Affordable housing advocates 'thrilled' with omnibus provisions

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Linda Couch
Linda Couch

An omnibus spending act released Monday by lawmakers “sends a clear message that keeping [Housing and Urban Development]-assisted homes online is as much as a priority for Congress as it is for the 1.7 million older adult households who reside in them,” said Linda Couch, LeadingAge's director of housing policy and priorities.

The legislation, at more than $1 trillion, includes $502 million for the Housing for the Elderly program, which is $70 million more than the amount enacted for fiscal year 2016. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill this week in an effort to avoid a government shutdown.

“LeadingAge is thrilled that Congress is poised to pass a 2017 bill that will fully fund renewals of HUD rental assistance, including those within the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program,” Couch told McKnight's Senior Living.

The organization's leadership is disappointed that the spending bill does not expand HUD's rental assistance demonstration project to include elderly housing's project rental assistance contracts, she added, but is encouraged that the act includes a $10 million in new funds to preserve or expand affordable housing for older adults.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition also said it was happy with provisions in the bill.

“We were pleased that Congress rejected the president's call for $18 billion in cuts to domestic programs and some members' efforts to attach a number of harmful and divisive policy riders,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the group, said in a statement.

The legislation also contains a $2.8 billion funding increase over last year for the Department of Health and Human Services, bringing its total funding to $73.5 billion. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services program management would receive approximately $4 billion in funding, the same amount as last year and $881 million more than requested in a previous House spending bill.

The National Institutes of Health would receive a $2 billion funding increase, for a total of $34.1 billion.

The omnibus bill, pointed out Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, does not include new policy provisions from the House bill that would have blocked funding to implement the new “overtime rule,” designed to make workers earning less than $47,500 per year eligible for overtime pay, and the National Labor Relations Board's revised standard for determining joint employer status.

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