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Democrats cave-in to another round of sequestration budget cuts
by Lynda Carson ( tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com )
Friday Sep 27th, 2013 11:53 PM
Low-income Section 8 housing voucher holders in the Bay Area and all across the nation are facing massive rent increases, are losing their Section 8 housing vouchers, and are facing homelessness as a direct result!
Democrats cave-in to another round of sequestration budget cuts

By Lynda Carson - September 27, 2013

Oakland - The attack on low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and across the nation intensified today when the U.S. Senate voted to continue with the catastrophic across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration with their vote for the Reid-Mikulski amendment #1974 to H.J.Res.59.

Low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program pay 30 to 40 percent of their income in rent each month, and the rest of the rent is paid to the landlord by the federal program. Presently tens of thousands of low-income Section 8 voucher holders all across the nation are facing massive rent increases, are losing their Section 8 housing vouchers, and are facing homelessness as a direct result.

The latest budget battle in Congress over the Continuing Resolution known as H.J.Res. 59 to temporarily fund the federal government through mid-November or mid-December to avoid a government shut-down, has already resulted in the Democrats caving in to Republican demands to allow another round of sequestration across-the-board budget cuts to take effect on Tuesday October 1st. The massive across-the-board budget cuts will also affect various federal programs and agencies all across the nation, including the military.

This means that $85 billion in sequestration budget cuts that took effect on March 1, 2013 are not being rescinded, resulting in around 140,000 low-income households across the nation that have lost their federal housing assistance. These low-income families may have faced eviction from their housing, and are being dumped on to the cold hearted streets of America in the process.

Making matters worse, the next round of sequestration budget cuts beginning in October for FY 2014, may result in tens of thousands more low-income families that will also be facing homelessness as a direct result of the latest political deals being made by lawmakers, unless the mean spirited budget cuts are stopped at a future date.

In a newsletter called "Our Voice" (Summer/Fall edition) warning the residents in Oakland's public housing about the on-going catastrophic budget cuts, the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) states that it believes that the impact of the sequestration budget cuts that went in to effect on March 1, have already resulted in the loss of $2.1 million in funding for it's operations during FY 2013. The OHA also believes that it will lose an additional $9.1 million in funding to it's operations during FY 2014, when the next round of sequestration budget cuts go into effect.

The OHA further states that the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program where OHA uses its MTW funding flexibility to assist Section 8 households, and support Police Services, resident programs, administration, and boutique programs such as the Sponsor-based Housing Assistance Program, the sequestration impact is more significant.

This means that because the OHA is a demonstration MTW Housing Authority, Section 8 voucher holders in Oakland may face an even greater risk because the OHA has been using funding from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to fund it's pet projects. This may include Section 8 voucher funds being used for so-called affordable housing projects, Police Services, resident programs, administration, and boutique programs such as the Sponsor-based Housing Assistance Program. Out of around 3,000 Public Housing Authorities across the nation the OHA is one of only 33 "Moving-To-Work" (MTW) housing authorities that do not have to abide by federal regulations that prohibit funding for public housing, or funding for the Section 8 voucher program (Housing Choice Voucher Program) to be used for any other purposes.

In recent months, the Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) notified 14 households that their Section 8 housing choice vouchers have been suspended until further notice. The BHA also served notice to around 200 additional households in the final stages of being eligible to receive Section 8 vouchers, that their applications for vouchers have also been suspended until further notice.

With $1.7 million in budget cuts hitting the BHA in 2013 plus an additional loss of $386,000 in administrative fees to run it's housing programs, the BHA also estimates that an additional 74 households may lose their Section 8 housing vouchers during 2014.

The poor are so desperate in Sacramento, California, Officials at the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) are warning people to beware of a scam that promises a housing voucher in return for depositing money into a Green.Dot account. People do not have to make a deposit to receive a Section 8 voucher from a housing authority. The Section 8 voucher program in Sacramento was hit with a devastating $9.1 million budget cut as of March 1, 2013 placing 1,700 families at risk of losing their vouchers. An additional cut of $2.6 million to administer the Section 8 voucher program has resulted in fewer staff, and fewer days that the SHRA office is open during 2013. The SHRA also faced a $1.2 million cut to it's Conventional Public Housing Program, but the residents are not at risk of losing their housing because the residential housing units are owned by the agency.

The So-Called Affordable Housing Industry Is Being Protected By HUD

Residents in the Section 8 Project-Based Voucher Program in so-called affordable housing projects in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco and other cities and counties across the nation are safe for the moment because of secret deals, waivers and exemptions that have been applied for to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), by Public Housing Authorities. The Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers belong to the residential units in the so-called affordable housing projects, rather than belonging to the poor that come and go from the housing units. Public Housing Authorities are allowed to grab 20 percent of their Section 8 vouchers that were meant to assist the poor, and convert them into Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers that are being granted to so-called affordable housing developers to fund their projects.

