President Trump and the Office of Management and Budget released a 2018 proposed budget that would take effect in October of 2017. I got this information from the National Low Income Housing Coalition who's president Diane Yentel said, "At a time when America’s housing crisis has reached historic heights and the lowest income people suffer the most severe impacts, proposals to further cut these vital resources are unconscionable and unacceptable." I also looked at the Washington Post summary of the other agencies budget and the HUD website had the press release on their proposed budget here. A couple of caveats before we start talking about the budget.
- The Congress has to pass a budget and the President's budget is typically torn apart by the members of Congress. Typically, the budgets are the best that a President can hope for and agencies usually face a cut unless they are priority for a powerful Congressional member.
- It is difficult to compare this budget to the 2017 budget since there is no 2017 budget. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution until April 2017 and then who knows. So most of these comparisons are with the 2016 budget.
- This budget annoys rural communities, urban communities, fiscal hawks and progressives, so it may be dead on arrival and all of this could lead to nothing.
- The programs that touch homeless people are spread across many departments.
There are a few items that will help homeless people in America and Cleveland, but overall those who advocate for homeless people or who are employed to help homeless people we are in big trouble.
A few positive notes:
- The overall budget for homeless people looks like it could go up by around $600 million, but those dollars are earmarked for "family homelessness and chronic (long term) homeless people." They are proposing 25,500 new permanent supportive housing units which is probably 750 units in Ohio. The funds for homeless veterans would remain in place at the same level. It seems like those warm, glowing letters complimenting the new HUD Secretary from the Corporation for Supportive Housing and Enterprise worked to preserve their funding. We will see how long that lasts.
- It looks like there is a new project proposed around $25 million for homeless youth. This would be extremely competitive, but Cleveland would be in a great position to get one of these grants.
- The HUD press release says they would provide "$38 billion in rental housing assistance to support 4.5 million low income families." This seems to be about the same funding as was in the 2016 budget, but remember that is about 89% of the funds that these programs need to operate. So, with the huge cuts proposed everywhere else we might want to be happy that it was not worse. It will not decrease the 21,000 people on the public housing waiting list or the 8,000 on the voucher wait list or the fact that most have to wait five years to get into subsidized housing in Cleveland.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs gets a 6% increase. This would most likely go to communities with long waits and unmet needs such as more help with mental health services. Cleveland could get some help, but our VA is pretty stable.
- The Food Stamps program is not cut which does serve around 20% of the homeless population. At least in 2018, there is no proposed cut to Medicare and Medicaid. Those programs are not mentioned in the budget overview which worries some advocates. The funds for the opioid crisis are increased, which would help Ohio which is in the top five states for deaths associated with the opioid overdoses.
That is all the good news that I could find in the budget. Remember, it still has to be passed by Congress so this is just a suggestion from the administration.
The "don't read this if you just ate" news
- The overall HUD budget is proposed to be a $6.2 billion reduction which could have an impact across all categories, but smaller projects that are not mentioned in the HUD press release could be endangered like the fair housing enforcement and foreclosure prevention funds. The lead hazard project does get an increase, but right now that is only $110 million for the entire United States.
The budget proposes an elimination of Community Development Block Grant which helps cities deal with poverty. In Cleveland, these funds assist NEOCH with outreach to those who live outside. It also supports the Domestic Violence Center, Rape Crisis Center, Famicos affordable housing properties, University Settlement and the Salvation Army. This is a $3.066 billion in funding lost to cities, and would be devastating.
This budget eliminates the HOME program which helps make affordable housing projects work and can help lower the rent for some apartments in suburbs. This could make senior housing projects not go forward or projects that keep people from being evicted. This is $900 million lost to states and counties across America.
- The Low Income Home Energy Heating Assistance Program is eliminated which could lead to an increase in homelessness. If you can't keep the heat on then the apartment is not fit for human habitation and the landlord will evict or the City will condemn the unit.
- It eliminates the Legal Services Corporation which funds local Legal Aid Society. The program faced cuts a couple of years back and this would be a horrible blow to this valuable program for low income people who need a lawyer. It would hurt people trying to avoid an eviction or trying to get their benefits restored. It would hurt people trying to get a divorce from an abuser and those who are trying to get help against an employer who is withholding a last pay check.
- It eliminates the AmeriCorps, VISTA, and other National Service members which is the domestic peace corps. These are individuals who supplement many poverty programs with staff that they could not afford without the Corporation for National Service funds. AmeriCorps work at places like 2100 Lakeside shelter, soup kitchens or Habitat for Humanity and provides staff who can focus on projects that improve the anti poverty programs or can create new programs that staff do not have time to undertake.
- The US InterAgency Council on Homelessness is eliminated. I have met with the staff in Washington many times (really nice people), but I am not sure if the average homeless person will know the difference if these guys are eliminated. They coordinate services among all the cabinet heads, but I am not sure I can think of one thing that came out of this department. They issue reports, highlight good programs, and make recommendations on state and local policies. They never wanted to expand the definition of homelessness and have often been a road block on sweeping changes needed to actually start reducing poverty.
- The Department of Labor would eliminate the Senior Employment Program, which helps seniors find jobs after they are laid off later in life. NEOCH has 4 of these individuals working on various programs, and many other non-profits supplement staff with these older workers to answer phones, help with voting activities, or staff programs on a part time basis. They can often put a human face on social services, and the program was originally championed by Senator Ted Kennedy.
- There would be a reduction in Job Corps programs which is the residential job training program for troubled young people. The Cleveland Job Corps has faced administrative questions in the past and would be at the top of the list for downsizing.
- There is a proposed 18% cut in the Department of Health and Human Services, but very little details in the budget. There is no mention of welfare assistance or the Medicaid and Medicare budget. There is also no mention of the mental health assistance. So, it is unclear how the cuts would impact homeless people. The Community Services Block Grant program would also be eliminated from the HHS budget, but I am not sure how those dollars are used in Cleveland or Ohio. It seems that an 18% cut in such a huge agency would have a negative impact on homeless people.
Overall, if you are worried about the borders, airport security or more planes, ships, and tanks for the military then you are extremely happy. If you are homeless, near homeless or barely hanging on, you are in big trouble. You better hope that the states and counties can fill the huge holes that will be opened in the social safety net if this budget passes. Local charities will not be answering the phones, they will not be able to refer people in need to other programs, and they will be focusing a lot of time on how to stay in business instead of how to alleviate suffering.
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