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Off The Charts Blog: Reality Doesn’t Match Rhetoric on Low-Income Program Spending

From Off the Charts, the Blog of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

 

Reality Doesn’t Match Rhetoric on Low-Income Program Spending Reality Doesn’t Match Rhetoric on Low-Income Program Spending

 

By Sharon Parrott
January 14, 2013

 

“Under the current administration, we have . . . seen an explosion in the spending for welfare programs,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor claimed in support of a new, House-passed rule requiring the annual budget resolution to detail past and projected growth of entitlement programs and propose reforms to them.  The rule will “allow us to begin to responsibly control the growth of these welfare programs and ensure they can help those who need them most,” he argued.

 

But, Rep. Cantor’s statement ignores two key facts:

  • First, safety net programs are not a primary cause of the nation’s long-term budget problems. Almost all of the recent growth in low-income entitlement programs is due either to the recent recession — and is therefore temporary — or to rising costs throughout the U.S. health care system, which affect costs for both private insurance and public health programs like Medicaid.
  • Second, federal spending on low-income entitlement programs other than health care will shrink significantly as a share of the economy after 2013 (see graph), according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

 

 

To be sure, Medicaid is projected to continue growing as a share of the economy, as costs continue to rise across the public and private health care sectors.  But Medicaid isn’t the cause of this system-wide cost growth.  In fact, per-beneficiary costs have risen more slowly in Medicaid than in private insurance and are expected to continue doing so.

 

Ultimately, we will need to find ways to reduce health care cost growth in both the public and private sectors.  Cost growth has slowed in the past few years, though it is unclear whether the change is temporary or here to stay.  Thanks to health reform, however, we are testing new ways to deliver health care designed to lower costs while improving the quality of care that could help slow costs throughout the U.S. health care system over the long run.

 

The new House rule requires the budget resolution to track growth over the previous decade and the projected growth in the years covered by the budget resolution (often a decade) of two groups of entitlement programs:  those focused on low-income people, such as SNAP and Medicaid, and those not just focused on low-income people, such as Medicare and Social Security.

 

The rule may obscure more than it illuminates:  CBO projects that low-income entitlements including health care will grow both in inflation-adjusted dollars and as a share of the economy in coming years; but if you remove health care costs, the picture is entirely different, with low-income entitlements outside health care falling over the next decade as a share of the economy and in inflation-adjusted terms.

 

If the data that the new House rule requires obfuscate this fact, then the rule could be misused to bolster the false claim that low-income entitlement programs are out of control.


Click here to access the original blog post.

Wicked Local: Coalition to Push for Khan’s Bill to Help Teens, Low-Income Get Careers

From Wicked Local Newton

 

Coalition to Push for Khan’s Bill to Help Teens, Low-Income Get Careers

 

By Michael P. Norton
State House News Service

January 10, 2013

 

Boston — Supporters of legislation aimed at enabling more Massachusetts families to achieve economic self-sufficiency say only six states have fewer public assistance participants enrolled in education and training programs.

 

Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) on Thursday indicated a coalition, including organizations falling under the umbrella Workforce Solutions Group, will push for passage this session of the “career pathways” bill.

 

Bill supporters say pilot efforts linked to the state’s network of education and vocational programs will help more low-income and teen parents to gain skills they need to obtain higher paying jobs.

 

Under the bill, pilot programs would be administered by the Commonwealth Corporation under an agreement with the Department of Transitional Assistance, and at least 40 percent of participants would be recipients of benefits under the state’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.

 

The Workforce Solutions Group, which includes the Crittenton Women’s Union, the Mass. AFL-CIO and the Mass. Business Roundtable, says Massachusetts workers with only a high school diploma earn about half as much as individuals with a college degree, or $42,863 per year versus $80,611 per year.

 

The group estimates that 85 percent of TAFDC participants have a high school diploma or less, and says state investments in education and training for TAFDC participants have declined from $36.2 million in fiscal 2002 to $7.9 million currently. According to Workforce Solutions Group, Massachusetts directs only 1 percent of its state and federal welfare funding to “work-related activities” to TAFDC recipients, ranking it in the bottom quarter of states.


Click here to read the full article.

