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Overflow of migrants in Massachusetts shelters could peak in March

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Warnings that the state’s emergency assistance shelter system is overfilling with migrants featured an “artificial deadline,” one top lawmaker argues.

Top Baker administration deputies formally warned lawmakers in late December that by March the state’s 3,500 shelter units would hit capacity, due to an influx of migrant families into the state.

Former Gov. Charlie Baker also filed legislation asking lawmakers to put $130 million toward building more than 1,300 emergency shelter units, offering provider rate increases, funding a central intake center for newly arrived families, and helping place students in local schools.

Though the legislation died at the turn of a new session earlier this month, new Gov. Maura Healey said she also plans to file legislation for expanded shelter housing.

Asked by reporters about Baker’s March deadline, House Speaker Ron Mariano said, “we hear artificial deadlines all the time.”

At the time the Baker administration made its 90-day warning, House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said it seemed like an “arbitrary number.”

Michlewitz and Mariano said they had unanswered questions about the administration’s capacity limit claims.

Michlewitz said they “have to go forward with what information we can gather.” He also said he had been in conversation with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues about the issue.

The Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants registered about 1,000 individuals in 2021 who entered the state as refugees, migrants and asylum seekers — compared to over 2,000 who arrived just in the Boston area between May and August 2022, the state’s Congressional delegation said in October in a plea to the federal government for more resources to help local organizations deal with growing influx of people.

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