After a long and contentious process, Congress has finally passed a budget for fiscal year 2011. HUD’s homeless assistance grants, will receive a $40 million increase, which is a much smaller increase than we were hoping for, but not as bad as some of the worst-case scenarios that were possible. What does that mean for HEARTH Act implementation?
The short answer is that it means new funding for prevention and rapid re-housing programs, but little to implement changes to the Continuum of Care program.
While the overall increase was $40 million, Congress chose to increase funding for the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) by $65 million. The HEARTH Act changes the ESG program to include both the traditional shelter activities, which ESG has always funded, and also the prevention and rapid re-housing activities of HPRP. The $65 million increase will go almost entirely to prevention and rapid re-housing. For most jurisdictions receiving ESG, this will mean an increase of about 35 percent. While it will certainly not replace all of the funding provided by HPRP, it will help sustain some of these programs.
For the Continuum of Care program, things are more complicated. The HEARTH Act combines the Supportive Housing Program, Shelter Plus Care, and Moderate Rehabilitation/Single Room Occupancy programs into a single Continuum of Care program that still funds all of the eligible activities of the previous programs. The amount provided by Congress is enough to fund all renewals, but little will be left for new projects or to implement many of the HEARTH Act’s other changes, and HUD will have to make some hard decisions.
For the first time in many years, the focus will not be on new CoC projects. Instead it will be on setting up ESG to be a regular source of funding for prevention and rapid re-housing, and on deciding whether and how to reallocate CoC resources to higher priority activities.