Ryan’s Opportunity Grant Plan

Housing Choice Vouchers
Could be Block Granted

Paul Ryan’s Opportunity Grant PlanRep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s plan to address poverty would create programs similar to block-grants in a few pilot states. Housing programs (HCV, PH and PBRA) are included as optional to be incorporated into a state’s “Opportunity Grant.”

Operationally, it is unclear how this could actually work. Many of these grants would be tied to work-related activities or requirements. Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee.

“In that spirit, this proposal would create a new pilot project in a select number of states. In participating states, the federal government would consolidate a number of means-tested programs into a new Opportunity Grant (OG) program. The largest contributions would come from Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), child-care, and housing-assistance programs, and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law.”

“Since federal housing programs can affect the broader housing market and the OG program would allow consolidation of a number of those programs, states would have greater flexibility to ensure the least disruption in their housing markets. Today, eligible households may seek assistance through one of several federal housing programs. The Section 8 voucher and Public Housing programs are typically run by local public housing agencies. Housing assistance is not an individual entitlement; some qualifying households receive hundreds of dollars a month in aid, but many others receive no assistance at all. Under this proposal, states could choose either to keep many of the large rental-assistance and project-based programs in current form or to consolidate these programs into the OG program. States that chose the latter would be required to fund existing contracts until they expired.”

Quoting from the proposal.

The following are some of the programs would be folded into the Opportunity Grant (OG) in participating states. Because the OG would be deficit-neutral, participating states would receive the same amount of funding as before.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV)
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance
  • Public Housing Capital and Operating Funds
  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

It is likely that block granting these critical programs would likely result in cuts over time. And block granting entitlements and non-entitlements, as well as large programs, would likely result in large programs such as housing assistance receiving cuts. If states have flexibility to move money from one program to another, the money would have to come from the large programs i.e. first SNAP than Housing programs. This would jeopardize the idea that housing assistance is permanent as long as a family needs it.

Click here for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ commentary on the plan.