Under President Bushs proposed 2005 budget, Americas wealthier citizens will continue to benefit from large tax cuts, while its poorer citizens will suffer from significant cuts in vital services, including the loss of over 200,000 units of affordable housing.
According to a national advocacy group, the Administration is proposing to reduce the deficit by reducing services or underfunding programs that aid the poorest Americans. The money proposed for low-income programs falls desperately short of what is minimally needed, in light of statistics showing rising homelessness across the nation, says the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
The Presidents proposed budget, released yesterday, would cut funding for the Section 8 housing voucher program by $1.6 billion. Two million of the country's lowest income families rely on the program for housing, and the President's program would ensure that 231,000 fewer families would receive housing vouchers.
These 231,000 families face an exceedingly high risk of joining those 3.5 million Americans already experiencing homelessness in the United States today.
According to a 25-city survey published in December by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, cities reported an average increase of 13% in emergency shelter requests nationwide in 2003. More than 80% of the cities in the Mayors survey also reported that emergency shelters had been forced to turn away homeless families because of a lack of resources in 2003, and that they expected unmet needs to increase in 2004.
Other parts of the proposed budget similarly fail to take into account rising housing costs and increasing homelessness. The basic homeless assistance programs will not see a real increase between 2004 and 2005. The Administrations proposed funding for HUDs core homeless assistance programs is $1.257 billion, $3 million less than FY 2004, and not accounting for the 1.8% rise in the cost of living. HUDs budget also includes $50 million for services to the chronically homeless (the Samaritan program) and $25 million for prisoner reentry.
While the Administration has touted its chronically homeless and prisoner reentry initiatives, neither amount demonstrates a real commitment to addressing these difficult problems.
Maria Foscarinis, NLCHP's Executive Director, criticized the Administrations policy choices and its failure to do its part to end homelessness and poverty. "We cannot call ourselves a compassionate people when we provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax relief to wealthy Americans, while at the same time, we allow over 3 million people to face homelessness every year. How a country treats its poor and powerless is the real test of a nation. We challenge this Administration and this Congress to do better."
NLCHP is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to serve as the legal arm of the national movement to prevent and end homelessness.