How Would the President Fund Homeless Assistance in 2014?

written by naehblog
April 11, 2013

The President’s budget proposal, released Wednesday, provides a detailed look at this Administration’s spending priorities for the next year and beyond. Right now you can find all kinds of commentary on the proposed budget, in terms of both policy and politics, about the big picture and larger items like tax and spending policies aimed at reducing the long-term federal deficit, as well as concessions by the President to Republicans in the form of proposals to reduce spending on middle-class benefit programs.

Today, however, I want to go over a few specific items, much smaller in scale, that would have an impact on homelessness.

One important piece of background information that’s important to keep in mind: This budget proposal is based on certain assumptions about how much money overall will be available for HUD programs. While those assumptions are certainly reasonable, not all members of Congress agree on them. The President’s budget is always “just a proposal.” This year there is more uncertainty than usual, but there is a greater need for Congress to enact it.

HUD’s homeless assistance programs
As has been the case in both the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration, the president’s budget proposes an increase in these programs. The increase this time would be $452 million to $2.381 billion. HUD’s homelessness programs are, in nearly every community, an important tool for reducing homelessness. HUD’s push to make these programs more effective and efficient has consistently convinced budget people in the White House to increase proposed spending for these programs. The proposed increase, beyond what’s necessary to continue funding existing grants, is targeted toward rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing.

The budget proposes funding at HUD for rent subsidies and at VA for case management for another 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers. The goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015 appears well within reach. The request to expand HUD-VASH builds on a great record of success so far.

Other Section 8 and Public Housing
A priority for HUD is to continue housing people who are already receiving housing assistance from these large programs. Many communities have looked to turnover in these programs as a source of housing for homeless people, a tool that will be unavailable in most places due to the “sequestration” spending cuts in the fiscal year 2013 spending legislation recently passed by Congress. The proposed funding levels would undo the devastating effects of sequestration on the low-income, vulnerable people who have relied on these programs.

VA homeless programs
The budget includes increases to VA homeless programs, in addition to HUD-VASH, to keep the country on track with the goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

HHS and other homeless programs
The budget proposes funding several smaller homelessness programs at HHS, DoE, and DoL, for the most part, at their FY 2012 levels, undoing the effects of the sequestration cuts in FY 2013.

National Housing Trust Fund
The Budget proposes spending $1 billion for housing through the National Housing Trust Fund. This spending is outside of the appropriation process and would require separate legislation.

As I’ve already noted, the President’s budget is a proposal, not the law. Final decisions about spending are made by Congress, where people have their own ideas about priorities. It will be up to advocates to persuade Congress that, even if overall funding is scarcer than the President assumes, the increases to HUD homeless assistance and HUD-VASH are priorities that must be maintained.

Most people reading this blog are well aware of two things: The number of people experiencing homelessness, 633,782 on any given night in the United States, is unacceptable; and the community-based efforts to end homelessness will make extremely good use of HUD funds to improve that situation and make all our communities better in the process.

The release of the President’s budget, for us at the Alliance, marks the start of the appropriations advocacy season. The people making the decisions in Congress are often not as aware as they should be of the realities of homelessness and the solutions that are available. Readers who want to help improve their understanding should be in touch with our grassroots mobilizing team, Kate Seif and Julie Klein.