Advocacy Update: Quarterly Report - Shutdown Update

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Advocacy Update | October 9, 2013

 

National Alliance to End Homelessness - Advocacy Update
October 9, 2013

Quarterly Report: Announcements and Recap 

This Quarterly Report includes a preview of key upcoming activities for advocates through September, as well as a review of major developments from the last quarter. Specifically, this issue reviews:

  • The federal government shutdown;       
  • Capitol Hill Day 2013;   
  • State advocacy issues survey; and
  • Advocacy Success example from the field.  
Federal Government Shutdown: What It Means for Homeless Assistance Programs
 
The federal government shutdown, which began on October 1 as a result of Congress's inability to agree to a stopgap funding measure (also known as a continuing resolution or CR), has already significantly decreased the capacity of many federally-funded programs due to the furlough of most federal employees.  

  

For now, the immediate impact of the shutdown on homeless assistance programs has been and is expected to continue to be relatively minimal. This is largely because HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program is still spending funds from fiscal year (FY) 2013. In fact, Continuums of Care within the Homeless Assistance Grants are still spending FY 2012 funds; therefore, funding lapses in FY 2014 spending (the shutdown) will not impact these programs in the short-term. Homeless assistance programs are also considered to be "essential" programs to protect against imminent threats to the safety of human life. As a result, these programs are exempted from the shutdown and key staff will remain on the federal payroll. For more information on the immediate impact of the shutdown on homeless assistance programs, please click here.

Although the immediate impact of the shutdown on homeless assistance programs is minimal, any future budget deal around FY 2014 funding will have a significant impact on these programs. When the federal government reaches its legal debt limit on October 17, it is possible that a large budget deal including FY 2014 funding will be made as part of an agreement around raising the nation's debt ceiling.

No matter how and when a final budget deal is struck, it is important that Members of Congress know that increased funding for HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants must be included in any funding package. Therefore, it is critical that throughout this shutdown and until a final FY 2014 budget is released, we ensure that the issue of homelessness remains on our Members' radars amid larger budgetary considerations and partisan politics. Take this opportunity to reach out to your Members' offices and remind them that they cannot balance the budget on the backs of our nation's most vulnerable people.

More Information
Congress ultimately could not come to an agreement on a CR prior to the beginning of FY 2014 on October 1 due to disagreements around implementation and funding for the Affordable Care Act. These differences still remain, with House Republicans insisting on modifications and Senate Democrats refusing any such changes.

The shutdown is expected to have minor immediate impacts on other low-income housing programs within HUD. Funding for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers is expected to remain secure; however, a final budget for FY 2014 must include an increase for this program, and must be passed prior to mid-November to ensure that the program is able to continue operating. Funding for Public Housing should remain secure at least through December.

Targeted homeless assistance programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs will remain in operation as VA programs operate on advanced funding. Individual entitlement programs such as Social Security, SSDI, Medicaid, and SNAP are mandatory spending programs and are unaffected for the time being.

HUD's contingency plan for the shutdown can be found here. The Alliance's blog on the shutdown and its impact can be found here.  
 
Capitol Hill Day 2013: Review and Summary
 
The Alliance hosted its annual Capitol Hill Day this summer on July 24 in Washington, DC in conjunction with the National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Capitol Hill Day brought together service providers and local, state, and national officials and stakeholders to educate congressional offices about issues related to preventing and ending homelessness.

We are pleased to report that this year's Capitol Hill Day was yet another record-breaking monumental success! Over 418 participants went on an unprecedented over 300 meetings to congressional offices representing 45 different states. Participants met with an impressive number of Members who sit on key committees such as the House and Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee and a variety of other key committees. Participants discussed a variety of topics in these meetings, about which more information can be found here.

The full results of these visits will become more visible in the upcoming months once FY 2014 federal funding is finalized. We can be certain, though, that the issue of homelessness was elevated in these congressional offices and many relationships with these offices were begun or strengthened during these visits. These bonds will create better dialogue between congressional offices and their constituents and enhance future education efforts which will serve to benefit homeless assistance programs in the future. Further details on the efforts of Capitol hill Day, including the topics discussed, key congressional offices visited, and more, can be found in the full report.
 
Advocates Call for More State Commitments to Homeless Programs  
Homeless advocates are setting their strategies for state budgeting and legislative sessions in 2014. In the Alliance's recent survey of state issues, top priority areas for next year include:
  • Supportive housing programs in state mental health systems; and
  • State funding for rapid re-housing strategies.  

This year's survey - the Alliance's second annual - garnered 151 responses from 36 states, a large increase over last year's response rates. Homeless advocates who took the survey are seasoned partners in state efforts - 73 percent said they are involved with statewide coalitions. Smaller percentages, however, have had recent contacts with state legislators and governors' staff - 64 and 47 percent respectively.  

 

According to the survey, other key state issues are Medicaid coverage for behavioral health and making sure vulnerable people enroll in the benefits for which they are eligible, such as Medicaid. The focus was exclusively on funding, however. A majority of respondents called for improved coordination among state agencies that serve people experiencing homelessness. 

 

The Alliance will continue its efforts to support homeless advocates seeking to make an impact in their states by providing information on key issues and advocacy tools that can be adapted in state and local settings. Check out the new State Policy Solutions section of our website.  

 

Your feedback on what is happening in your state is much appreciated! Stay in touch via cseif@naeh.org or healthcare@naeh.org.  

Advocacy Success: Sequestration Roundtable   

As a new feature of the Quarterly Advocacy Report, we will be featuring a community that successfully undertook advocacy efforts in the previous quarter. The aim of this section will be to highlight excellence in advocacy and encourage communities to adapt similar approaches and actions.  

 

For our first "Advocacy Success," we will be highlighting a "sequestration roundtable" hosted by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and featuring Sen. Chris Murphy. The purpose of the roundtable was to highlight some of the devastating effects of sequestration on consumers accessing low-income housing and homelessness programs.  

 

The roundtable was particularly effective in that CCEH ensured there would be media coverage and featured clients from their homeless assistance system (consumers), who can be particularly impactful and persuading about homelessness assistance programs and their ability to change lives.  

 

While Sen. Murphy has long been a vocal supporter of repealing sequestration, inviting him to the roundtable ensured that he continued his advocacy against sequestration by highlighting sequestration's impacts on homeless assistance programs in particular, and ensured him that he had support from his constituents backing those efforts.  

 

CCEH's advocacy efforts included a site visit, consumer involvement, discussion around a timely federal issue, and follow up with other elected officials around sequestration's impacts. This site visit/roundtable discussion was a great way to get the community engaged in the issue of homelessness and particularly the impacts of sequestration. Other communities are strongly encouraged to follow CCEH's lead and host your Members for a discussion or tour of your program to ensure they understand the importance of homeless assistance in their community and the deleterious impacts funding cuts are having.  

 

If you or your organization has recently completed successful advocacy efforts and would like to be featured in our next "Advocacy Success" story - email Kate at cseif@naeh.org!   

TOOLKIT
 
Lowdown on the Shutdown

Hill Day Report and Summary

State Policy Solutions

Achieving Effective Site Visits
 
BUILDING
POLITICAL WILL
The Alliance works collaboratively with its local, state, and national partners to advance policies and programs that prevent and end homelessness.
CONTACT US

Kate Seif 
Policy Outreach Coordinator 
 
 
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