Today’s post comes to us from Sam Strike, Alliance policy fellow.
Last month, Congress passed major deficit reduction legislation. Known as the Budget Control Act of 2011, this legislation created what they called a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—more commonly referred to as the “Super-Committee.” This Committee is tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction, which could have a huge impact on ending homelessness. So it is vital to the homeless assistance community to ensure that these cuts don’t hurt our nation’s most vulnerable people.
Rather, the Super-Committee can continue the federal government’s long-standing, bipartisan commitment to ending homelessness by:
- Preventing further cuts in discretionary spending for affordable housing and targeted homelessness programs;
- Protecting Medicaid access to help reach the federal government’s long-standing goal of ending chronic homelessness; and
- Preserving low-income, safety net programs through a balanced approach to deficit reduction.
Members of Congress should be aware that slashing the budgets of programs working to end homelessness would be counter-productive. Stable housing helps people get back on their feet more quickly – avoiding the slog of extended stays in publically-funded shelters and social service programs. If these housing-centered programs are cut from the federal budget, the burden will just be shifted to state and local governments who will foot the bill of providing emergency shelters, local social service programs, mental health facilities, and emergency room visits by people who cannot afford them. The best way to end homelessness is to provide housing first. It’s the housing that will serve as the foundation necessary to promote self-sufficiency and independence.
We must make sure that those members of the Super-Committee understand the following, as they continue their work on deficit reduction:
- Homeless assistance programs are a very small part of the federal budget and are critical to the many Americans struggling to find affordable housing;
- Targeted homelessness assistance programs help people stabilize in housing, gain independence, re-enter the workforce, and create more opportunities for their children; and
- Key safety net programs like TANF and SSI provide income, employment, and other supports to low-income people, play a key role in efforts to prevent and end homelessness for the most vulnerable Americans.
So what can you do?
The Alliance has developed a policy brief providing recommendations to the Super-Committee and outlining the impact on homelessness should the Super-Committee process fail to produce the necessary savings. If your Member sits on the Super-Committee, call their office to request that he/she continues to support the federal government’s commitment to ending homelessness. Use the Alliance’s talking points or email Kate Seif if you have any questions.
The Super-Committee has until November 23 to release its proposal, and Congress must vote on the proposal by December 23. Now is the time to impact these decisions. Now is the time to act.