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.