Advocacy and Action Alerts

28th June
2012
written by Kate Seif

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!

21st June
2012
written by Kate Seif

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!

7th June
2012
written by Kate Seif

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.

However…

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.

 

31st May
2012
written by Amanda Benton

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!

The House has not yet released its FY 2013 HUD funding bill, though it is expected to do so shortly. (Sign up for our McKinney-Vento Campaign list or our Advocacy Updates for the latest details!)

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.

16th May
2012
written by Kate Seif

When our blog readers think of Washington, DC, they often think of politics (and politicians, of course), soaring monuments, and hopefully, the Alliance’s advocacy efforts.  But in all seriousness, coming to our nation’s capital is a great opportunity to learn what’s happening with federal policy and to make an impact on it.  We talked last week about how to participate in Capitol Hill Day, but our National Conference on Ending Homelessness also offers a great opportunity to learn more about federal policy and advocacy, including messaging and how-tos.

This year, we’ve got a great track of workshops for anyone who wants to better hone their advocacy skills, for seasoned advocates, for Capitol Hill Day participants, or for folks who are just curious.  Here’s a basic overview of some of the great advocacy workshops we’re planning:

  1. Building a Systems Change Movement: Engaging Local Leaders – This workshop will provide attendees with concrete examples and how tips for getting your local community leaders (elected officials or otherwise) to work together to support and affect positive systems change.
  2. Impacting Policy: Making the Most of your Advocacy Meetings – Ideal for Capitol Hill Day participants, this workshop will cover the nitty-gritty of conducting a meeting with your Member of Congress or their staff.  The lessons imparted will also translate to local and state policymakers or other key stakeholder meetings.
  3. The Federal Budget: Update and Impact on Ending Homelessness – There have been many changes to federal funding and the funding process this year, and these changes may have a big impact on key programs working to end homelessness.  This workshop will give you an update and provide an outlook on what’s next for Congress, and what it means for our nation’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness.
  4. Impacting Policy: Developing Effective Advocacy Messaging – Getting the right message for the right audience is a key aspect to effective advocacy. This workshop will offer participants successful strategies for developing a policy agenda and what messages work best for key policymakers.
  5. Election 2012: Engaging Consumers, Candidates, and Your Community – the election season will be in full swing following our conference. Elections offer a great opportunity to get involved in the political process and ensure that candidates are aware of the issue of homelessness in their communities.  This workshop will provide ways in which nonprofits can get involved in the election cycle, the importance of doing so, and legal limitations.

These workshops are all scheduled during different slots so you can attend all of them (and we of course encourage you to do so!) For more information on our conference and what you can expect there, check out some of the other recent and upcoming blog posts.

If you have any questions about how to get involved in advocacy at our conference or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

10th May
2012
written by Kate Seif

Capitol Hill Day is held every year in conjunction with the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Homelessness here in Washington, DC every July.  It allows conference participants to take the opportunity to take advantage of their time in the nation’s capital to meet with their U.S. Senators and Representatives and their staff.  Last year, participants attended nearly 270 meetings with congressional offices from 42 states! Face-to-face time with Members of Congress and their staff is one of the most important ways to take part in federal advocacy by educating Members and describing what’s happening on the ground back in their districts.  These meetings are a critical component to your work in ending homelessness.

By participating in these meetings, you can work to build or establish relationships with the congressional offices, educate your Members on your progress in preventing and ending homelessness at home, and encourage them to support your work.

So how can you get involved?  The first step is to register for our conference, if you haven’t already done so! Early registration closes on May 30, so register now to receive the best rates!  For a closer look at what we’ll be covering at the conference, check out the website or our recent blogs. After registering for the conference, get in touch with your State Captain.  State Captains take the lead in each state scheduling the meetings, coordinating participants, and ensuring the right policy priorities are covered in each meeting. To find your State Captain, click here.

The Alliance works to make your participation in Capitol Hill Day as easy as possible – all you need to do is show up and share your knowledge!  We’ll provide talking points, one-pagers, other information on our policy priorities, and the latest updates from Capitol Hill.  We’ll even provide directions to the Hill! The best part is that Capitol Hill Day doesn’t interfere with the conference! You can participate in all the great workshops and still go to the Hill on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 18. And the Alliance will be there to help you out every step of the way – you can find us at any time throughout the conference for assistance.

It couldn’t be easier! Capitol Hill Day is an ideal time for conference participants to share what they have learned from their on-the-ground experience and at the conference with their Members in order to impact federal policy. It’s up to us to work together to ensure Congress provides the necessary resources to continue preventing and ending homelessness in our communities.  We look forward to seeing you in July!

If your state does not have a State Captain, and you would like to volunteer as one, or for more information on Capitol Hill Day, please contact me, Kate Seif (202-942-8281, cseif@naeh.org).

3rd May
2012
written by Kate Seif

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 cseif@naeh.org.

Stay tuned to the blog on May 11, May 18, and May 25 to hear more about these briefings!

27th April
2012
written by Andre Wade

Do you know the number of homeless youth in your county or city? Communities across the nation have been conducting targeted youth counts, which the Alliance has gathered and placed on its new Youth Count media map and webpage to answer that question. The map will show you which communities have conducted counts, their results and a brief synopsis of the methodology used. Also, you’ll find a link to the full report to read in its entirety. We hope that this map will encourage your community to conduct a targeted youth count that can be used to inform policy and the scaling of interventions.

We also want to provide resources to communities to help them to either improve their counts or to conduct initial counts of homeless youth. Therefore, you will find resources on our new webpage such as webinars, briefs and a toolkit about counting youth.

There’s a lot more that needs to be done to be able to solve the issue of youth homelessness. What can you do? What can you encourage others to do?

