On July 9, White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan sent a letter to Senate Committee on Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) regarding the Committee’s FY16 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) spending bill. The THUD bill the Committee passed on June 25 would underfund key HUD programs for FY16 and would significantly expand the Moving to Work demonstration without making any needed reforms (see Memo, 6/29).
In the letter, Director Donovan writes, “The Republicans' 2016 budget framework would bring base discretionary funding for both nondefense and defense to the lowest levels in a decade, adjusted for inflation.” It expresses concern about five areas within the HUD portion of the bill:
- The bill cuts the HOME program from $900 million in FY15 to $66 million in FY16, which would lead to a loss of about 39,000 affordable housing units for low income families.
- “The bill would fail to provide sufficient funding to renew 50,000 housing choice vouchers currently in use, does not provide sufficient funding for tenant protection vouchers, and does not restore the 67,000 vouchers lost by the 2013 sequester.
- Compared to President Barack Obama’s FY16 request, the bill cuts support for Homeless Assistance Grants by about $245 million, “supporting 15,000 fewer homeless or at-risk families with rapid re-housing, and providing 25,500 fewer units of permanent supportive housing targeted to the chronically homeless.”
- “The bill sharply cuts other investments in vulnerable communities,” by reducing funding for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.
- The bill proposes to expand the Moving to Work demonstration by an additional 300 public housing agencies. The Administration urges Congress to responsibly and incrementally expand the MTW demonstration to ensure appropriate protections for tenants and to address the criticisms cited by HUD's Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office.
The letter reiterates that White House staff will recommend that President Barack Obama veto any appropriations bill that is based on the sequester constrained allocations to appropriated programs under which both the Senate and House are now operating.
Further, Senate consideration of appropriations bills is being blocked by Senate Democrats who are resolved to end the Budget Control Act’s sequester spending caps so funding for discretionary programs can be increased in FY16.