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.

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.

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.

NAEH Blog: New Opportunities to Improve Families’ Employment Outcomes

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness Blog


2nd August 2012 written by Sharon McDonald


States have an important new opportunity to improve the employment outcomes of low-income families. In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an Information Memorandum indicating the Administration’s interest in granting waivers to states for the administration of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. States may now seek waivers from the administration that allow them to experiment with new strategies to help low-income parents on TANF connect with employment.


States are required to demonstrate that 50 percent of the TANF caseload complies with work activity requirements. Advocates have long been concerned that the federal rules regarding “what counts” as a work activity is often a poor match for what many parents need to successfully prepare for, or enter, the workforce. Families in which a parent or a child has a disability are often poorly served under the current rules. Some are unable to meet the required number of hours in a work activity. Others require work preparation activities that are not countable, and so are simply not offered.


The mismatch between what families need to transition to work and what TANF agencies can provide has important consequences. Some households face impending time limits for cash assistance without ever receiving the individually tailored supports that could help them succeed in the workforce.  High numbers of families, including those that include a member with a disability, lose cash assistance because they are unable to comply with work participation requirements. This contributes to the growth in the number of families living in extreme poverty without income from employment or social benefits. It also places families at greater risk of becoming homeless.


Waivers that allow States to expand the services they offer can help those with the most significant barriers to employment succeed and help them avoid falling deeper into poverty. When TANF agencies are able to successfully transition families into the workforce, they also reduce their vulnerability to homelessness. Ensuring States have the flexibility to deploy the tools that work to help families quickly connect to work can also help reduce their need for homeless services, allowing those scarce dollars to go further and help other vulnerable families in need.


Homeless service providers and advocates should explore how their State plans to take advantage of the new opportunity made available to improve employment services to low income families. For more information, contact Sharon McDonald at

Interim CoC Regulations Officially Published in Federal Register

Today, July 31, the interim HEARTH Act regulations for the new Continuum of Care (CoC) program within the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program were officially published in the Federal Register. HUD had previously posted a copy on the Homelessness Resource Exchange. With today’s publication in the Federal Register, the interim CoC regulation will go into effect on August 30, and public comments will be due on October 1.




View the CoC Regulation

USICH Blog: So Why No Party? Personal Reflections on The 25th Anniversary of The McKinney Act

USICH Blog Post


So Why No Party? Personal Reflections on The 25th Anniversary of The McKinney Act

By: Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of USICH

Posted: 7/25/12

I’m a person who loves a good celebration – whether it’s a birthday party or a housewarming for new neighbors or marking a milestone in an organization’s history.  This week, we could have celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness and enactment of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Act. Instead, I’m more saddened than celebratory.


Twenty five years ago, I was working in Cincinnati as part of the movement to end homelessness. I was active in the leadership of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless and Bethany House of Hospitality (now Bethany House Services). At the time, we believed that the passage of the McKinney Act signaled that the country had found the political will to end homelessness. We knew that the rising tide of homelessness was caused by job loss due to the recession, housing costs that were rising faster than wages and benefits, and holes in the safety net. We called out for “Housing Now!” but instead got only temporary programs.


The McKinney Act and the mandate for the USICH was to establish targeted funding to create and expand temporary homeless services—emergency shelter, transitional housing, vocational training and adult education—and  health care, mental health and addiction treatment.  Little did we understand that the appropriations under the McKinney Act were not a “downpayment” on longer term change that would result in a reinvestment of federal resources in affordable housing development. There was no second act that that provided increased federal funding for affordable housing despite repeated attempts and near misses to establish and fund the National Housing Trust Fund. The consequence is that the supply of affordable housing has shrunk and the availability of rental housing subsidies is far, far less than is needed. Over the past two and a half decades, the gap between housing costs and household incomes has widened, and too often advocates are resigned to calling it a victory if affordable housing programs stave off steep cuts.


