National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
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Congressional Update

10/8/2009

NCHV Legislative Priorities – 111th Congress First Session

Legislators are currently working on the most ambitious veteran assistance agenda since the end of World War II. President Obama’s focus on homeless veteran programs as a priority of his administration, and the anticipated increased investment in homeless veteran assistance and prevention initiatives by several federal agencies, have ushered in an era of activism and opportunity for the organizations this coalition represents.

No fewer than 14 bills have been introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate in the first session of the 111th Congress that promise to have a direct impact on the delivery of housing assistance and supportive services to veterans in crisis. Some would significantly increase funding for well-established homeless veteran assistance programs; some would provide support for local veteran homelessness prevention strategies for the first time in U.S. history.

Service providers and networks are encouraged to contact their Senators and Representatives to voice their support for these critical measures to end and prevent veteran homelessness.

Homes for Heroes Act of 2009 – (H.R. 403, S. 1160)

Introduced in the House by Rep. Al Green (D-TX), and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), the Homes for Heroes Act would:

  • Provide $200 million annually for the development of supportive housing for veterans who need case management and wrap-around services to remain housed
  • Fund 20,000 rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income veteran families (those living at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level), estimated at approximately 630,000 veterans. Many, if not most, communities continually report a shortage of both housing types, which undermines local efforts to end and prevent homelessness.
  • Create the position of veteran liaison within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure veteran inclusion in all HUD housing programs, and require inclusion of veteran data in local housing plans

The act passed in the House without opposition for the second year in a row, 417-2, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. The Senate bill has 7 cosponsors.

Zero Tolerance for Veterans Homelessness Act of 2009 – (S. 1547)

Introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), S. 1547 is a comprehensive measure with a strong focus on prevention. The act would:

  • Provide $50 million annually to help low-income veterans remain in their housing and help homeless veterans obtain housing through short- and medium-term rental assistance, security and utilities deposits, housing search and relocation costs, and assistance repairing damaged credit reports
  • Provide for an annual increase of 10,000 HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers until 2013, for a total of 60,000 in each fiscal year (FY) thereafter
  • Ease restrictions on financing development of transitional housing utilized in the VA Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD), and call for the VA to study and report to Congress on recommended revisions in the GPD payment to reflect the cost of providing comprehensive services to homeless veterans rather than a “daily” reimbursement based on the prevailing state veteran home rate
  • Increase GPD authorization to $200 million per year – as would H.R. 2504, introduced in the House by Rep. Teague (D-NM)
  • Call for the establishment of a veteran liaison in HUD

S. 1547 has 10 cosponsors and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund – (H.R. 147, S. 1366)

Introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) and in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), these bills would amend the Internal Revenue Service Code to allow taxpayers to designate $3 of their federal return for the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund. This fund would be used to provide additional support for community- and faith-based organizations providing services to homeless veterans.

Of note in the legislation text: “Expenditures- Amounts in the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund shall be available, as provided in appropriation Acts, only for the purpose of providing assistance to homeless veterans. Such amounts shall be used to supplement, not supplant, existing funding for such assistance.”

H.R. 147 has 84 cosponsors and was referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, which held hearings, and to the Committee on Ways and Means. S. 1366 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
VA Grant and Per Diem Program – (H.R. 2504, H.R. 2735)

H.R. 2504, introduced in the House by Rep. Harry Teague (D-NM), would increase the appropriation for the Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) in FY 2010 from $150 million to $200 million (also included in S. 1547). The bill was referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

H.R. 2735, introduced by Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), calls for several revisions in GPD funding policies: establishment of a grant for service center (drop-in center) staffing, viewed by service providers as a critical community outreach and prevention initiative; allowing GPD awards to be considered as matching funds for other grants for which organizations may be eligible; and changing from a “daily cost of care” payment system to one based on the annual cost of the services provided to assist homeless veterans. H.R. 2735 has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health.

VA Homeless Prevention Program – (H.R. 3073)

Introduced in the House by Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), this bill would create a grant program in the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans in imminent danger of becoming homeless due to rent or mortgage arrears. Eligible veterans would receive up to three months of assistance to avoid foreclosure or eviction. The measure calls for an annual authorization of $100 million through FY 2013. Referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health.

Other significant bills pending in the 111th Congress include:

Veterans Health Care Authorization Act of 2009 – (S. 252)

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), this comprehensive bill contains provisions to fund pilot programs that provide services to formerly homeless veterans residing in military housing (largely seen as an enhancement of the Base Realignment and Closure program) and to formerly homeless veterans living in permanent housing. The bill has been reported favorably out of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and placed on the Senate legislative calendar.

Help Our Homeless Veterans Act – (H.R. 2559)

Introduced in the House by Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL), the Help Our Homeless Veterans Act is both an intervention and prevention initiative. The act directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and carry out a national media campaign to inform homeless and at-risk veterans about the benefits they have earned and where to turn for help when they need it. The bill has 11 cosponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.


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