Update and immediate action needed on HUD’s Budget

The following information and request for action is from the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Congress intends to pass a final, fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week or next week. The bill currently includes crucial increases to housing and homeless assistance programs, which have been threatened by the President’s plans to veto the bill due to funding levels which exceed his budget proposal.

As part of a strategy for avoiding a veto, House and Senate leaders have plans to package the 11 unfinished appropriations bills, including the appropriations bill for HUD, into one bill (this is called an omnibus bill.) The bill would split the difference between the conference agreement (agreed upon funding levels between the House and Senate) and what the President has requested. For HUD programs, this would be devastating. Any cuts would mean the actual loss of housing assistance for some people currently being served (more information below.)

Please contact your Senators and Representatives in support of maintaining the highest possible funding level for HUD. More specifically:

Ask the Congressional staff person who works on housing issues to ask their boss to contact the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate/House Appropriations Committee, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, in support of maintaining the highest possible funding level for HUD in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill – any cuts would mean the loss of housing assistance for some people currently being served (below is more information to make your case.)

Describe how people in the Congressman (woman)’s district rely on programs like the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), Section 8 and Homeless Assistance Grants.

This is also a great opportunity to thank House members who voted on November 15 to override the Presidential veto of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill. Click here to see how Representatives voted and look below for more information on the bill. (The three negative votes from New Jersey were Congressmen Scott Garrett, Rodney Frelinghuysen and Jim Saxton. Click here for more details.)

Offices can be reached via the Capitol Switchboard at 1-877-210-5351.

Why is Support from Your Members of Congress Important?

The funding levels in the current HUD appropriations bill barely sustain existing housing for people served by public housing and voucher programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if programs funded by the bill were reduced to the levels the President’s budget calls for, housing vouchers used by 25,000 low-income families in 2007 will receive no renewal funding in 2008. Click here for more information on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ comparison of the conference agreement to the President’s fiscal year 2008 request.

The House and Senate conference agreement currently includes $1.586 billion for McKinney Homeless Assistance Grants, a $144 million increase over fiscal year 2007, and a $25 million set- aside for communities to implement rapid rehousing programs which move families into permanent housing linked to supportive services.

The Alliance estimates that this modest increase for McKinney would be sufficient to continue existing homeless activities and fund fewer than 8,000 new units of permanent supportive housing – well below the pace of new units funded between 2001 and 2004.
The bill also appropriates $135 million for new Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for homeless veterans through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supported Housing program; vouchers targeted to non-elderly, disabled individuals and families; and vouchers for the Family Unification Program (FUP) (Section 8 vouchers available to families who, because of a lack of adequate housing, will be separated from their children.)

See the National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s budget chart for funding levels of other HUD programs in the conference agreement.

More Information about the Status of Appropriations  

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill: On November 8, the House and Senate resolved differences between their two versions of the bill in a conference agreement. The House passed the conference agreement on November 14 by a vote of 270-147, which was short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto (Click here to see how Members voted.)

The same day, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the bill, again threatening a veto because the bill exceeds the President’s spending requests by $3 billion.

Therefore, Senate and House leaders developed a new strategy to avoid a veto and complete the 11 unfinished appropriations bills. The plan is to package the bills and compromise on spending levels – sending the President an omnibus bill that splits the difference in spending levels.

Currently federal programs are operating under a continuing resolution, funding programs under fiscal year 2007 levels, since the final, fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill is not complete. It is expected that Congress will pass an omnibus spending bill before the continuing resolution expires on December 14 so please contact your Senators and Representatives immediately.

Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill: The House and Senate passed a spending bill last month that would provide $150.7 billion for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, making vital investments in education, health care, and services for families, children and people with disabilities. Click here to see the Coalition on Human Need’s fiscal year 2008 budget chart for these programs.

Because the bill spends $9.8 billion more than what the President had requested, he vetoed the bill on November 13. The House was two votes shy of overriding the veto with a vote of 277 to 141.

Congress’s next steps are unclear. Most likely they will modify the bill to avoid another Presidential veto.

Contact: Sarah Kahn,  202-942- 8259