16th February
written by Amanda Benton

On Monday, the Administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2013 Budget Proposal. This is the start of the Alliance’s advocacy season and we’re excited by some of the numbers! This year is a great time to start getting involved with advocating for homeless assistance programs – join us today!

If you’re wondering what the President’s Budget Proposal is – and why it’s important –  you’re not alone. This big document is released every year by the Administration in early February . It officially kicks off the federal budget process for the upcoming fiscal year, which will start on October 1.

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed why this proposal matters. The President’s budget Proposal is not law. It’s meant to serve as a guide for Congress as it makes its own decisions about appropriations and the federal budget.

The President’s FY 2013 Budget Proposal includes suggested funding levels for many key programs targeted toward low-income or homeless people. This year, we at the Alliance were really excited to see some impressive increases proposed to homeless assistance programs:

These increases of about $330 million to VA’s homelessness programs and HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs each (not to mention funding for additional HUD-VASH vouchers) are a clear sign of the Administration’s commitment to implementing the HEARTH Act and the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness – even in a time of extremely tight budgeting.

The Budget Proposal also included flat funding (the same as in FY 2012) for countless other federal programs, including many that are important to homeless and at-risk people:

In addition, it proposed some cuts to key programs, including Project-Based Rental Assistance, Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Section 811, and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.  For more details on the Administration’s proposed funding levels, click here.

So, what happens next? Congress has already begun to hold hearings on the Budget Proposal, and soon they’ll start to craft their own proposals. The Alliance is planning to launch major advocacy campaigns around several high-priority funding issues, including for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs, RHYA programs, and VA’s Zero Homelessness Initiative. If you are interested in participating in any of these campaigns, please contact us!

22nd December
written by Amanda Benton

All year, we’ve been talking on this blog about congressional appropriations. In April, Congress passed its fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill, more than five months into the fiscal year. FY 2012 officially started on October 1, and Congress finalized FY 2012 funding for several departments, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in November. But what about the other government agencies?

Last weekend, Congress passed legislation to finalize all remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills. This included funding for programs within the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, Education, and Veterans Affairs (VA), among many others. The bill includes:
• $115 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs;
• $75 million for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) homeless services programs;
• $65 million for the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program;
• $137 million for Health Care for the Homeless Centers;
• $65 million for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program; and
• $38 million for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), a slight increase over FY 2011.

When we look at both this bill and the one passed in November, we can see that funding for most targeted homeless assistance programs was held flat compared to FY 2011, despite deep cuts to many other federal programs. One notable exception to this was the joint HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which actually received increased resources in FY 2012.

All of this tells us that funding for targeted homeless assistance programs was generally protected or even expanded, even while funding for many other programs was sizably reduced. This is due, in very large part, to the efforts of our partners across the country to ensure that Congress understands the importance and effectiveness of homeless assistance programs in communities. As 2011 and winds to a close and we look toward further efforts in 2012, the Alliance is confident that by working together with our partners, we can continue to advance ending homelessness as a federal priority.

12th December
written by Catherine An

Earlier this month, the Alliance hosted a webinar to review the recently released Emergency Solutions Grant regulations. Below, please find the recording of the webinar. For more information about the regulations, please visit the Alliance website.

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23rd November
written by Steve Berg

The news is out: the “super-committee” was unable to make a deal.  What does that mean, particularly for local communities that are struggling with homelessness?

The super-committee was created by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, the deficit reduction law that Congress passed this past summer.  As a quick review, that law contained two major provisions to reduce federal debt:

  • An overall cap on federal “discretionary” spending (spending that is determined year-by-year through the congressional appropriations process, including virtually all HUD programs and all other targeted homelessness programs), starting in FY 2012. These caps generally keep increases in spending below the expected rate of inflation for the next ten years.
  • Deeper cuts over nine years, beginning in FY 2013, totaling an additional $1.2 trillion in spending reduction.  This second set of cuts could have been avoided had the super-committee proposed and Congress passed legislation to reduce the projected federal debt by $1.2 trillion through other mechanisms.

