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CUOMO AWARDS $280 MILLION IN HOUSING VOUCHERS TO HELP 50,000 FAMILIES IN 35 STATES MOVE FROM WELFARE TO WORK
WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today awarded $280 million in rental assistance vouchers to help 50,000 families in 35 states move from welfare to work.
In addition, Cuomo awarded another $23.8 million in grants to 669 small public housing agencies in all 50 states to hire coordinators who will help get jobs for about 35,000 adults receiving HUD rental assistance.
"We're helping members of struggling families get jobs so they can work their way out of poverty and build better lives," Cuomo said.
The welfare-to-work vouchers - which are being provided this year for the first time - will subsidize rents of low-income families receiving welfare assistance or recently off welfare, to enable them to rent apartments near available jobs, transportation or child care.
"Our economy is booming, and many suburban employers can't find all the workers they need," Cuomo said. "When we help unemployed people get housing closer to these unfilled jobs, we enable them to move off the welfare rolls and onto payrolls."
President Clinton has proposed funding for 100,000 additional rental assistance vouchers for welfare recipients and others in the Fiscal Year 2000 Budget that he submitted to Congress. However, the House and Senate have not approved funding for new vouchers, even though more then 5 million low-income families are in need of housing assistance.
A House-Senate Conference Committee is now considering the HUD budget and the issue of funding new vouchers.
"The vouchers we're awarding today will help 50,000 families move into housing they desperately need," Cuomo said. "At this time of record prosperity and a budget surplus, we have the ability to do the same for 100,000 more families. Those of us blessed with good housing and good jobs shouldn't turn our backs on those left behind."
Many of the families who will receive new vouchers now live in substandard conditions, doubled up with friends or relatives, in central cities or in rural neighborhoods where jobs are scarce. Because many of these families are too poor to afford cars, it is difficult and sometimes effectively impossible for adults to reach available jobs in suburbs.
For example, a mother of two young children in a central city might have to travel for hours and take several buses to get from her home to a child-care center, and then to her job in a suburb - if bus connections exist. When mass transit is unavailable, the cost of cab fare can be more than a day's wage for an entry level job.
Currently, about two-thirds of new jobs are being created in the suburbs. However, three-fourths of welfare recipients live in rural areas or central cities.
Cuomo awarded voucher funds today to 121 state and local housing agencies, Indian tribes and tribally designated housing entities. Most of the funding was awarded on a competitive basis, but the eight largest awards were designated by Congress. These went to: Anchorage, AK; San Bernardino County, CA; Miami-Dade County, FL; Prince Georges County, MD; Kansas City, MO; Charlotte, NC; New York City; and Cleveland, OH.
Housing agencies will select 50,000 eligible families who need the tenant-based Section 8 rental assistance vouchers to get or keep jobs. Families with such vouchers pay about a third of their income to rent an apartment, and the vouchers pay the remainder of the rent.
FAMILY SELF-SUFFICIENCY GRANTS
The $23.8 million in Family Self-Sufficiency Program grants awarded today will provide funds to 669 small public housing agencies in all 50 states to each hire one self- sufficiency coordinator.
The coordinator will help people receiving HUD Section 8 rental assistance subsidies to get jobs, by helping them get education, job training, child care, counseling, transportation, job placement and other services.
Some participants in the program are on welfare, and others are in low-wage unskilled jobs and seeking to move up to better paying jobs so they can support their families.
Participants sign a contract saying the head of the household will get a job and no one in the family will be receiving welfare assistance within five years.
During the term of the contract, as a family's income rises with new employment, about a third of the increased income goes to an interest-bearing escrow account. Normally, the same portion of the increased income would be used to pay higher rent payments in HUD-subsidized housing.
If a family fulfills its contract requiring employment and independence from welfare, it can use its escrow account for such things as a downpayment on a home purchase, starting a business, paying back debts, and paying educational expenses. If a family fails to fulfill the contract, it does not get the funds in the escrow account.
COMMENTS ON HUD WELFARE-TO-WORK VOUCHERS
Shirley Marcus Allen, Acting Co-Director of the Child Welfare League of America: "Over 100,000 children whose parents are moving from welfare dependency to self sufficiency will now be able to live in safe, decent housing with the assistance of HUD's Welfare-to-Work Section 8 Tenant Based Assistance Program. Affordable housing is vital to families, particularly those headed by single mothers, as they work to become self-sufficient. These vouchers will encourage and enable families to work toward self-sufficiency and raise their children in healthy, strong communities across the country."
Denise B. Muha, Executive Director, National Leased Housing Association: "I believe the success of welfare reform will hinge on the availability of decent and safe affordable housing. These special housing vouchers will offer low-income families a hand up as they climb from poverty toward self-sufficiency."
Barbara Sard, Director, Housing Policy Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "These awards of funding for 50,000 new Welfare to Work housing vouchers are important for two reasons: first, this new initiative recognizes the importance of affordable housing as a foundation for families' transition from welfare to employment. In addition, this program provides the first significant increase in the number of families receiving federal housing assistance in five years. Despite a strong economy, there is still a substantial shortage of housing affordable to low-and moderate-income families. The Center looks forward to the implementation of these innovative state and local programs to advance welfare reform efforts."
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009