HUD

16th July
2012
written by Norm Suchar

Just in time for our conference, HUD has published an interim rule for the new Continuum of Care program (CoC program). The regulations follow the HEARTH Act closely, so if you’ve read any of our material about the changes made by the HEARTH Act, you already know much of the story. However, there are a few new and interesting things.

First of all, the regulations provide a little more detail on what will be expected with coordinated assessment systems. Your CoC will have to develop a process that assesses people’s need for housing and services. There are numerous ways HUD will allow you to structure a coordinated assessment system, including having one centralized location where the assessments take place, using a 2-1-1 based system, or having multiple entry points. In addition to conducting the assessment, CoCs will have to have uniform process for evaluating eligibility for different types of assistance for determining how people will be prioritized for different types of assistance. We discuss a lot of these issues in our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit.

There are now two types of permanent housing–permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing. Permanent supportive will generally look and function as it does currently, however, there are a several changes. The match will be 25 percent cash or in-kind as it will be for all activities except for leasing, which has no match requirement. Projects will be allowed to get funding for rental assistance and services in the same grant. There are also numerous other changes to the development process, including the removal of the cap on how much can be used for capital expenses. Although many CoCs have used SHP grants to create rapid re-housing programs, the new CoC program will make that process much more simple and straightforward. Rapid re-housing funded through the CoC  program looks a lot like the rapid re-housing provided through the new Emergency Solutions Grant. I expect that a few existing transitional housing providers who utilize a transition in place model will find that their programs align better with a permanent housing-rapid re-housing grant.

There will now be funding available for planning and administration of the CoC. In most cases, it will be up to three percent of a CoCs final pro-rata need. For CoCs that decide to consolidate all of their grants into one, up to six percent will be available. Just because the regulations allow it doesn’t necessarily mean that Congress will provide enough funding to ensure that everybody gets the full amount, but this is a very welcome change. Along with this funding, HUD will be expecting a more formal structure for CoCs, including a formal board, and CoCs will have up to two years to establish a board if they haven’t already. In traveling to communities around the country, I have continually been reminded of how important good management and planning are to homeless assistance.

One of the things that wasn’t included in the interim regulation that we’ll see later on is more detail about performance measures and expectations. While the expected outcomes are defined in the HEARTH Act, the details about how the measures work will come later.

The regulations will go into effect 30 days from when they are published in the Federal Register, which should happen in the next few days. Nevertheless, there is still an opportunity to comment, and HUD frequently makes changes based on comments. The Alliance will develop comments, and I would encourage everybody who’s interested to do so as well. They make a big difference

Overall, these regulations are very good and fill in a lot of the important details for implementing the HEARTH Act. We’ll have more detailed analyses in the days and weeks to come.

 

10th July
2012
written by Lisa Stand

What does the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act mean for communities poised to use new Medicaid funding to bolster their homeless assistance? First and foremost, communities have to engage more intensively with the state policymaking process – this, actually, was true before the ACA ruling came down. And it will be true no matter what the results of elections in November.

Since the decision, we now know that Medicaid will not expand nationally to cover virtually all uninsured people who earn less than $15,000. Therefore, the presumption no longer holds that virtually all people experiencing chronic homelessness will be able to enroll in Medicaid beginning in 2014. But states do have the option to expand in 2014, taking advantage of substantial federal Medicaid subsidies to do so. The ACA cannot require states to expand their programs, but still offers to pay them 90-100% of the cost of covering all uninsured adult citizens who earn around $15,000 or less annually.

Access to health care services – including behavioral health and recovery support – can be a key part of successful housing outcomes for the 107,000 people who experience chronic homelessness on any given night. Without funding for health care, many communities struggle for sustainable solutions – specifically, adequate permanent supportive housing (PSH), which is proven effective to address chronic homelessness. Since Congress passed the ACA in 2010, homeless assistance systems have anticipated the Medicaid expansion – to help individuals and to enhance safety net capacity.

