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Letters to the 107th Congress

April 3, 2002

The Honorable James T. Walsh
Chairman
Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs,
Housing and Urban Development, and
Independent Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Allan B. Mollohan
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs,
Housing and Urban Development, and
Independent Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman and Representative Mollohan:

We understand that you are in the midst of the appropriations process for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for FY 2003. For many years, the American Bar Association has supported initiatives and legislation designed to increase the availability of affordable transitional and permanent housing for homeless, low-income, and moderate-income people. At a time when our Nation has suffered at the hands of terrorists who seek to destroy our way of life, it is more important than ever that we maintain a strong social safety net for our country. As a result, we urge your support for increased funding for the programs discussed below.

Homelessness

The statistics regarding homelessness are staggering. On any given night, between 600,000 and 800,000 people are homeless. In addition, the Urban Institute reported that approximately 2.3 million Americans will be homeless at some point this year. The reasons for homelessness are varied and include unemployment, lack of affordable housing, poverty, domestic violence, mental illness, and addiction disorders. The situation is dire and becoming worse, so we urge you to appropriate FY 2003 funds for HUD’s targeted homeless programs, in order to help eradicate homelessness.

The McKinney-Vento Act provides a federal legislative response to homelessness by supplementing "mainstream" federally funded housing and human services programs with funding that was specifically targeted to assist homeless people. The HUD McKinney-Vento programs include the Emergency Shelter Grant, Supportive Housing, Shelter Plus Care, and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy for Homeless Individuals. These essential programs provide homeless people with access to emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent housing, as well as support services. Yet while 20 percent of qualified HUD McKinney-Vento project applications went unfunded in the last round of appropriations, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently reported that requests for emergency shelter increased by 37 percent over the past year. While the Administration has requested, $1.13 billion in funding for HUD McKinney-Vento programs, we urge Congress to increase that amount in order to equip HUD with the proper resources to meet the needs of the homeless.

Another program of importance to the homeless community is the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP). EFSP allocates federal funds for the provision of food and shelter for homeless and hungry people throughout the U.S through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and the like. In fact, the U.S. General Accounting Office has referred to EFSP as "the only source of funding for the prevention of homeless[ness]" in many parts of the nation. In light of the current economic challenges facing our nation, it is imperative that our nation's homeless and poverty-stricken populations receive food and shelter. While the Administration has proposed funding of $153 million for EFSP, we urge you to increase this figure because additional funds desperately are needed.

Public Housing

The Administration’s proposed budget for FY 2003 calls for a significant reduction in funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund program (the Capital Fund) which is administered by HUD. The ABA strongly urges you to oppose any such reduction in funding. The ABA is an avid supporter of increased funding for public housing and the development of well-managed and secure public housing. The Administration’s FY 2003 budget proposal would cut funding for the Capital Fund from $2.843 billion for FY 2002 to just $2.426 billion for FY 2003. This amounts to a reduction in funding of $417 million. We hope that you will support full funding for the Fund.

As the world’s largest voluntary professional association, with over 400,000 members, the American Bar Association urges you to support increased funding for programs for those who are homeless or who rely on public housing. We firmly believe that everyone in the United States should have a decent place to live. We also believe that the relatively modest cost of these expenditures will be more than returned by avoiding larger societal costs. Finally, as we battle against terrorism and those who would malign the American way of life, we should make every effort to ensure that our country’s social safety net is as strong as it can be.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

cc: Members of the Subcommittee

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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