The 116th Congress is over, and a new Congress has been sworn in.
In late December, the House and Senate both passed an Omnibus Appropriations Act, which included all 12 FY21 funding bills, as well as another COVID-19 relief bill: https://rules.house.gov/sites/democrats.rules.house.gov/files/BILLS-116HR133SA-RCP-116-68.pdf
And this legislation was eventually signed into law by the President.
The COVID-19 relief portion of the measure included three items of particular interest:
1. Establishment of a $25 billion rental assistance fund which will be administered by the Department of the Treasury (page 2255);
2. Extension of the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium on residential evictions through the end of January 31, 2021 (page 2281); and
3. Extension of the deadline for expending proceeds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund from the end of 2020 to the end of 2021 (page 2459).
There is no additional funding specifically for the nation’s homelessness system. Some lawmakers believe that because a relatively small portion of the CARES Act emergency solutions grants (ESG) funds had been spent that additional ESG is not required at this time. President-elect Biden has indicated that he intends to begin work on additional COVID-19 relief early in his administration.
The Omnibus Appropriations Act included several items of interest:
1. The 2020 Continuum of Care competition would be cancelled in favor of awarding grants to existing grantees (Section 419, page 1811, and Section 104, page 2526);
2. Funding for Homeless Assistance Grants will be increased to $3 billion, up $223 million (page 1751);
3. Funding for Housing Choice Vouchers will be increased to $25.8 billion, up almost $2 billion (page 1712);
4. $43 million in new vouchers will be established for survivors of domestic violence, families with children, veterans (including those other than honorably discharged), and people experiencing unsheltered homelessness (page 1723);
5. For funding amounts for other programs followed by NAEH, please view this chart: https://endhomelessness.org/legislation/appropriations-fy21-selected-homelessness-and-housing-programs-funding-chart/;
6. Tribes or their designees will be allowed to become part of the Continuum of Care process as applicants and recipients (page 2513);
7. A $10 million pilot project will be established to promote consideration of social determinants of health, including housing and homelessness (Page 28: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201221/BILLS-116RCP68-JES-DIVISION-H.pdf); and
8. Interesting report language for HUD, reproduced immediately below:
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201221/BILLS-116RCP68-JES-DIVISION-L.pdf, starting on page 70:
Homelessness prevention.-The agreement directs HUD to evaluate homelessness prevention initiatives around the country and to issue policy guidance for the adoption and implementation of effective and best practices. HUD is further directed to brief the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations within 180 days of enactment of this Act on ways the Federal Government can increase flexibility in policies and funding to allow for the creation or expansion of homelessness prevention programs.
Regional approaches to administering vouchers.-To ensure the efficient use of housing choice vouchers that are made available upon turnover, the agreement encourages HUD to provide PHAs with technical assistance on how the industry can leverage regional approaches to administering vouchers across multiple PHAs and improve coordination of voucher portability within regions.
Local coordination.-The agreement directs the Department to evaluate how PHAs can work with local code enforcement agencies to improve collaboration with units of local government to monitor and address health and safety conditions in Section 8 voucher units.
Clarifying eligible activities to address homelessness.-The agreement directs HUD to clarify that CDBG funds can be used for: (1) housing assistance for homeless individuals, including emergency or temporary shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing or emergency temporary rental assistance; (2) supportive services for persons experiencing homelessness, including mental health, substance use disorder, recovery, and disabling or other chronic health related services, and education and job-training; (3) capital building and infrastructure costs associated with the provision of housing and supportive services to homeless individuals; and (4) conditioning assistance for housing rehabilitation on renting units to voucher holders.
9. The conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision (Section 9103) which would extend HUD-VASH benefits to other than honorably discharged veterans. The President’s veto was overridden, emphatically, by both the House and the Senate, and the NDAA is now law.
SEC. 9103. EXPANSION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR HUD-VASH. (a) HUD Provisions.--Section 8(o)(19) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(19)) is amended by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ``(D) Veteran defined.--In this paragraph, the term `veteran' has the meaning given that term in section 2002(b) of title 38, United States Code.''. (b) VHA Case Managers.--Subsection (b) of section 2003 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``In the case of vouchers provided under the HUD-VASH program under section 8(o)(19) of such Act, for purposes of the preceding sentence, the term `veteran' shall have the meaning given such term in section 2002(b) of this title.''. (c) Annual Reports.-- (1) In general.--Not less frequently than once each year, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall submit to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Veterans' Affairs of the House of Representatives a report on the homelessness services provided under programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, including services under HUD-VASH program under section 8(o)(19) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(19)). (2) Included information.--Each such annual report shall include, with respect to the year preceding the submittal of the report, a statement of the number of eligible individuals who were furnished such homelessness services and the number of individuals furnished such services under each such program, disaggregated by the number of men who received such services and the number of women who received such services, and such other information as the Secretary considers appropriate.