Full Medicaid coverage will not be a “given” in every state. The Supreme Court ruling means additional challenges for the national agenda to end chronic homelessness by 2015. According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, 60 percent of the nation’s chronically homeless population is concentrated in six states – California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New York and Texas.  Four of these – California, Florida, Georgia and Texas – were projected to have the highest increases in Medicaid enrollment as a result of the ACA. Only two, New York and California, have indicated an intention to move forward with Medicaid expansion.

To see what might happen in your state, this map and this map from Think Progress are handy starting places.  A note of caution: There are many unknowns about how this part of ACA implementation will actually unfold. To name a few:

  • How many states will take up the expansion, despite what their governors said in the wake of the Supreme Court decision?
  • In the states that do expand, what services and supports will be covered?
  • Will ACA implementation really take place as soon as 2014?
  • Can a state opt in after 2014?

While these and other questions are sorted out, it is more important than ever for homeless advocates to inform state leaders and community partners in the full debate about health care priorities. The necessary policy choices to support communities will be steps that integrate housing, health care, and behavior health/recovery resources at the community level.

  • For chronically homeless populations, permanent housing is the first prescription, with person-centered services and supports to stabilize housing.
  • Opting into the ACA Medicaid expansion will bring federal resources directly to these vulnerable individuals – who otherwise are among the highest users of state and local safety net resources.
  • Failing to opt in means continued pressure on the capacity of state mental health programs and public safety operations.

Further, a number of promising Medicaid provisions remain in effect, including those meant to improve community supports for especially vulnerable enrollees, including those who are eligible because of a qualifying disability. These options were designed to be targeted to those most in need, and they tend to be less politicized. One example is the Medicaid health home. This optional benefit for people with severe mental illness (and other chronic conditions) pays for broadly-defined service coordination.

Several states, including New York, Missouri, Oregon and Rhode Island, have already opted to set up health homes. States can also offer home and community based services (HCBS) without applying for a federal waiver. In a recent proposed rule, Medicaid officials indicated that permanent support housing qualifies as a “community setting” for HCBS. Homeless advocates can join forces with advocates for older and disabled people, to press for their states to adopt these options in a way that adds to the capacity of homeless assistance.

Many states and communities have already embraced health care reform since the ACA passed in 2010. Often, homeless advocates have been at the table with Medicaid leaders, forging new strategies to integrate housing solutions with health care services to address chronic homelessness. The Alliance is paying close attention to successful new approaches and emerging best practices, especially in supportive housing. Speakers with hands-on experience and up-to-date policy knowledge will present on these topics at the July 16-18 National Conference on Ending Homelessness in Washington, DC.

2nd July
2012
written by Kate Seif

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!

Along with our conference prep, we’ve been busy with appropriations, capacity building, and much more. In case you missed anything, here’s a breakdown of what we worked on in June:

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!

 

19th June
2012
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Christian Brandt, Federal Policy Intern for the Alliance.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of sitting in on a meeting for the Research Council, a group comprised of prominent researchers in the areas of homelessness and housing from around the country. The Council meets to gather and share their new information and recent research activities, propose new research to fill existing gaps, and guide the agenda of the Homelessness Research Institute, the research division of the Alliance.  At the end of most meetings some kind of research agenda is prepared from the meeting’s conversation.  This time the Council was visited by several researchers from HUD who were able to listen and respond to the suggestions that the researchers made.  Besides being among greats within the homelessness and housing sphere, it was really cool to be able to see how the Alliance sets its research agenda and interacts with agencies like HUD.

The meeting covered a vast swath of topics, from youth homelessness, to child welfare and housing instability, to homelessness among veterans and single men. The conversation was a whirlwind of acronyms, abbreviations, and statistics, most of which went way over my head, but all of which are extremely important to know and definitely expanded my understanding of all things related to homelessness. Many of the ideas that the Council discussed have been questions that researchers have been trying to answer for years but have not been able to definitively address for one reason or another, so it was interesting to hear it all in one place!

