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In case you missed it: for our second installment of the “monthly wrap,” we’ll examine some of the things the Alliance did in April. Here are the big things:
- A big release from the Capacity Building Team – the “Prevention and Diversion Toolkit” (a companion to the Coordinated Assessment Toolkit released last month) is designed to support communities as they plan, develop, and implement a solid program to prevent homelessness. It has tools your community can adapt, webinars, briefs, and much more to help create an integrated “front door” for your system. If you have tools you’d like to add, email Kim, our Capacity Building Associate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Our new Youth Counts Map has so far been a hit! Until we have a solid picture of the number and type of youth experiencing homelessness in America, it will be difficult to implement and bring proven solutions to scale. The Alliance is encouraging communities that have conducted dedicated counts of youth experiencing homelessness in their community (or have made a concerted effort to include youth in the annual/biannual HUD-mandated point-in-time counts) to let us know! We’d love to include you on our map – just email André Wade, Youth Policy Analyst here at the Alliance with what your community has done. Good data is the first step in addressing the issue of ending youth homelessness!
- Our National Conference on Ending Homelessness is just around the corner! We opened registration and released the tentative agenda for our annual conference here in Washington, DC from July 16-18, 2012. In conjunction with the conference, we will continue to hold Capitol Hill Day (more information coming soon!). Register early to receive the discounted rate!
Some more resources on ending youth homelessness – our LGBTQ National Policy Statement and brief on using RHYA to end LGBTQ youth homelessness. A disproportionate number of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. The policy statement and RHYA brief work to address the root causes of LGBTQ homelessness, such as family and community acceptance, and discuss ways in which we can move forward to help stably house this vulnerable population.
And finally, some big news from Capitol Hill! The Senate Appropriations Committee released its draft proposal for HUD funding for fiscal year (FY) 2013 and many housing and homeless programs fared quite well. In fact, the Senate included a proposed $245 million increase for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants – the largest increase in nearly 20 years! While this level is still about $80 million below the amount requested by the President in his Budget Proposal, by our estimates, this is still enough to fund all renewals and provide $286 million for the new Emergency Solutions Grant program.
That’s a wrap! Stay tuned in May for more information on our July conference, some important congressional briefings, more Field Notes, and much more!
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:
|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.
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 email@example.com or check out our FY 2013 McKinney Campaign Page.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution on a largely partisan vote. Many people are asking what the impact of this “Ryan budget” (named after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the author) will be and what it means, so I’ll supply a brief explanation here. As Amanda blogged about on March 22, a budget resolution sets the general outlines for Congress’s work on the budget for the year.
The House’s budget resolution, H.Con.Res. 112, would cut federal spending by about $5 trillion total over the next ten years, compared to the already-low spending levels in last year’s big debt deal – the Budget Control Act of 2011. (To put this in context, federal spending totaled just under $3.6 trillion in 2011.) Where would it get those savings?
For the 2013 fiscal year, discretionary spending – which is all of the spending decided annually by the Appropriations Committees – would be reduced even further than in the first round of cuts under the Budget Control Act, by about 2 additional percent to $1.028 trillion – and that entire additional cut could come from domestic programs, with no further cuts to military spending. If enacted, this would put further downward pressure on funding for discretionary spending programs, including all targeted homelessness programs and virtually all HUD programs.
Entitlement programs like Medicaid are not considered discretionary spending (it’s referred to as “mandatory” spending); they, however, would also be reduced under the House budget resolution through a separate process. In the longer run, spending reductions would be even more extreme. These cuts in lifeline programs are coupled with large reductions in taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
So, that’s what the Ryan budget includes – but what will the impact be?
The first important thing to know about the House budget resolution is that, as a comprehensive plan for federal revenue and spending, it is going nowhere. At least, not this year. The Senate leadership and the President have repeatedly said that they will agree to budget changes to address long-term federal deficits in a manner that is “balanced” between revenue increases and spending cuts from both domestic programs and the military. Although the budget resolution itself does not require the President’s signature, the changes it proposes would all require separate legislation to actually go into effect: appropriations bills, changes in the tax code, and overhauls of entitlement programs – none of which the Senate or President will agree to at this point.