 

 

State House News Service: Welfare Ranking, Funding Cuts Cited in Push for “Pathways” Bill

From the State House News Service


Welfare Ranking, Funding Cuts Cited in Push for “Pathways” Bill

 

By Michael P. Norton
January 10, 2013

 

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 10, 2013…..Supporters of legislation aimed at enabling more Massachusetts families to achieve economic self-sufficiency say only six states have fewer public assistance participants enrolled in education and training programs.

Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton) on Thursday indicated a coalition, including organizations falling under the umbrella Workforce Solutions Group, will push for passage this session of the “career pathways” bill.

Bill supporters say pilot efforts linked to the state’s network of education and vocational programs will help more low-income and teen parents to gain skills they need to obtain higher paying jobs.

Under the bill, pilot programs would be administered by the Commonwealth Corporation under an agreement with the Department of Transitional Assistance, and at least 40 percent of participants would be recipients of benefits under the state’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program.

The Workforce Solutions Group, which includes the Crittenton Women’s Union, the Mass. AFL-CIO and the Mass. Business Roundtable, says Massachusetts workers with only a high school diploma earn about half as much as individuals with a college degree, or $42,863 per year versus $80,611 per year.

The group estimates that 85 percent of TAFDC participants have a high school diploma or less, and says state investments in education and training for TAFDC participants have declined from $36.2 million in fiscal 2002 to $7.9 million currently. According to Workforce Solutions Group, Massachusetts directs only 1 percent of its state and federal welfare funding to “work-related activities” to TAFDC recipients, ranking it in the bottom quarter of states.

Khan told the News Service she hopes a $2 million investment during the upcoming budget process would get pilot programs started.

“I think there will be an interest during the budget process to try to put some of that money back,” she said, adding that she was encouraged by the turnout at a briefing on her bill Thursday.

About 122,000 adults and children received TAFDC assistance in May 2012, with benefits ranging from $300 to $500 a month for a total cost of about $325 million, according to the Workforce Solutions Group.

In addition to Khan, the bill’s supporters include Rep. Thomas Conroy of Wayland and Sens. Eileen Donoghue of Lowell and Ken Donnelly of Arlington.

Senate President Therese Murray last week identified welfare reform and closing loopholes as a priority issue in the new session. Murray said Massachusetts “became a leader in welfare reform” in 1995 by setting work or education requirements that helped cut the number of recipients in half.

 

Click here to access the full article.

Congress Averts Fiscal Cliff

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness

 

On Tuesday, January 1, Congress passed legislation that averted or postponed a majority of the provisions and events that make up the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The bill, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (HR 8), was signed into law by the President early Thursday morning.

 

HR 8 prevents personal income tax rates from increasing on the vast majority of Americans through making temporary tax reductions permanent, while raising income tax rates for those with higher incomes by allowing tax reductions for wealthy individuals and households to expire. At the same time, the bill raised taxes on working people, particularly those with lower incomes, by ending a temporary reduction in payroll taxes. The bill includes numerous other benefit- and tax-related provisions. Those that are most likely to impact low-income Americans include a one-year extension of: the Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits; temporary tax credits; and the Medicare “doc fix,” which provides higher reimbursement rates for physicians under the Medicare program.

 

While portions of the fiscal cliff were averted, the bill failed to replace the across-the-board cuts to domestic and defense spending, known as sequestration, with alternative deficit reduction measures. The deal averted the cuts for approximately two months, moving the sequester back to March 1, with the hope that the 113th Congress can strike an alternative deficit reduction deal by then. If the sequester had gone into effect last week, the Alliance estimates that ultimate cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants would have resulted in 145,000 people homeless instead of housed. The postponed sequester, should it take place on March 1, will be slightly less damaging than in its original form; however, it would still include significant cuts to HUD programs. The cuts would have a more immediate impact on programs like Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing, although they would also do substantial harm to homeless assistance programs once the 2013 funding for those programs is released.

 

HR 8 additionally decreases spending for fiscal year (FY) 2013 by $2 billion, even without sequestration. This could result in funding cuts to programs within HUD, as well as many other departments in the finalized FY 2013 funding bills. This may result in service reductions across the country.

