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July 29, 2003

House Passes Funding Bill for Housing and Veterans' Programs

The House of Representatives on July 25 cleared legislation on next year's budgets for the U.S. Departments of Veterans' Affairs (VA) and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including housing and homeless programs serving adults with severe mental illnesses.  The bill, known as the FY 2004 VA-HUD Appropriations bill (HR 2861), is a massive $90 billion measure that contains both the $37 billion HUD budget and $27.2 billion for the VA Health Care System.  It is not expected that the Senate will take up the VA-HUD spending bill until after the August congressional recess.  Congress is supposed to complete action on this measure before FY 2004 begins on October 1 - a goal Congress will be hard pressed to meet.

It is important to note that the congressional budget resolution for FY 2004 sets tight constraints on overall federal discretionary spending - including for agencies such as HUD and VA.  The result is that the FY 2004 VA-HUD spending bill is required to stay under a mandatory restriction that limits overall growth of agencies and programs covered under the bill to under 3%.  This means that many programs under the bill, especially those at HUD, are either frozen or cut to make room for larger increases for other programs.  Until additional funds are added to the VA-HUD bill, i.e. above the $90 billion cap, it will be difficult for housing programs to receive additional funding without cutting spending on veterans' health care. 

Action Requested
NAMI advocates are urged to contact their Senators and urge them to support additional overall funding for the FY 2004 VA-HUD Appropriations bill (HR 2861).  In particular, NAMI advocates are encouraged to insist on additional funds for FY 2004 in order to:

  1. add an additional $1.8 billion to President Bush request for VA medical care (including treatment for veterans living with mental illnesses) as recommended in the House-passed budget resolution,
  2. keep pace with the growing burden associated with renewal of expiring HUD Section 811 rent subsidies WITHOUT eroding the capacity of the underlying 811 program to produce new projects and vouchers (this requires an increase in Section 811 funding of at least $42.7 million in FY 2004, up to $293.27 million),
  3. restore funding for President Bush's request for new tenant-based rental vouchers targeted to non-elderly people with disabilities (including adults with severe mental illness) adversely affected by "elderly only" designation of public and assisted housing ($36 million for FY 2004), and 
  4. full funding for President Bush's request for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ($1.325 billion for FY 2004) with adequate funding for renewal of Shelter Plus Care rent subsidies (this would require an additional $83 million above the amount in HR 2861). 

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.

An in depth analysis of the House-passed version of the VA-HUD spending bill can be viewed at: http://www.nami.org/HUD/analysis

NAMI's testimony on the FY 2004 proposed budgets for the VA and HUD can be viewed at:
http://www.nami.org/Testimony/Armstrong


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