Though the conversation was rife with interesting facts and research, perhaps the most interesting was about the “Cohort Effect” among the aging homeless population.  Within the shelter system, the population is heavily skewed toward single adults, particularly older men, with the median age hovering around 50. The Cohort Effect suggests that during the 1980s, when widespread homelessness appeared in the US in its current form, several factors—such as an economic recession and the emergence of crack cocaine—led to persistent and chronic homelessness among the single adults.  Isolation from the job market during the recession followed by the drug epidemic in the mid-80s conspired to keep this cohort out of the housing market and legal economy.  This is especially interesting because of the implications this effect has for providing health care to an aging homeless population.

The two most dominant ideas, both of which ended up being placed on the research agenda and suggested to the visiting HUD researchers involved using the pre-existing social system to analyze the efficacy of several programs.  The first suggested using the structure of the emergency shelter system to see if the levels of alcohol consumption or intoxication allowed in a shelter (e.g. whether that shelter is dry, damp, or wet) affects how utilized that shelter is.

The second idea suggested using the Family Unification Program (FUP) to look at how the program’s voucher could be better utilized for children who receive FUP support.  In addition to those two ideas, suggestions about researching the success rates of rapid re-housing, particularly about recidivism rates of individuals leaving rapid re-housing programs, made up the bulk of the research agenda suggestions.

At the end of the day my head was spinning and I left the meeting with the same feeling that exchange students have after their first day speaking their new language: I could understand everything that was being said to me, but responding was another issue altogether.  Even though the meeting was like diving headfirst into a pool without really knowing how to swim, I learned more about the American social service system in one day than I have in any research setting prior and I felt like I had accomplished something.  I’m really excited to keep having this feeling throughout my internship (especially the part about feeling accomplished; there’s nothing like a good ego boost every once in a while!).

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14th June
2012
written by Steve Berg

Originally only in the wonky DC-based policy blogs, but increasingly also in the mainstream media, the phrase “fiscal cliff” has been appearing. It describes a number of simultaneous events scheduled for the beginning of 2013 that together would disrupt the federal budget, cutting federal spending and raising taxes in an unprecedented and clumsy manner. What does it mean, in general and for homelessness in particular? This blog will attempt to answer that question.

To start, with the way things usually go in the mainstream media, you can virtually count on the phrase “fiscal cliff” soon being abbreviated by writers, so I’ll get that over with by coining the word “FisCliff” right here. FisCliff consists of at least the following, all happening around the beginning of next year:

  • Domestic and military spending for nonexempt discretionary programs is cut across the board under the “sequestration” provision of the Budget Control Act;
  • Emergency unemployment insurance for long-term unemployed people expires;
  • The “Bush tax cuts” (since extended under President Obama) expire;
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax is applied to households with lower incomes than those who must pay it currently;
  • Monthly payroll taxes go back up to their usual levels;
  • Miscellaneous other tax breaks worth $65 billion per year expire;
  • Temporary increases in Medicare payments to doctors expire; and
  • The limit on the federal debt is reached again, as it was last summer, requiring another expansion.

All of this adds up to $483 billion in revenue increases and spending cuts in one year. This is big-time deficit reduction, but done in a way that’s not necessarily very intelligent. The most relevant example is that sequestration cuts high-priority, extremely effective programs (like homelessness programs!) by exactly the same percentage as lower-priority, inefficient programs.

Probably the biggest single negative impact on homelessness, however, is likely to be the impact on a fragile economy. Economists largely agree that raising taxes and reducing spending that much in one year would make joblessness substantially worse – people would have less money to spend, so businesses would have fewer customers and would lay people off. High unemployment over the past several years has sent millions of people to shelters. More unemployment means more bad news for homeless assistance systems.