The second important thing about the House budget resolution, however, is that one provision could have a real impact right away: its overall limit on discretionary spending will apparently be used by the House Appropriations Committee as it produces the House version of FY 2013 spending bills this spring. The Senate, on the other hand, will produce bills based on the higher limit agreed to in the Budget Control Act, setting up a conflict between the two chambers. Conventional wisdom says that when the two chambers meet to work out final agreements, the totals will come out to the higher levels used by the Senate. This, however, remains to be seen – the House could insist on the lower levels, bringing either additional cuts or a government shutdown when the fiscal year starts on October 1.
The third important thing to know is that the House budget resolution represents a school of thought calling for immense change in the role of the federal government. Its long-term vision is of a federal government that does little other than run retirement and healthcare programs and the military. In the long run, there is no room in this budget for HUD, or for any federal response to homelessness, inadequate housing, or poverty. That a majority of the House of Representatives is willing to endorse such a vision is a new phenomenon in our lifetime. It ignores, among other things, the effective, important work that is being done on homelessness by using federal funds to get excellent results for the most impoverished people in our country.
Image courtesy of 401K.
The results are in… and you did GREAT!
We are so impressed with all the advocacy efforts we’ve seen over the last few weeks that we wanted to take our weekly blog post opportunity to say “thank you!” In February, following the release of the President’s Budget Proposal, the Alliance called on all of you to write as many letters as possible to your Members of Congress urging them to support the President’s request for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. We set the goal of sending 500 letters and you blew it out of the water! In about a month, you were able to send at least 613 letters!! That’s 23% more than our goal – incredible!
During that time, two congressional sign-on letters circulated, one in the House and one in the Senate, about the importance of funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs. The House letter, circulated by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI), called for funding McKinney-Vento at $2.231 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013, as requested by the President. This letter received a very impressive 65 signatures! That beats all the similar letters from 2010 and 2011! The Senate letter, calling for robust funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs in FY 2013, received 28 signatures!
As you can tell, our partners did an incredible job on McKinney-Vento advocacy. But we’re not done bragging about you yet! A third letter circulating in the House called for $75 million to fund approximately 10,000 new HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers in FY 2013. This letter received another impressive 64 signatures from representatives in a very short period of time.
In addition to these signatures, you got many Members to weigh in separately and directly with their colleagues on the Appropriations Committee about the importance of providing increased funding for these and other key homelessness programs. All in all, we sent a loud and clear message to Congress – these programs serve the most vulnerable in a cost-effective or –efficient way. And more importantly, they work!
So what happens next? As is always the case in Congress, you can never know for sure. But here’s what we think will happen: The House and Senate will each decide very soon how much overall money the HUD Appropriations Subcommittee (in charge of funding for HUD programs) will have to spend. Once that number is decided, they will move pretty quickly to divide that amount up among each HUD program. They’re expected to begin releasing and voting on bills as soon as next month in the Senate and possibly shortly afterward in the House. As you can see, decisions are being made now! It’s important to keep up our involvement and advocacy during these key decision-making times. Work with us in the coming weeks to keep breaking records, and to keep up the fantastic showing we’ve seen from all of you for these key programs! On behalf of the entire team here at the Alliance, we just want to say THANK YOU for all of your help so far – now let’s keep our momentum going!
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.
It has been two years since passage of the Affordable Care Act. Next week, key parts of the ACA will be debated in Supreme Court oral arguments. The nine Justices will hear from lawyers on both sides – those who are challenging and those who are defending the law. Yet it could be several months (at least) before we know how the highest court in the land decides.
Whatever happens, there is no denying that the ACA has been helping people, as we noted in our March 6 blog. As we also noted, some of the ACA’s greatest promises are still unfolding for the nation’s most vulnerable people who still lack health care coverage. The Medicaid expansion, for instance, will not take effect until January 1, 2014 – assuming this part of the law is upheld by the Supreme Court. Even so, progress is being made.
For this week’s ACA blog, the Alliance asked some of our national partners how they view the impact of the ACA. Here’s what we heard:
From Barbara DiPietro of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council:
“Homelessness is hazardous to your health. Poor health causes homelessness, and in many cases, the experience of homelessness creates new health care conditions and exacerbates existing ones. It is very difficult to become stable in employment or housing when there are untreated health care conditions.
