June 09, 2016
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On May 26, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, introduced H.R. 5360, the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act, which would prohibit Congress from funding means-tested housing programs and in their place create a single state block grant for housing activities. The legislation would cap appropriations for the block grant from FY 2017 through FY 2022 at FY 2016 appropriations levels, and then cut an additional 10 percent annually from 2023 until 2028, culminating in a 50 percent reduction in funding from their total FY 2016 level.

The bill would repeal and replace with the block grant the following federal housing programs: Section 8 tenant-based and project based rental assistance, public housing, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program, the Native American Housing Block Grant program, the Section 101 Rent Supplement Program, the Section 236 Rental Assistance Payments program, the Rural Housing Insurance Fund, and all assistance programs provided by the Rural Housing Service.

In order to be eligible for the new grant, the legislation requires states to submit annually an application to HUD that includes the amount they received for the previous year’s means-tested housing programs. HUD would then allocate each state a proportional share of the total block grant funding available that year. The legislation requires states to match 20 percent of their federal grant with non-federal funds.

The bill would give states the flexibility to use the block grant to fund state-designed housing programs and services. It also specifies that states could also use block grant funds to establish a portable voucher system that would allow low-income parents to use a portion of their voucher’s value to send their children to a private pre-kindergarten education program, though it does not reference other uses of funds for educational purposes.

Each state administering the block grant program would develop and publish an annual report containing budget and utilization data as well as a self-assessment on its progress. The bill requires the Comptroller General of the United States to conduct a study on states’ best practices four years after the block grant’s enactment.

H.R. 5360 also imposes new work requirements on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Representatives Steve Chabot (R-OH), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Louise Gohmert (R-TX), and Mark Meadows (R-NC) are all original cosponsors of the bill. There is currently no companion legislation in the Senate.

H.R. 5360 was referred to the House Committees on Ways and Means, Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, and Budget.

For more information, contact NCSHA’s Althea Arnold.