So with the super-committee process having produced no alternative, the additional $1.2 trillion in cuts is scheduled to take place, beginning in January 2013.  These cuts will come from domestic programs as well as defense and security programs.  They include some “mandatory” (as opposed to “discretionary”) programs but most mandatory programs that affect low-income people are exempt: Medicaid, SSI, Social Security, TANF, SNAP (formerly called food stamps).  All VA programs are exempt from cuts as well.

However, HUD programs, as well as Health Care for the Homeless, SAMHSA homelessness grants, education for homeless children and youth, RHYA programs, and other targeted homelessness programs, are not exempt.

One thing to note – by January 2013, FY 2013 will have already begun, so for that year the Budget Control Act requires a “sequester:” an across the board cut to all non-exempt programs below the level that Congress appropriated for FY 2013. For FYs 2014 to 2021, appropriators will, from the beginning, base their work on the deeper discretionary caps.

To give some idea of the scope, let’s look at the total amounts of federal discretionary spending for a few select years (thanks to OMB Watch for the figures, which are estimates):

2010 — $1.089 trillion (enacted)

2011 — $1.049 trillion (enacted)

2012 — $1.043 trillion (mandated by step 1 of the BCA)

2013 — $953 billion (mandated by step 2 of the BCA)

The cuts beginning in FY 2013 are obviously extreme. Between FY 2012 and FY 2013, discretionary funding will be cut by nearly 9 percent.   If HUD receives a proportionate share of this cut, it means FY 2013 spending on HUD programs would drop by nearly $4 billion, compared to the $1 billion that HUD programs are losing in FY 2012 compared to FY 2011.

Congress and the President, of course, have the authority to throw out the spending caps that were in the BCA or to suspend them in any way they see fit.  This could happen before or immediately after the 2012 election, perhaps as soon as the new Congress comes into office in January 2013.

There is a good deal of talk on Capitol Hill about doing just that, although President Obama is discouraging it.  The second set of BCA cuts was designed as an incentive for the super-committee to come up with an agreement, not necessarily as good policy in its own right. In fact, if the top priority goal of overall domestic policy right now is more jobs, then short-term cuts in federal spending are exactly the wrong thing to do.

But it would probably not be a good idea to count on Congress reversing these cuts.  For some time to come, competition for limited federal discretionary resources will likely be extreme.  On the other hand, “no deal” means the historic Medicaid expansions scheduled for 2014 are still the law, SNAPS and SSI can expand if the number of people in poverty continues to rise, TANF will stay intact, and no harmful changes are planned to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit.  At least that’s the law for now.  Work to end homelessness will need to take account all of these changes, relying less on increases from HUD and more on the large antipoverty entitlement programs.

At the same time, it will be important to make the strongest available case for HUD resources, while getting the most we can out of existing funds.  Together, we will have to focus on efficient and cost-effective solutions, while convincing Congress to prioritize funding for the most vulnerable Americans.

These are things we are more than capable of doing.  The Alliance looks forward to continuing to partner with you to get the best possible results for homeless people.

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22nd November
written by Sam Batko

Continuing our series on homeless youth, today we are going to take a look at the primary federal programs that currently serve this vulnerable population.

The only federal program that is exclusively focused on homeless youth is the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The RHYA program is made up of three components:

  • Street Outreach consists of outreach workers connecting youth living on the street to housing programs, hygiene kits, food, and other necessities; Basic Centers provide short-term (up to 21 days) emergency housing for youth under the age of 18 while working on reunification with their family or finding an alternative long-term housing option; and
  • Transitional Living Programs (TLPs) provide up to 18 months of housing and supportive services youth ages 16 to 21, including youth who are pregnant and/or parenting.  TLPs manifest in a variety of models from congregate facilities to scattered site apartments with flexible rent assistance to host homes where youth live with a volunteer or subsidized family in the community.

While tens of thousands of youth are served annually by the RHYA programs, the need far outweighs the program’s capacity, which means that some homeless youth need to be served by McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For youth ages 18 and older, the McKinney Vento programs are the only federal funding source for emergency housing.  Moreover, many youth, particularly a large number of young parents, are served in transitional housing programs funded through the Continuum of Care grants process, which is also a part of the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs.

