The stark differences between the two bills reflect the radically different budget priorities set by the budget resolutions that the chambers approved earlier this year.
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These differences will have to be resolved over the next several months, and low-income families needing housing assistance — who have been hit hard by the across-the-board sequestration cuts that took effect in March — have a lot at stake in the outcome.
Sequestration is already causing significant harm to low-income families. Facing the deepest voucher renewal funding shortfall on record, many state and local housing agencies have stopped reissuing vouchers to families on waiting lists when current voucher-holders leave the program, and many others are likely to follow suit in coming months.
If Congress fails to reverse sequestration, agencies will likely cut the number of low-income families with rental assistance by 120,000 to 140,000 by early next year. If sequestration continues into 2014, moreover, and Congress provides voucher renewal funding in 2014 at the 2013 post-sequestration level, housing vouchers for thousands of additional low-income families will be eliminated.
These cuts fall heavily on vulnerable people. Half of the families with vouchers are seniors or people with disabilities, and most of the rest are families with children. These households typically have incomes well below the poverty line and cannot afford decent housing without assistance. Some who will go without assistance will face extreme hardship, such as having to live in emergency shelters.
In addition to sequestration’s cuts in housing vouchers, the consequences of its cuts in other housing assistance programs and in community development funding — which come on top of other deep cuts in these areas in 2011 and 2012 — will magnify over time.
For instance, sequestration cut funding for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), which help communities provide emergency shelters and short-term assistance to prevent homelessness, by 25 percent in 2013. The combined effect of funding cuts for both vouchers and ESG likely will be that more individuals and families ultimately become homeless and remain homeless for longer periods of time.