September 26, 2008
ACTION ALERT: TELL YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT PATH ACT!
Attention non-New Yorkers: Contact your senators today and tell them to support the Preserving Access to Healthcare (PATH) Act of 2008 (S.3656), which includes a six month moratorium on cuts to Medicaid outpatient payments. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight. If you are a New Yorker, you can stop reading now, since Senators Schumer and Clinton were the bill's chief sponsors.
But if you are from any other state call the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request. Ask to speak to your senator's health staffer, and tell that person you want your senator to support S.3656.
This Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation that could cripple health care access for poor and disabled people—including tens of thousands living with HIV/AIDS—in 18 states who rely on outpatient Medicaid care. The proposed cut to Medicaid outpatient services would narrow the definition and scope of covered Medicaid outpatient hospital services and reduce hospitals' Medicaid funding by $2.1 billion over five years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates. To read more about the devastation this regulation would cause, click here.
In addition to the Medicaid delay, the bill would:
ACTION ALERT: ASK YOUR CONGRESSPERSON TO CO-SPONSOR HOUSING RESOLUTION!
She may no longer be part of the presidential drama, but she gets the connection between AIDS and housing
In addition to fretting over a $700 billion dollar bailout, Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) are planning to drop a concurrent resolution (Con.Res 102. Reps. N-House and H.Con.Res 427 Senate) establishing the critical role housing plays in the prevention of HIV and care of people living with the virus. The National AIDS Housing Coalition is named in the text of the resolution. This groundbreaking step is a direct result of AIDS housing advocates presenting a declaration identifying housing as an essential component of HIV prevention, treatment, and care to the International AIDS Society at the International AIDS Conference in August.
Congress members are trying to head back to their districts as soon as possible before the election, and we have a very short window of opportunity to get co-sponsors for the resolution. Advocates want Congress to pass it in time for World AIDS Day to maximize exposure for this important resolution.
Ask your senators and representatives join in co-sponsoring this amazing step toward housing people with HIV/AIDS! You can reach your member via the U.S. Capitol switchboard (202) 225- 3121. Ask to speak to the staffer who handles housing issues. The goal is to have the House consider the resolution before World AIDS Day on December 1, so it is critical that we get broad congressional support right away. If you don't know who your representative is click here.
Click here to see the House "Dear Colleague" letter. The Senate resolution is below. The language of the House resolution is identical to the Senate.
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION H.Con.Res 427, S.Con.Res 102
Expressing the sense of Congress that ensuring the availability of adequate housing is an essential component of an effective strategy for the prevention and treatment of HIV and the care of individuals with HIV.
Whereas adequate and secure housing is recognized as a human right in Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948;
Whereas, strong and consistent research findings show that the socioeconomic status of individuals and groups is a key determinant of health;
Whereas, the link between poverty and an increased risk of contracting HIV and other poor health outcomes is well established;
Whereas, research findings demonstrate that there is a direct relationship between inadequate housing and a greater risk of HIV infection, poor health outcomes, and early death;
Whereas, Whereas poor living conditions, including overcrowding and homelessness, undermine safety, privacy, and efforts to promote self-respect, human dignity, and responsible sexual behavior;
Whereas, according to the National AIDS Housing Coalition, individuals who are homeless or unstably housed are 2 to 6 times more likely to use hard drugs, share needles, or exchange sex than individuals with stable housing, as the lack of stable housing directly impacts the ability of individuals living in poverty to reduce HIV risk behaviors;
Whereas, despite the evidence indicating that adequate housing has a direct positive effect on the prevention and treatment of HIV and health outcomes, the lack of resources dedicated to providing adequate housing has been largely ignored in policy discussions at the international level; and
Whereas the United Nations, in the 2006 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, embraced the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programs and treatment, care, and support for individuals with HIV by 2010: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that ensuring the availability of adequate housing is an essential component of an effective strategy for the prevention and treatment of HIV and the care of individuals with HIV.
September 5, 2008
ACTION ALERT: SIGN ON TO MEDICAID STIMULUS LETTER!
Give Medicaid spending a jolt!
Medicaid, the nation's single largest payer for HIV/AIDS care, is facing cutbacks at state and federal levels (as well as a potentially devastating new CMS regulation). One way to lessen the damage is to include a temporary increase to the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) as part of a second Congressional stimulus package this fall.