Another federal program that serves both unaccompanied homeless youth and homeless youth and children who are still attached to their families is the Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program.  This program provides legal protections for homeless children and youth to remain in their current school when they become homeless, providing stability that supports educational attainment. The EHCY program provides for transportation to and from said school for homeless students.  The program also funds dedicated staff for both local public school districts and in the state department of education so that schools can identify homeless children and youth and refer them and their families to community housing and service resources.

What we know is that, despite all of the great work all of these programs are doing, they do not have the capacity to identify and serve all the homeless youth in the country. We need to scale up our efforts prevent youth homelessness from occurring by supporting families as a whole, address youth homelessness when it occurs with rapid reconnection to family and effective housing options.  Only then will we be able to truly  end youth homelessness.

For more information on federal programs serving homeless youth and program models being implemented with these funds, visit

18th November
written by Steve Berg

Two days ago, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees finished their negotiations and published a final fiscal year 2012 funding bill for HUD, among other agencies.  This is a conference committee report, meaning that it goes for an up-or-down vote in the House and Senate, no amendments allowed.  Every indication is that it will pass Congress and be signed by the President this week.

As we pored through its contents Monday night and Tuesday morning, the bill set off mixed emotions, starting with a letdown that our efforts to get an increase in homeless assistance had not worked but relief that homeless assistance grants had escaped any cuts and that HUD-VASH had been expanded.  This was followed by shock at the extent of the final cuts in some HUD programs and intense frustration with the overall state of federal affordable housing policy.

Here’s our take on what the HUD funding bill means for ending homelessness.

HUD homelessness funding – With the homelessness-specific programs, it’s important to be clear about two things to start:

  • HUD-VASH continues to grow each year, building on unified support.  The bill includes $75 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers, enough to house another 11,500 homeless veterans or more.  Earlier this year, there were serious questions about whether the new Congress would continue to support this program.  These questions have been put to rest, at least for now.
  • In light of what turned out to be substantial cuts in HUD spending, maintaining level funding for homelessness assistance, one of the larger programs at HUD and the one that serves the most politically powerless constituency, is a remarkable achievement.

These results are testament to the hard work of many people, especially our partners all over the country.  After last fall’s election, people embraced the important work of building relationships with decisionmakers who were either new to Congress or new to leadership positions, and convincing them that solutions to homelessness are worth investing in and are in the interests of Republicans and Democrats both.  This work is something to build on next year and in years to come.

At the same time, the economy remains bad, the number of homeless people (especially children) is going up, and the number of people teetering on the brink of homelessness is going up a lot.  Level funding for homeless assistance programs is not enough.   A substantial increase in homelessness remains a grave possibility.   We still have a lot of work to do in order to deal with this threat of increased homelessness at the local and state level and to convince political leaders that they need to be partners in our effort.

HUD Overall – The overall HUD budget did see a cut, for the second year in a row.  In the area of housing, the oft-repeated promise that federal budget problems will not be resolved on the backs of the poor has not been fully borne out.

Although it is too early to tell for sure, one apparent cause for relief is the protection for existing Section 8 vouchers.  Section 8 vouchers are funded at close to full renewal level, and if PHAs with large monetary reserves use some of that money, we may get through the year with the voucher program housing as many people as it does today.  Meanwhile, beside the new HUD-VASH vouchers, there is also some “tenant protection” money to replace demolished public housing.  Funding for PHAs to run the programs, however, remains a concern.

Meanwhile, three large programs were cut severely, accounting for the bulk of the reductions for HUD:

  • CDBG – Cut by over 11 percent, on top of much larger cuts last year, leaving CDBG funding at the lowest level in many years.  Because CDBG largely funds one-time capital costs of new projects, Congress tends to regard it as something that can be reduced in tight budget years.  Unfortunately, though, 20 percent of CDBG funding is used for administration, often paying salaries for city and state government employees who work locally on homelessness.
  • HOME – Cut to $1.0 billion, from $1.6 billion last year and $1.825 billion in FY 2010.  HOME is an important resource for affordable housing development.  This cut will mean less new affordable housing.
  • Public Housing – Cut by over 12 percent from last year. Last year there was also a large cut in public housing capital expenditures, softened by money for public housing in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (commonly referred to as the “stimulus”).  This year, Congress piled on and cut even more, especially for operating expenses.  It is hard to see how PHAs can absorb this cut without maintenance backlogs, more uninhabitable apartments, and fewer people housed.

