Homeless and low-income advocates, service providers, and policymakers were put on notice when the Republican-controlled — and Tea Party infused — House of Representatives released it’s budget last month.
The House budget plan would cut $61 billion in discretionary spending (which does not include defense spending or entitlement programs, such as Social Security). That includes $5.5 billion from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, and more than $1 billion, almost half the budget, for maintaining aging public housing units. Funding to Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting would be completely eliminated, and programs paying for substance-abuse treatment, mental-health care, low-income housing programs, education programs for the poor, and senior and disabled programs all are on the chopping block. The cuts being proposed are not snips and trims, but program-altering gouges that service providers say will fundamentally change how the safety net operates and serves vulnerable populations.
The House’s budget passed on Feb. 19, but failed to gain enough support in the Senate. However, President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, supported by Democrats and cutting $10 billion, hasn’t garnered enough support to pass in the Senate, either. Meanwhile, stop-gap budgets passed in the House continue to chip away at funding. It could be months before a settlement is reached, and everyone with a dog in the fight is bracing for significant cuts to safety-net programs.
“It will be devastating,” says Jean DeMaster, the executive director of the social service agency Human Solutions. “Huge numbers of people” will not be able to have their basic needs of food, shelter, and safety met.
“The problem is not going to show up today,” DeMaster says. But consider a child in the first grade, who becomes homeless, and may not be able to participate in an after-school program that would help him or her keep their grades up. “They don’t graduate from high school, then they don’t get jobs,” DeMaster says. “(The problem) does show up eventually.” Continue reading