Under federal law, Medicaid is required to match a share of each state's Medicaid spending depending on the state's per capita income. In New York, for instance, a 1.5 percent increase in matching money could pump several billion dollars into health care, making this an economic stimulus that will actually help poor people. 55 percent of people with AIDS, 44 percent of people with HIV, and 90 percent of children with HIV/AIDS rely on Medicaid for their health care and treatment.
National, state and local sign ons to a Medicaid Coalition letter supporting FMAP increases are due by NOON today, Friday, September 5. To sign on to the letter below contact Lena, Families USA, (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Linda Bennett, AFSCME, (LBennett@afscme.org)
Dear Leader Reid, Senator McConnell, Madam Speaker Pelosi and Representative Boehner:
The undersigned organizations urge you to pass a second stimulus measure which includes a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid match. With Congress planning to adjourn by the end of September, timely action now will protect the health care of millions of vulnerable Americans and would be a prudent and responsive way to stimulate the economy.
The fiscal crisis confronting states poses an increasing risk to the health care services upon which tens of millions of American's children, seniors, people with disabilities and families depend. As of early August 2008, there are 13 states implementing or considering cuts that will eliminate or reduce health care services for low-income children and their families. As unemployment rises and the ranks of the uninsured grow, the pressure on safety net providers to provide uncompensated care increases. Cuts in eligibility in state Medicaid programs will add significant strain to hospital budgets and enlarge the cost-shift onto private insurance and families' health insurance premiums.
An increase in federal support for rising state Medicaid costs, a provision based on the successful 2003 bi-partisan legislation, is a proven and effective way to help protect the health care of millions of Americans. According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the 2003 Jobs and Growth Tax Relief, which included $10 billion going directly to help state Medicaid programs, helped avert cuts and preserve Medicaid coverage for millions of vulnerable Americans and, in some cases, allowed cuts to be reversed.
What is more, an increase in the federal match for Medicaid is a potent economic stimulus. According to Mark Zandi, Chief Economist for Moody's Economy.com, a $1 increase in federal Medicaid spending and grants to states would boost the GDP by $1.36. This in turn protects and generates jobs, wages and business activity because of a new injection of funding into state budgets. States that receive a temporary increase in federal Medicaid match could see job, wage and economic growth as a result.
Congress should act before adjournment to protect and stimulate state economies, stabilize state budgets and help avert health care cuts. As in 2003, a short-term increase in federal support for state Medicaid programs could preserve coverage for millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid. We urge you in the strongest terms possible to act quickly with a second stimulus that provides states with increased federal support for Medicaid and additional state aid.
August 19, 2008
ACTION ALERT: TELL ALBANY TO HALT DESTRUCTIVE HIV/AIDS CUTS!
Paterson should hear from you!
Today in Albany, the legislature will be voting on a budget modification package that includes destructive cuts to HIV/AIDS programs and services and a slew of additional cuts to other vital health and human services programs here in New York State. For a full breakdown, click here.
Governor David Paterson has proposed these cuts, and the leadership—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos—will be working with their membership to decide which cuts to approve and which to take off the table.
The Governor's $600 million dollar budget reduction proposal includes several options:
Reducing local assistance general fund spending by six percent This is on top of the recent two percent cuts to New York State and New York City AIDS programs. This is out-and out destruction to the AIDS Institute's programs.
Reducing New and Enhanced 2008-09 Executive and Legislative Programs by 50 Percent This includes cuts to AIDS community service providers and legal, family planning and mental health services.
Reducing member item spending by 50 percent More cuts to the AIDS community
Reducing Medicaid Spending by $500 million The state claims that these cuts will not impact patient services but a reduction in payments to institutions will always impact patient care.
Tell Albany to beat back this budget attack on poor New Yorkers living with AIDS and HIV!:
1. Governor David Paterson's Albany office at 518-474-8390 and his NYC office at 212-681-4580.
2. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver's Albany office at 518-455-3791 and his NYC office at 212-312-1420.
3. Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos' Albany office at 518-451-3171 and his Long Island office at 516-766-8383.
And tell them...
"The State Department of Health has acknowledged that there are now more men, women and youth living with AIDS and HIV here in New York State than they realized.