The result of the secret deals, waivers and exemptions mean that the brunt of sequestration cuts to HUD's housing assistance programs fall directly on to the backs of the poor, elderly and disabled that have moveable Section 8 vouchers, rather than the so-called affordable housing industry that uses Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers to fund their projects. The budget cuts are not being spread fairly as a direct result, and it is a very unfair system at the moment that protects wealthy so-called affordable housing developers and their projects, at the expense of low-income Section 8 voucher holders facing massive rent increases, or the loss of their Section 8 housing vouchers.

In Santa Clara County, during August of 2013, Section 8 voucher holders have already been hit with massive rent increases due to the sequestration budget cuts, raising the rents on some of the low-income households by as much as $990.00 a month, and more. Many of the low-income tenants are now facing homelessness and are losing their vouchers, unless they can find cheaper places to move into.

In Los Angeles, Section 8 tenants are taking a beating. There are around 24,000 low-income families in the Section 8 voucher program who are facing massive rent increases by as much as $200.00 per month, and they are only around half of the tenants in the Section 8 program in that city.

Since March 1, 2013 the sequestration budget cuts have reduced the Marin Housing Authority (MHA) budget for Section 8 housing assistance payments from $27.8 million to $25.1 million, placing around 2,100 low-income households at risk because of the nearly $3 million in budget cuts. Many low-income tenants are now facing massive rent increases, and may lose their vouchers as a result.

With regards to budget cuts for some other local housing authorities during 2013, it was also reported that the Santa Clara Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $21 million. The San Francisco Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $9.4 million. The Contra Costa County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $7.2 million. The San Mateo County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $3.6 million, plus the Alameda County Housing Authority faced a budget cut of $5.8 million.

Those most threatened by the sequestration budget cuts are the people least able to survive without HUD's housing assistance programs. According to the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), 303,499 seniors rely on Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers for affordable housing. Section 8 housing is also home to 458,124 households with disabled family members. And 59 percent of Section 8 households are families with children – more than 2,357,977 children in total – with an average annual family income of $11,049.

The next round of sequestration budget cuts beginning October 1, 2013 in addition to the budget cuts that have already occurred since March 1, 2013 will cause serious damage to the nation's federal housing assistance programs. The poor, elderly, and disabled have been tossed under the bus by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Watching what the Democrats do, rather than listening to what they say, reveals that time and again they double-cross the poor, over and over again.

Lynda Carson may be reached at tenantsrule [at] yahoo.com


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Mike Novack
Saturday Sep 28th, 2013 6:32 AM
"has already resulted in the Democrats caving in to Republican demands to allow another round of sequestration across-the-board budget cuts to take effect on Tuesday October 1st. The massive across-the-board budget cuts will also affect various federal programs and agencies all across the nation, including the military. "

I am NOT a Democrat (nor am I in between the two big parties)

But WHAT precisely do you imagine that the Democrats could do rather than "caving in"? When I count votes in the House I see them clearly outvoted. They COULD of course agree to something even more draconian to the poor. They COULD agree with what the Republicans would really like, retain spending for the military and other pro business interests at the expense of even deeper cuts and/or elimination of the programs helping the poor.

Their ONLY power to prevent that Republican choice is to say NO AGREEMENT on the budget making the cuts across the board and they can do THAT only because they have enough votes in the Senate to prevent passage of a House preferred bill (and enough in both houses to sustain a presidential veto if it came to that.

Instead of bemoaning that the Democrat politicians aren't pushing hard enough for more progressive policies and that there are so many conservative Republican politicians in the House how about bemoaning that the American people aren't progressive enough in their demands and in who they choose to represent them. How about bemoaning that we progressive activists are failing to convince "the people" to change what they want.
Dear Mike

Thanks for the reply...

However... You do not sound like much of a progressive to me, and you appear to be somewhat delusional. I hope you feel better in the near future...

For the record: The Democrats did not have to go along with another round of the massive spending cuts taking place known as sequestration, no matter what you have to say about it. Obama gave them political cover to do so with the feud over the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare). It is called misdirection...

THE BUDGET CUTS ARE REAL

In the real world, these are REAL PEOPLE (tens of thousands of them) that may be facing eviction from their housing, ending up on the streets homeless, and losing their children as a DIRECT RESULT of the massive catastrophic sequestration spending cuts crushing the nation's federal housing assistance programs. The Democrats did not have join the extreme far-right Tea Party fringe in the latest attack on the poor, elderly and disabled.

List of spending cuts to more progressive programs...

The attack also includes massive budget cuts to Meals on Wheels (food for the elderly).

Senior meals – Federally-assisted programs like Meals on Wheels would be able to serve 4 million fewer meals to seniors.  These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses that are affected by diet, such as diabetes and heart disease, and frail seniors who are homebound.  The meals can account for 50 percent or more of daily food for the majority of home delivered participants.

Rental assistance – The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher program, which provides rental assistance to very low-income families, would face a significant reduction in funding, which would place about 125,000 families at immediate risk of losing their permanent housing.

Emergency responders – FEMA would need to reduce funding for State and local grants that support firefighter positions and State and local emergency management personnel, hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and other emergencies.