To be clear, it’s not like there is any other version of a HUD budget that could start with this little money and somehow get substantially better results.  The problem here is bigger, and there are two parts to it:

1) Because of the deficit reduction deal reached earlier this year and the push in the new Congress to cut spending, the overall amount of money in the budget is low; and

2) Within those constraints, housing for low-income people has not turned out to be a high enough priority for many decisionmakers.

The overall budget constraints are expected to be even tighter over the next few years, especially if the super-committee process either fails to produce legislation, or produces legislation that causes further problems for low-income Americans. On the bigger budget issues, it seems clear that Congress will have more to say before anything is finalized for FY 2013.

The probable situation over the next few years, however, is that there will be a whole range of things Congress can no longer afford to do.  In the past, such decisions have been moderated by a determination to pick out some relatively small initiatives and continue to grow those – expanding funding for new permanent supportive housing in 2005 and 2006, while many other programs were being slashed, is an example.

Will Congress abandon efforts to end homelessness?  Or will it pick the initiative back up in the coming years?  The stakes will grow higher as more and more people experience or live in danger of homelessness.

Fortunately, the work our community has already done with the new Congress, and the substantial assets we bring to bear, make this a challenge we can meet.  New decisionmakers are increasingly getting the message that money spent on homelessness produces tangible and profound results, moving toward solutions to a problem that very few people, only a few years ago, thought could be solved.  Our commitment to achieving better results every year, and to sharing those results with the people who make decisions, has given us the ability to generate support for homelessness programs in any political or fiscal environment.  We’ll need to build that support and be more vocal about how other HUD programs contribute to our success.

We’re going through a tough period now, and it will require us, working together, to continue to do remarkable things. But remarkable things are the stock in trade for the community of people around the country working to end homelessness.  At the Alliance, we are proud to be a part of this community and we are confident that together, we will succeed.

15th November
written by Catherine An

This morning, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released new interim regulations for the Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program. Additional fiscal year 2011 ESG allocations (in the amount of $90 million) and the final regulation on the definitions of homelessness were also published.

The new ESG regulations reflect priorities reflected in the HEARTH Act, a bill passed in 2009 intended to modernize and streamline HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs.

The ESG program expands upon the Emergency Shelter Grant, adding homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing as eligible activities under the new Emergency Solutions Grant. The name change, as the HUD points out, is reflective of the new priorities of the program. In addition to  providing street outreach and shelter services, communities can use ESG to fund rapid re-housing and expand homelessness prevention activities. HUD explicitly states their new priorities in developing ESG regulations:

-       Broaden existing emergency shelter and homelessness prevention activities;
-       Emphasize rapid re-housing;
-       Help people quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness.

Other priorities identified by HUD for the new ESG regulations include enhancing alignment of ESG regulations with and implementing lessons learned from HPRP. HUD is also emphasizing the importance of centralized and coordinated assessment.

In a webinar HUD hosted about the new regulations (a repeat webinar about the regulations is slated for Thursday, Nov. 17), the agency outlined the components of the ESG program:

-       Street outreach
-       Emergency shelter
-       Homelessness prevention
-       Rapid Re-housing
-       Homelessness Management Information System
-       Administration

Moving forward, recipients of ESG resources are encouraged to review regulations and coordinate and consult with their CoC to ensure that the new program requirements are met.

The Alliance will host a webinar on Tuesday, November 29 at 1 pm ET to review the regulations. During this webinar, presenters will summarize the interim regulation and its impacts, as well as lessons learned from the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) that can be applied to the new ESG program.

The Alliance will continue to publish explanation and analysis of the new regulations in the following weeks. Please visit the Alliance website regularly for updates and/or sign up for the Alliance newsletter.

Also new: Late last night, the final fiscal year (FY) 2012 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was made public. The bill, H.R. 2112, represents a compromise between the House and Senate versions. H.R. 2112 would also fund the Departments of Transportation, Agriculture, Commerce, and Justice, and related agencies. The legislation would cut about $3.8 billion overall from HUD programs, though it does maintain level funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. We’ll talk about this more on Thursday when Alliance VP [and blog favorite] Steve Berg will have an analysis of the overall bill and its potential impact on homeless assistance programs and people experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness.

