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

Five Things Funders Should Know About the Federal Budget

On Thursday, September 14, Funders Together hosted a webinar focused on what’s new with the federal budget and how it affects funding for homelessness and related programs.

Experts Steve Berg, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Regina Reed, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and Doug Rice, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, joined us to share what we know, what is important to keep an eye on, and how philanthropy can be engaged with this debate.

Five things to note as the federal budget debates continue:

  1. The House and Senate have both passed bills with HUD funding levels that are substantially too low. The House is flat-funding HUD at 2017 levels, while the Senate is increasing it by a modest $74 million. Neither level is enough to keep up with the increasing number of people entering homelessness.
  2. Both House and Senate bill do not provide nearly enough spending to renew all housing choice vouchers, which means that the vouchers will dry up quickly. Even with the increase in the Senate bill, there is still a shortfall of several hundred million dollars of funding for vouchers which would result in a loss of about 140,000 current vouchers.
  3. Tax reform is also on the agenda and worth keeping an eye on. There is concern that tax reform would lead to significant loss of revenue and that Congress would try to cut social programs like Medicaid and SNAP to offset the deficit.
  4. We need to keep paying attention to Medicaid and proposed overhauls. While Repeal and Replace seems to have faded to the background, we are not out of the woods yet. There have been new plans introduced that would majorly overhaul Medicaid, like the Cassidy-Graham bill that is gaining popularity. Also worth noting is that the Administration is encouraging states to add work requirements or drug tests in order to obtain Medicaid benefits.
  5. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is still at risk of sunsetting. While the Senate committee bill includes full funding for permanent operations of USICH, the House bill is letting funding expire. This will be addressed when the House and Senate meet to negotiate a final deal.
  6. We know we said 5 things, but this point is worth including as we know the budget debate is ever evolving: A stop-gap Continuing Resolution is in effect until December 8. Congress will attempt to finish spending bills for the rest of the fiscal year by then, or to pass another temporary measure if it takes longer. There is speculation that there will be one more shorter extension and then get a final appropriations bill done right before Christmas. 

How can philanthropy be engaged in these important debates?

  • Educate by lifting up stories of what is working. Philanthropy can be consistent with messaging around homelessness and can help communities tell their stories by convening grantees and congressional leaders to highlight successful programs and how homelessness impacts their area. Make sure to tie these stories to the need for additional resources.
  • In healthcare, philanthropy can focus on funding issues like the social determinants of health, not picking up the pieces of broken healthcare. It is also important to keep abreast of what happens at the state-level with waiver issues, such as imposing certain requirements.
  • Funders who are focused on the local level can still get involved. Stories make a big impact and philanthropy can help. Local funders can frame themselves as partners with the government, just like national funders as each local funder has members of Congress they can engage and educate.
  • Focus on the financial argument. There is evidence that when economies are weak, public assistance dollars help to grow local economies, which can resonate with certain members of Congress. On the health side, Medicaid and health centers are huge job creators. However, there can be a danger that these arguments get twisted around—with work requirements, for example. Always emphasize that housing and health come first, then comes work!
  • Advocacy will need to ramp up beginning in October aiming toward stronger funding in the final bill. There will be a strong push for a deal to raise spending caps before the holidays, and it's important for homelessness program spending to get on the list of items that need to be addressed if there is more money.

Want additional information on the federal budget? Check out these resources:

Why The Federal Budget Matters and What To Do About It

Funders Together Webinar: Advocacy Update – What We Know and Where We Are Going

Funders Together Webinar: Advocacy 101 for Funders

Funders Together Policy Priorities for the Administration

Melville Charitable Trust: Stand up, Speak up: Three resources for getting involved in the budget debates today

National Alliance to End Homelessness FY2018 Homelessness Assistance Budget Chart

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Federal Spending and Revenues Will Need to Grow in Coming Years, Not Shrink

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – Like Other ACA Repeal Bills, Cassidy-Graham Plan Would Add Millions to Uninsured, Destabilize Individual Market

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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