Congress begins work on FY09 Budget
Since the release of the President’s FY09 Budget in early February, Congress has been developing its response to the President request. On March 14, the House and Senate each passed their FY09 budget resolutions. The House resolution, H.Con.Res. 312, passed 212-207, with no Republican support, and the Senate resolution, S.Con.Res. 70, passed 51-44, again mostly on party lines.
The House resolution would provide $22 billion more in discretionary spending than President Bush’s budget request, and the Senate resolution would provide $18 billion more. Both resolutions increase veterans funding for 2009 by $3.6 billion (8 percent) above current services.
With respect to homeless veterans, both House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees submitted as part of its Views and Estimates to the respective Congressional Budget Committees, recommendations for funding levels to be increased to the authorized level of $130 million for the Grant and per Diem program.
NCHV was invited to testify at a hearing regarding the FY 2009 budget, conducted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on February 7. Highlights of the testimony included a request to increase the authorization level to $200 million for the Grant and Per Diem Program; additional funding for Special Needs grants; and increased funding to provide supportive services for the newly-expanded HUD-VASH Program. The complete testimony is printed on the NCHV website under Policy & Legislation (Testimony).
House and Senate Appropriations Committees have also begun their work on FY2009 appropriations. As part of this process, on March 13 NCHV was invited to testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. NCHV’s testimony contained recommendations similar to those presented to the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The complete testimony appears on the NCHV website.
VA Homeless Veteran Assistance Programs
Before the end of the 110th Congress, Representative Michael Michaud, Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee, plans to introduce legislation to enhance VA homeless veterans assistance programs. To learn more about the success of current programs and what’s needed to increase effectiveness, the Committee conducted hearings on April 9 at which NCHV, representatives from four homeless veteran service providers and the VA testified. NCHV’s testimony recommended increasing the GPD authorization level to $200 million, changing the mechanism for determining “per diem” allowances, increasing funding for Special Needs grants and the HUD-VASH program and focusing on preventing homelessness, especially among OEF-OIF veterans. Additionally, NCHV requested the Congress appropriate $50 million, the fully authorized level of funding for the Department of Labor Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. NCHV also asked Congress to enact legislation that would provide supportive services for low income veterans living in permanent supportive housing. The full testimony appears on the NCHV website.
Veterans Permanent Supportive Housing
To address the need to establish permanent supportive housing for veterans, NCHV and representatives of housing, homeless and veteran service organizations have been meeting monthly since January to work towards enacting the Homes for Heroes Act of 2007, introduced by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in the Senate (S. 1084), and Representative Al Green (D-TX) in the House (H.R. 3329). The legislation would provide permanent supportive housing for low income veterans. George Basher, NCHV Chair presented testimony at a hearing of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development, which focused on H.R. 3329. The Senate Banking Committee, to which S. 1084 was referred, has not yet taken up the bill although a hearing has been requested.
For all legislation currently pending in Congress, log onto NCHV’s website under Policy & Legislation (110th Congress Hot Topics).