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For some time now, we have been telling you about big federal budgetary issues, and how these issues could affect efforts to end homelessness. A recent report to Congress by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), requested by Congress in the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, is a reminder of the impact these issues can have.
We’ve already told you about “sequestration,” the across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in three and a half months under the Budget Control Act that Congress passed and the President signed into law in early 2011.
Now, a recent report to Congress by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has spelled out, for the first time, which programs in the federal budget will be exempt from sequestration, and how much funding each nonexempt program will lose in January.
According to the report, sequestration would cut the HUD Homeless Assistance line by $156 million, with HUD deciding how much of this cut would come from the Emergency Solutions Grants, and how much from the Continuum of Care. Either way, existing programs would need to be scaled back or shut down.
Our funding analysis shows that these programs need approximately $2.1 billion in FY 2013 appropriations to remain funded at their current level. If homeless assistance is funded at the Continuing Resolution amount, which is already insufficient, and then cut by $156 million under sequestration, we would end up with funding at $1.757 billion, a shortfall of 16 percent.
The local impacts of that shortfall are not hard to calculate. Just take the amount necessary to renew your existing Continuum of Care project or ESG grant, and subtract 16 percent. The effect such a dramatic cut in spending would have on our efforts to address homelessness would be grim and profound.
Sequestration was never meant to be good policy; it was designed to be so bad that Congress and the Administration would have no choice but to work together to find a better way to reduce the deficit. So far that hasn’t happened.
If Congress is going to address the deficit now, it should use a balanced approach that takes account of the severe cuts in spending that have already taken place in the “domestic discretionary” category. HUD programs and other programs like Health Care for the Homeless, SAMHSA programs that help homeless people with disabilities (and many others) have already been cut too much.
Congress created the sequestration rule, so it has the power to reverse it and replace it with something else. If it decides that the economy is too fragile for a big deficit reduction effort now, it doesn’t have to replace it with anything at all.
Members of congress already face a lot of pressure from critics of the policy, so odds are decent that congress may put some other plan in its place. The question is whether Congress will replace it with a policy that is better or worse for the most impoverished Americans.
What is needed is a realistic policy that properly funds the federal role in protecting the most vulnerable Americans, housing people who can’t afford even the most minimally decent housing, and helping people without jobs get employment.
As the Alliance’s Policy Outreach Coordinator, I spend a lot of time working with many of you to help you build and strengthen relationships with your Members of Congress in order to ensure preventing and ending homelessness is a federal priority. But there’s another aspect to this that goes beyond Capitol Hill – working with the Administration.
Of course, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) holds authority over many homeless assistance and housing programs. Now you have an opportunity to tell them what you think! In July, HUD released the interim rule for the Continuum of Care (CoC) program within the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. The interim rule went into effect on August 30, but the public has until Monday, October 1 to comment on the rule. HUD will process the comments and eventually release a final rule. Basically, although your comments won’t immediately affect the program, they’ll have a significant impact in the way the program is ultimately designed over the long run.
If your community has any concerns, or if you particularly like something and want to make sure it stays in the final rule – now is your chance to let HUD know!
To help get you started, we’ve released a draft of our own comments. You are welcome to use our comments to help craft your own, but we’re also releasing them to solicit your feedback! We want to hear from you what you think about our comments and the rule itself – concerns? Dislikes? Likes? Let us know!
The rule will have a significant long-term impact on the tools communities have at their disposal to prevent and end homelessness Please let me know what you think! We hope you’ll take the time to submit comments to HUD, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Last month, nearly 1,500 people traveled from all over the country to Washington, D.C. for the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Almost a quarter of those people participated in Capitol Hill Day, and visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to update them on local progress in ending homelessness and to urge them to make ending homelessness a federal priority.
Based on our State Captains’ “report backs” from more than 289 meetings, we’ve compiled a 2012 Capitol Hill Day Report and Summary. The report highlights the major successes of this year’s Capitol Hill Day. For starters, more than 360 participants went on more than 289 meetings. Five states, including Arkansas, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Dakota, had a 100 percent participation rate, meaning that every person from the state who registered for our conference participated in Capitol Hill Day.