Under the ACA, serving the most vulnerable homeless people will require more capacity in community health centers, especially Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) projects, as the graph below indicates. Nationally, there are currently 1,130 health center grantees that saw 20 million patients in 2010. Of these, 223 are HCH grantees, which saw 805,000 individuals.”
The ACA allocates $11 billion over 5 years to health centers, with a goal of doubling the patients seen by 2015 to 40 million people. Unfortunately, to date, Congressional appropriations have not fulfilled these goals. For fiscal year 2011, there was no increase. In fiscal year 2012, there was a $200 million increase.
Using the modest increases to date, HRSA has issued 67 new access point grants that would create new sites for patients to access—16 of these were specifically to HCH grantees. In total, these new access grants will facilitate service capacity for an estimated 262,000 new patients, most are very low income.
As the ACA is implemented, the need for health center investments intensifies. If we can’t expand capacity, those with Medicaid cards won’t have a timely and reliable place to call their health care home. The ACA not only helps people access health insurance, but it also facilitates a growth in non-profit, privately administered, community health care services. Health centers directly employ 130,000 people, but there are many, many indirect jobs as well (contractors who clean buildings, provide maintenance, do contractual services, etc.). In this way, the ACA health center investments help further two national goals: grow health care capacity and increase employment rates at the local level.
From Peggy Bailey at the Corporation for Supportive Housing:
“Years of living on the streets often leave people battling chronic medical conditions. When they find a home in supportive housing, they can need significant health care service–beyond those available in standard medical benefit packages. Health reform gives states the opportunity to provide comprehensive and integrated benefits to their most vulnerable citizens, giving them access to the breadth of services they need. Thanks to the Affordable Care act, hundreds of homeless people who previously had no health insurance are now Medicaid eligible in DC, CT, MN and WA. That’s progress that improves lives while helping service providers lower uncompensated care costs.”
From Andrew Sperling at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
“One of the four issues that the US Supreme Court will consider next week when it takes up the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act is whether or not it is within Congress’s limited powers to require states to expand Medicaid eligibility up to 138Q% of the federal poverty level. This expansion of Medicaid eligibility is a critical provision for homeless individuals living with serious mental illness. Once Medicaid expansion becomes effective in 2014, in most states these individuals will no longer have to meet the very high eligibility standard for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in order to qualify for Medicaid.” (NAMI recently signed onto a “Friend of the Court” brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold lower court rulings rejecting challenges to the Medicaid expansion. You can view this brief online. )
If the Court upholds these rulings and allows Medicaid expansion to go forward in 2014, NAMI, NAEH and our allies will face a new challenge – convincing states to include appropriate benefits in the “benchmark” plans that will be made available to this new “expansion population” in Medicaid. For example, it will be critical for these plans to include intensive case management services (including assertive community treatment) and services in supportive housing to ensure that the complex needs of single individuals with mental illness and a history of chronic homelessness are met.
Thanks from the Alliance to Barbara, Peggy, and Andrew – for your thoughts on the ACA and for being great partners, with your organizations, in ending homelessness! Please visit their websites and ours to learn more about how health care reform can change the way you work to end homelessness in your community.
For information about advocating for affordable, high-quality health care in general, you might visit Families USA and Health Care for America Now. To find out about the ACA in your state, check out these resources from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing called, “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans: VA’s Progress on its 5 Year Plan.” The hearing examined the progress the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made on its plan to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) took the opportunity to highlight the challenges facing female veterans in particular, who are a growing subpopulation among homeless veterans.
The hearing included testimony from veterans on their own experiences transitioning into civilian life, as well as testimony from VA officials discussing the various challenges and opportunities that are likely to arise as we move forward to end veteran homelessness.
In recent years, veteran homelessness has become a focal point for policymakers in the broader fight to prevent and end homelessness in America. In response, we’ve seen increased resources for homeless veteran programs, increased interagency collaboration and involvement from regional VA offices and VA medical centers, and widespread implementation of proven practices, such as permanent supportive housing supported by the joint Department of Housing and Urban Development –VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers.
As a result, we’ve seen real progress in reducing veteran homelessness!
