at the bottom of the list under "District Representatives" click on the link for your State Representative and State Senator)

Next Steps

Monday, April 10, 2017

Join us for Women's Lobby Day on Beacon Hill

Join us as we lobby for women May 17, 2017, Women's Advocacy Day at the State House.
No experience necessary!

Details and sign up information here.

From the MA Commission for the Status of Women's website:
Advocacy day is an annual event held by the MCSW to advocate for legislation that advances the rights and opportunities of women. The Commission discusses key findings from the previous year in collaboration with regional commissions, and reports findings collected from public hearings hosted during the year throughout the Commonwealth. Attendees hear from the Commission Chair and regional commission Chairs as well as influential legislators. The event includes time for members of the commission and supporters to visit legislators to discuss priority legislation. The MCSW invites members of the community to attend and participate in Advocacy Day and stand in support of women throughout Massachusetts.
For highlights of Advocacy Day 2015, please see this informative video created by the Bristol County Commission on the Status of Women.
Sign up here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

April meeting post

Our next meeting is scheduled for April 12, 2017 from 5-7 pm and will be held at the (Old Jail building) BARNSTABLE COUNTY COMPLEX, 3195 Main St., Barnstable, MA

The harbor view conference room is located on the Barnstable County campus, in the west wing of the old jail at the back of the complex. Nearby parking is limited.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

It takes more than one day to recognize Equal Pay!

One of the biggest victories the Massachusetts Committee on the Status of Women (MCSW) has celebrated was the passage of the Equal Pay Act last year. The work continues. The MCSW continues to be part of the Mass Equal Pay Coalition as they oversee and remain involved in the implementation of the law.

Until the law is in full force, women's pay overall remains unequal.

Tuesday April 4, is Equal Pay Day, but the issue lives on throughout the year. Tuesday is the day of the week women have to work to, to be paid equal to a man working the previous week. The figure that is thrown around is $.82 to a man's dollar when people talk about the percentage of pay women get compared to a man.

But when you delve into the details, it gets worse.

In MA these are the actual dates women have to work to, to equal a man in the previous year:
  • ·         May 1 – White women
  • ·         July 31 – African American women
  • ·         September 25 – Native American women
  • ·         November 2 – Latina women

Here are a few more facts to consider:

In Massachusetts more than 319,000 family households are headed by women. About 26 percent of those families, or 81,755 family households, have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide much-needed income to women whose wages sustain their households.

On average, Massachusetts women who are employed full time lose a combined total of  more than  $11 billion every year due to the wage gap. These women, their families, businesses and the economy suffer as a result. Lost wages mean families have less money to save for the future or to spend on basic goods and services  – spending that helps drive the economy.  If the annual wage gap were eliminated, on average, a working woman in Massachusetts would have enough money for approximately:
  • 85 more weeks of food for her family ( nearly two years’ worth);
  • Six more months  of  mortgage and utilities payments; 
  • More than 10 additional  months  of rent. 
It has been a long fight.   The MA Equal Pay Bill is the strongest and most comprehensive law in the country. But it still has to be implemented without changes and regulations that will reduce it's impact on the disparity.  We will keep you posted.