What you can do:

  • Form a committee to find out how youth can be targeted during your community’s next Point-In-Time count.
  • Get involved in your community’s bi-annual Point-In-Time Counts as a youth advocate and/or provider.
  • If you are already counting youth, re-visit your methodology and practices to make room for improvements.

What the Administration can do:

  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and HUD should work together to make the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) the sole database for all homeless providers.
  • HUD should align HMIS’s reporting on age with HUD’s definition of youth, which is between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • HUD ought to have HMIS collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of age.
  • Additionally, HUD should include in HMIS any additional information that HHS identifies is necessary to be in alignment with its runaway and homeless youth outcomes such as grade completion at entrance, length of stay in foster care and juvenile justice, and physical and mental health status.
  • HHS should produce the national prevalence and incidence study of homeless youth.

What Congress can do:

  • Congress should fund the prevalence and incidence study that was mandated in the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008, which reauthorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA).

If you would like to submit a report of your community’s targeted youth count to be added to the map, please feel free to contact me, André C. Wade at awade@naeh.org.

25th April
2012
written by Kate Seif

We often write about the appropriations process on this blog, and we try to avoid using too much jargon. But when discussing the federal funding process, it’s hard to avoid using at least a few  terms that don’t come up in normal everyday conversation (unless, of course, you work with us).  They include “appropriations” – a formal word for “funding” – and “mark up” – the process whereby a committee  amends and votes on legislation.  And finally, there are “allocations,” which, to add further confusion, come in both 302(a) and 302(b) varieties.  This blog will hopefully clarify both of those terms and provide a little insight into why these references to an obscure part of the federal budget code matter to your efforts to prevent and end homelessness.

The 302(a) allocation is pretty easy – it’s the amount the House and Senate  say the Appropriations Committees have to spend on all federal “discretionary” programs (see this old blog for more info on discretionary spending), which includes pretty much every single homeless and affordable housing program. The 302(a) can vary between the House and Senate, as it does this year, depending on each chamber’s priorities for federal spending.

Each Appropriations Committee (one in the House and one in the Senate) then divides the single, large 302(a) allocation (to give you a sense of the size, it was $1.043 trillion last year) into twelve pots – one for each of the appropriations subcommittees. The amount that each subcommittee gets …drumroll, please…is called the 302(b) allocation (Whew! We finally got there).

Not every subcommittee gets the same 302(b) allocation. For example, the Defense Subcommittee tends to get the biggest 302(b) allocation, while the Legislative Branch Subcommittee’s allocation is comparatively tiny.

These allocations matter because they are then split up again, into specific programs. The 302(b) ultimately determines how much each federal department can spend on the various programs under its control. For HUD, this means programs like McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and Housing Choice Vouchers; for VA, it includes SSVF and GPD; for HHS, this includes programs like SAMHSA Homeless Services, RHYA, and so on.

This year, the Senate and House released the following allocations:

Subcommittee House Senate
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (T-HUD) $51.606 billion $53.438 billion
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (Milcon-VA) $71.747 billion $72.241 billion
Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS) $150.002 billion $157.722 billion

Lower allocations in the House compared to the Senate likely indicate that many programs will receive less funding under the House’s proposal than the Senate’s. The higher the allocation is for each subcommittee compared to the previous year, the more likely individual programs like HUD McKinney-Vento are to receive increases, which is why we made a big push last month to increase the T-HUD 302(b) allocation. It’s worth noting that the levels vary so much between each subcommittee due to the varying size of the departments and agencies each subcommittee oversees.

So, the more we can increase the allocation for each subcommittee, the more likely we can achieve increased funding levels for key affordable housing and homelessness programs – and the more people you can serve in order to make further progress ending homelessness.

19th April
2012
written by Amanda Benton

This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to approve its fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bill for programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). And the highlights are pretty exciting.

First and foremost, we at the Alliance were happy to see that the bill includes a $245 million increase to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants – the largest one-year increase in nearly 20 years! According to our estimates, the McKinney-Vento funding level of $2.15 billion would fund all renewals and provide $286 million for the new Emergency Solutions Grant program. It’s still about $80 million less than the level proposed by the President, so we hope you’ll work with us to thank your senators but urge them to work throughout the rest of the annual funding process to provide the full increase requested by the President.

The draft legislation also includes funding increases or maintains flat funding for many critical affordable housing programs, including:

  • $19.4 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, including $75 million for approximately 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers;
  • $9.6 billion to renew all Section 8 project-based contracts for a full 12 months;
  • $4.6 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, an increase of $629 million from FY 2012;
  • $1 billion for HOME, which represents flat funding from FY 2012; and
  • $3.1 billion for the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), an increase of $152 million over FY 2012.

These proposed funding increases will go a long way toward keeping or placing many low-income families and individuals in affordable housing and preventing or ending their homelessness. However, this proposal comes as many communities are seeing an increased demand for homeless assistance resources, even as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) is set to expire. Given the tight budgetary constraints facing the Appropriations Committee, we were glad to see that the Committee emphasized the importance of affordable housing and homelessness programs, though additional resources are still needed for many of these key programs.

So, where does this leave us? The truth is that this is just one step in a long process before final legislation is produced and sent to President Obama for his signature – probably after the election. First, the full Senate is likely to vote on this legislation, and the House is expected to release its own proposal later this spring.

These proposed increases are the result of your weeks of hard work; we truly could not have seen such an impact without your efforts. Help us make these proposals a reality! You can still impact the process by making calls and sending letters.  For details on how to get involved, email Kate Seif at cseif@naeh.org or check out our FY 2013 McKinney Campaign Page.

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