The U.S. Senate may vote as early as today on the fiscal year (FY) 2012 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill which has been combined with similar bills for the Commerce, Justice, and Science as well as Agriculture bills (into what they’re calling a “minibus” bill).
In the bill, S. 1596, the subcommittee calls for $1.9 billion dollars to be allocated to the homeless assistance grants – which is level funding as compared to last year. Unfortunately, this is simply not enough to fully fund the programs necessary to make substantial progress towards ending homelessness. Specifically, $1.9 billion is inadequate to fully implement the HEARTH Act, which was passed in 2009 and would modernize and streamline the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants.
As our colleagues at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition point out, there are other worrisome provisions in the bill. The bill would underfund tenant-based rental assistance, underfund the project based rental assistance contracts, and cut the public housing capital fund.
The Obama Administration also weighed in on the bills, specifically urging the Senate to provide additional funds for Homeless Assistance Grants and pointing out that resources are necessary to implement the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness.
Congress has expressed a bipartisan commitment to ensuring that deficit reduction efforts do not happen on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans, but many affordable housing programs have nonetheless seen dramatic cuts. These federal reductions, especially when coupled with shrinking state and local budgets, will further swell the number of people experiencing and at risk of homelessness – making it all the more necessary to provide additional resources to homeless assistance programs.
Abandoning our responsibility to the health and welfare of our lowest-income friends and neighbors is not the right way to balance our budget. Moreover, the Homeless Assistance Grants are a federal program that has shown measurable success; we’ve seen that investing in housing-based solutions, we can end homelessness for people and families. The Alliance joins the Administration in urging the Senate to invest fully in the Homeless Assistance Grants.
And you can too! Call your Member of Congress and urge them to support the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and our collective effort to end homelessness in America.