Funding Returns For Many Housing and Anti-Hunger Programs!
The omnibus appropriations bill is the biggest piece of annual legislation for anti-poverty programs. While it does not change funding levels for many of the largest anti-poverty programs including Social Security, SNAP and Medicaid (these are mandatory spending programs and fund all eligible applicants), it sets the funding levels for ALL other anti-poverty programs—including all federal housing programs and many anti-hunger programs that make up the social safety net. Let’s look at a few of the federal programs fighting hunger and homelessness funded in the omnibus.
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food aid for low income pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants and children. This program serves over half of all infants in the United States and Congress has traditionally funded it at the estimated level of need, (meaning that no one gets turned away). Thankfully, this year is no different, but the program will actually receive less funding than last year ($6.7 million v. $7.05 million) because estimates forecast fewer eligible women and children.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides food to low income seniors age 60 and over with incomes less than 130% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (or about $15,000). The program serves nearly 600,000 low income seniors, but will hopefully be able to serve thousands more as it received a $15.8 million boost from pre-sequester FY2013 funding (from $186.9 million to $202.7 million).
- Section-8 Housing Choice Vouchers helps millions of low-income Americans afford a safe and stable place to live. The program faced a $1 billion funding cut because of the sequester and as a result over 40,000 families were left without their rental subsidy but funding for the program has now been restored and increased from pre-sequester levels.
- Funding for the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) is one of the most notable absences in the omnibus. It was created in 2008 with the purpose of providing funds to build, rehabilitate, and repair affordable housing units for low-income people and President Obama has repeatedly requested it to be funded at $1 billion, which would create 3.5 million new affordable housing units. However, the program will go unfunded for another fiscal year and housing and homelessness advocates will have to wait yet another budget cycle for a major victory.
While this omnibus appropriations bill keeps our anti-poverty programs moving in the right direction, our most vulnerable still need more help. Please urge your Members of Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund and help end homelessness.