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Federal Budget Process

Trump proposes Massive housing cuts and program changes for assisted housing

The Federal Budget Process

Phase 1: Budget deliberations
First week in February: President's Budget is Released
February: Congressional Budget Hearings begin.
March/April: U.S. House and U.S. Senate Budget Committees craft concurrent budget resolution. The budget resolution sets the spending limits for each of the 12 Appropriations committes. (see phase 2).

Phase 2: Appropriations
April/May: Funding ceilings are allocated to Appropriations Committees and Subcommittees. HUD funding is addressed in the Transportaton-Housing and Community Development (THUD) sub committee of the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees.

May/June: Appropriations Subcommittees deliberate, mark-up and pass bills; Bills pass out of Committee

June/July: Bills come up for vote on floor in House and Senate

September: More floor votes; conference committee(s) to hammer out differences; final passage of 12 bills 
Or....Possible Continuing Resolutions (CRs) or Omnibus bills. 

Click on the Budget Process and Timeline image below to see a larger version: 

Skinny budget proposes a fat lot of hurt

The Federal budget snapshot provided this week by the Trump administration is so bad that it's good. Now "Moderates" in the House and Senate will have an opportunity to take credit for fighting off cuts to beloved programs, thus saving their political "skins" in the 2018 mid-term elections. For example, expect that the Administration proposal to "zero-out" Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) will hit a brick wall of resistance as local legislators hear from local officials about the awful impacts on local communities. Your Congressional reps will fight like crazy to keep the cuts down to a "manageable" 50% and then claim victory. "We protected our communities from these awful cuts," they'll say...failing to mention that half of the funding is gone.

A little planning will make you a more effective advocate. 
  • Tip one: Stop and think. Your message should be clear and defensible, reflecting local realities, and emphasizing costs vs. benefits. Mobilize your volunteers, not just your program participants or members.
  • Tip two: Speak with one voice about the needs of the whole community. Shilling for a single program leaves you open to a charge of being a "special interest." 
  • Tip three: Don't argue for your program against the others. This could happen when your rep asks: "Is Meals on Wheels more worthy than Low Income Home Energy Assistance? Which one should I save?" Your answer should be: both are more important than more tax cuts for the wealthy or more nuclear weapons
Posted March 19, 2017
 What's the news

Key words: Advocate, federal funding, recission, hypocrisy

Trump Budget Could Hike Rents on Struggling Households

Will Fisher at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) red flags the possibility of massive rent increases for the lowest income households. "President Trump’s budget would raise rents in fiscal year 2018 on up to 4 million low-income households that receive federal rental assistance. Strikingly, it defends these higher rents for poor families, seniors, and people with disabilities struggling to keep a roof over their heads by claiming that they’re needed to reduce federal costs, even as it proposes trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations." The proposed rent changes include increasing rent from 30% to 35% of income, reducing allowances for medical and other expenses, and increasing minimum rents. CBPP's Barbara Sard notes that HUD plans to focus is Project Based Rental Assistance and housing programs for seniors and households with disabilities. The Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) program is not immediately at risk, but the proposed legislation would make it easy for HUD to extend the rent increases without additional Congressional action.

In the face of so many attacks on housing programs, RHINO has counselled members to pick some "bottom line" issues to address. Rent increases could be one of those issues. Owners will fight for their subsidies and mayors will fight for their CDBG, but only advocates will be fighting for rent justice. 

These changes to household rent are simply punitive and designed to promote the Administration's goal of making assisted housing a temporary, short term form of assistance rather than the foundation for the rental housing market. CBPP is clear that the proposed rent increases would do little to increase HUD's Income or offset the loss of subsidy appropriations. These rent changes would have to be applied to every single household all across the country before HUD would save a nickel. Besides, the rent changes are chump change for HUD, even though they enormous increases for individual fixed income households. 

Advocates need to take the Clown Prince of HUD seriously. On his trip to Ohio, he 'splained: "Compassion...means not giving people 'a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’ ” This is the real reason for the proposed changes. Make tenants uncomfortable.

Wait! Don't start bombarding your reps with emails, postcards, and phone messages just yet. Now is the time for housing advocates to develop a strategy to combat these regulatory changes. Here are some key elements.
  • Band together locally. Working with other organizations in your community lets you focus energy on a single representative and two senators. If a single organization tries to "own" the issue, the overall effort will fail. Keep your network flat (no hierarchy) and open (anyone can join if they share the mission.)
  • Engage tenants early. Tenants should be involved at every step. Create lots of "Rosa Parks moments" where tenants can speak for themselves in op/eds, news stories, and events. Tenants should participate in phone banks, post card mills, and email campaigns as decision time approaches. 
  • Recruit DC insiders to help. People who hang out in the halls of power can pick up news that don't hit the headlines. Forming a relationship with national organizations is one way to get inside info. Working relationships with a Congressional staffer is another. Use many sources, not just one.
  • Send simple messages. Too many advocates want to write "this is this and that is that" analysis when what's needed is bumper sticker slogans that capture the message: "Don't cut taxes for the rich by raising rents for the poor"." How about "Wealth is just a state of mind, let's share it"? 
 Because DC is in chaos, it's a dangerous time. Faced with the prospect of going back to voters empty handed, conservative representatives might be tempted to attach new restrictions that punish "the poor" to a Continuing Resolution so they can tell their constituents that they "did something." Being ready is the key.      
 posted June 5, 2017

