Alliance Legislative Report (updated on August 7)

Impact

URGENT: The Alliance is focused on generating more support for emergency pandemic measures to authorize $11.5 billion in additional ESG funding, establish new housing vouchers, and create a rental assistance fund in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.  Have you had a chance to educate your Representatives and Senators?  If not, what can you do to help?  Please contact jthrelkeld@naeh.org.

COVID-19

Next Stimulus Package: The Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), which was narrowly passed by the House on May 15, includes vital low-income housing and homelessness provisions:

  1. Homeless Assistance Grants – $11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) to address the impact of coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and diversion activities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.  The bill language includes a section which would cancel the 2020 CoC NoFA.  The ESG provision also includes the ongoing prohibition against imposing preconditions on folks before they can be helped.
  2. Tenant-Based Rental Assistance – $4 billion to allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to respond to coronavirus and the ability to keep over 2.2 million families stably housed even when facing a loss of income, including $1 billion for new, temporary, vouchers for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or fleeing domestic violence. Allows PHAs the flexibility necessary for the safe and effective administration of these funds while maintaining fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and environmental protections. 
  3. Emergency Rental Assistance Fund – $100 billion to provide emergency assistance to help low income renters at risk of homelessness avoid eviction due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

House approval of the HEROES Act is just the first step on a long road.  Senate Republicans have countered with the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, which is a combination of eight different bills.  The measure would spend a little more than $1 trillion, but it includes none of our housing and low-income housing requests. 

Negotations between the House and the Senate, with the active participation by the Trump Administration, are underway and will likely continue through the week of August 10.  The Alliance urges lawmakers to include in the final stimulus bill the three aforementioned House provisions–the $11.5 billion in homelessness ESG, the $1 billion in housing vouchers, and the $100 rental assistance fund.   

Other experts agree with the Alliance and also support an additional $11.5 billion in homelessness funding.  Here’s a letter from a colation of homelessness and housing groups: 

Letter to T-HUD $11.5b

And here’s a letter from four previous executive directors of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness:

LTR_FormerUSICHExecutiveDirectors_COVID-19HomelessnessResources (002)

The Emergency Family Stabilization Act (S. 3923): The National Alliance to End Homelessness is pleased to endorse the Emergency Family Stabilization Act (S.
3923). The bill would authorize $800 million to be awarded competitively by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enable local agencies and organizations, including local educational agencies, to assist children, youth, families, single pregnant women, and survivors of dating violence, domestic violence and trafficking impacted by homelessness and insecure housing during the
COVID-19 crisis.

We understand that as the legislation progresses, the bill’s language will be updated to ensure that it specifically identifies the needs of LGBTQ youth who are disproportionately represented among homeless and unsheltered youth and young adults.

The bill directs the Secretary to prioritize, in awarding of grants, the use of funds to “provide emergency relief to youth, children, and families experiencing homelessness who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” The funds can be used to respond to a wide range of critical support needs of children, youth and families including, but not limited to, the following.
• Eviction prevention assistance, motel/hotel placements, housing placement support, security deposits, and utility connections.
• Assistance to meet the basic needs of children, youth, families and vulnerable adults in crisis, including food, clothing, medical, and dental care.
• Provision of supportive services including mental and behavioral health services, transportation assistance, mentorship, and services to attain educational and employment goals.

The Alliance supports efforts to include this legislation in the next COVID-19 stimulus package.

Cancelling the 2020 NoFA: There should NOT be a Continuum of Care (CoC) Notice of Funding Availability (NoFA) in 2020 in order to allow CoCs to focus on meeting the daunting challenge posed by the pandemic.  Instead, next year’s money should be distributed to the same grantees which won awards in 2019.   The House Democratic leadership, at the urging of House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA-43), included language in the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800) which would cancel the 2020 CoC NoFA and award the 2020 funding to 2019 grantees. 

The Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act (S. 4320), which was introduced by Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), includes different but technically superb language to cancel the 2020 CoC NoFA.  S. 4320 is one of eight bills that collectively constitute the Senate Republican proposal for the next COVID-19 stimulus package, which is known as the HEALS Act.  

Funding for Homeless Assistance Grants: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a $141 million increase in Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG) in FY20, raising total funding to almost $2.8 billion.  For FY21, the Alliance is seeking to increase HAG funding to $3.4 billion.   The House Transportation-HUD Bill, which was marked up in full Committee on July 14, would provide $3.415 billion in such funding in FY21.  Mark up of the Senate bill has been postponed and has not been rescheduled. 