This means that there are now MORE people in our state who will need to be counseled and tested for HIV, and even more HIV-positive New Yorkers will need housing, health care, legal services, transportation, case management, substance use and mental health services.
Continuing to destory the HIV/AIDS budget is gross conduct unbecoming of trusted elected officials!
We strongly urge you to stop balancing your budget on the frail backs of New York's poor and sick!
It's time to Stand Against AIDS here in New York State!"
June 13, 2008
ACTION ALERT: STOP BAD HIV TESTING BILL!
Gottfried and Mayersohn:
Informed consent is in trouble in Albany
After a one week delay, on June 17 the New York State Assembly Health Committee is scheduled to vote on two competing bills to overhaul Article 27-f, the HIV testing and consent law that protects the confidentiality and privacy of anyone who has been tested for or exposed to HIV. Bill A.4813 is proposed by Nettie Mayersohn, and bill A.11461 was created by the New York State Department of Health and introduced by Dick Gottfried.
Now is the time to tell your Assembly member that you oppose Mayersohn's short-sighted bill. Call the Assembly switchboard toll-free 866-802-0640 and contact members of the Assembly Health Committee: Jim Bacalles, (R-Corning), Jonathan Bing (D-Manhattan), Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston), James Conte (R-Huntington), Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), Patricia Eddington (D-Medford), Sandy Galef, (D-Ossining), Aileen Gunther (D-Monticello), Stephen Hawley (R-Albion), Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), Rhoda Jacobs (D-Brooklyn),William Magnarelli (R- Syracuse), Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing), David McDonough (R-Bellmore), Joel Miller (R-Poughkeepsie), Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), Crystal Peoples (D-Buffalo), Jack Quinn (R-Blasdell), Andrew Raia (R-Northport), Naomi Rivera (D-Bronx), Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), Robin Schimminger (D-Kenmore), Darryl C. Towns (D-Brooklyn).
It's unclear how the Assembly members will vote, with some—like Hevesi and Magnarelli—likely to vote for both bills. These double dippers don't want to back down on their word to Mayersohn—who approached them about cosponsoring months ago—even though they now prefer the Gottfried bill.
Housing Works isn't endorsing either bill, since neither ensures truly informed consent to HIV testing. Under the existing version of 27-f, healthcare providers are obligated to ask patients if they will take an HIV test, as well as provide pre- and post-test counseling. Gottfried's bill revises 27-f to include only an "opt-out" measure for declining an HIV test, a plan that undermines consent by failing to ensure that patients understand what tests they are agreeing to take.
Mayersohn's bill on the other hand, is harmful and should be vigorously opposed. Not only does A.4813 eliminate all consent for HIV testing, it also nixes pre and post-test counseling. Mayersohn's legislation is deeply troubling not just for people who test positive for HIV, but for those who test negative as well. Say, for example, a woman receives a notification from the health department that one of her partners has HIV, and the woman subsequently tests negative for HIV. Under Mayersohn's bill, the woman would be sent along her merry way, with no tools that could help her address her partner's HIV status and help her stay negative.
"Nettie Mayersohn and Housing Works share the same goal of increasing the number of people who are tested in order to increase access to life-saving treatment and care. But Mayersohn's bill is dangerous, however, because it allows for testing of people against their will," said Housing Works president and CEO Charles King.
Dozens of New York groups that oppose A.4813 have signed a "statement of principles" (see below) that New York State should adhere to in crafting HIV testing and consent laws. The following groups have all signed on to the principles outlined below: Hispanic AIDS Forum, New York AIDS Coalition, Centro Civico of Amsterdam Inc., Housing Works, New York Civil Liberties Union, Bronx AIDS Services, Community Healthcare Network, Institute for Family Health, Betances Health Center, Legal Action Center, HIV Law Project, Brooklyn United Community Coalition, Center for HIV Law and Policy, AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA), Citiwide Harm Reduction, Lambda Legal, St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction, Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), Washington Heights Corner Project, Safe Horizons and Community Health Action
Statement of principles: Expanding access to voluntary HIV testing
The undersigned groups share the goal of expanding the availability of HIV testing and streamlining the testing process for providers. But expanding and streamlining testing cannot come at the expense of guaranteeing informed consent. In fact, ensuring that people understand what they are being tested for and what a positive test result means in terms of treatment availability, transmission prevention, and confidentiality and antidiscrimination protections is sound public health policy. When people understand the test and its implications, they are more likely to seek treatment and engage in efforts to reduce the spread of HIV.