Despite my somber outlook toward “celebrating” this anniversary, there is cause to recognize recent good news: The annual growth of homelessness has slowed and even reversed in many communities despite the challenges presented by the slow economic recovery. This trend appears to be a result of the focus on permanent supportive housing for persons experiencing chronic homelessness and the adoption of prevention and rapid re-housing strategies rather than expanding shelter or transitional housing programs. We’re also seeing more communities, as well as our federal agencies, working collaboratively to knit together scarce resources to get to real results  like shorter and fewer episodes of homelessness and improved housing outcomes in the most effective and cost-efficient ways.


So I’m marking this 25th anniversary by re-dedicating myself to the cause that no family, no child, no youth, no Veteran, no man or woman should be without a safe, decent place to call home. Housing Now!

House De-Funds Some McKinney Programs

Budget update from the National Alliance to End Homelessness


House De-Funds Some McKinney Programs, Releases FY 2013 HUD Bill


On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) approved its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2013.

The legislation includes $2 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. While this is nearly $100 million above the FY 2012 level, the Alliance estimates that it would not be sufficient to fund all Continuum of Care (CoC) renewals and maintain the existing level of Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) activities.


As a result, the Alliance estimates that more than 25,000 people would be homeless instead of housed under this legislation.
However, the bill also includes level or increased funding for a number of other key affordable housing and homeless assistance programs, including:

  • $19.1 billion for Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, including $75 million for approximately 10,000 new HUD – Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers;
  • $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), nearly $400 million above the FY 2012 level;
  • $1.2 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, $200 million above the FY 2012 level; and
  • $4.5 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, an increase of over $560 million above the FY 2012 level.


These proposed funding increases will go a long way toward keeping many low-income families and individuals in affordable housing; however, cuts to the number of homeless people served would be devastating.


We need YOUR help to send a strong message to Congress that, while we are thankful increases in funding for key affordable housing and community development programs, additional resources are needed for homeless assistance.


What You Can Do:

  1. Call your representatives’ Washington, DC offices RIGHT AWAY. Ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues. Congressional office phone numbers can be found by calling the congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.
  2. Express your appreciation that House’s FY 2013 HUD Appropriations Act includes strong funding levels for HUD-VASH and other key affordable housing programs, but explain that you were EXTREMELY disappointed to see that the legislation would make more than 25,000 additional people homeless instead of housed.
  3. Urge the representative to contact leaders of the  HUD Appropriations Committee to express his/her support for providing the Administration’s requested funding level of $2.231 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs.
  4. Tell us which office(s) you contacted by emailing Kate Seif at


More Information 

Due to overall budget pressures and a limited amount of funding available overall for federal domestic programs in the House’s FY 2013 budget, there is not enough funding to provide sufficient resources for affordable housing and homelessness programs.


Within this context, the House’s HUD appropriations bill maintains existing funding or even increases funding for some key affordable housing programs. These funds are critical for preventing and ending homelessness, but they cannot come at the expense of people experiencing homelessness and being served by HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs.


The Alliance estimates that the $2 billion provided in the House legislation is about $100 million below the level necessary to maintain existing ESG activities and renew all CoC projects.

As a result, more than 25,000 additional people would be homeless instead of housed under this legislation.


The next step is for the legislation to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee, likely the week of June 18. The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved its version of the legislation, which included $2.146 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs.


We need YOUR help to ensure that the House’s proposal doesn’t become law. Please contact your representatives RIGHT AWAY to let them know how important these programs are. Explain what the local impact of not funding all CoC renewals would be.

A Policy Brief on LGBTQ (LGBTQ) Homeless Youth

The National Alliance to End Homelessness recently released a policy brief on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) homeless youth.  This document not only outlines the challenges faced by this vulnerable population, but also suggests policy solutions to combat the issue.

LGBTQ Youth Homelessness
Nearly 1.7 million youth under the age of 18 run away from home and/or spend time homeless each year in the United States. Approximately 400,000 of these children remain outside their home for over a week, and 125,000 are homeless for over a month.