As noted before, spending cuts under sequestration would negatively impact homelessness programs.  The exact impact is still unclear because Congress has not yet passed final fiscal year 2013 spending levels, but we believe a likely estimate is that about 150,000 people would be homeless instead of housed, just from the impact on the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and the Continuum of Care (CoC) programs. The large antipoverty entitlement programs like SSI, TANF, and SNAP are exempt, as are all VA programs for veterans – there is still an open question, to be resolved by the White House, whether the HUD rent vouchers under the HUD-VASH program are exempt.  Otherwise, all HUD programs are subject to the across-the-board cuts of sequestration.

One thing to remember about FisCliff is that the word “cliff” probably implies a suddenness of impact that will not be evident. Tax cuts and spending increases would go into effect over time. HUD’s Homeless Assistance programs are one example. Reductions in ESG would take place when contracts for 2013 are signed, which occurs in different places over the course of the year. For the CoC programs, the impact would not be felt until the 2013 awards are distributed in early 2014.

In other words, if Congress meets after the election, in a so-called “lame duck session,” and can’t pass a reasonable alternative to FisCliff by January 1, they should keep working!

And what will a “reasonable alternative” look like? For those concerned about homelessness and similar issues, key criteria are:

  • First, do no harm to the economy, particularly employment at the low end of the job market. With HPRP running out, the fight to end homelessness will get a lot harder if joblessness gets worse.
  • Protect the poorest Americans. So far, the biggest antipoverty programs are exempt from sequestration, with the notable and unfortunate exception of HUD housing programs.
  • Resist further cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. This is actually the focus of a new national “coalition of coalitions” that had its first meeting last week – for more information click here. This coalition is circulating an organizational sign-on letter, and the Alliance encourages you to join by next Friday, June 22.
  • Prioritize what works.  Across-the-board cuts almost always represent bad, lazy policymaking. Congress has the ability to figure out which programs really work, and it is irresponsible to act otherwise.

As you can see, FisCliff would greatly harm our efforts to end homelessness, so we must educate Congress on these impacts. As a result, advocates from across the country will educate their Members of Congress about these very issues during Capitol Hill Day 2012, held in conjunction with the Alliance’s annual National Conference on Ending Homelessness in July in Washington, DC. For more information or to get involved in Capitol Hill Day, contact Kate Seif.

 

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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.

30th April
2012
written by Sam Batko

On Thursday, April 26, the U.S. Senate voted to pass S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 in a vote of 68 to 31.  This reauthorization, sponsored by Senator Leahy from Vermont and co-sponsored by 61 bipartisan Members of the Senate, has stronger language to help protect LGBT, tribal, and immigrant survivors which gained the bill its 31 “nays” in the Senate and fairly wide media attention.

Perhaps of more importance in the field of homelessness assistance is another provision of the bill, it would provide particular protections for survivors in a variety of HUD programs.  Current law provides survivors with protections from eviction and the opportunity to transfer in Section 8 and Public Housing.  This reauthorization bill would extend those protections to a variety of other HUD programs, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant, Sections 202 and 811, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, among others.  And, if transfer is not possible, it requires HUD to establish a policy for how a survivor can access a Section 8 voucher instead.

VAWA was first passed in 1994 and since then has created a number of successful programs to help protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  One of those programs, the Office of Violence Against Women’s (OVW) Transitional Housing Grants administered by the Department of Justice helps survivors leave abusers and access safe housing with voluntary support services to help the survivor and their family stabilize in housing.  Providers who implement these programs often utilize a transition in place model that provides survivors with the security of permanent housing and a lease in their own name.

Now that the bill has passed in the Senate, it will be taken up in the House where there are three versions of a reauthorization bill introduced all of which have been referred to committee.  A mark-up is scheduled for May 8 for the bill sponsored by Congresswoman Adams (R-FL) which is similar to a Republican alternative to the Leahy bill (S. 1925) that just passed in the Senate.

23rd April
2012
written by Amanda Benton

Last week, I attended a conference in Columbus put on by the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO). The program included a wide slate of workshops on topics like diversion and coordinated intake, along with an entire set of workshops devoted to advocacy (including a session led by yours truly on how to engage one’s congressional delegation).