We believe that:
1. Our goal is not testing for testing's sake. Getting more people tested should not be an end in itself, but rather, a way to reduce the overall number of cases of HIV transmission to connect HIV-infected people with lifesaving care;
2. Streamlining the HIV testing process does not require eliminating the protections that informed consent provides, and this is consistent with CDC recommendations;
3. Expanding access to testing for all New Yorkers can be done by making HIV-related testing a routine part of primary care;
4. It is critical that people freely choose to be tested for HIV and provide informed consent in writing prior to the test to indicate that testing is being done voluntarily;
5. Informed consent means that people affirmatively choose whether or not to be tested for HIV, not that they are given the option to decline to be tested;
6. People should be fully informed about the availability of anonymous testing, who will have access to the results of the test, how those results can be used and what legal protections exist to vindicate any resulting discrimination before they choose to be tested; and
7. Existing confidentiality protections that do not operate as a barrier to testing must be retained.
We can increase the number of New Yorkers who know their HIV status in a way that is compatible both with civil and human rights AND sound public health policy. Dismantling written informed consent laws and patient/provider protections is not the way to do it. For these reasons, the undersigned oppose A.4813/S.7529.
To sign on to the principles outlined above, contact terri smith-caronia at email@example.com.
June 6, 2008
ACTION ALERT: TELL CONGRESS TO KEEP MORATORIUM ON ALL CMS REGULATIONS!
Rep. Obey needs to make sure Medicaid case management funding continues
Earlier this spring, both the House and Senate voted by veto-proof margins to delay seven harmful Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) rules until April 2009. But now in an attempt to save a few dollars, Congress—led by House appropriations chair Rep Dave Obey (D-WI)—is considering changes that would only impose the delay of implementation of some, not all, of the regulations, and targeted case management would be on the chopping block. One of the many negative effects of this is that COBRA case management would be completely gutted. Since COBRA, which provide crucial psychosocial case management for low-income people living with AIDS and HIV, hasn't seen a rate increase in more than a decade, most COBRA programs are already in deficit.
Contact our representatives today and tell them to make sure CMS keeps all Medicaid regulations in place. Along with case management on the chopping block are certain essential services provided in outpatient settings, such as vision screening, administration of vaccinations and rehabilitation services, as well as the state's ability to levy taxes on health care providers as a way to finance Medicaid programs.
To call your representatives, call the Congressional switchboard at 800-828-0498 or 202-225-3121. To find out who your representative is go to house.gov.
Ask to speak to the staffer who deals with health and tell that person, "Please keep all of the CMS moratorium in place and make sure that targeted case management is not cut during the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services cost-shifting."
ACTION ALERT: TELL CONGRESS TO LIFT NEX BAN!
Tell Congress syringe exchange saves lives!
It's been almost a year since Congress lifted the ban on the use of local tax dollars for syringe exchange in Washington, D.C., and now is the time for Congress to take the next logical (and ethical) step and end the ban on federally funding syringe exchange programs.
Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce a bill to end the federal ban this session, marking the first time in more than a decade that Congress has made a real effort to lift this cruel and deadly ban once and for all. But Congress needs to show as much support as possible. So far Serrano, Jerrold Nadler, Edolphus Towns and Yvette Clark are the only members of the New York delegation to sign on. Let's increase participation! Call your representatives, and ask them to demonstrate their support by signing a letter to House leadership.
Here's how to make a difference in two easy steps:1) Go to house.gov to find out who your U.S. congressperson is. (If you already know your rep, proceed to step #2.). 2) Call up your rep's. D.C. office (U.S. Congress switchboard at 800-828-0498 or 202-224-3121) and ask to speak to his or her health staffer. Ask your rep to sign the bipartisan "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Mike Castle (R-DE).
"Local communities should decide how best to fight the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Syringe exchanges are proven to help reduce HIV infection and also provide important links to drug treatment. It's time to lift the federal ban on syringe exchange funding. Will [xx member] sign the Cummings/Castle letter?"