“Pathways to Family Success” Bill Briefing

“Pathways to Family Success” Bill Briefing

 

  • Thursday, January 10th
  • 11:30am
  • State House Room 350

 
Chairwoman Khan will be holding a State House briefing on the “Pathways to Family Success”  bill that Crittenton Women’s Union and the Workforce Solutions Group have been working on.

 

Please feel free to bring families from your programs and ask elected representatives you have relationships with to attend.

 

Click here to access a DRAFT the updated draft bill language and a DRAFT FAQ.

WBUR: Massachusetts Making New Push To Add To Housing Stock

From WBUR.com

Massachusetts Making New Push To Add To Housing Stock

 

By The Associated Press
November 14, 2012

 

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick is unveiling new initiatives that he says will help create an additional 10,000 multi-family units of housing in Massachusetts each year.

 

Patrick said one of the initiatives is designed to provide financial incentives to cities and towns that plan to build residential housing near public transportation and town centers.

 

The administration also announced progress in finding affordable housing for homeless veterans. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said there’s been a 21 percent decline in the number of homeless veterans in Massachusetts over the past year.

 

Patrick said the administration has also made what he called significant investments in the Commonwealth’s public housing stock.

 

Patrick said the state has preserved and improved 46,000 public housing units through increased capital funding, increased operating subsidies, and changes in management.

Public Information and Listening Session on Supportive Housing MOU

Please join a public information and listening session regarding the implementation of An Act Relative to Community Housing and Services

 

  • October 17, 2012
  • 4:00pm -5:00pm
  • Gardner Auditorium at the State House.

 

At this session, Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein and Assistant Secretary Marilyn Anderson Chase will provide background on the effort to date and an overview of key components that will be included in the interagency MOU mandated by the legislation. After that presentation, attendees will have an opportunity to offer feedback and guidance on this initiative.

 

Contact Laila Bernstein to identify if you have a need for an ASL interpreter or a CART reporter by October 11th. If you are unable to attend and would like to submit input about the implementation of this legislation, please send your feedback to Laila.Bernstein@state.ma.us by October 17th at 5pm.

White House Releases Sequestration Report

Advocacy Update from the National Alliance to End Homelessness

 

White House Releases Sequestration Report 

Sequestration, or the automatic, across-the-board cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, will directly result in thousands upon thousands of people losing their housing assistance, leading to increases in homelessness and a further burden on an already badly strained system.

 

As homeless service providers, stakeholders, and advocates, WE MUST ACT NOW to avert sequestration! When Congress returns from the November elections for the so-called Lame Duck session, they will be focusing almost exclusively on sequestration and plans to alter or reverse it.

 

The defense industry has been actively advocating against cuts to defense spending, and Congress has listened. We must make sure that Members of Congress also know the importance of fully-funding HUD programs to their constituents.

 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Let your Members of Congress know you want affordable housing and homelessness programs protected from these cuts.Use these talking points to assist you.
  • Take advantage of the upcoming congressional recess (tentatively beginning this weekend through the elections) to:
    1. Invite your Member on a site visit;
    2. Meet with your Member while he/she is at home in the district;
    3. Call your Members’ Washington, DC office and let them know sequestration should not happen on the backs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness; and/or
    4. Place an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor in your local paper letting your Member of Congress know what your community thinks of cuts to HUD programs.

 

There are many ways you can get involved – the key thing is to TAKE ACTION. Staff at the Alliance are available to assist you in reaching out to your Members’ offices. Please don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

More Information

 

 

Last Friday, September 14, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the congressionally-mandated report on the effects of sequestration on all discretionary programs in the federal budget.

Prior to the report, the Alliance had estimated that many programs would experience an 8.4 percent cut on January 2. The report, however, reduced that estimate to 8.2 percent. The following is a list of key affordable housing and homelessness programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the cuts that those accounts will receive, should sequestration remain in its current form:

 

  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants will receive a cut of $156 million, resulting in approximately 145,000 people who are homeless rather than housed;  
  • The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (Tenant-Based Rental Assistance) will receive a cut of $1.53 billion, resulting in approximately 186,000 people losing their rental assistance;    
    • The one exception in HUD is vouchers that are part of the joint HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program for homeless veterans – these are exempt from sequestration.
  • The Project-Based Rental Assistance program will receive a $772 million cut, resulting in approximately 90,000 households losing housing within several years; and
  • The HOME program will receive an $82 billion cut, resulting in approximately 4,500 households that would not receive new or rehabilitated rental and ownership housing. 