Food safety – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could conduct 2,100 fewer inspections at domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture food products while USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) may have to furlough all employees for approximately two weeks.   These reductions could increase the number and severity of safety incidents, and the public could suffer more foodborne illness, such as the recent salmonella in peanut butter outbreak and the E. coli illnesses linked to organic spinach, as well as cost the food and agriculture sector millions of dollars in lost production volume.

Native American programs - Tribes would lose almost $130 million in funding from the Department of the Interior.   Reductions would be necessary in many areas including human services, law enforcement, schools, economic development and natural resources. 

Workplace safety – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could have to pull its inspectors off the job for some period of time. This would mean roughly 1,200 fewer inspections of the Nation’s most dangerous workplaces, which would leave workers unprotected and could lead to an increase in worker fatality and injury rates.

Title I education funds – Title I education funds would be eliminated for more than 2,700 schools, cutting support for nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students.  This funding reduction would put the jobs of approximately 10,000 teachers and aides at risk.  Students would lose access to individual instruction, afterschool programs, and other interventions that help close achievement gaps.

Special education (IDEA) – Cuts to special education funding would eliminate Federal support for more than 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff who provide essential instruction and support to preschool and school-aged students with disabilities.

Head Start – Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 70,000 children, reducing access to critical early education.  Community and faith based organizations, small businesses, local governments, and school systems would have to lay off over 14,000 teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff.

Social Security applicant and beneficiary services – The Social Security Administration (SSA) would be forced to curtail service to the public and reduce program oversight efforts designed to make sure benefits are paid accurately and to the right people.  Potential effects on SSA operations could include a reduction in service hours to the public, the closure of some offices, and a substantial growth in the backlog of Social Security disability claims.

Nutrition assistance for women, infants and children – Approximately 600,000 women and children would be dropped from the Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) from March through September.  At least 1,600 State and local jobs could be lost as a result.

Emergency unemployment compensation – People receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits would see their benefits cut by as much as 9.4 percent.   Affected long-term unemployed individuals would lose an average of more than $400 in benefits that they and their families count on while they search for another job. Smaller unemployment checks will also have a negative impact on the economy as a whole.  Economists have estimated that every dollar in unemployment benefits generates $2 in economic activity.

Homelessness programs – More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk of returning to the streets.

Mental health and substance abuse services – Cuts to the Mental Health Block Grant program would result in over 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children not receiving needed mental health services. This cut would likely lead to increased hospitalizations, involvement in the criminal justice system, and homelessness for these individuals.  In addition, close to 8,900 homeless persons with serious mental illness would not get the vital outreach, treatment, housing, and support they need through the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.

AIDS and HIV treatment and prevention – Cuts to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program could result in 7,400 fewer patients having access to life saving HIV medications.  And approximately 424,000 fewer HIV tests could be conducted by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) State grantees, which could result in increased future HIV transmissions, deaths from HIV, and costs in health care.

Tribal services – The Indian Health Service and Tribal hospitals and clinics would be forced to provide 3,000 fewer inpatient admissions and 804,000 fewer outpatient visits, undermining needed health care in Tribal communities.

Heres another small list of just a few programs that are currently facing massive spending cuts...

Child Care & Development Block Grant.
Prevention Grants to Reduce Sexual Abuse of Runaway and Street Youth. Consolidated Runaway and Homeless Youth Program.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Violence in Schools Prevention Programs.
Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act Programs.
Adoption Awareness. Abandoned Infants Assistance Discretionary.
Child Welfare Training Discretionary.
Adoption Incentives. Community Services Block Grants. Child Welfare Services. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Programs.
Adoption Opportunities. Promoting Safe and Stable Families.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Discretionary Grants.
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Healthy Home and Community Environment. Birth Defects. Developmental Disabilities.
Disability and Health. National Children's Study. Healthy Start.
Children's Mental Health Services. Children, Youth, Women and Families.

I have been posting on various blogs, news stories and newspaper editorials that H.A.'s needed to get their heads out of the sand and deal with the facts they are now facing.

I said as early as last summer that congress would not restore funding for FY 2013, and there was no stomach in the House of Represenatives to change anything for FY2014. Now that ugly fact is here and as Lynda has stated another massive (even larger) round of cuts is at the doorsteps. This is the reality of the moment, so H.A.'s need to protect seniors and the disabled at any cost. Able bodied families are going to have to start making emergency housing plans NOW! Get a plan in place with relatives, your church or other private non profits to have a safety net of your own to fall back on.

The government for the near future can not be relied on to supplement your housing needs if you are working or capable of working. Here in Florida, landlords are running from the Section 8 program like rats from a flood and who can blame them. If their voucher payments stop, they have properties full of people who can't pay them rent. Landlords are in this business to make money they are not social service agencies. So H.A.'s need to be honest and upfront with their people, they need to get a pecking order in shape and let people know where they stand. To do otherwise is just as irresponsible as the sequester cuts themselves.