What Can Annual Appropriations/Spending Do?

The most important item left on Congress’s active agenda related to homelessness is the annual funding bills for Fiscal Year 2023. In those bills, the Alliance is focusing on funding for two accounts at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): the Homeless Assistance Grants that fund the Continuum of Care and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) programs; and Tenant-Based Rental Assistance that funds the Housing Choice Voucher (“Section 8”) program.

Most federal spending (including all targeted homelessness programs) is decided through annual “appropriations” or “discretionary spending” bills that spell out what each program will get. None of these bills are finalized yet – which is why advocacy in this stage is so important!

After lots of hearings and preliminary votes, the process of real decision-making starts with a House/Senate agreement about how much money is allocated overall, and how much is allocated for each appropriations subcommittee (including the ones that work on homelessness). These bills require 60 votes to pass the Senate, so some level of bipartisan agreement is required – something that has not yet been forthcoming.

It’s an election year for Congress, and polls show there’s a chance the majority party will change in the House, and maybe the Senate. In years like that, the current Senate minority will often refuse to agree on overall spending levels. This slows the process down and pushes it into the new year, when that hope to have a majority and more ability to shape final spending bills to match their priorities. Even so, behind closed doors decisions will be made on many programs. But this slow process has very real implications on how much money communities receive to end homelessness.

Why Advocacy Matters Now

In those circumstances, it’s important to have a steady drumbeat of advocacy going – especially from people who are closest to the issue (like homeless service providers, people with lived experience, and people who run homeless service systems). Decision-makers are coming to conclusions about which programs need increases, which programs are fine the way they are, and which can be cut to make room for other priorities. We need to make the case now and repeatedly until final decisions are made: homelessness and housing programs need more money.

  • Rents are going up.
  • Homelessness is a growing problem.
  • The programs work.

Read the full article about homelessness funding for 2023 by Steve Berg at National Alliance to End Homelessness.