As many as 20 percent of the runaway and homeless youth population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). This suggests as many as 80,000 LGBTQ youth are homeless for over a week each year. These young people face particular difficulties. Ending homelessness for LGBTQ youth will require specific policies to address those difficulties, such as:

  • Promoting a culturally competent approach to service delivery and care;
  • Ensuring nondiscriminatory access to housing resources;
  • Supporting family intervention approaches that address conflict over sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Promoting supportive services models that take into account the experiences and needs of LGBTQ youth; and
  • Including LGBTQ youth in data collection and analysis.


Click here to access the full policy statement.

Senate HUD Bill Possible Next Week – Calls Needed

Advocacy Alert from the National Alliance to End Homelessness

The Senate HUD Appropriations Committee is likely to release and vote on its fiscal year (FY) 2013 appropriations bill, including funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, VERY soon – maybe NEXT WEEK!


As a result, the next week or so is CRITICAL for impacting how much funding the bill includes for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs! We need YOUR help calling your senators THIS WEEK to urge them to work with leaders of the HUD Appropriations Subcommittee to include the President’s requested funding level of $2.231 billion for McKinney-Vento in their bill.


Here’s How You Can Help:


  1. Call your senators’ Washington, DC offices RIGHT AWAY!!Ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues.
    1. NOTE: It’s PARTICULARLY important to call your senators if they sit on the HUD Appropriations Subcommittee (see below).
    2. Explain the importance of HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs to your community, and ask them to work with their colleagues to provide the President’s requested funding level in the FY 2013 HUD Appropriations Act. Use the sample talking points as a guide.
    3. Let us (The Alliance) know which office(s) you contacted!


This legislation released by the Senate will be the starting point and basis for the Senate’s position throughout the remainder of the year as they work with the House to pass a final HUD funding bill. So, it’s VERY important that it contains a strong funding level for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs!


We don’t yet know when the House will release its version of the legislation, but we will make sure to keep you posted once we find out.


Please let us know if you have any questions, or if we can be helpful in any way. Thanks in advance for your help with this critical effort!


Senators on the HUD Appropriations Committee include:

  • AL – Richard Shelby
  • AR – Mark Pryor
  • CA – Dianne Feinstein
  • IA – Tom Harkin
  • IL – Richard Durbin AND Mark Kirk
  • IN – Dan Coats
  • KS – Jerry Moran
  • MD – Barbara Mikulski
  • ME – Susan Collins (Top Republican)
  • MO – Roy Blunt
  • NJ – Frank Lautenberg
  • SD – Tim Johnson
  • TN – Lamar Alexander
  • TX – Kay Bailey Hutchison
  • VT – Patrick Leahy
  • WA – Patty Murray (Chair)
  • WI – Herb Kohl AND Ron Johnson





Amanda (Krusemark) Benton

Director of Policy Outreach

National Alliance to End Homelessness

(202) 942-8256

Reps. Tierney, Hinojosa, Miller to Offer Bill to Address Worker Retraining Crisis

Reps. Tierney, Hinojosa, Miller to Offer Bill to Address Worker Retraining Crisis: Legislation will help fill the 3.5 million open positions across this country

March 20, 2012

Attention: open in a new window.


Washington, DC – As the House Committee on Education and the Workforce looks to start work on reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act, which is the preeminent federal employment service and job training law, Congressmen John Tierney (D-MA), Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), and George Miller (D-CA) held a conference call with reporters today to announce their blueprint for how to strengthen and modernize this critical law. Later today, the lawmakers will introduce sweeping legislation to expand opportunities for workers, help businesses staff high-skilled and open positions, and assure that tax-payer dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3.5 million open positions nationwide, many that cannot be filled due to a lack of qualified candidates. In an effort to solve this job crisis, the House Democrats’ legislation – entitled the Workforce Investment Act of 2012 – will strengthen the existing system by streamlining and increasing access to training, promoting innovation, and ensuring accountability and transparency.

Click here to read the full press release.