Issues to Watch in Ending Homelessness include ACA, FY17 Budget and Trust Fund
There is little information coming from the Trump administration’s transition team about policy especially on homelessness but there are some things we can plan for based on what we do know.
Steve Berg, the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Vice President for Programs and Policy blogs about potential changes to the Affordable Care Act, appropriations, spending limits and more.
On Friday, January 20, 2017, Inauguration Day, the same party will take control of both Congress and the White House. This was also the case at the beginning of the Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton administrations and the result was that all three administrations were able to get major legislation passed very early.
Key issues to watch in Congress are
- Affordable Care Act – In January, Republican leaders will attempt to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including Medicaid expansion, with no replacement.
- FY17 Appropriations – Congress just passed a short-term extension to push back a final decision on spending for discretionary programs for FY 2017 until April 28, 2017. This includes next year’s Continuum of Care (CoC) and other housing and homeless-specific funding.
- Investing in Infrastructure – President-elect Trump stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure during his campaign and congress may introduce a bill. Infrastructure, in this context, refers to services and facilities that are necessary for the economy to function well, but are not produced by the normal operation of the economy.
- Spending Limits – Through the fiscal year (FY)18 budget process, Congress will set discretionary spending allocations for U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other agencies, including how much to provide for homeless assistance. FY18 will feature overall spending caps, one for the military and another one for everything else, non-defense discretionary funding, that are back to the so-called sequestration levels set in 2011.
- Entitlement Programs – The FY18 budget could result in broad overhauls in entitlement programs. Congress would make these broad overhauls in an effort to reduce long-term spending.
- Tax Reform – The Trump administration and Congressional leaders have shown great interest in tax reform, either as part of the FY18 budget or in a separate bill.
- Reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – There may once again be an effort to change the way the federal government provides a backstop to home mortgages. One proposed and popular bill to do so, in 2014, included funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, as does the current system of Government-sponsored enterprises (GSE)s such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There remain basic disagreements in Congress, however, so the prospects for legislation remain unclear.
- Housing Programs and the National Housing Trust Fund – Congressional leaders have expressed some interest in block granting HUD’s large housing programs, particularly the housing choice voucher program. However, this program gets good results and states generally have little or no experience running large rent subsidy programs.
“These are big issues. Worst-case scenarios would include major damage to our work and to the well-being of millions of Americans. On the other hand, there may be opportunities. To protect the most vulnerable people, we need the bipartisan support for work on homelessness to continue. We will need your help to make sure that the people who represent you in Congress understand how homelessness affects your community, what you’re doing about it, and how the issues above would affect your work. Be in touch, we’re always happy to help.”