In February, the President included $1.35 billion in funding for homeless veteran programs in his Budget Proposal for fiscal year 2013 –a remarkable 33 percent increase! While his proposal is just a suggestion (Congress will need to make a final decision), there’s been significant movement around providing increased funding for veterans programs in Congress, particularly HUD-VASH vouchers.
Just this week, there are two Dear Colleague letters being circulated, one in the House and one in the Senate, in support of providing robust funding for HUD-VASH vouchers. The House letter closes today, but it’s already received approximately 45 signatures – an impressive feat in this difficult funding environment.
There’s been significant progress, but we still need your help! We need to make sure that as many senators as possible sign on to the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Senators Jack Reed (D – RI), Olympia Snowe (R – ME), and Charles Schumer (D – NY) in support of robust funding for HUD-VASH and for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which served more than 12,000 homeless veterans in 2010.
Reach out to your senators’ offices by March 20 and encourage them to sign on! On March 20, the letter will be sent to the leaders of the Appropriations Committee, who are making the ultimate decisions on funding levels for programs like HUD-VASH vouchers. The more support from they see for funding for homeless veteran programs from their colleagues, the more likely they are to provide increased resources.
If the District’s 70+ degree weather today is any indication, it’s spring time here in our nation’s capital, and that means two things: the Cherry Blossoms are about to bloom and appropriations season is in full swing!
In addition to writing letters to your senators and representatives urging them to submit their funding priorities to the Appropriations Committees, there are currently two Dear Colleague letters circulating in the House supporting increased HUD McKinney-Vento and HUD-VASH funding.
Dear Colleague letters, also known as “sign-on letters,” are usually sponsored by one to three Members of Congress and contain a message for specific people in Congress – in this case, the sign-on letter is addressed to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee or an Appropriations Subcommittee. The letters asks to increase or maintain funding levels for specific programs for the upcoming fiscal year. The sponsors circulate the letter among their colleagues in either the House or Senate (in this case, both letters are in the House) to gather signatures.
The first letter is being circulated by Rep. Gwen Moore’s office in support of providing the $2.321 billion requested by the President for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants for fiscal year (FY) 2013.
The second letter is being circulated by Reps. Al Green, Mike Michaud, and Michael Grimm in support of providing $75 million for new HUD – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers in FY 2013. The President also requested $75 million for the vouchers, which will provide approximately 10,000 new vouchers for homeless veterans.
Dear Colleague letters are an easy way for a Member to show support and convey that support to their colleagues and constituents. The sign-on letters are also a great opportunity to connect with your Members’ offices!
If you would like to see your representative’s name on either of these letters supporting increased funding for homeless veterans and the nation’s most vulnerable people, reach out to them! Let the offices know that the letters are being circulated and that you, as their constituent, would like to see them sign on! View the HUD-VASH or McKinney letters on our website for more talking points, sample letters, and instructions on how your representative can show their support! Then be sure to let us know who you contacted!
What can be done now to improve the experiences of unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth? The question is an important one given the lack of new resources dedicated to federal appropriations of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. In fact funding decreased from $116 million to $115 million dollars while unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth continue to be in need of more shelter, housing, and services.
But there are still ways to help. Among them:
Increase family intervention efforts. Research shows that most youth who runaway return home and youth who maintain contact with their family fare better than those who do not. By implementing family intervention strategies we can tap into built-in support network and housing resources and avoid sending youth into the system. While doing this, providers should continue to assess the appropriateness and safety of a youth returning home to his or her family.
Decrease barriers. Youth who are most in need may present with the most challenging behaviors. Targeting those most in need and ensuring that they have the ability to access services can lead to a decrease in the number of youth experiencing homelessness.
Decrease involuntary exits. Decreasing involuntary exits will increase youth’s access to an array of supportive services. These youth might otherwise be at greater risk of becoming disconnected when told to leave a program. To prevent involuntary exits, service providers can provide youth support during their lowest and most vulnerable moments.
Improve data on youth. To effectively solve youth homelessness, we first need to understand the scope of the problem. We need to know the number of homeless youth, how long they have been away from home, services they’ve accessed while on their own, their age, gender, race, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Communities can improve their counts of homeless youth during point-in-time counts or by conducting youth-specific counts and /or surveys. Also, programmatic data can be improved by de-duplicating the tally of youth served in drop-in centers and transitional housing programs.