Archive for February 2nd, 2012

2nd February
2012
written by Kate Seif

Budget buzz words: Debt ceiling, sequestration, President’s Proposal, budget resolution… the list goes on. What does it all mean? Today on the blog, Kate attempts to simplify, explain, and perhaps even entertain!

Somewhat fun fact:  In 1921, President Warren G. Harding signed the Budget and Accounting Act into law, which, among other things, requires that the President submit a budget proposal to Congress every year prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year (beginning October 1). Harding may have presided over a series of scandals you had to learn about in high school, but he still certainly knew that the “power of the purse” lays with Congress.  But still, 91 years later, we find ourselves a few days before the Obama Administration releases the President’s Budget Proposal (PBP) for fiscal year (FY) 2013.

Why?

The PBP matters, because it’s the executive branch’s chance to show, in dollars, what they think is working, what’s not, and what we need to do more, less, adjust, and so on. The PBP pitches new ideas and gives Members of Congress (and advocates!) a place to start when they create their “asks” for the congressional budget process. Put simply, how your programs fare in the PBP is generally a good indicator of how the Administration feels about your program and how Congress may choose to proceed. Receiving an increase in the PBP is good news. It means the Administration thinks your program works, and that it’s worth expanding. A decrease in the PBP – that usually means the opposite.

This year, we all know that the White House and Congress are divided more than ever (this is probably where every President ever begs to differ), but with the Budget Control Act of 2011 firmly in place, the PBP may matter more than ever. The Act has already set overall spending caps for FY 2013 and the overall amount of money being spent is usually the issue that causes the most conflict. The President typically proposes one amount, the House wants another amount, and the Senate a third amount. It can take a while to resolve the differences. Since the law has already settled that particular issue, the PBP may mean that it will be a closer reflection than normal of the decisions Congress ultimately decides to make.

Unfortunately, this could mean bad news for our programs. As advocates, and those interested or invested in programs aimed at preventing or ending homelessness, we must be prepared for not great, maybe even bad, news.  The funding caps set by the Budget Control Act will keep the amount of overall funding almost exactly identical to FY 2012 (without taking inflation into account).

Adding yet another layer to the budget complexity this year, is sequestration (…still with me?). Sequestration is fancy word for the automatic cuts triggered by the failure of the Super-Committee (remember them?), set to go into effect January 2013. Many people are opposed to sequestration and the deep (9 percent!) cuts it will inflict on the vast majority of programs within the federal budget.  The President is widely expected to include an alternative to sequestration in the PBP. Now, since we all know Congress does not always do what the President wants, and since the details of the President’s alternative are still under wraps, it remains unclear whether sequestration will remain, change, get better, or even get worse. We must move forward in 2012 planning for the worst and advocating for the best.

All these technicalities and traditions come together this year to make 2012 and the FY 2013 budget a big deal. While the picture may look grim for federal spending, we still can make a difference. (Really, we can!)

Join the Alliance in 2012 to ensure that the programs we care about, like McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Programs, Section 8, SAMHSA Homeless Services and many, many more, do not get lost in the budget shuffle. Together, we CAN impact the big picture, and we CAN make sure that the President, the Administration, and yes, even Congress do not forget that efforts to balance the budget and reduce federal spending cannot happen on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable people, those at risk of or experiencing homelessness.  To get involved and learn even more about the PBP, sign up for our webinar, taking place on Wednesday, February 15 at 1pm ET.

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2nd February
2012
written by Catherine An

It’s been all over the news.

A few days ago, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that he wasn’t concerned about the very poor because we have a social safety net – and, when prodded, he said he would mend the safety net if necessary.

The candidate has been hounded by news outlets since the misstep. The Daily Beast, the Washington Post, and the TakeAway have all pointed out that the Romney should, in fact, show concern for the [growing] very poor population in America. The New York Times even ran an editorial on “the darkening tone of the primaries,” specifically citing this gaffe.

Needless to say, we here at the Alliance are very concerned about the very poor.

As has been widely reported, a full 15 percent of Americans live below the poverty line (which is $18,530 for a family of three) and 6.7 percent of Americans live in deep poverty (defined as half the poverty line.)  Half of all Americans are either poor or low-income, living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

While the last few years have, as the candidate notes, been hard for middle-class Americans, it has been a troublesome time for low-income and poor Americans as well. Recessionary times can be especially difficult for those households with little to no financial resources who suffer the same challenges as middle-income Americans including unemployment and housing crises. Unlike middle-income Americans, however, low-income and poor Americans often do not have the resources to buttress or recover from such economic hurdles. Without substantial savings or other assets, these hurdles can leave low-income and poor households facing very difficult circumstances, even homelessness.

This can be seen in our latest report, The State of Homelessness in America 2012. Severe housing cost burden for poor households* rose 6 percent from 2009 to 2010 (as it has steadily for decades) and the number of people living doubled increased by 13 percent**. While overall homelessness in the country stayed fairly steady between 2009 and 2011, the indicators associated with homelessness – including unemployment, poverty, housing burden, and the like – paint a picture of a low-income and poor community in need of – at the very least – concern.

*severe housing cost burden is defined as households paying 50 percent of more of their monthly income on housing.
**”doubled up” refers to a low-income individual or member of a family who is living with friends, extended family, or other non-relatives due to economic hardship.