Updates June 5, 2017
More on proposed HUD rent increases
  • "Trump’s housing budget is a mass eviction notice for the poor"
  • "A conscious choice to do harm"
  • "Mass evictions and con-man math"
  • "False economy"

Another footnote to Sunday's rhino!UP story: GOP running out of time for legislative achievements
rhino!UP suggested that Congress reps, fresh back from summer recess, might be tempted to sneak rent increases into a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open. It could be a way to show angry consitutents that they are "do somethings" instead of "do nothings". 

USDA’s Rural Rental Assistance program would receive more than half of the overall proposed increase in spending. At $1.41 billion, the rural rental assistance program would see a $15.3 million increase in funding compared to FY 2016. The House bill matches the request for rental assistance included in the President’s budget and would likely allow USDA to renew all existing contracts.
Two of USDA’s most important preservation programs would see increases in funding. Program levels for USDA’s Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Loan program would go up by $6.6 million, while the Multifamily Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program would receive an additional $3 million for housing vouchers. These programs are critical to USDA’s efforts to preserve its existing multifamily housing portfolio.

"A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that budget sequestration has deepened the nation’s affordable-housing crisis in alarming ways. And if the Republican Party cannot solve its political impasse, the crisis is only going to get worse.
"Republican leaders hope to devote much of the next few days to convincing conservatives to back the spending blueprint — with Price’s committee tentatively scheduled to vote on a proposal later this week, according to several GOP aides. Key to the sales pitch is a plan to offset the cost of the increased spending for the annual appropriations bills by slashing funding or finding savings elsewhere in the budget, such as in Medicaid and social services grant programs."

The GOP’s chances of passing a budget this year are dwindling as the Senate prepares for an impending brawl over a new Supreme Court nominee this spring. House and Senate Republican leaders have publicly declared they intend to complete the full appropriations process this year for the first time in two decades, just in time for the fall elections. But the party’s aggressive timeline is quickly moving out of reach, according to GOP aides and budget experts, making it increasingly likely the party will be forced to resort to another short-term funding measure or omnibus spending bill later this year.

Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) and other top Republicans are taking a serious look at adopting a sweeping anti-poverty plan long championed by black Democrats on Capitol Hill. Ryan has told the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) he’s pressing GOP appropriators to consider the CBC’s strategy of shifting more federal money to parts of the country with persistent poverty.

update February 9, 2016.

Stage 1 begins with the President's budget message due to be delivered on February 9th, but even before the message was sent Republicans decided that "dead on arrival" was not sufficient. They branded it "dead before arrival." Strap your seat belts for a contentious year! Congressional leadership seems caught between a rock and ....  Incumbents in tight races for re election seem reluctant to engage.  

What owners, tenants, and providers do ?
Right now you have 2 lobbying assignments
1. Register your program participants, neighbors and community members. Elected officials pay attention to voter and donors. Since you can't donate more than the fat cats, your best tool is having sack full of registered voters who want answers.
Invite a Congressperson to lunch! Extend an invitation to your congressional representatives to visit your property, hear about your programs, give them a plaque, cut a ribbon. Anything that gives them a hands on experience with real assisted housing properties and tenants can offset the perception created by 'the media'.
Change the narrative. You can start changing the perception of low income housing by participating in local events and highlighting your successes. Going to City council meetings and participating in community events helps your neighbors and your representatives understand that you're not 'an institution' you're part of their community. 
Make sure tenants are registered to vote. Now and then in an election year candidates pay attention to where registered voters live. Getting your names on the voter roles increases the chance that elected officals will want to hear your story. You can get the voter registration lists by address from your local Board of Elections, compare that to your tenant rolls and reach out to the unregistered. 

 What does it mean?

Fiscal Year:  The Federal budget runs from October to September of the following year.  FY 12 is 10/1/11 thru 9/30/12.

Budget and Appropriation Process (see column 1)

Budget:  Overall plan for spending. 

Funding levels for specific programs and agencies.  Appropriations bills are passed by Congress.

Authorization:  An act of Congress that creates a program.   Programs must be authorized before they can receive appropriations.


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