Obama’s FY 2016 Budget: Why Homeless Advocates Should Pay Attention

When is the President's budget proposal being released?

The Administration typically releases their budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during the first week of February. Unlike recent years, this year President Obama is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget Proposal early next month (Monday, Feb. 2 to be exact), which will kick off the federal funding process earlier than in recent years. Here at the Alliance, we will be examining the budget closely to determine what it means for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness.

As usual, we will share these insights during a webinar, “President's Budget Proposal – Overview and Impact on Homelessness” next Thursday, Feb. 5, at 12 pm ET. We’re going to be discussing the Obama administration’s proposed funding levels for key homelessness and affordable housing programs, as well as upcoming opportunities for advocates.

Click here to register

Why does the President’s budget proposal matter?

Although the president’s budget proposal isn’t law, its release jumpstarts the entire federal funding process for the upcoming fiscal year. The president’s budget outlines the administration’s priorities, which reflect not only which issues the administration thinks are the most important to work on, but also how effective the programs that address them are, and where program spending levels should be shifted to make the greatest impact.

In recent years, the Obama Administration has proposed significant increases for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program. Most recently, President Obama proposed a 14 percent increase for FY 2015, indicating that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) understand how effective this program is in ending homelessness and want to support it.

For homeless advocates, this kind of support is helpful to point to when reaching out to their congressional offices to advocate for increases to the program. (It’s critical that advocates engage in these kinds of efforts early on in the funding process–and we will provide updates on opportunities to do so in our upcoming webinar.)

What will the President’s budget proposal mean this year?

Due to low budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, and the expiration of the temporary relief from these sequestration caps that was provided in the Murray-Ryan Budget Agreement, 2015 will be a particularly tight budget year. It’s possible, however, that Congress and the president could strike a larger budget deal later this year, increasing overall federal spending caps for FY 2016, including the amount of non-defense discretionary funding, which is the slice of the federal funding pie that homeless assistance programs fall under.

Whatever the case, the president’s budget will give us a sense of how much the administration believes the overall spending caps should be raised, as well as what spending levels homeless assistance programs should be funded at (in the context of those caps). Indeed, a huge focus for advocates in 2015 will be increasing the cap on the allowable amount of overall non-defense discretionary spending, in order to maximize the amount of funding available for programs that are most important to ending homelessness.

We will certainly have another uphill battle ahead of us this year. Without an increase in overall spending levels, the outlook for funding for homeless assistance programs will be grim. But with the help of advocates like you from across the country, we could still secure robust funding to continue and (hopefully) expand the excellent work homeless assistance programs are doing to end homelessness.

We hope you join us in fighting the good fight this year, because we need your help to ensure that homeless assistance programs don’t face cuts in this tough budget climate! To get involved, tune into our webinar next Thursday, sign up to receive our Advocacy Update alerts, and email me at jklein@naeh.org to join our working group to increase McKinney-Vento funding.