Housing First: The Alliance supports efforts by Congressional lawmakers to re-affirm Housing First in the CoC Notice of Funding Availability (NoFA) process.  House and Senate funders for HUD included language in their FY20 bill which negated anti-Housing First provisions in the 2019 NoFA.  It is expected that any 2020 NoFA will include anti-Housing First provisions, thus necessitating additional legislative intervention in the FY21 funding bill. 

The House FY21 Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill, which was marked up in full Committee on July 14, would extend the strong language in support of Housing First that was included in the previous year’s bill.  Mark up of the Senate bill has been postponed and has not been rescheduled.  It is likely that HUD will be funded by a continuing resolution until after the November elections, during which the requirement that HUD continue to adhere to Housing First would still be in place.

Equal Access to Shelters: The Alliance supports legislation (H.R. 3018, S. 2007) that would forbid the replacement of the Equal Access Rule, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in HUD programs, with the Administration’s draft alternative.   The House bill was approved by the Financial Services Committee by a partisan vote, and it could be sent to the floor later this year.  The Senate bill has not been taken up by the Banking Committee.   The Administration published a proposed rule, on July 24, that would give shelters excuses to turn away people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence, or seeking relief during a disaster on the basis of gender identity.  

True Colors United has established an excellent resource entitled Housing Saves Lives (housingsaveslives.org) for concerned citizens and organizations interested in submitting comments in opposition to this terrible rule.  

The FY21 House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill, which was marked up in full Committee on July 14, would uphold the Obama Administration’s equal access rule through the inclusion of two provisions:

SEC. 235. None of the funds made available to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by this or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, enforce, or in any way make effective the proposed rule entitled ‘‘Making Admission or Placement Determinations Based on Sex in Facilities Under Community Planning and Development Housing Programs’’, transmitted to Congress for review by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on June 12, 2020 (Docket No. FR21 6152-P-01), or any final rule based substantially on such proposed rule.
SEC. 236. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the notice issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on February 20, 2015, and entitled ‘‘Appropriate Placement for Transgender Persons in Single-Sex Emergency Shelters and Other Facilities’’ (Notice CPD-15-02) shall have the force and effect of law.

However, the Administration ultimately forced the House to drop both of those provisions from the FY20 funding measure.

Major Reforms to Homelessness and Housing Programs: Representatives and Senators have introduced many fine bills that would provide systemic improvements to the nation’s homelessness and housing programs.  However, two bills, both of them introduced by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and marked up favorably by her committee, should be singled out:

  1. The Ending Homelessness Act (H.R. 1856) provides a comprehensive plan to ensure that every person experiencing homelessness in America has a place to call home. The bill would appropriate $13.3 billion in mandatory emergency relief funding over 5 years to several critical federal housing programs and initiatives, providing the resources that these programs need to effectively address the homelessness crisis in America. If enacted, this bill is estimated to fund the creation of 410,000 new units of housing for people experiencing homelessness.
  2. The Housing is Infrastructure Act (H.R. 5187) would make the following investments into the nation’s housing infrastructure: $70 billion to fully address the public housing capital backlog; $1 billion to fully fund the backlog of capital needs for the Section 515 and 514 rural housing stock; $5 billion for the Housing Trust Fund to support the creation of hundreds of thousands of new units of housing that would be affordable to the lowest income households; $100 million to help low income elderly households in rural areas age in place; $1 billion for the Native American Housing Block Grant Program to address substandard housing conditions on tribal lands; $10 billion for a Community Development Block Grant set-aside to incentivize states and cities to eliminate impact fees and responsibly streamline the process for development of affordable housing; and $5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program to fund affordable housing activities such as building, buying, and rehabilitating affordable homes for low-income people; $2.5 billion for the Supporting Housing for Elderly (Section 202 Program); $2.5 billion for Supportive Housing for persons with disabilities (811 Program); and $2.5 billion to the Capital Magnet Fund for competitive grants to Community Development Financial Institutions to finance affordable housing and community revitalization efforts.

Both bills have been introduced in the Senate as S. 2613 and S. 2951, respectively, but the Banking Committee has not formally considered the legislation.   H.R. 5187 was included in H.R. 2, a broad infrastructure bill called the Moving Forward Act, which was passed by the House on June 30, along partisan lines.  It is not expected that the Senate will take up the measure.  

Opportunity Starts at Home Bills for Flexible Funding and Housing Vouchers: NAEH is a proud member of Opportunity Starts at Home (OSAH), a long-term campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s low-income people.  OSAH has developed two important bills which the Alliance strongly supports:

  1. The Eviction Crisis Act (S. 3030), introduced with bipartisan support, would, among other things, establish a dedicated federal funding stream for homelessness prevention which would be used for the provision of nominal sums of financial assistance to low-income households experiencing housing instability or in danger of eviction.
  2. The Family Stability and Opportunity Vouchers Act (S. 3083), also introduced with bipartisan support, would establish 500,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers over the next five years for families that are experiencing homelessness or housing instability, or wish to live in areas with quality schools and other opportunities for healthy development.

