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President’s Forum: Please Contact Congress Now on Reconciliation Bill

Continuing Resolution in Place Until Early December

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) in late September, funding government operations until December 3. All federally funded programs, including those under HUD’s jurisdiction, are set at existing levels until then. It is essential for us to weigh in on the Build Back Better Act (BBBA, reconciliation bill) as lawmakers near decisions on a potentially historic package for our industry. This is necessary because there have been some reports that the capital, Section 8 funding, and the LIHTC provisions could be significantly reduced or eliminated from the legislation.

 

The Debt Limit

The federal debt is roughly $28 trillion. By law, Congress cannot spend more than the ceiling unless it agrees to do so in legislation signed by the President. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned Congress the government would exceed its authority soon, estimating that October 18 was the deadline for action.

In a late breaking compromise, Congress agreed to raise the ceiling by almost $500 billion until early December. If Congress had not agreed to raise or suspend the present debt limit, the federal government would have defaulted, at least temporarily, on some of its obligations, including salaries for federal workers and federally funded programs such as housing. Some economists have expressed grave fears this kind of unprecedented event could undermine the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government and even create an economic calamity worldwide. For now, Congress has deferred action on the matter until early December, at which time it will again need to raise or suspend the limit again.

 

The Reconciliation Bill – Contact Congress Now

Meanwhile, the House and Senate continue to negotiate over the size of the Build Back Better Act. The original House bill totaled $3.5 trillion with $327 billion proposed for affordable housing and community development programs. Among other appealing provisions, the House bill includes $80 billion in public housing capital funding and $75 billion for new Housing Choice Vouchers. In addition, the tax side of the package includes some beneficial LIHTC provisions including a 60 percent tax credit allocation increase.

At this stage, the reconciliation bill’s path forward is unclear. There is no question that it will have to be pared down if it is to have any chance of getting through Congress, especially in the Senate where the margin is 50–50 and Vice President Harris could break any tie. This is because two Democratic Senators (Joe Manchin, WV, and Kyrsten Sinema, AZ) are opposed to the $3.5 trillion in addition to some House moderate Democrats, who are similarly opposed to the price tag.

At this stage, the bill’s path forward is unclear. It is quite possible that the capital, Section 8 funding, and the LIHTC provisions could be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.

As you have no doubt heard, the BBBA’s fate is also tied to a $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would mostly fund roads and bridges. A block of House progressive lawmakers is holding up a vote on that package until they are assured a sizable reconciliation package is taken up.

 

Please Contact Your Elected Officials

In light of the need to scale back the overall cost of the bill, it is quite possible that the capital, Section 8 funding, and the LIHTC provisions could be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) have said they hope to complete action on the reconciliation and infrastructure bills by the end of October. PHADA is working closely with other national housing organizations, urging lawmakers to include housing in any final version of the BBBA. It is critical that individual HAs weigh in too. Please contact your Representatives and Senators and ask that substantial investments in housing be included in any final reconciliation package. PHADA suggests using the points below when you call or write to your members of Congress.

  • These funds will help to house low-income families, seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities in my community through preservation of our existing public housing and development of new housing, significant rental assistance and community development funding, a variety of energy efficiency, water efficiency, and climate resilience measures, homeownership down payment assistance, and more.
  • The Public Housing Capital Fund has been disinvested in by the federal government for two decades and this has led to significant deterioration of properties and an increase in environmental health risks for residents.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for an expansion of the voucher program to assist those who are homeless or facing homelessness, especially due to a loss of employment.

 

Please Act Now! – Links to Congressional Contacts