CHN: Pressure Continues to Increase Section 8 Funding
As the Congressional calendar draws to a close, a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators are continuing to push for increased funding for the Section 8 Housing Voucher program in the fiscal year 2004 VA-HUD appropriations bill. President Bush drastically under-funded the Section 8 program in his budget this year. The shortfall threatened to cut 184,000 families off from housing aid they depend on. Advocates and Congressional allies have been working diligently all year to boost funding for this very important and successful program.
The House has already passed the VA-HUD appropriations bill and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) successfully sponsored an amendment to increase funding for the voucher program on the House floor. The passage of the Nadler-Velazquez amendment, which added $150 million to the funding level for the voucher program by shifting these funds from the HUD Working Capital Fund, reduced the size of the shortfall in the House bill, but did not close it. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 63,000 vouchers likely to be in use at the start of FY 2004 would be still be left unfunded under the final House bill, compared to 85,000 under the subcommittee bill. An additional $430 million would be required to fund all existing vouchers, but would do nothing for the millions of families on waiting lists for new vouchers.
In a continuing effort to show support for Section 8, Representatives Nadler and Velazquez have sent a letter co-signed by 110 Representatives to the chair and ranking member of the House VA-HUD appropriations subcommittee urging full funding for the Section 8 program. Six Republicans signed the letter, showing strong bipartisan support for the Section 8 program.
In the Senate, the VA-HUD appropriations bill is currently awaiting floor action. There are important improvements in the Senate bill for the Section 8 program, but it provides $200 million less for voucher funding than the House bill. The Senate bill contains a provision to alleviate the funding shortage by requiring the Department of Housing and Urban Development to draw upon unspent funds from prior years if needed to renew all vouchers currently in use.
Senator Sarbanes (D-MD) is sponsoring a Sense of the Senate amendment to the VA-HUD appropriations bill that expresses that the Section 8 program should be fully funded in FY04. The amendment currently has 20 co-sponsors, including 5 Republicans. The amendment will be offered during floor debate on the VA-HUD appropriations bill, which could begin as early as Monday.