A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Policy Expert Round-Up: The FY2020 Federal Budget and Engaging Congress

Our national partners provide insight and advice on the FY20 federal budget cycle and how we can engage the new Congress.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP): The outlook for the 116th Congress includes an opportunity to build momentum for addressing the nation’s severe housing affordability challenges. Forces pushing from many directions have begun to build momentum for taking significant action to help many more families to live in stable and affordable homes. These forces include media reports from communities that are struggling with growing crises of housing affordability; growing numbers of stakeholders in health care, education, and many other sectors recognizing that expanding access to affordable housing is essential to achieving their own policy goals; and new groundbreaking research by Matthew Desmond, Raj Chetty, and others that is changing the public conversation about the importance of stable, affordable homes in communities that families’ health and well-being. For the first time in many years, these factors are increasingly reflected in the policy platforms of major presidential candidates, which is further elevating the expansion of affordable housing as a central national policy goal. It’s reasonable to expect only modest legislative action from the divided 116th Congress, but, at the same time, it’s very important to take advantage of the unique opportunity that exists and continue to build the momentum for more substantial action in the next Congress. 

CSH: The Administration’s FY 2020 proposals are more of the same – eliminating funding for some programs, providing flat-funding for others, and offering legislative reforms for congressional consideration to justify the cuts to programs. Congress will likely reject those proposals again, but first Congress has to raise the caps of the Budget Control Act that places arbitrary limits on discretionary spending for domestic programs and defense programs. Stakeholders should continue to engage federally-elected officials to educate them about the impact that cuts to housing and homelessness programs would mean in their communities.  

National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH): For FY 2020, the increasing urgency of bringing solutions to scale is important to communicate. Homelessness programs have proven the value at what they do: find people who are homeless, keep them safe, and move them quickly back into housing. These programs need to be funded to the scale necessary to deal with the emergency created by rising rents and evictions. Meanwhile, the affordable housing programs should begin what will be a decade-long growth toward complete coverage. The mark for appropriate funding levels is set by the Dear Colleague letters circulated in Congress, not the Administration’s proposed budget.

National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC): Health and wellbeing are inextricably linked to access to healthy food, shelter, and other services. This was painfully apparent during the last budget cycle, when our clients came in for appointments worried about losing their food stamps and housing during the government shutdown. While we move towards budget negotiations for FY2020, we will continue to fight for increased funding for health, housing, food, and other programs. But, we must also remind our lawmakers that failing to fund these already underfunded programs is unacceptable and has lasting and damaging consequences to our health and to our communities. Beyond appropriations, the Administration continues to press for major cuts to federal Medicaid funding through work requirements. Work requirements are brutal attempts to take services away from people (we know most Medicaid beneficiaries who can work are already working) and are often promoted using language on the “dignity of work”.  The Health Care for the Homeless community stands against work requirements in Medicaid and for the human right to health care, food, and housing. In this next budget cycle we need funders to support our advocacy work promoting these human rights as well as the direct services that keep people healthy, housed, and fed. 

National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLICH): The administration proposes to cut HUD by an astounding $8.6 billion, 16.4% below 2019 enacted levels. This budget would impose deep cuts to affordable housing and community development, as well as to other essential programs that ensure basic living standards. The budget proposes to drastically cut housing benefits that help millions of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable people afford their homes. Like the FY18 and FY19 budget requests, the FY20 proposal would reduce housing benefits for the lowest-income people by slashing federal investments in affordable homes, increasing rents, and imposing harmful work requirements on struggling families. If enacted, the budget could leave even more low-income people without stable homes, thereby undermining family stability, increasing evictions, and, in worst cases, leading to more homelessness. See NLIHC’s updated budget chart and analysis for more details. 

(This language from the NLIHC originally appeared in the March 11, 2019 Analysis of President Trump’s FY2020 Budget Request.) 

Funders Together Action Item Takeaway: Philanthropy's voice is needed. Through conversations with our national partners, one thing is clear: advocacy works and is the major component behind key “wins” in the FY 2019 federal budget. However, each new fiscal year’s proposed budget presents a setback on funding for housing, homelessness, and related programs. While we see signs of the new Congress again rejecting the President’s proposed cut, it’s essential for philanthropy to recognize the importance of supporting advocacy and using its voice to educate the new Congress on why federal funding for programs related to homelessness is crucial for each community. Now is the time to serve as experts on what is working and educate local and federal policymakers on best practice.

For more information on what philanthropy can do to support advocacy, visit the following resources:

Investing in Change: Supporting Advocacy and Policy Efforts

Advocacy 101 for Funders webinar

Philanthropy is Key to Advocacy and Policy Wins in 2018, But More Work is Ahead

Why the Federal Budget Matters and What To Do About It


Thanks to Steve Berg, National Alliance to End Homelessness; Peggy Bailey and Doug Rice, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities; Caitlin Kovalkoski, CSH; and Regina Reed, National Health Care for the Homeless Council for their contributions to this blog post.

We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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