What’s Happening with HUD Funding?

written by Julie Klein
August 12, 2013

Now that Members of Congress are back in their districts for recess and the chatter has died down a bit, you may be wondering what the funding status for homeless assistance programs is for Fiscal Year 2014. Short answer: neither chamber of congress has brought key funding bills to a vote yet.

When Congress returns from recess in September, they will either need to pass the funding bills in the mere nine legislative days they will have prior to the start of the next fiscal year on October 1, or pass a continuing resolution (CR), a stopgap funding measure that would fund programs at their current, post-sequestration levels until a larger budget agreement is reached. If Congress fails to take either of these actions, a government shutdown will result.

Long answer: Well, it’s a little complicated.

If you keep up with the latest policy developments with our Advocacy Updates or if you attended our 2013 National Conference, you’ve probably already heard the buzz about the fiscal year (FY) 2014 funding bills for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (also known as T-HUD). You may be asking yourself: What are these bills that go by this strange name? Why were they such a hot topic of conversation? What was the big fuss about certain amendments?

The T-HUD (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) funding bill provides funding levels each fiscal year for programs within HUD, including virtually all homeless assistance and affordable housing programs. This year, politicos watched the Senate and House versions of the T-HUD bill closely, because they were the first of the 12 appropriations bills to make it to the Senate floor. The hope was that the bill could pass on a bipartisan basis in each chamber and serve as a litmus test for passage of the other 11 FY 2014 appropriations bills via the regular appropriations process.

On Tuesday, July 23, things got off to a bright start the day prior to the Alliance’s Capitol Hill Day 2013, when the Senate voted (73-26) for cloture to bring the Senate’s T-HUD bill to the floor for consideration with strong bipartisan support.

This was great news for homeless advocates, since the Senate’s version of the T-HUD bill included $2.26 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program – a funding level that’s $172 million above the amount included in the House’s version of the bill and represents a 19 percent increase above the current post-sequestration FY 2013 level. Although, it’s less than the $2.381 billion proposed by the President.

We anticipated that roughly the same number of Senators who initially voted for cloture to limit the debate on the bill would later support cloture to end the debate, which would allow the chamber to proceed to a final vote on the bill. But things did not go as expected. Consideration of the Senate T-HUD bill stalled for quite a bit while the chamber considered other legislation and federal appointments.

Then, on Tuesday, July 30, the House began to consider its own version of the T-HUD bill. However, as it became clear that enough Members felt that the cuts to programs under the bill’s low spending levels were too deep for the bill to pass, House leadership pulled its own bill from consideration on Wednesday, July 31.

This prompted Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to state “[w]ith this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago. Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: Sequestration — and it’s unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”

In many ways, the failure of the House version of the bill was a victory for advocates and a testament to the great work advocates have done to demonstrate the impacts budget cuts are having on local programs. However, the decision to pull the bill came at extremely unfortunate timing.

The next day, Thursday, August 1, the Senate resumed its consideration of the legislation. However, due to the failure of the House bill, pressure from Republican leadership to oppose the Senate bill quickly increased, resulting in all but one lone Republican voting in opposition of cloture that would have ended debate on the bill and allowed it to proceed for a final vote. Therefore, the legislation was blocked from passing shortly before Members of Congress headed home to their respective districts the following afternoon for the August recess.

Although this sudden change of spirit was a major letdown, a series of harmful amendments filed to the Senate T-HUD bill, including one that would have prohibited Continuums of Care (CoCs) from using federal funding sources to meet their matching requirements, failed along with the bill. Although these amendments could still be taken up in the future, they are no longer an immediate concern.

So, at this point in the process, what are the best next steps advocates can take to elevate the issue of homelessness as a priority on your Members of Congress’ radars? The August recess provides an ideal opportunity to host your Members of Congress for site visits of homeless assistance programs and show them the great work you are doing on the ground.

These visits will help to give a face to the issue of homelessness in your district and highlight the need for and effectiveness of your programs. If you need help reaching out to your Members of Congress about this, or would like to sign up to receive our Advocacy Updates that will keep you updated on similar future opportunities to impact the legislative process, please don’t hesitate to contact Kate Seif (cseif@naeh.org) or myself (jklein@naeh.org).