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AIDS Issues Update Blog

Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS

HOPWA in Trouble if Sequestration Cuts Happen

Posted by Sunny Bjerk , September 16, 2012

HOPWA in Trouble if Sequestration Cuts Happen

Image courtesy of csmonitor.com

Last Friday, news conveniently broke at 4pm—a time when most journalists are long gone and in hot pursuit of their weekends—that the White House released the OMB Sequestration report, which details what automatic cuts will be made to programs across the board. These automatic cuts, known as the Sequestration Cuts, will have devastating effects on the homeless and people living with HIV/AIDS, as HOPWA and Medicaid are among the programs slated to receive a huge gash in funding.

According to page 98 of the very official and incredibly dense report, HOPWA is slated to lose 8.2% of its funding, or $27 million should the sequestration take place. In very real terms, since HUD calculated that for every $1 million of funding, 192 households are served, the sequester would mean the loss of housing assistance to 5,184 households. In addition, outside of HOPWA reductions, according to calculations from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “More than 185,000 households would lose their tenant-based rental assistance vouchers, 92,400 households would lose their project-based rental assistance housing, and 145,900 people would be remain homeless, instead of being housed under the Homeless Assistance Grant program. In addition, more than 140,000 currently housed households that include an elderly person or a person with a disability would receive reduced unit maintenance and lower levels of supportive services in units funded by Section 202 Housing for the Elderly or Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities.”

But the good news is that these cuts are not—at least for now—a sure thing. Congress still has time to agree on a budget deal and find ways to find 1.2 TRILLION over the next ten years. (Just a tiny ant hill, right?). But should a budget deal fail to be reached, however, as Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is inexplicably toting around as a very real fire-and-brimstone possibly, we will see the budget being balanced—again—on the backs of poor people and people living with AIDS. This news is especially troubling, as Medicaid’s recent reconfiguration under the Affordable Care Act could drastically improve health care services and access for people living with HIV/AIDS.

So how did we get here? Well, last year, the President and the Congressional Republicans failed to reach a budget deal, which resulted in a political ruckus and a downgrading of the country’s credit rating across the world. The failure resulted in a lot of finger-pointing, a flood of polls on which political party was more to blame, and most importantly, the creation of the infamous Budget Super Committee. Composed of an even-steven six House of Representatives and six Senators, as well as six Democrats and six Republicans, the Super Committee was charged with coming up with a partisan plan to reduce the deficit by mutually agreeing on what programs or services to cut, and by how much, in order to find that steep 1.2 trillion in savings.

Surprisingly or not, after four months (August to November 2011) of debates, proposals and naysaying, the Super Committee failed to reach an agreement, with the always dependable finger-pointing again ensuing. And lying in wait within this failure are the automatic cuts to HOPWA as well as Medicare that will adversely further disenfranchise people living with HIV/AIDS.

So what can we do? We can continue to get out and vote, and put pressure on our politicians and leaders to address HIV/AIDS and let them know how these funding streams—Medicaid and HOPWA—can mean the difference between life and death for people. We tweet, we post on Facebook, we write OP-EDs, and we continue to create a communal ruckus to remind those in Washington that while they give speeches, many of us are still lost in the trenches of housing waiting-lists hundreds, even thousands, of people long, and that we are tired of being patient and complacent.

Make your voices heard.

Follow the Update blog on Twitter @housingworks.

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