Senate Passes Budget Bill

Opportunity to Increase Voucher Funding
Menendez and Booker Vote in Favor

Senator Robert MenendezEarly in the morning on October 30, 2015, the Senate passed the budget deal to raise the caps in a 64-35 vote. U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker voted for the deal.

But for advocates concerned about increasing funding for critical housing programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers, Homelessness Assistance and the HOME program, the fight does not end with the budget deal.

The next step is to ensure that appropriators draft an omnibus package that is free of harmful riders that will trigger presidential veto and a government shutdown.

The legislation was signed by president roughly 72 hours after it was unveiled.

This budget deal is just the first step. Now the usual appropriations process that spans over several months will be crammed into just a couple of weeks. The specific schedule is not yet known but we know that leadership is working now to divide up the $33 billion in non-defense discretionary (NDD) sequestration relief across the 11 subcommittees.

Senator Cory BookerThese 302(b) allocations mean everything, as they will largely determine the fate of U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs. Each subcommittee is allocated a certain amount of funding under the full Committee’s 302(a) allocation.

These allocations, which are referred to as 302(b) allocations, establish the cap on spending for each of the appropriations bills. It is important to note that the subcommittees themselves do not determine the level of funding for each bill; they only determine how that money is spent among the agencies and programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.

With 302(b)s in hand, the appropriations subcommittees will then get to work in re-writing appropriations bills to ultimately be compiled in an omnibus measure. The goal is to pass an omnibus before the continuing resolution expires December 11, 2015.

It is important to note that the threat of a government shutdown still looms large. The President has made it clear he will not sign legislation that contains harmful “policy riders” that undermine his priorities. It is critical that we tell Congress to pass “clean” spending bills free of riders.

Additional funding is now available to restore the vouchers lost due to sequestration and to provide funding to other HUD programs. We must make a strong case that as much as possible goes to HUD and restoring the 67,000 remaining vouchers lost due to sequestration.

Congress needs to provide $18.05 billion to simply renew all the vouchers in use this year. About $500 million additional funds above the renewal amount are necessary to restore all the vouchers lost due to sequestration. The Senate bill made progress by providing $20 million for new Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers and $75 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers. Congress should now finish the job of restoring all vouchers lost due to sequestration by providing additional targeted vouchers for homeless families and veterans.

Other priorities include preventing huge cuts to the HOME program and funding additional units through McKinney-Vento to end chronic homelessness. The HUD budget needs as large a portion of these additional funds as possible.

Click here for The New York Times coverage of the Senate vote.

Click here for President Obama’s statement on the BBA.

Click here for a blog post from Senator Harry Reid on the rider issue, and Democrats’ plans to block it.