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20th October
written by Catherine An

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.

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1st September
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Alliance research associate Pete Witte.

Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the Homelessness Pulse Report: First Quarter, 2011, which attempts to provide a timely sense on how sheltered homelessness is changing in a number of communities. The major findings show that sheltered homelessness increased in three-quarters of the CoCs included in the report, but that the newly sheltered homeless population decreased in greater than half of the CoCs.

But, as is so often the case with data reports, in HUD’s latest homelessness report the devil’s in the details.

First, a little background.

HUD views the purpose of the Pulse Report as twofold: to disseminate data more frequently than the AHAR and to monitor progress against the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.

To this aim, the Pulse Report presents quarterly trends of homelessness data with a view on two data points: (1) estimates of sheltered point-in-time counts (i.e. “Are we ending homelessness?”) and (2) estimates of newly sheltered homeless (i.e. “Are we preventing homelessness?”). These data points are analyzed at quarterly intervals ending with January, 2011 and are also broken into two subpopulations, members of families and individuals (though there are also minimal data on newly sheltered unaccompanied youth). The report provides data from a total of 23 CoCs (representing 361 counties and 422 cities). It’s also worth noting that the participating CoCs are selected because they have a history of quality data.

Now, the details.

When looking at trends for changes over time among any data, two periods within a timeframe are used for gaining a better sense for what’s going on within the data: the prior 3-month period (usually, the prior annual quarter) and the same 3-month period one year ago. With that in mind, the current report does not shed much light on trends in homelessness.

Here’s why:

Again, the major finding in the point-in-time counts of sheltered homelessness is that the population increased in 75 percent of CoCs (between October, 2010 to January, 2011). However, this is probably mostly explained by the fact that shelter populations usually trend upward during this period due to cold weather. The other trend period analyzed is sheltered PIT counts at the 10-month interval, which shows that 75 percent of CoCs experienced an increase in sheltered homelessness (shelter PIT count dates in the Pulse are being realigned to match the January PIT counts so that 12-month intervals will be used in future Pulse Reports beginning with the Fourth Quarter, 2011). But the 10-month trend’s usefulness is minimized by the fact that only four CoCs had data available to analyze for the report.

Among the newly sheltered homeless population findings, there was a decrease in 55 percent of CoCs (when comparing October to December, 2010 with January to March, 2011). The 12-month trend of the newly sheltered homeless population showed that 50 percent of CoCs experienced a decline in population. But, as with the sheltered PIT counts, the longest trend period had analyzed data for only four CoCs.

“So,” you ask, “then what does it all mean?”

“Well,” I finally get to the point and respond, “it means not much.”

At least, as it relates to gaining a greater sense as to the “pulse” of the nation’s homelessness problem, it means not much just yet. The only thing of import that we can definitively say about HUD’s most recently released homeless data report is that sheltered homelessness increases—both overall and among newly homeless populations—during periods of cold weather. But we already knew this to be the case.

Well, we can also definitively say that future Homelessness Pulse Reports will be more informative beginning with the Fourth Quarter 2011 report. The alignment of the shelter PIT counts with the annual January PIT counts and the inclusion of a larger sample of CoCs in this Pulse Report are steps in the right direction. These changes to the Pulse Report will help to shed greater light on how well we are doing with ending and preventing homelessness. But all this is down the road when we are able to look at trends that are not affected by weather or whose impact is minimized by small sample sizes.

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30th August
written by naehblog

A special post today: this is a summary of an email sent out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development announcing that the FY 2011 Notice of Funding Available for Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs is out. For more information, please visit the HUD website.

HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) has published the FY 2011 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs. The CoC NOFA is posted on the Funds Available page of the HUD website. Information is also available on the HUD Homelessness Resource Exchange (HRE) website in the “What’s New” section at the bottom of the page.

Programs included in the CoC NOFA are: the Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation for Single Room Occupancy Program.

The CoC application and the project application are available online through e-snaps. The application submission deadline is Friday, October 28, 2011 at 7:59:59 p.m. ET.

Policy and technical questions for the FY2011 CoC competition should be submitted to the
Virtual Help Desk (VHD) on the HUD HRE website. The VHD accepts question submissions every day all day. However, responses are usually provided between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays.

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