House and Senate negotiators this week are considering major changes to the Section 8 rental voucher program as part of final deliberations on the FY 2005 budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Thse changes could include adoption of major portions of the Bush Administration's “Flexible Voucher” plan to
convert Section 8 to a capped block grant program and create disincentives to prevent local housing agencies from targeting rental assistance to extremely low-income households – especially people with mental illnesses who are on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Despite the fact that both the House and Senate proposed budgets for the FY 2005 HUD budget (known as the VA-HUD Appropriations bill, HR 5041/S 2825) reject the “Flexible Voucher” plan, efforts are being made to revive major portions of it as Congress moves to finish work on the bill by the end of this week.
Click here to read additional background information on the Section 8 program as a critical affordable housing resource for people with mental illnesses and the Administration's "Flexible Voucher" proposal.
Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact members of Congress and urge them to support provisions in the Senate version of the FY 2005 VA-HUD Appropriations bill that:
1. provide sufficient funding for FY 2005 to renew all current Section 8 vouchers and reject the $1.6 billion cut to Section 8 and
2. reject the Administration's “Flexible Voucher” proposal, including efforts to convert the program to a capped dollar-based block grant, eliminate targeting requirements for extremely low-income households and allow for arbitrary time limits on assistance.
In particular, advocates are urged to ask their Senators and House member to reach out to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees (Senators Bond &
Mikulski and Representatives Walsh & Mollohan) to support the funding levels and protections for Section 8 in the Senate bill.
All House and Senate offices can be reached through the Capital switchboard at 202-224-3121 (please note that this is not a toll-free call). Senators and House members can also be reached at their local offices that are listed in the Blue Pages of your local phone directory.