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CUOMO BARS NEW YORK CITY FROM ADMINISTERING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN HUD HOMELESS GRANTS
NEW YORK - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will bar New York City from administering millions of dollars in HUD homeless grants because the City has acted improperly to block funds to groups that have criticized City policies, Secretary Andrew Cuomo said today.
"HUD is acting in the best interests of homeless people in New York City, to ensure that the most qualified homeless assistance programs get our funding," Cuomo said. "Our action won't cut funding to homeless programs in New York City by a single penny, but will make sure that federal dollars go to the right programs and are administered fairly and lawfully."
Cuomo said he is taking the unprecedented action in response to a judge's ruling and several complaints accusing New York City of retaliating against non-profit groups by denying them HUD funds after they criticized City policies on homelessness and other issues.
HUD requires communities applying for homeless assistance funding to put together a list ranking programs in order of priority. Because communities usually seek more money from HUD than is available, programs given low rankings usually do not get funding.
Typically, city officials convene this process and rank the programs. New York City has been convening the ranking process for the City's grant application for several years.
Most Continuum of Care funding in New York City goes directly from HUD to non-profit groups. However, New York City has applied for millions of additional dollars that were set to be administered by the City government until Cuomo's announcement.
The Secretary said HUD itself will administer these grants in New York City, replacing the New York City government as the administrator of the funds not awarded directly to homeless service providers.
HUD will also bar New York City from ranking the applications of groups seeking homeless assistance funds from HUD in 2000, Cuomo said. He said HUD will require that a new entity be designated to do the rankings of all applications from groups in New York City.
The Secretary made his announcement at a hearing by two New York State Assembly Committees in New York City on the City's homeless policies.
A recent federal court ruling overturned an attempt by New York City to stop HUD Continuum of Care homeless assistance grant funds from going to the group Housing Works by lowering the group's priority ranking.
U.S. District Judge Allen G. Schwartz ruled Nov. 12 that New York City improperly lowered the ranking to retaliate against Housing Works because the group has staged demonstrations to protest City policies dealing with homelessness and AIDS. The judge said the City's action violated the First Amendment constitutional rights of Housing Works.
The judge said that two Housing Works programs - in Manhattan and Brooklyn - should have been ranked much higher by New York City because they met all four locally determined criteria for the designation of high priority applications. The criteria are: renewal of existing programs; and providing housing and services to people with substance abuse problems, people with mental illness, and people with AIDS.
Judge Schwartz ordered the rankings of the Housing Works programs to be raised substantially to give them a better chance to receive HUD homeless assistance. New York City is appealing the judge's ruling.
In addition, HUD has received complaints from other non-profit groups that serve homeless people, accusing New York City of being unfair when prioritizing the applications of the groups for HUD homeless assistance funding.
An example was reported to HUD in 1998, involving another group that has been critical of New York City's homeless policies - the Coalition for the Homeless. The Coalition was removed entirely by New York City from its list of groups eligible for Continuum of Care funding from HUD. The group complained that it was improperly denied funding as the result of the City action. HUD responded by deducting points from the assistance application by New York City.
Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Mary Brosnahan wrote to HUD in 1998 about the case, and said: "HUD's historic record of consistency and fairness stands in stark contrast to the arbitrary and capricious actions by local government officials surrounding this application."
HUD will award grants to non-profit groups and others around the nation under its award-winning Continuum of Care program for homeless people by the end of the year.
The grants will fund a broad range of housing initiatives, job training, child care, mental health services, and substance abuse treatment that offer long-term solutions to homelessness.
The goal of the Continuum of Care initiative is to help people overcome underlying problems that led to their homelessness, so that as many people as possible can get permanent housing and jobs to become self-sufficient. Cuomo said the Continuum of Care model is the best way to help homeless people.
"Our approach offers long-term solutions to homelessness that really work, instead of short-term fixes that won't solve the problem," Cuomo said.
Today's announcement by Cuomo comes two weeks after he released a report that showed HUD's Continuum of Care program and other programs that provide homeless people with both housing and needed services are working. The report is titled The Forgotten Americans - Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve. The study said that when homeless people get housing assistance and needed services, 76% of those living in families and 60% of those living alone end their homeless status after completion of the assistance program.
HUD's Continuum of Care initiative, which was developed by Cuomo when he was an Assistant Secretary at HUD, is the centerpiece of the federal policy on homelessness. It has helped more than 300,000 homeless people get housing and jobs to become self-sufficient.
The Continuum of Care stresses permanent solutions to homelessness through comprehensive and collaborative community planning. Communities submit plans to HUD that reflect efforts to address the complexities of homelessness through a range of housing and services.
HUD has invested nearly $5 billion in programs to help homeless people since President Clinton took office - more than three times as much as the $1.5 billion HUD spent on homeless assistance programs from 1987 to 1993. The grants are awarded to states, local governments and non-profit groups based on a number of factors that measure the effectiveness of plans to help homeless people become self-sufficient.
This year, the Continuum of Care was one of just ten winners, out of 1,600 competitors, of the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award that is given by the Ford Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The awards are designed to recognize "cutting edge" government programs that effectively solve problems and that other
Content Archived: January 20, 2009
Content Archived: January 20, 2009