Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed into law Alaska’s fiscal year 2021 (FY21) budget on Monday April 6, prioritizing public safety, education, emergency response, and economic development. Housing was not a high priority for the governor, although no significant cuts were made to the already limited funds for homeless services. Advocates from the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness (AKCH2), an NLIHC state partner, and the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness worked diligently to ensure funding for housing and homelessness programs did not decrease for a second year in a row, and they increased housing assistance funding from FY20.
Alaskans access homeless prevention services through the Homeless Assistance Program (HAP), the Special Needs Housing Grant (SNHG), the Human Services Community Matching Grant (HSCMG) and Community Initiative Matching Grants (CIMGP). HAP provides homeless prevention supports (rental and utility emergency assistance), emergency shelter options, and rapid rehousing of people in multiple communities. SNHG operating dollars and housing vouchers provide long-term rental assistance for 17 successful housing programs targeting the most vulnerable homeless populations. HSCMG and CIMGP provide funding to prevent and alleviate challenges for those with serious mental or physical hardships. HSCMG is one of the only funding streams to support operations for safety net services like basic shelter and food provision.
In 2018 and 2019, 3,102 Alaskans accessed homeless prevention services through HAP and SNHG. Ninety-five percent of people accessing these programs did not return to homelessness in 2018 and 2019. Despite its success, the Housing Assistance Program was cut by 20% due to the FY20 budget vetoes. For over a year advocates took action to ensure housing programs did not receive further cuts in FY21. They spoke out in support of reversing budget vetoes last summer and visited their state legislators in February during the 2020 Alaska Statewide Housing Advocacy Day. Their efforts made a difference.
The FY21 enacted budget increased HAP to $8,150,000, which is $3,660,000 more than the FY20 budget. HAP sustained a $3,2500,000 decrease from FY19 to FY20 via budget vetoes, so the increase in the FY21 enacted budget restored HAP to just slightly above FY19 funding. SNHG was funded at FY19 levels – $1,700,000. The FY21 enacted budget maintained flat funding for both HSCMG and CIMGP.
"This critical increase to HAP was the result of a statewide advocacy campaign that resulted in thousands of Alaskans emailing, calling, and meeting directly with their state legislators over the last several months,” said Brian Wilson, executive director of the Alaska Coalition on Housing and Homelessness. “Collectively, we sent a clear message that all Alaskans deserve safe and stable housing and were able to highlight the success of our current service providers from all over the state."
Learn more about Alaska’s FY21 budget here.