 

Right now, it is up to all of us to ensure that we continue to work toward a future where homelessness is a thing of the past. Let Congress know NOW that these cuts are simply unacceptable.

DHCD Solidifies Plan to Allocate New MRVP Resources

Update From CHAPA’s Housing Briefs:

 

DHCD Solidifies Plan to Allocate New MRVP Resources

 

DHCD has developed a draft spending plan for the $6 million FY’13 increase in MRVP. 400 vouchers will be allocated to families who are homeless where a member of the household has a diagnosed disability and is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. The Regional nonprofits will administer these vouchers and hold lotteries among the aforementioned group of eligible households who entered the Emergency Assistance shelter system between October 29th, 2011 and June 30th, 2012 to determine who will receive assistance. In addition, DHCD will dedicate MRVP vouchers to new supportive housing for 1) persons with disabilities if the state receives an 811 award and 2) formerly homeless households. With approximately 550 vouchers to allocate, targeting assistance was a difficult decision and CHAPA applauds DHCD for developing a thoughtful approach to allocating scarce resources.

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Funds To Combat Homelessness

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Department of Housing and Community Development
Press Release
Contact: Mary-Leah Assad – 617-573-1102

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES FUNDS TO COMBAT HOMELESSNESS

$5.3 million for emergency shelter, rehousing and prevention programs
BOSTON – Thursday, August 23, 2012 – The Patrick-Murray Administration’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) today announced $5.3 million in federal Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds to combat homelessness in the Commonwealth. The funds will support emergency shelters, rapid rehousing for individuals and homelessness prevention programs for families.

 

“As we continue to implement a housing first model, we know that providing the right resources at the right time helps individuals and families achieve housing sustainability,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness. “By partnering with the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation, we are aggressively working towards ending homelessness and ensuring individuals and families most in need receive emergency support and assistance.”

 

“We thank the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation for making these funds available,” said DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein. “I look forward to working with our partners across the Commonwealth to put this new resource to good use and help our most vulnerable individuals and families get back on their feet.”

 

Funding for homeless prevention activities will help an estimated 700 extremely low-income families and individuals who are at risk of becoming homeless achieve housing stability and avoid shelter in the first place.

 

“We applaud the continuing commitment of both federal and state government to make sure we have the resources to help eliminate homelessness throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Jim Cuddy, Executive Director of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council. “Shelters should serve only as a very last resort in meeting the housing needs of families and individuals. With these federal dollars, we will be able to ensure that many hundreds of people will have a safe and decent place to call home.”

 

Furthering the Patrick-Murray Administration’s effort to move toward a housing strategy and away from a shelter response, $2 million of the ESG funds will support rapid rehousing for homeless individuals. The program will move an estimated 792 homeless individuals from emergency shelter to housing this fiscal year.

 

“Rapid rehousing strategies are a critical part of ending homelessness in Massachusetts,” said Joe Finn, President and Executive Director of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance. “By moving individuals quickly from shelters and the streets into housing, these targeted, short-term funds will enable the Commonwealth to decrease its reliance on emergency resources and focus on housing solutions to homelessness.”

 

More than $1.7 million in shelter support funds will decrease individual shelter stays by increasing housing stabilization staff in 10 emergency shelters, creating 22 additional shelter beds, funding 329 previously unfunded beds and increasing the number of community rooms for homeless families from two to 15.

 

“Father Bill’s and MainSpring believes we need to convert our emergency shelter system to a triage and assessment response that assists families and individuals out of homelessness as soon as possible. We thank the Patrick-Murray Administration for their continued commitment to end homelessness and not just manage it,” said John Yazwinski, President & CEO, Father Bill’s and MainSpring. “The Department of Housing and Community Development is looking for solution-oriented models when addressing homelessness and we thank them for supporting this new triage model, while still making sure we have a safety net in our communities.”

 

ESG is an annual federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that was increased under the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009. The HEARTH Act represents a national shift in focus away from emergency shelters and toward stable, permanent housing that mirrors the Commonwealth’s ongoing housing first effort.

 

Click here to access the full press release and a list of grantees.