In the 289 congressional meetings, more than 75 of which involved a member of Congress (another record broken over last year), advocates made the case for the following Hill Day Policy Priorities:
- Provide $2.23 billion in FY 2013 for HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grants Program;
- Provide $127 million in FY 2013 for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) Programs;
- Provide $1.35 billion for VA’s targeted homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program;
- Provide $100 million for SAMHSA Homeless Services Programs in FY 2013;
- Renew all existing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers in FY 2013, and provide $75 million for about 10,000 new HUD – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program vouchers; and
- Prevent further cuts in non-defense, discretionary spending for affordable housing and targeted homeless assistance programs.
It is worth noting that funding for the McKinney-Vento program was the subject of discussion in more than 233 meetings – that’s approximately 81 percent of all the meetings!
This year, the appropriations process has been on a “hurry up and wait” timeline. Both the House and Senate made great strides in producing and passing the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bills. But they stalled toward the end of June before the process was completed, promising to take the measures back up following the election. This put Capitol Hill Day in a slightly different context than previous years. There were no “Dear Colleague” congressional sign-on letters circulating in either the House or Senate, and unfortunately, Hill Day advocates had few concrete, immediate actions they could ask their Members to take.
Instead, advocates focused on inviting their Members on tours of local programs during the upcoming congressional recesses. In fact, they invited nearly 75 Members of Congress on a site visit – that’s more than twice as many invitations as were extended last year! This certainly helped lay the groundwork for the McKinney-Vento Site Visit Campaign, launched in early August, close on the heels of Capitol Hill Day.
As always, the best part of Capitol Hill Day is that the full impact of these 289 meetings could extend beyond the immediate successes outlined in this report. Capitol Hill Day participants realized valuable opportunities to create and strengthen relationships with members of Congress and their staff members. These bonds will prove to have an incalculable impact in the coming weeks, months, and years, particularly as Congress works to finalize the FY 2013 funding bills and tackles some of the bigger budget issues.
The success of this year’s Capitol Hill Day wouldn’t have been possible without people from around the country coming together. The effort of each person, and particularly the 73 volunteer State Captains, who spent countless hours organizing each state’s efforts, allowed this year’s Capitol Hill Day to be one of the most successful yet.
Thanks again to all our wonderful advocates and for yet another fantastic Capitol Hill Day!
We’re all very busy getting ready for our upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Expect plenty of great workshops, pre-conference, and plenary sessions, and of course great speakers and presenters!
Federal funding. In June, the Senate released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Compared to FY 2012 many programs were flat-funded, which is unfortunate given the increased need and the importance of programs such as the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program. In view of the current fiscal environment in which Congress is operating, however, the fact that these programs continue to be funded at their present levels is a testament to their quality and the great work our advocates are doing.
In addition, the House voted on the FY 2013 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The results were a bit of a mixed bag, with many affordable and low-income housing and community development programs receiving increases. However, HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants received $2.005 billion in the final bill – an increase, but still not quite enough to cover all Continuum of Care renewals and Emergency Solutions Grant programs. Stay tuned to the Alliance’s advocacy work for more information on how we can secure an increase for these key programs and ensure that 25,000 people are not homeless rather than housed under this bill.
Family Intervention. We hosted a webinar on family intervention focused on building relationships and increasing stability for homeless and runaway youth. The webinar emphasized the importance of making an impact on homelessness among youth by reconnecting youth to stable family living situations.
Rapid Re-Housing Module. The Capacity Building team released a new rapid re-housing module focused on housing search and working with landlords. These modules are 15 minute presentations on how to master rapid re-housing. This module is part of an ongoing series.
If you can’t make it to our conference, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up on all the great content and best practices. Have a wonderful July (and a happy Independence Day!) and stay cool!
Yesterday, the House voted on the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The bill provides $2.05 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants – a $104 million increase over the FY 2012 funding level. In this fiscal environment, this may seem like good news, but in reality, it creates a shortfall because of the fund distribution process. What this basically means for this funding cycle is that the increase would be insufficient to maintain the level of housing and services provided in 2012, and for 2013, approximately 25,000 people would be homeless instead of housed.
To really understand the funding implications, and how the distribution process works at the federal level, we need to delve a little deeper into what this funding level means.
Unfortunately, because of accounting issues, the approximately $100 million increase would actually mean less money for homeless assistance programs to spend. While it may be a bit confusing, this blog should help clear the air a bit on why, in FY 2013, what seems like more is actually less. Essentially, Congress is providing HUD with funding for housing and services up to several years before they are actually provided, and then once that cycle expires, it will cost more for HUD to continue the same level of spending on housing and services going forward. Thus, the proposed FY 2013 funding level won’t cover what is already in place.
