Mr. LaFALCE. Mr. Chairman, this amendment, which the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE) and I are offering jointly, would restore funding cuts made in the bill to vital homeless prevention programs in order to provide sufficient funding to renew expiring rental assistance grants for the disabled, the mentally ill, veterans, and other individuals at risk of homelessness.
One year ago, in a very bipartisan effort, Congress was forced to take emergency action to reinstate funding for [Page: H4711]
the renewal of homeless Shelter Plus Care, and SHP permanent housing grants which HUD did not renew as part of its continuum of care funding process. This rescued thousands of our most vulnerable Americans from losing their rental assistance and from becoming homeless. In my district alone, almost 200 very low income individuals were threatened
with the loss of assistance and the loss of a home.
Learning from this experience, last year's House-passed VA-HUD appropriations bill authorized renewal of expiring Shelter Plus Care grants through the section 8 certificate fund, which would have eliminated the risk of nonrenewal. In conference, the House and Senate agreed to a similar approach establishing a separate $100 million account for expiring Shelter Plus Care grants and directing HUD to develop a mechanism to renew expiring SHP permanent housing grants. Early this year, the administration's
budget request was to continue funding this separate renewal account in the amount of $100 million.
So it seems inexplicable to me that the majority has elected to cut this $100 million renewal account. The effect is to reduce funding for homeless programs by $100 million and put tens of thousands of individuals at risk of losing their rental assistance.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, which strongly supports the amendment of the gentlewoman from California and myself, has written that projects would be shut down in the best of circumstances under this bill, and further pointed out that effective planning would be impossible, and that local communities would be in grave doubt about the ongoing viability of existing projects.
The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has written in strong support of our amendment and notes that the bill would have the effect of undoing last year's farsighted decision by Congress to promote long-term stable funding from HUD and threatened to disrupt successful local programs.
This amendment of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. LEE) and myself would avert this crisis by restoring the $100 million cut made to the account to renew Shelter Plus Care grants and providing an additional $22.6 million to renew all SHP permanent housing grants. Specifically, the bill increases the homeless assistance grants account by $122.6 million with the intent in conference to establish a reliable source of renewals, either through the section 8 account or a separate renewal
I understand that the majority will argue, as it does in their committee report, that action is not needed at this time to address renewal needs. The problem is that grants which expire on October 1, 2002 and later have no source of funding to renew such grants, except to apply for funding under the fiscal 2002 continuum of care competition. This is because the account established last year for renewals may not be used to renew any grants expiring after fiscal year 2002.
This exposes tens of thousands of at-risk families to the same risk of nonrenewal that we faced last year. However, even if such renewal grants are approved under the competitive award process, many projects will run out of money, and that is because the continuum of care awards have historically been made in December, months after many of the grants run out of money. It is for these reasons that all of the groups that deal with these programs say that the bill does not adequately address the
problem of renewals.
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment.
Mr. Chairman, this is one of many amendments which goes after the President's initiative to provide funds to low-income families to help them to buy homes. As I mentioned earlier, we have about $16 billion in the bill for section 8 housing vouchers, and I think there has been a high demand for those, and it is a popular program. We have provided additional funds for section 8. Some of those funds will be used in pilot programs around the country to help to encourage low-income families who are
now renting to utilize those vouchers for homeownership, to make monthly mortgage payments.
What the President has proposed, and Secretary Martinez has asked us to support, is providing $200 million nationally so that those individuals would be provided with the funds to make that down payment, that big chunk of money that we all know we have to come up with in order to make the initial mortgage deal. The section 8 housing vouchers hopefully will provide the taxpayer and the owner with a very good investment, a very good return on those section 8 vouchers.
So it is an important initiative, and it would be wrong to deny low-income families moving from welfare to work and from tenantship to ownership. Those funds are important. We need to keep those funds where they are.
Now, as far as the homeless program where these funds would be provided, let me just state my feeling. I feel very strongly that we need to provide funds to help people who are homeless to find permanent homes. My first action as city council president in Syracuse back in 1987 was to establish a homeless and housing vulnerable task force. It has been working ever since. The need continues, but I think we have done a very good job in central New York in providing homes for the homeless.
We have provided over $1 billion in this bill for that purpose nationwide. It is an increase, albeit a slight increase, over last year. So the subcommittee's commitment and support for programs to provide help to the homeless is in place.
