COVID-19 has upended the typical funding process Congress undertakes annually. Though historic emergency investments in homelessness have provided relief, the annual appropriations process is still an integral component of federal funding for homelessness and housing programs. With that process starting now, it is important for advocates to take action and ensure that annual appropriations receive robust funding.
Emergency Spending vs Annual Appropriations
The massive amounts of federal relief provided as a result of the pandemic make it important to distinguish between emergency funding – which provides funding during national emergencies – and annual appropriations, which are the funds given to support communities’ ongoing work of ending homelessness each year. Over the past year, COVID-19 relief packages and annual appropriations cycles have sometimes taken place simultaneously, which no doubt has caused confusion for many advocates.
Why the Annual Appropriations Process Matters Now
Work has now begun on Capitol Hill on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations bills, which provide funding for federal agencies for one year. Funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is routed through the annual Transportation-HUD (THUD) Appropriations Bill. Thanks to support from so many friends in the field, the funding for Homeless Assistance Grants (HAG) – which includes the Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) programs – was increased last year from $2.77 billion to $3 billion. The Alliance is seeking at least a 10% increase in HAG funding for FY22 to bring the total amount to $3.3 billion.
There are three ways to make that more likely to happen:
- Tell Your Elected Officials to Sign On
Please ask your Representatives to sign on to a bipartisan letter to the House THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, which has been organized by Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and John Katko (R-NY) and makes a strong case for increased HAG funding in FY22. Almost 170 Representatives signed on to last year’s letter. The deadline for this year’s House letter is April 26.
There are scores of sign on letters circulating right now to influence the funding decisions made by all 11 House Appropriations subcommittees, so we need to draw attention to the Moore-Katko letter and make sure staff put it on the top of the pile for your Representatives. And we suggest telling them not to wait for the deadline and to instead please sign on now. As of March 19, we’re closing in on 40 signatories.At the Alliance’s recent virtual conference, a top House Republican THUD staffer said that sign on letters are considered to be important by the Chairman and Ranking Member, who make appropriations decisions—and the more House Representatives who sign on, the more seriously the letter is taken.
Soon, you’ll be able to ask your Senators to sign on to a similar letter organized by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). We’ll let you know when it’s ready to go. Almost 40 Senators signed on to last year’s letter.
- Share Your Stories
Please tell the Alliance, specifically, how a 10% increase in HAG funding can be used to help reduce homelessness in your community. House lawmakers who serve on the Appropriations Committee are besieged with requests for more money, but far less frequently are they told how real communities and real people would benefit from additional funding. We’ll compile the responses we receive and present them to the House and Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittees.
- Meet with Your Lawmakers
Please meet with your lawmakers or their staffers back home in their districts, particularly if they are members of the House and Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittees, and urge them to push for at least a 10% increase in HAG funding.
Seizing this Moment
There can be no doubt that the historic emergency funding measures (the $4 billion in CARES Act ESG and the $5 billion in HOME Act acquisitions and services funds, for example) are necessary to address the health and economic consequences of the pandemic.
However, with the threat of the virus gradually receding, we need to work for robust and consistent annual appropriations to fully leverage these investments and sustain success. We need to also address the longstanding, historic conditions that left people experiencing homelessness so vulnerable to COVID-19, particularly the woefully inadequate resources available to quickly get families and individuals out of homelessness and into permanent housing.
Moreover, when the emergency funds expire or are exhausted, many communities will need to use regular appropriations to continue those services initially made possible by the emergency funds.
Let’s make the first year of the new Administration a big year for HAG appropriations, and one which sets a favorable precedent for even more robust funding in the years to come.
 Current sign-on signatories: Axne (D-IA), Beatty (D-OH), Beyer (D-VA), Bishop (D-GA), Blumenauer (D-OR), Bonamici (D-OR), Bowman (D-NY), Brown (D-MD), Bush (D-MO), Butterfield (D-NC), Castro (D-TX), Cicilline (D-RI), Cohen (D-TN), Cooper (D-TN), Crowe (D-MO), Davis (D-IL), Dean (D-PA), DeGette (D-CO), DeSaulnier (D-CA), Deutch (D-FL), DeFazio (D-OR), Fletcher (D-TX), Foster (D-IL), Garamendi (D-CA), Garcia (D-IL), Garcia (D-TX), Golden (D-ME), Gonzalez (D-TX), Grijalva (D-AZ), Hastings (D-FL), Hayes (D-CT), Higgins (D-NY), Houlahan (D-PA), Jones (D-NY), Keating (D-MA), Langevin (D-RI), Levin (D-CA), Lowenthal (D-CA), Manning (D-NC), McBath (D-GA), McEachin (D-VA), McNerney (D-GA), Nadler (D-NY), Napolitano (D-CA), Norton (D-DC), Panetta (D-CA), Pappas (D-NH), Payne (D-NJ), Peters (D-CA), Pingree (D-ME), Plaskett (D-VI), Pressley (D-MA), Raskin (D-MD), Sanchez (D-CA), Scanlon (D-PA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Scott (D-GA), Sewell (D-AL), Smith (D-WA), Spanberger (D-VA), Stevens (D-MI), Suozzi (D-NY), Swalwell (D-CA), Thompson (D-MS), Titus (D-NV), Tonko (D-NY), Torres (D-NY), Vargas (D-CA), Vela (D-TX), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Waters (D-CA), Wilson (D-FL), and Yarmuth (D-KY).