How it works:
Some of HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) grants initially operate under multi-year contracts. These renewals typically comprise most of the funding provided by Congress to McKinney programs each year. The annual funding appropriation from Congress is like a deposit into HUD’s checking account, to be paid out to providers over a certain number of years. In these CoC programs, all the funding for a multi-year contract is deposited into HUD’s bank account, if you will, in the first year of the contract. Each year, HUD distributes funds to providers from that initial deposit for the duration of the contract, so Congress does not need to provide any additional appropriations. When the initial contract expires and funds have dried up, in order to keep paying for the same level of services and housing, new money has to be put in HUD’s checking account. Thus, Congress must increase HUD’s budget authority in the appropriations bill so that spending under the Continuum of Care grants may continue at the same level as in the previous year. You can learn more about all the nitty-gritty details of the appropriations process here.
Okay, here’s an example:
Suppose HUD awarded $350,000 to a provider in FY 2008 for rent subsidies for people experiencing homelessness. Typically, under the law in effect at that time, HUD would be required to award five years’ worth of rent subsidies (for a five-year contract). Under congressional accounting rules, the entire $350,000 would be set aside from the FY 2008 appropriation to last for five years. In the first year, HUD would write $70,000 worth of checks to landlords for those housed, and $280,000 would remain. In each of the remaining four years of the contract, HUD would provide another $70,000 to the landlords out of the remaining funds, but Congress would not need to appropriate any additional funds for the project.
But by FY 2013, the money is gone, and those people are still living in their apartments and need their rent paid. Therefore, in FY 2013, HUD will need an additional $70,000 from Congress in the FY 2013 appropriations bill in order to continue to pay the landlords. Thus, HUD will spend the same amount of money in FY 2013 as in FY 2012 ($70,000), but the amount appropriated by Congress will be greater than in FY 2012. All subsequent renewals, after the initial contract expires, would be done through one-year contracts. So, the amount appropriated by Congress and the amount spent by HUD would be the same in FY 2013 and all future years. The following chart summarizes how federal funding would be made available for this one project:
As a result, Congress could provide an increase in appropriations in FY 2013 (such as the House bill does – about a $100 million increase), while still having an end result that the number of people served and contracts supported see a cut in funding. There’s not enough of that $100 million increase to go around among all these programs already housing and assisting people. Under the House’s proposal, some existing programs just won’t get funded, or won’t be fully funded at the same level as they have been.
So, as I said earlier, this basically means the increase would be insufficient to maintain the level of housing and services provided in 2012. As a result, approximately 25,000 people would be homeless instead of housed.
For FY 2013, the Senate provided $2.145 billion for McKinney – enough for all renewals and $286 million for the Emergency Solutions Grant program, though it’s still not as much as the $2.231 billion requested by the President. To avoid what we have estimated as an approximately 5 percent across-the-board cut to CoC funding, Congress must provide a greater increase in McKinney funding than the House did.
Help us make sure that Congress knows that letting 25,000 people be homeless instead of housed would be unacceptable! Urge them to provide $2.231 – the amount requested by the President – for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. Act now!
Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee announced its funding levels for key programs serving low-income and homeless people within the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Education (yes, it’s quite a big bill!). To cut to the chase, many of the programs on which the Alliance works and on which people experiencing homelessness rely, including SAMHSA Homeless Services, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs, Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH), and the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, along with many other programs, would receive the same amount of funding in fiscal year (FY) 2013 under the Senate’s proposal as they do in FY 2012.
Many of these programs, – especially RHYA programs – have seen several years of flat funding in a row – despite increased need, despite a bad economy that continues to fare poorly month after month, and despite the program’s target population: our nation’s most vulnerable young people.
In recognition that flat funding is not enough, the Alliance has made RHYA and SAMHSA two of its top priorities for Capitol Hill Day this year. We are hoping to bring these two issues, and a handful of others, to the forefront of congressional offices’ minds and educate as many Members of Congress as possible on the importance of these key programs. We’ve got loads of materials to help participants prepare, and our State Captains are in the process of setting meetings up with key Members (in the House and Senate). But in order to make the biggest impact, we need you!!