Equal Access to Shelters: The Alliance supports legislation (H.R. 3018, S. 2007) that would forbid the replacement of the Equal Access Rule, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in HUD programs, with the Administration’s draft alternative.   The House bill was approved by the Financial Services Committee by a partisan vote, and it could be sent to the floor later this year.  The Senate bill has not been taken up by the Banking Committee.   The Administration finally published a proposed rule that would give shelters excuses to turn away homeless persons on the basis of gender identity.  

The FY21 House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Bill, which was marked up in full Committee on July 14, would uphold the Obama Administration’s equal access rule:

SEC. 235. None of the funds made available to the Department of Housing and Urban Development by this or any other Act may be used to implement, administer, enforce, or in any way make effective the proposed rule entitled ‘‘Making Admission or Placement Determinations Based on Sex in Facilities Under Community Planning and Development Housing Programs’’, transmitted to Congress for review by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on June 12, 2020 (Docket No. FR21 6152-P-01), or any final rule based substantially on such proposed rule.
SEC. 236. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the notice issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on February 20, 2015, and entitled ‘‘Appropriate Placement for Transgender Persons in Single-Sex Emergency Shelters and Other Facilities’’ (Notice CPD-15-02) shall have the force and effect of law.

However, the Administration forced the House to drop both of those provisions from the FY20 funding measure.

Veteran Homelessness Programs: The Alliance supports FY21 funding increases for the veteran homelessness programs—GPD, HUD-VASH (including Tribal HUD-VASH), and particularly SSVF, which needs new funding to pay for its promising Shallow Subsidy initiative and fulfill new requirements to serve women veterans.  With respect to HUD-VASH, Congress should work with VA to induce medical centers to staff up their caseworkers; provide additional funding for recruitment and retention of caseworkers; and allow for outsourcing of casework, particularly housing navigation.

The Alliance supports legislation that would grant the Secretary of Veterans Affairs greater flexibility in caring for and meeting the needs of homeless veterans in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  The Homeless Veterans Coronavirus Response Act (S. 3898, H.R. 7105), a bipartisan bill introduced by Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) in the Senate and Mike Levin (D-CA-49) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL-12) in the House, increases veterans’ access to housing, health care, and emergency resources during the ongoing public health crisis.

Among other provisions, the legislation would loosen certain regulations and enable the VA to use existing resources to offer homeless veterans the additional assistance they may need, including transportation, communication devices and services, and basic amenities, like clothing, blankets and hygiene items. The law would also allow the VA to work with partner organizations to set up shelters on its properties. Finally, the bill ensures homeless veterans have access to the VA’s telehealth services.

The Alliance also supports legislation to expand eligibility for HUD-VASH benefits to veterans subjected to other-than-honorable (OTH) discharges.  Veterans discharged OTH are already eligible for the other two veteran homelessness programs.  The House bill (H.R. 2398) was passed with minimal opposition, while the Senate bill (S. 2061), introduced with bipartisan support, awaits action by the Banking Committee. 

H.R. 2398 was added as an amendment to the House FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395).  A similar attempt to attach S. 2061 to the Senate version of that legislation was unsuccessful.  The Alliance will work with likeminded lawmakers to retain H.R. 2398 in the big defense bill’s conference report.

Youth Homelessness Programs: The Alliance endorses the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act (H.R. 4300, S. 2803), which would offer three-year Family Unification Program vouchers to all young people who are between the ages of 18 and 24 leaving foster care and at risk of homelessness—with the opportunity to extend those vouchers by two years (for a total of five years) by voluntarily participating in self-sufficiency activities.  The House bill passed without opposition.  The Senate bill was favorably assessed by Republicans and Democrats alike at a Banking Committee hearing.  The Alliance also endorses a reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, provided the legislation includes a nondiscrimination provision which reflects the policies currently set in program regulations. 

Tribal Homelessness: The Alliance supports legislation that would allow Indian Tribes and tribally designated housing entities to apply for, receive, and administer grants and subgrants under HUD’s CoC program.  The House bill (H.R. 4029) was passed without opposition, but the Banking Committee has yet to take action on the bipartisan Senate bill (S. 2282). 

 

Summary

Following up with the Alliance

Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld [jthrelkeld@naeh.org / (202) 942-8256] know if you have any questions about legislation or educating your lawmakers. 

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