Congress Nears FY20 Spending Deal to Avoid Government Shutdown - Affordable Housing Online

Congress Nears FY20 Spending Deal to Avoid Government Shutdown

By on December 19th, 2019

Tagged As: Affordable Housing News, Editorials

United States Capitol. Photo by pixabay.com

The U.S. House of Representatives passed $1.4 trillion in spending bills on Tuesday to fund the federal government through Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The legislation now moves to the Senate, which must approve it quickly to avoid a government shutdown. Once approved, HUD will receive funding increases that are a rejection of the massive cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

The prospects of avoiding another government shutdown look good. Agreement on all the funding bills was reached last Thursday by the leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations committees. Senate Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and House Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) were joined by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) in the negotiations. Called “The Four Corners,” these lawmakers are also the ones that brokered the deal last winter to end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

The lawmakers negotiated a compromise with the White House over the president’s demand for more funding to build a southern border wall. The spending legislation includes $1.375 billion for border wall construction, the same as last year. President Trump declared a national emergency on the southern border last February so that he could shift funds from military construction accounts to pay for the wall. The FY 2020 funding bill does not include any restrictions on shifting funds from other programs to pay for the wall. However, Congress did not replace $3.6 billion in military construction transfers from FY 2019 funding. This is supposed to make it less appealing to raid other accounts in the future.

The spending bill provides increased funding for most affordable housing over last year’s levels. Congressional negotiators rejected the severe funding cuts the Trump administration had proposed for HUD. In total, HUD will receive $49.1 billion for FY 2020. This is $4.9 billion more than in FY 2019, and $12.4 billion more than the Trump administration requested.

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) programs received funding increases. The bill provides the HCV program with $23.9 billion for FY 2020, up $1.3 billion from the previous year. PBRA will receive $12.6 billion, which is $550 million more than the President requested.

The spending measure also provides $40 million for HUD-VASH vouchers that serve veterans, the same as last year. The Trump administration had proposed eliminating this program in its FY 2020 budget.

In total, HUD will receive $49.1 billion for FY 2020; $4.9 billion more than in FY 2019. Photo by hud.gov

The President had proposed drastic cuts to Public Housing, and the spending bill rejects these as well. The Public Housing Operating fund received $4.5 billion for FY 2020. This pays for ongoing maintenance and administration of public housing properties. Although it is $104 million below the FY2019 level, it is $1.7 billion more than the Trump administration requested.

The Public Housing Capital Fund pays for major repairs and upgrades to Public Housing. It includes things like replacing boilers and roofs, health and safety measures, and accessibility improvements. The Capital Fund received $2.9 billion for FY 2020, $94 million more than in FY 2019. President Trump proposed eliminating this program, saying that state and local government should do more to maintain Public Housing.

Housing for populations with special needs all saw modest funding increases over FY 2019 levels. The Section 202 Housing for the Elderly programs received $793 million, and the Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities program received $202 million for FY 2020. The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program received $410 million

The House also approved funding increases for block grant programs that the administration wanted to eliminate. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program supports affordable housing development and public infrastructure projects. It also supports community programs like Meals on Wheels. The FY 2020 spending bill provides $3.4 billion for CDBG, $100 million above FY 2019. 

The HOME program supports rental housing development affordable to people with the lowest incomes. It can also be used to provide rental assistance. Although the president proposed its elimination, HOME received $$1.35 billion, $100 million more than in FY 2019.

Funding to address homelessness also increased for FY 2020. The spending measure includes $2.8 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants. This is $141 million more than in FY 2019, and more than $178 million more than the Trump administration requested.

The spending legislation not only spells out funding amounts for different programs, it also includes a few policy measures. The legislation addresses HUD’s failure to release billions in disaster mitigation funds to Puerto Rico. It states that until HUD makes these funds available to Puerto Rico, it will not be able to use certain other funds. Major programs that directly benefit low-income renters, such as Section 8 HCV, Section 8 PBRA or Public Housing will not be affected by this penalty on HUD.

Now that the House has approved the FY 2020 appropriations bills, the Senate needs to pass them too by December 20th. It appears likely that the Senate will pass the funding measures. President Trump has said he will sign the bills.

The FY 2020 spending bill is good news for low-income renters. It avoids a damaging shutdown that would hurt low-income people the most. Last year’s record-breaking 35-day partial government shutdown affected millions of households living in HUD-assisted housing. And Congressional negotiators not only rejected President Trump’s severe affordable housing cuts, they increased the funding for most programs.