If you’re planning on coming to the National Conference on Ending Homelessness (in less than a month’s time!), join us as we make sure that Congress knows the impact of these programs and hears loud and clear from all of you that flat funding is not enough! We are working extra hard this year to ensure that youth providers play a big role in Capitol Hill Day, so get involved! Reach out to us or your State Captains to find out how we can work together to ensure that these programs are not forgotten!
Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) approved its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2013. The legislation provides funding for HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, CDBG, HOME, and many other homeless and housing programs. As you may have already seen from our most recent Advocacy Update, out of the legislation comes some good news and some not-so-great news.
The bill includes increased or level funding for a variety of key programs, including increases for CDBG, HOME, Public Housing, and new money for HUD-VASH vouchers. Further details can be found in the House’s press release here. These funding levels are great news for HUD programs under a very difficult budget environment and will have an important impact in meeting the housing needs of many low-income individuals and families.
The legislation also includes $2 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which is actually an increase of nearly $100 million over the FY 2012 level. This would ordinarily be fantastic, but by the Alliance’s estimates, due to the increasing cost of renewals, $2 billion actually wouldn’t be enough to funding all CoC renewals and maintain the existing level of Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) activities (rapid re-housing and prevention activities under the HEARTH Act). As a result, we anticipate that this funding level would result in more than 25,000 people being homeless instead of housed. In the current economic climate, this would of course be devastating.
So what can we do? We can advocate for change! The good news is that this legislation is not yet finalized, and we have an opportunity to make an impact. There are many instances along the way when this bill can be altered, but the best opportunity is right around the corner! The full House Appropriations Committee will review the legislation and have the first opportunity to make changes as soon as next week.
This means that your representatives need to hear from you NOW! We need YOUR help to send a strong message to Congress that HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs need $2.23 billion to cover all CoC renewals, fund ESG activities to begin to balance the loss of HPRP, and make further progress toward HEARTH Act implementation.
Call your representatives’ offices TODAY (congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121), and ask others to call, too! Mention that you are happy to see increases to key affordable housing programs, but are disappointed that the bill would make more than 25,000 people homeless rather than housed. Urge them to support the $2.23 billion funding level requested by the Administration for McKinney. If you have questions about reaching out to your representatives’ offices, let me know!
The bottom line is that we can make an impact, but we need YOUR help! This is a crucial opportunity to ensure congress understands the importance and effectiveness of HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs in our communities. Please take a moment to reach out and help us ensure that all families, children, veterans, and individuals experiencing homelessness have a place to call home.
As regular readers of this blog know, we write fairly often about federal homelessness appropriations – what’s happening, how you can get involved, and what various proposals would mean for your daily work on the ground to prevent and end homelessness. But we haven’t written about appropriations (the federal funding process) in several weeks, so you may be wondering: what’s the latest news?
The House and Senate are both busy working on their fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bills. We have been tracking three particular bills very closely, so read on for more information on each of those funding measures!
HUD. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its FY 2013 bill to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation, though it may do so in the coming months. The Senate’s version included $2.146 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs – not as much as the $2.231 billion requested by the President, but still a $245 million increase over FY 2012!
VA. The Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate have approved their FY 2013 funding bills for programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – including targeted homeless veteran programs. Both bills would provide the Administration’s requested 33 percent increase to $1.35 billion for VA’s homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The full House may vote on this legislation this week.
HHS. Each year, one of the most difficult bills to pass is the one that funds programs like the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA ) programs within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – largely because it is such a big bill and includes such a huge range of programs. As a result, it’s often one of the latest to be released. So far, neither the House nor the Senate has released its proposal for the FY 2013 HHS funding bills, and no timeline has been announced for doing so. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more!
As you can see, Congress is definitely making progress with these bills, though nothing has been finalized yet. As of now, Congress is not expected to finalize any of its FY 2013 funding bills prior to the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Instead, Congress will likely pass one or more stopgap funding measures (called continuing resolutions) until after the election before finalizing their funding decisions.
So, there is still plenty of time to get involved! Though in most cases, the Appropriations Committees have released their decisions, when the legislation goes to the House or Senate floor, every vote counts! Your Members of Congress need to hear from YOU on the importance of these programs and how they make a difference in the lives of people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. If you would be interested in getting involved in any of our campaigns to provide funding for homelessness programs, please let us know!
Image courtesy of 401K.