As I believe the gentleman knows, all fiscal year 2002 renewal costs for Shelter Plus Care programs are fully funded. Mr. Chairman, 2002 is fully funded. The committee has already indicated it would address fiscal year 2003 needs for this program in next year's bill. The committee's action is identical to the way funding for these costs have always been treated with the exception of 2001, and is identical to the way all programs in this bill are treated.
This amendment proposes to treat this program differently than every other program in this bill by using fiscal year 2002 funds to forward-fund fiscal 2003 costs. To do this, the gentleman would cut $100 million out of this very important program, and those funds would be divided amongst the States, including New York's, which would get a large proportion of these funds, and also to 594 cities to help provide affordable housing to members of our communities. [Page: H4712]
In addition, it would cause HUD to eliminate over 268 jobs by taking $22 million from salaries and expenses.
I believe the real intent behind the gentleman's agreement is to ensure that fiscal year 2003 funding needs for this program do not compete with any other program next year.
While I have sympathy for his desire to essentially create an entitlement program, we cannot support this. We oppose it. It makes no sense to cut funds to States and localities and eliminate HUD employees to set aside funding that is not even needed next year for this program. I would therefore urge rejection of the amendment.
Mrs. KELLY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in opposition to the amendment offered by my colleague, the gentleman from New York (Mr. LaFalce). This amendment unfortunately would cut in half the funding for an important initiative proposed by the President to assist low-income families to purchase their own homes.
With this money, he proposes to forward-fund the Shelter Plus Care program. While I am a strong supporter of the Shelter Plus Care program, it is not necessary to add additional funds to the program to ensure that all contract renewals will occur. This funding would then be used to forward-fund contracts in fiscal year 2003.
This would set an unnecessary precedent. I believe the money is put much better to use in the downpayment assistance initiative next year. We must do more to move low-income families into their own homes. This is a critical need that we need to work to address. We know the barriers for low-income families to purchase their own home, and one of the largest is the downpayment.
I cannot understate the importance of this initiative. So many Americans lack the opportunity to purchase a new home and spend a large percentage of their income on their monthly rent. That can be the right choice for some but not for all.
Most families greatly benefit from the purchase of their own homes. A home helps a family create wealth through equity. It also invests them into the community. In short, we help these families rise on the economic ladder and build stronger communities in the process.
It is truly the American dream to own one's own home, a dream we must make a reality for families who currently lack the opportunity to realize this goal.
In addition, the LaFalce amendment cuts $23 million from the salary and expense accounts from HUD. HUD is struggling with real problems these days. They have shut down programs because their mission in recent years has been so spread out that they have been incapable of properly overseeing and implementing the programs that they administer.
Secretary Martinez has been working to refocus HUD on their true core mission, one of providing and facilitating the creation of housing. This is not the time to reduce the resources of HUD.
The gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Oxley), the chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, says he will oppose any amendment that cuts money for the downpayment assistance program of the HOME program. In short, let us work on the funding for the Shelter Plus Care program next year when they really need the funding.
In the meantime, let us fully fund the President's downpayment assistance initiative in this bill by joining me in defeating the LaFalce amendment.
Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the distinguished leader for yielding.
I question the gentleman's estimate about when we can finish this bill even if we were to proceed here tonight. There is a lot of material here. He might be right, he might be wrong, but my judgement is he is probably underestimating the amount of time it is [Page: H4715]
going to take to finish this bill. I would not expect to be able to be finished by 2 o'clock tomorrow.
Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I understand Members' desires to leave, but there is a constitutional responsibility to debate seriously important issues. I am the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity. Under the schedule proposed by the majority leader, we would be debating much of these important housing issues beginning sometime after 11 o'clock tonight until the early hours with no votes. I cannot agree to that, and I must inform Members that there will be no assurance
of not having votes. There are votes on appeals from the chair. There are motions to rise. The problem is that important issues have to be discussed. We have all week next week. I am ready to work, but I will not agree, and Members should not expect to leave at 11 o'clock while we debate these important issues and not have votes.
Mr. ARMEY. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Massachusetts has made his point. The fact is he can, in fact, delay everything we try to do tonight and prevent us from completing our work. In that event we would have to work through the weekend.
SEQUENTIAL VOTES POSTPONED IN COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE