After countless failed attempts by Congress and the Administration to reach a compromise on the so-called "fiscal cliff" throughout December, on Tuesday, January 1, Congress was able to pass a bipartisan bill that averted or postponed a majority of the provisions and events comprising the fiscal cliff. The bill, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (HR 8), was signed into law by the President early this morning.
While portions of the fiscal cliff were averted, the bill failed to replace the across-the-board cuts to domestic and defense spending, known as sequestration, with alternative deficit reduction measures. The deal averted the cuts for approximately 2 months, moving the sequester back to March 1, with the hope that the 113th Congress can strike an alternative deficit reduction deal by then. If the sequester had gone into effect yesterday, the Alliance estimates that ultimate cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants would result in 145,000 people homeless instead of housed.
The postponed sequester, should it take place on March 1, will be slightly less damaging than in its original form; however, it would still include significant cuts to HUD programs, including many housing and homeless assistance programs. The cuts would also have a more immediate impact on programs like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing. In addition, HR 8 decreases spending for fiscal year (FY) 2013 by $2 billion, which will likely result in further reductions to HUD funding within the finalized FY 2013 funding bills.
As a result, HUD programs, and many others within the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Justice (and more) will see significant funding cuts. These cuts will ultimately result in significant service reductions across the country. We must act to protect funding for these programs as Congress continues its discussions around federal funding in the coming weeks.
Here's what you can do:
Call your Senators and Representative(s) and ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues. You can find their number by calling the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Ask them to urge congressional leaders to provide funding increases for homeless assistance and affordable housing programs in the final FY 2013 funding legislation.
The final FY 2013 funding bill should include at least $2.145 billion for McKinney-Vento programs and $127 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs. For a full list of funding levels for which the Alliance is advocating, please click here.
Let us know if you have any questions and/or which office(s) you contacted!
HR 8 prevents tax rates from increasing on the vast majority of Americans through making temporary tax reductions permanent, while raising income tax rates for higher-income individuals by allowing tax reductions for those wealthy individuals and households to expire. The bill also includes numerous other benefit- and tax-related provisions. Those that are most likely to impact low-income Americans include a one-year extension of: the Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits; temporary tax credits; and the Medicaid "doc fix," which provides higher reimbursement rates for physicians under the Medicaid program.
With many fiscal issues left to be resolved in the next three months, we must make sure that Members of Congress know the importance of fully-funding homeless assistance and affordable housing programs to their constituents. Let Congress know NOW that spending cuts to and insufficient funding for programs targeted toward the most vulnerable members of our society are simply unacceptable.