Perhaps what struck me most was the keynote address given Tuesday morning by Mark Johnston, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs Assistance Programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although it might not be immediately clear from his extremely long title, Mr. Johnston plays a critical role at HUD: he oversees the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants programs, among others. He is one of the most important people at HUD advancing the effort to prevent and end homelessness.

He spent much of his keynote address explaining why, despite a grim budget outlook for HUD programs over the next few years, he is still confident that we can meet the goals laid out in the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, including ending chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015. Mr. Johnston made it clear to conference attendees that it won’t be easy, and we will have to make tough decisions and use every dollar wisely, but he believes we can truly end homelessness.

In his remarks, Mr. Johnston explained why the tight fiscal constraints mean we as participants in the movement to end homelessness need to carefully weigh each and every program and ensure that we are using precious resources as efficiently as possible. He emphasized the need to reallocate our resources, when need be, toward programs that have the best outcomes for the lowest costs. He specifically mentioned the fact that research on homelessness prevention is not yet quite strong enough to accurately predict who will become homeless, whereas we know that rapid re-housing is an extremely effective, and inexpensive, intervention. He shared that most communities are seeing that 85-95% of people served by rapid re-housing remain housed a year or two later. Given limited resources, he encouraged communities to prioritize investment of their limited Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) resources in rapid re-housing over prevention.

Throughout the remainder of the conference, I heard numerous presenters and attendees speaking to the fact that they had come to the same conclusion in their own communities. Based on lessons from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), these communities, like many others, intend to spend the vast majority of their new ESG funds on rapid re-housing.

Hearing from Mr. Johnston and these leaders and practitioners from across Ohio, I found the conference extremely inspiring. Communities are not only fighting hard against funding reductions, they also recognize that people experiencing homelessness are depending on us to make the most we can out of the resources that are available.  These communities are taking the opportunity to reexamine their homeless assistance systems, ensuring they are squeezing the most out of every last dollar so we continue making progress toward our goal of ending homelessness once and for all.

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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.

22nd March
2012
written by Amanda Benton

As you may have seen, the House released a budget plan this week that shrinks the deficit, cuts taxes, and reduces spending on social programs. What you may not have realized, however, is how much this plan would affect the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding process for key programs for homeless and at-risk people, including HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and homeless veteran programs.

This plan – officially called a “budget resolution” – is a regular and important part of the federal budget process. It is not law but sets out Congress’ budgetary plans for the year. The most important aspect of the budget resolution is that it lays out the overall amount of funding that will be available to the Appropriations Committee for its annual funding bills. This overall amount is then eventually split up among countless federal programs, including homeless assistance programs.

In theory, the House and Senate should agree on a budget resolution by April 15 of each year. This often does not happen, though. In fact, the Senate does not plan to pass a budget resolution at all this year, since last year’s big debt deal included an agreement about how much funding would be available to the Appropriations Committee this year.

However, the House still plans to pass a budget resolution this year – one that goes beyond last year’s agreement in cutting overall funding for the annual funding bills. The budget resolution released earlier this week includes 2 percent, or $19 billion, less overall for the Appropriations Committee this year than Congress agreed to in the debt deal. The House budget resolution will disproportionately draw those cuts from domestic spending (which include key safety net and affordable housing programs) instead of from defense spending.

The end result of all of this is that the House will be writing annual funding bills that spend less money overall than the Senate’s bills do – especially for domestic programs. This, in turn, will affect how much each program is able to receive in the two chambers’ versions of the bills. And it will make final negotiations between the House and Senate for compromise funding levels a bit more complicated.

We do know one thing for sure, though: Despite the differences in the House and Senate, the Appropriations Committees are expected to move more quickly than usual and release and vote on these bills as soon as next month – which means we need your help right away!

It’s incredibly important to get involved in our FY 2013 McKinney, RHYA, and veterans advocacy campaigns – and the sooner, the better! Members of Congress are starting to make funding decisions, and we want to make sure that ending homelessness is a priority for them.

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