On September 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed action legislation covering the FY 2004 budgets for the Departments of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The
House passed its version of the same bill on July 25. The Senate bill includes $28.3 billion for veterans' medical care (including services for veterans living with mental illness), which nearly $1.6 billion more
than President Bush requested ($1.3 billion of this increase would be subject to an emergency designation). For HUD programs targeted to adults with severe mental illness, the Senate bill closely follows the House bill in freezing most programs including Section 811 ($250 million). No new funds are added for rental vouchers targeted to people with disabilities as requested by the President. However, the Senate bill does include additional funds for the the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (increased up to $1.325 billion), with sufficient funding to cover renewal of all expiring Shelter Plus Care rent subsidies (i.e.,
permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless). The FY 2004 VA-HUD Appropriations bill is not expected to reach the full Senate until late September.
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their Senators and
1) thank Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for fully funding the President's request for homeless funding under McKinney-Vento including (Shelter Plus Care renewals),
2) encourage them to seek additional funds in FY 2004 for the HUD Section 811 program to cover the cost of renewing all expiring tenant-based vouchers and PRAC rent subsidies ($50 million), and
3) support restoration of the $36 million requested by President Bush for housing vouchers for non-elderly people with disabilities.
All Senators can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard toll free at 1-800-839-5276 or at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org.
More details on the FY 2004 VA-HUD spending bill is available at:
NAMI's testimony to Congress on this important legislation can be viewed