U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (R-TX) released a list of potential federal spending cuts, totaling almost $1.3 trillion, on January 8. The list was released the day after President Biden delivered his State of the Union address, in which the President repeatedly pledged to fight against any Republican attempt to make dramatic spending cuts a condition for raising the debt ceiling.
The proposed spending cuts include measures like revoking almost $100 billion in unspent, unobligated pandemic aid; rescinding funds for environmental protection and conservation; and “ending spending on ‘woke’ programs.” The proposal would also increase work requirements for programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), both of which provide vital assistance to households with low incomes, helping them afford groceries and other necessities.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) has repeatedly called for steep budget cuts as a condition for raising the country’s debt limit, suggesting that fiscal year (FY) 2024 spending should be capped at FY2022 levels. However, the Speaker has also pledged not to cut defense spending, or funding for Medicare and Social Security, leaving non-defense discretionary spending – including funding for vital affordable housing and homelessness programs – squarely on the chopping block. House Republicans are expected to release a topline preview of proposed budget cuts in April, after the President releases his FY2024 budget request on March 9.
A recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that capping spending at FY2022 levels could result in an average cut of 24% across non-defense programs, depending on which programs are prioritized. “The non-defense programs under threat touch a wide array of public services that the federal government provides and that people and communities depend on, including public health; food safety inspections; air traffic control operations; the administration of Medicare and Social Security; housing and other assistance for families with low incomes; education and job training; and scientific and medical research, to name just a few,” noted the report’s authors.
In addition to proposals for pursuing deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, proposals to limit access to federal benefits are beginning to take shape. Rep. Arrington’s proposal would strengthen work requirements for recipients of SNAP and TANF assistance, likely foreshadowing proposals focused on other federal benefit programs, including affordable housing assistance.
Cuts to housing benefits – like work requirements, time limits, and other policies that impose needless barriers to housing – undermine housing stability, increase evictions, and lead to more homelessness. Cutting benefits does nothing to address the underlying cause of America’s housing and homelessness crisis: the widening gap between wages and housing costs, and a severe shortage of homes affordable to people with the lowest incomes. Imposing arbitrary restrictions on housing benefits will not create the well-paying jobs and opportunities needed to lift households out of poverty; rather, they will make it more difficult for households to maintain employment and achieve economic security.
It is unacceptable to balance the federal budget by demanding cuts to programs that help the lowest-income households survive. There is a national shortage of approximately 7 million affordable, available homes for people with the lowest incomes, and only one in four households who qualify for federal housing assistance receives the help it needs. Without adequate federal funding for vital federal affordable housing and homeless assistance programs, households with the lowest incomes will continue to live precariously, only one missed paycheck or unexpected emergency away from housing instability, eviction, and, in the worst cases, homelessness.
The Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) is circulating its annual 302(b) letter, calling on Congress to reject harmful proposals to slash funding for federal affordable housing, homelessness, and community development programs and instead provide the highest possible funding for these vital programs in FY2024. You can sign the letter at: p2a.co/2xztqvh
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