January 2019: Possible Effects of Government Shutdown on SEK-CAP Rental Assistance Programs
Can’t the leaders of our country just come to some kind of agreement? This is getting ridiculous. Every year, agencies that administer federal housing programs sit and wait for congress to come up with a new spending bill so that we can continue providing affordable housing opportunities to people in need. It’s a little stressful. Sure, the government has re-opened for now, but if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill by February 15th, it will shut down again, leaving agencies like SEK-CAP wondering how they will pay for March Housing Assistance Payments.
Over 50% of the people getting rental assistance from SEK-CAP are elderly or disabled and live on social security benefits. They depend on federal programs, such as HUD Section 8, to keep housing affordable for them. Without Section 8, many of these families will be forced to decide whether to pay the rent or to pay for food and prescriptions. That’s a tough decision… housing or health!? What would you choose?
Landlords will also suffer greatly if a spending bill is not passed before the end of February. Mortgages are still due to the bank and taxes are still owed, even during a lapse in funding for federal housing programs.
We ARE hopeful that congress will come through this year, as they have in the past, to pass a spending bill so that our program participants and landlord partners are not affected. However, if they do not get it together before the end of February, there could be some painful side effects. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided very little guidance to Public Housing Authorities during this time, but this is what we DO know:
• HUD is expected to provide Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) for the month of February 2019. SEK-CAP will release HAP checks to landlords and Utility Reimbursements to tenants as usual for February.
• HAP funds have not been obligated to SEK-CAP for the month of March 2019 because congress hasn’t passed a spending bill.
• SEK-CAP has requested HUD-Held Reserves for the month of March, but we were notified that HUD is not processing requests for March yet.
• We have been notified by HUD staff that they expect to provide us with March funding and payment determinations “in the coming weeks.”
If we continue into February without a spending bill for federal housing programs, SEK-CAP will take the following measures:
• February Housing Assistance Payments will be made to landlords as usual.
• February Utility Reimbursements payments will be made to tenants that are eligible to receive them, as usual.
• March Housing Assistance Payments and Utility Reimbursements are not guaranteed until we receive notification of funding from HUD.
• Beginning February 1st, new vouchers will not be issued to applicants on the waitlist as a safeguard.
But hey, let’s try to put a positive spin on this! This is a chance for you to speak out. Please reach out to your senators and representatives to let them know how you would be affected if there were no funding for Section 8 rental assistance.
As events unfold, we will be here to keep you informed. If you have questions or comments, please call to speak with me directly, (620)724-8204, ext. 1004.
Housing Services Director