CHN: House Appropriations Committee Reports FY03 VA-HUD Bill

Section 8 Policy Changes Could Drastically Limit Voucher Program
On Wednesday, October 9, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year (FY) 2003 VA-HUD bill (HR 5605) for $122.56 billion in overall spending. VA-HUD funding covers the departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and 20 other independent agencies. The House Appropriations Committee bill calls for $90.9 billion in discretionary spending, which is $4.5 billion less than FY02 allocations, $2.5 billion less than the president’s request, and $500 million less than the Senate Appropriations Committee’s VA-HUD bill. The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its VA-HUD spending measure (S 2797) on July 25 (see the August 2 edition of The Human Needs Report ).

Under HR 5605, HUD would receive $31.3 billion in total discretionary funding, roughly $700 million less than the Senate committee’s appropriation level, and $76 million less than the administration’s request. The House Appropriations Committee approved the following levels of funding for these select programs:

· The House measure provides $16.6 billion for the Housing Certificate Fund, a $946 million increase over FY02 spending, but $812 million less than Senate committee levels and $940 million less than the administration’s FY03 request.

· The House Committee bill cuts $940 million from the President’s budget for Section 8 housing assistance, using a new funding formula based on two-year-old data of voucher utilization. The formula would result in a cut of approximately 150,000 renewable and new vouchers, or seven percent of families eligible for Section 8 housing assistance.

· HR 5605 would fund the HOME Investment Partnership Program at $2.2 billion, $375 million over FY02 and $271 million over Senate levels. House funding levels would include a $227 million increase for HOME formula grants and a full $200 million funding of the President’s Downpayment Assistance Initiative.

· Homeless programs would receive $1.25 billion under the House plan, roughly the same as Senate Appropriations Committee levels.

· Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) is funded by the House bill at the President’s request of $292 million, $15 million above last year and equal to Senate committee funding levels.

· The Community Development Fund would receive $5 billion under the House plan. House committee CDF funding includes $4.58 billion for CDBG, which is slightly higher than FY02 spending, but less than S 2797 CDBG funding of $5.5 billion.

The House VA-HUD bill balances increases in HUD and VA medical care spending with other cuts, including a full cut in funding for AmeriCorps and other federally administered volunteer programs. Volunteer program cuts correspond with the Bush administration’s request, but differ from S 2797, which would increase funding for such programs by $115 million over last year’s funding level of $400 million.

Despite decreases in overall discretionary spending, the FY03 House bill recommends an increase in spending on veterans’ medical care. Both the Senate and the House bills provide $23.9 billion in VA medical care, an increase of $2.5 billion over FY02 spending and a $1.1 billion increase over the President’s request. This boost in funding is largely in response to complaints by veterans, a powerful group of constituents in an election year, who report a significant backlog at VA medical centers. The VA system has been flooded with patients due to the popularity of a veterans’ prescription drug program, a program not provided for under Medicare.

Budget and Appropriations
Housing and Homelessness