Last week was the deadline for members of the U.S. Senate to request certain things be included in annual “discretionary” spending bills for Fiscal Year 2023. (You may have heard us refer to these as the 2023 “appropriations” bills.) A “Dear Colleague” letter from lawmakers who supported increased funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Homeless Assistance Grants got excellent support, as did a similar letter in the House of Representatives the week before. Thanks to everyone who helped with that.
On the other hand, annual spending bills are extremely important; sometimes some smaller and less contentious things can pass; and maybe something big can happen if one party can do the whole thing. I’ll share my views on each of those three possibilities this year, and what we need to do to maximize them.
The timing of the appropriations process in this kind of year is uncertain. It often moves fast for a period of time, sometimes long enough to get done completely. More often, movement slows as candidates shift their focus to campaigning, then stops until after the election or after the new Congress takes over in January.
Even if the process is extended, however, it is important to get into the minds of decisionmakers early on that homelessness is an important investment. Building on the President’s budget request and the “Dear Colleague” letters, we will need to keep up a steady drumbeat in favor of strong allocations for HUD, and significant increases for homeless assistance, tenant-based rental assistance, and other priorities at HUD, and at the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, and elsewhere.
In light of the toll that COVID-19 has taken on the workforce, there are relatively small pieces of legislation that would fill in gaps in local homelessness systems. These include bills to:
- hire staff to coordinate and enable the participation of state and local health care systems in work on homelessness;
- provide flexibility to use the HUD-VASH program for homeless veterans in a way that takes account of the tremendous progress in some communities on veterans’ homelessness;
- make it easier to use Continuum of Care programs in rural areas;
- ease the process of using homeless program funding for people who are living in cars; and
- increase funding for housing in a number of different programs that serve people who are at grave risk of homelessness.
This is a maybe. There is still discussion of another bill under the budget reconciliation process, that would allow Democrats to enact spending increases with only 50 votes in the Senate. Whether such a bill happens at all, and whether spending on housing will be included in it, will probably be determined by the Fourth of July. The Alliance will work with partners to up the odds of this happening.
I’m hoping everyone who hasn’t already will sign up for the Alliance’s Advocacy Alerts, and use our online tools to be in touch with your Representatives and Senators. If you want to do more, like building supportive relationships with your people in Congress, please be in touch!