The Alliance and its partners have formed the Homeless Veteran’s National Advocacy Working Group. This group is dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans through sensible policy and targeted programs. Among other things, the group is putting on a series of Congressional briefings. The first one was this last Wednesday, May 23. This was a joint briefing for both Houses of Congress and both parties. It was sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who also provided opening remarks. Attendees included staffers from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and the MilCon-VA and T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees, as well as non-Congressional staff.
Antonia Fasanelli, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, acted as moderator and introduced our panel. She spoke to the need for continued funding of these programs, and introduced Senator Burr. The Senator spoke to the need to use data-driven resources wisely, but to never forget the human faces of the people that these programs serve. Barbara Poppe with USICH covered a brief overview of veterans homelessness, and progress in the federal government’s five-year plan to end veterans homelessness; and expressed an impassioned plea to keep the plan on track through continued funding and support.
The HUD-VASH program overview was briefed by Vince Kane with VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. Vince brings a broad perspective, showing the evidence-based, pragmatic approach to properly targeting the higher-cost, case-management-intensive intervention of VASH.
The SSVF grant was discussed by John Kuhn, National Director of Homeless Evaluation and Supportive Services for Veteran Families. John explained how the SSVF grant represented a new approach to ending veterans homelessness by focusing on prevention, rapid re-housing and expanding VA’s reach to include children and spouses of the veteran. SSVF provides a whole array of services not traditionally offered by VA. The panel addressed the need for community partnerships, acknowledging that VA can’t end veteran homelessness alone, and its community partners have the relationships with clients and knowledge of the community to help VA leverage its resources.
The final speaker was Eloise Wormley, an SSVF consumer from the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place in Washington, DC. She gave a moving speech about her experiences and how the program helped her. The difference that being housed made in her life was evident. The pride having her own apartment and being self-sufficient, with a little help from the SSVF grant, was apparent to everyone in attendance.
The takeaway is that these programs work, and as a responsible society, we must continue to fully fund and support these sensible and much-needed interventions. Staffers got a good sense of how these programs operate, why they make sense and their place in the critical mission of ending homelessness among our nation’s heroes.
The Alliance will be busy this month up on Capitol Hill with three different congressional briefings with which we’re involved. These briefings are intended to give Members of Congress and their staff details on key programs working to end homelessness as well as an overview of the solutions for certain subpopulations. Briefings are an opportunity to showcase successful programs for all Members of Congress as well as an opportunity for consumers to share the personal impact that programs funded by Congress have.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll be covering in our briefings this May:
- Homeless LGBTQ Youth. A briefing on May 10 will cover LGBTQ youth homelessness and what we need to do to prevent and end homelessness for this vulnerable population. The briefing will feature Cyndi Lauper from the True Colors Fund, André Wade, Youth Policy Analyst here at the Alliance, Debbie Shore from Sasha Bruce Youthwork and others. The panel will be focused on the experiences of LGBTQ homeless youth, the FY 2013 RHYA appropriations ask, advocacy for the addition of a non-discrimination clause into RHYA, as well as the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act that was introduced last year by Senator John Kerry.
- Rapid Re-Housing. A May 17 briefing, organized by the Alliance, will discuss the success of rapid re-housing in helping families transition quickly out of shelter and back into housing. The goal of the briefing is to impart the positive impact rapid re-housing is having on the lives of children and families and why we need more to end homelessness in the United States. The briefing will explore the positive outcomes rapid re-housing models are having on program outcomes, family well-being, cost-savings, and more. The briefing will feature Nan Roman of the Alliance, Nan Stoops of the Washington Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Matt Minkevitch of Salt Lake City’s Road Home, and others.
- Veteran Homelessness. On May 23, the Alliance is co-hosting, with a number of partners, a briefing on homelessness among veterans. Speakers, which will include veteran service providers, policymakers, and advocates, will explore programs such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and the joint HUD-VA Supportive Housing voucher program (HUD-VASH) in further detail. The briefing is designed to show the positive outcomes, good policy, and sensible investments that are being made to meet the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness within five years through practice implementation and proper targeting.
As you can see, we have a full slate, but we need your help making sure these key messages get across to Members and their staff. As a constituent, it would be fantastic if you could take a moment to invite your Member of Congress and/or his/her staff to attend one (or all!) of these briefings. To find out more details on these briefings and who to invite/how to invite them, please contact Kate Seif at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned to the blog on May 11, May 18, and May 25 to hear more about these briefings!