Jun 5, 2019

Charles serves as CCLP's Income and Housing Policy Director using data and research to support our efforts to stand with diverse communities across Colorado in the fight against poverty. Staff page ›

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Advocacy Alert: HUD Rule Would Terminate Housing Assistance to American Citizens

by | Jun 5, 2019

Tens of thousands of American citizens and permanent residents including up to 500 Colorado families would lose their housing assistance if a new rule recently proposed by the Trump Administration goes into effect – putting their health and financial security in jeopardy.

The rule would change the way HUD determines eligibility for housing assistance programs covered by Section 214 of the 1980 Housing and Community Development Act, as amended. That law prohibits the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from providing housing assistance to individuals unless they are U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, such as permanent residents, asylum seekers or refugees. However, the statute clearly states, “If the eligibility for financial assistance of at least one member of a family has been affirmatively established under this section, and the ineligibility of one or more family members has not been affirmatively established under this section, any financial assistance made available to that family by the applicable Secretary shall be prorated…”

Following statute, HUD currently prorates housing assistance for such families, also known as “mixed families,” provided at least one member of the family is eligible. For example, a family of four in which three members were U.S. citizens but one member was ineligible would only receive 75 percent of the benefits they would otherwise get. On average, mixed families receive an annual subsidy that is $2,100 per person less than non-mixed families. Meanwhile, the income for all family members, regardless of their eligibility, is counted toward the programs’ income requirements. In this way, HUD is able to balance its responsibility to provide housing assistance to American citizens and eligible immigrants without violating the law. It is important to note that being ineligible for HUD housing assistance programs does not necessarily mean an individual is in this country illegally. Regardless, the Trump Administration has framed this rule as a way to remove undocumented immigrants from public housing and the Housing Choice Voucher program.

If enacted, the proposed rule would require all members of a family to verify their citizenship or eligible immigration status in order to receive benefits. As such, mixed families would no longer be eligible to receive prorated benefits. According to HUD’s analysis, there are approximately 25,000 mixed families currently living in public housing or receiving some sort of housing assistance through a program covered by the rules of Section 214. These families represent 108,104 people, 71 percent of whom are eligible for HUD benefits. The majority of eligible members are children, while the majority of ineligible members are adults. Due to this rule change, mixed families will be forced to choose between kicking out the ineligible member(s) and losing their home. Those that do lose their housing assistance will be at an increased risk of homelessness—most families are in housing assistance programs because they were unable to find affordable housing in their local housing market. As many as 55,000 children could be made homeless because of this rule.

Denying assistance to these 25,000 mixed families would allow the HUD to redirect between $179 million and $210 million to non-mixed families (i.e., families in which all members are eligible for benefits). However, because benefits for mixed families are prorated, they receive an average per person subsidy of $1,900 each year. Non-mixed families receive an average subsidy of $4,000 per person per year. Replacing mixed families with non-mixed families would increase HUD’s annual expenditures on housing assistance programs by between $193 million and $227 million. As a result, HUD would either have to pay a lower per person subsidy to families receiving housing assistance or reduce the number of families it is able to assist. By HUD’s own estimation, the quantity and quality of public housing could decline since less funding would be available for unit maintenance or resident services.

While the rule is targeted towards immigrant families, it could also affect families in which all members are U.S. citizens. If an American citizen is unable to provide the necessary documentation to verify their citizenship status (such as a passport or a birth certificate), they and their families would lose their housing assistance. Americans of color, Americans with disabilities, and older Americans are likely to be disproportionately affected by the requirements included in the proposed rule. In addition, these new requirements create more barriers for Americans who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness.

This rule is bad public policy that fails to achieve its purported objectives. Instead, it punishes Americans for having an immigrant in their family and places America’s most vulnerable citizens at risk of eviction, homelessness, or separation. By HUD’s own admission, any American who relies on housing assistance or is on a waiting list will be harmed by this rule, as less funding would be available to support HUD programs. Even if the rule would not result in fewer resources for housing programs, removing 25,000 families from housing assistance would do little to reduce the approximately 1.6 million families who were estimated to be on waitlists for these programs as of 2016.

The comment period on this rule ends on July 9, 2019. If you or your organization is interested in submitting a comment, please visit www.keep-familes-together.org for a comment template and additional resources and information regarding this proposed rule.

In addition, Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, recently introduced a bill that would stop the implementation of this rule. We encourage you to contact your U.S. Representative and Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to urge them to support this bill. Thus far, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (7th District) is the only member of Colorado’s Congressional delegation to have signed onto letters or legislation opposing this rule.

– By Charles Brennan

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.