Other key talking points:
- One-third of people with HIV in the United States were infected through injection drug use. Every year, another 8,000 people are newly infected with HIV through sharing contaminated syringes and another 15,000 are infected with hepatitis C.
- These infections are preventable. In communities where access to sterile syringes is supported, transmission of HIV and hepatitis C in injecting drug users has declined as a proportion of all cases by mode of transmission. Decreases have also been documented among the sex partners and children of injection drug users.
- Syringe exchange programs are highly cost-effective. The lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is $385,200. The equivalent amount of money spent on syringe exchange programs would prevent at least 30 new HIV infections.
- Syringe exchange programs increase access to drug treatment and medical care . In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe access programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment. These programs also provide a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment.
- Nearly 200 syringe exchange programs currently operate in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Washington D.C., and Indian territories. Most operate on a shoestring, surviving on dwindling private donations and severe restrictions of public funding.
- The medical and scientific communities support syringe exchange. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academy of Sciences show that syringe exchange programs are effective. Programs have the support of the medical community, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association.
- Syringe exchanges get dirty needles off the streets. Research demonstrates that the presence of a syringe exchange program reduces the number of improperly discarded used syringes. In Baltimore, after a syringe exchange program was implemented, the number of inappropriately discarded syringes decreased by almost 50 percent. In Portland, Oregon the number of discarded syringes decreased by almost two-thirds after the needle exchange program opened. In 1992, Connecticut repealed a law forbidding the sale of syringes without a prescription. As a result, reports show a reduction in needle sharing by 50 percent and a decrease in HIV infections by more than 30 percent. In addition, law enforcement officials experienced two-thirds fewer needlestick injuries.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let the Harm Reduction Coalition know what you hear back!
May 27, 2008
TELL YOUR ASSEMBLY REP TO VOTE FOR GENDA!
Ask your assemblymember to tell Silver to bring GENDA to a vote!
Attention New Yorkers!
After years of hemming and hawing by Assembly leadership (see picture to right), the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) is finally on the Assembly calendar and could be voted on any day now by the full Assembly. Today and tomorrow are the statewide GENDA call-in days. The time to act is now to get the Assembly to vote to end discrimination against transgender New Yorkers.
Call your assemblymember to tell him or her to vote for GENDA. We're in the final stretch and it is vital that they hear from you.
If you don't know who your assemblymember is, click here and put in your address to find your representative.
GENDA will ensure that all New Yorkers, including transgender people, are protected from discrimination based on gender identity and expression in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and other areas of everyday life. Passing GENDA will mean that transgender New Yorkers will no longer have to live in fear that they will lose their jobs, get kicked out of their homes, or be denied service in restaurants.
With 75 co-sponsors and more than 100 assemblymembers on record supporting GENDA, we know that we have enough support to get it passed in the Assembly if it comes to a floor vote. So now is the time to call your assemblymember!
Find your representative's phone number here (http://assembly.state.ny.us/), and then call your representative's office to say that now is the time to end discrimination against transgender New Yorkers.
Remember to give the number of the GENDA bill (A.6584).
Ask them to vote for GENDA, and to ask Speaker Sheldon Silver and their fellow assemblymembers bring the bill to the floor for a vote now. Tell them about the broad support for GENDA statewide, including:
- 78 percent of New York voters
- Unions representing 461,000 working New Yorkers
- 26 Fortune 500 companies based in cities like Rochester, Corning, New York City and White Plains
- 130 clergy and lay leaders, representing 20 different denominations
May 20, 2008
ACTION ALERT: GIVE 10 MINUTES TO PEPFAR!
Tell Reid to bring PEPFAR for a vote!
Take ten minutes today, and help make sure that the biggest global health bill ever will pass the Senate. This bill would make sure that three to four million people have access to HIV treatment, the dire shortage of health workers in Africa starts to be addressed, millions of people would have bednets to protect from malaria, and people across the world have the tuberculosis treatment they need.
Do you have ten minutes today to make sure this important bill passes?
The Hyde/Lantos U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (S. 2731)is being held up in the Senate by a handful of senators, known as the "Coburn Seven". These senators—Tom Coburn (R-OK), Jim DeMint (D-SC), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC)—are consciously delaying a vote on this bill, which has broad bipartisan support, and threatening a program which aims to save millions of lives.
This bill will pass if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decides to move the bill forward. