The beginning of August this year will be a big time for Congressional spending legislation, particularly regarding how much money will be available for housing programs. The action will have impacts for years to come, and it’s important that all of us understand just how much impact this funding can have.
What’s Happening in Congress Now?
Congress is working on several different spending bills all at once – some are more notable than others, and several that will have a significant impact on homelessness. To avoid any confusion, here’s what’s hot, from most to least urgent for people who are homeless:
- Budget resolution: this is the first step leading to a reconciliation bill that will include additional trillions of dollars in emergency spending – which would include money for COVID-19 homelessness response. The budget resolution will set a total amount of spending, and split that up for different Congressional Committees. It is likely to be considered by the Senate the first week of August, and by the House later. President Biden has asked for $3.5 trillion in spending for this bill. Once the budget resolution passes, each committee will write a separate bill with spending details, and those will be combined into a budget reconciliation bill. It’s at this point that specific amounts will be determined for housing and homelessness funds. Under Senate rules, a reconciliation bill can’t be filibustered, so can pass (and probably will pass) with only Democratic votes.
- “Regular,” or annual, appropriations bills: these are the bills that provide annual funding for HUD, HHS, VA, Department of Labor, and most other agencies. Several of these bills have been lumped together and have passed the House. The Senate will either consider the House bills or pass their own bills, probably not until at least September.
- Bipartisan infrastructure bill. This bill is being considered in the Senate after a bipartisan group of Senators came to an agreement. It’s getting a lot of publicity, but based on summaries by participants in the negotiations, it includes nothing related to housing, though there have been talks of including housing in the past.
What’s Most Important to Homelessness?
The immediate priority for people concerned about homelessness is the budget resolution. The amount allocated to the committees with jurisdiction over housing programs will determine how progress can ultimately be made by providers and CoCs, based on how much funding they receive. The Alliance has already sent out a grassroots alert about this bill. If you haven’t received it, I encourage everyone to sign up for Alliance Advocacy Alerts, and to regularly check in on the Alliance’s Take Action page.
The budget resolution (and resulting reconciliation bill) is likely to pass with only Democratic votes, so while the Alliance and the advocate community have been reaching out to all Members of Congress, Democrats have been a priority target. Although the immediate action is in the Senate, there appears to be consultation between Senate and House leaders, so advocacy from House members with their leadership is also important. Even Democrats who have a history of supporting HUD’s programs are a priority – they are making tough priority decisions and need to know that they have constituents for whom housing for people with the lowest incomes is a matter of significant concern.
What Else Does Congress Need to Pass?
It will also be important to continue talking to your Members of Congress from both houses about their work on annual appropriations bills and how these bills will benefit people experiencing homelessness. The House bill includes a solid increase for HUD, including $3.42 billion for the Homeless Assistance account (a $420 million increase), as well as additional Housing Choice Vouchers and other programs. But the issue in the Senate is the same: Senators have many issues they work on, and we’re working to make sure they hear from constituents that funding for homelessness programs is especially important. Appropriations remains a largely bipartisan process, so we want to ensure both Republicans and Democrats know it’s a priority.
We try to make our grassroots advocacy platform as easy to use as possible. For people who want to go beyond that, whether meeting with your Representative or Senators or their staff, inviting them for a site visit, or finding other ways to educate them and build their support for work on homelessness in your community, please be in touch! Contact the Alliance’s National Field Director, Jerry Jones, at email@example.com or VP for Programs and Policy, Steve Berg, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get involved.