HUD Secretary Testifies on Budget Request

Legislation | April 21, 2021 | by Linda Couch

House Appropriations Subcommittee on HUD Chair David Price (D-NC) welcomed HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge as a the sole witness for a hearing on HUD’s fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget request, the details of which have not been released by the Administration. Overall, HUD is seeking a 15% increase for FY22.

House Appropriations Subcommittee on HUD Chair David Price (D-NC) welcomed HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge as a the sole witness for a hearing on HUD’s fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget request, the details of which have not been released by the Administration. Overall, HUD is seeking a 15% increase for FY22.

On April 20, LeadingAge issued an action alert, urging all aging services advocates to contact their House and Senate offices in support of LeadingAge’s FY22 affordable senior housing priorities.

At the April 21 hearing, Chair Price quickly raised the importance of housing for older adults and persons with disabilities. “We on this Subcommittee do recognize the desire of older Americans to age in place in many cases and we understand that many individuals with disabilities want to live as independently as they possibly can in their community. So, we’ve made it a priority … to fund new units after years of simply maintaining the status quo. We’ve been funding new units in Section 202 and Section 811 every year. Since fiscal year 2018, we’ve included a total of $504 million in new capital advances and project rental assistance to expand the supply across both programs. So, we’re pleased to see in [HUD’s] 2022 budget request $180 million to support 2,000 new housing units for the elderly and for persons with disabilities,” Chair Price said.

Secretary Fudge noted her support for these program. “We have been pleased with what Congress has done in the past to help us expand the supply of affordable rental housing for the extremely low income, the population the 202 program and 811 programs serve. We understand the responsibility we have to our seniors and to those who are disabled. We could not do some of the work we’ve been doing without these resources. Combined, they make a huge difference in how we treat some of our most vulnerable populations,” Secretary Fudge said.

“What about the need for supportive services to accompany the housing?,” Chair Price asked. “Sometimes the unit alone is not enough….. we’ve acted on this in the 202 program with service coordinators being funded regularly as part of 202 developments, we’ve seen that work very well in North Carolina. We have not done so well on 811 on the non-group home side. What can we do – we’ve had units go begging because the supportive services weren’t there for people with disabilities. I would hope that the $400 billion for home and community based services (HCBS) in the American Jobs Plan would have some funding that could be dedicated to supportive services for people in this kind of housing. How can we improve supportive services as part of our efforts to expand the housing, in particular for people with disabilities? It is very frustrating to fight for these units and then not to have the supportive services that let the units be occupied. How can HUD work with us, and work with HHS and other agencies to better target these services?,” Chair Price asked.

“We do have a very active partnership with HHS to talk about things like coordinating the community-based services and Medicaid HCBS programs. Part of the problem that I have seen in my short time at HUD is the technical assistance that needs to be given to these programs. Oftentimes, there is a disconnect between the vouchers and the state so we need to really create an awareness to talk about what is available to connect the services to the people, and then I think you will see a significant improvement. The other thing I think we need to look at is maybe the allocation of 811 vouchers by state is maybe off; we need to take look at where these vouchers are most needed and maybe reallocate some of those resources. But, I think most of it is an awareness campaign, education, and technical assistance piece that I think has been missing,” Secretary Fudge responded.

Representative Norma Torres (D-CA) asked several questions, one focused on HUD staffing levels. Rep. Torres expressed the frustration her constituents and staff have encountered when working with HUD regional offices. “In addition, my district office reaches out to the HUD regional office on behalf of district casework, such as a claims of racial discrimination and delays. Delays are so bad that by the time HUD responds, constituents have long since given up hope, moved on, and it’s difficult for us to reach them again. We really need a responsive HUD that is staffed up and able to provide smart technical assistance and timely casework. I support the necessary increases in HUD budget for hiring good people to work at HUD administering these programs. Dedicated career staff work hard to administer these programs that are so critical to families across our nation. But, many of your staff are eligible already for retirement, with even more eligible in the next few years…..What additional staff and resources will the Department need to continue to implement the Cares Act and the American Rescue Plan?,” Rep. Torres asked.

“From 2008 – 2017, HUD lost almost 19% of its total staff. So, we are understaffed now. We have outstanding people working in this agency, consummate professionals who’ve been holding down the fort. We are in the process of rebounding. We are going to need more resources. We need to put more emphasis right now on our field staff. I think that those are the people that can help you most. We’re going to be taking a strong look at that. We are aware of the situation, we are doing our very best to retain the staff that we do have, but you’re right: we have almost 500 people who are eligible to retire this year. We can’t hire people fast enough,” Secretary Fudge said.

During the hearing, Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) raised the need for internet throughout HUD’s affordable housing portfolio. Secretary Fudge noted the $100 billion in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan for broadband, which she hopes can be used for HUD-subsidized housing. “We know that anything we build moving forward has to have broadband or internet access and it has to be energy efficient and resilient,” Secretary Fudge said.

Watch the hearing here.