10. Interesting report language on HUD-VASH
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201221/BILLS-116RCP68-JES-DIVISION-L.pdf, beginning on page 71:
HUD-VASH-The agreement directs HUD to consult with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to determine how PHAs can become designated entities to screen for veteran eligibility and make referrals for the HUD-VASH program. The Department is further directed to use its existing authority to specify alternative requirements to permit PHAs to use unleased HUD-VASH vouchers to house VA- eligible homeless veterans, even if they have not received a referral from the VA. PHAs utilizing this new authority must adhere to the following requirements: the PHA must determine that a veteran it seeks to house is eligible for VA services under the HUD-V ASH program; the PHA must refer the veteran to the VA for case management and services; the PHA must provide, on a temporary basis until the VA Medical Center has completed intake of the veteran, appropriate case management and supportive services; and the PHA must ensure that while using unleased HUD-VASH vouchers, it has sufficient HUD-VASH vouchers available to immediately issue a HUD-VASH voucher to veterans referred by the VA. HUD is also directed to within 180 days of enactment of this Act report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations on its progress to implement the alternative requirements for the HUD-V ASH program and its effect on voucher utilization.
To ensure all funds directed to the HUD-VASH program are accounted for and used efficiently, the agreement directs HUD to make public the need for additional funding and reasons for unused funds, which should also include an evaluation of the effectiveness of the program and distribution of resources. The agreement encourages the Department to use existing authority to recapture HUD-VASH voucher assistance from PHAs that voluntarily declare they no longer have a need for the assistance, and to reallocate it to PHAs with an identified need. The agreement directs HUD to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies within 120 days of enactment of this Act on methods to reallocate unused HUD-VASH vouchers, which shall include a determination of the feasibility of issuing a new solicitation of participation for unallocated HUD-VASH vouchers.
The Department is encouraged to prioritize, as part of this reallocation, PHAs that project base a portion of their HUD-VASH vouchers.
https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20201221/BILLS-116RCP68-JES-DIVISION-J.pdf, beginning on page 30:
Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH).-The Department, in consultation with HUD, is directed to provide a report that includes the following information: (1) the number of case managers with temporary or permanent appointments, full and part time status, and the number of vacant case manager positions by VA Medical Center and state; (2) the number of vouchers requested by and the number of vouchers awarded to Public Housing Agencies by VA Medical Center and state; (3) the rate of voucher utilization by VA Medical Center and state; (4) an explanation of any barriers to full utilization of vouchers, such as an inadequate stock of affordable housing, insufficient number of case managers, landlord refusal of vouchers, and reservation for prioritization of high acuity veterans; (5) whether localities that have approved exceptions to the fair market rent have better utilization rates; (6) whether outcomes differ for veterans who are case managed by local contractors or VA Medical Center staff; and (7) a summary of veteran outcomes in terms of sustained vs. un-sustained housing placements, connection to employment/income, healthcare, and other benefits by VA Medical Center. The report shall further outline efforts VA is taking to increase hiring and retention, including through the use of incentives and educational loan forgiveness; and what proactive steps VA might take to fill the case management workforce pipeline. The report shall include a feasibility assessment of individual VA Medical Centers developing workforce training partnerships with community colleges or universities. This report shall be provided to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies and the Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies no later than 270 days after enactment of this Act.
Redistribution of Unallocated HUD-VASH Voucher Funds.-The Secretary is encouraged to issue waivers where necessary to prevent Public Housing Agencies from being restricted from future HUD-V ASH allocations due to vouchers going unused because of insufficient referrals from VA. The Department, in consultation with HUD, is directed to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies and the Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies recommending possible methods to redistribute unallocated HUD-VASH voucher funds. The report shall include a determination of the feasibility of issuing a new solicitation of participation for unallocated HUD-VASH vouchers and should be provided to the Committees no later than 270 days after enactment of this Act.
Following up with the Alliance
Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld [email@example.com / (202) 942-8256] know if you have any questions about legislation or educating your lawmakers.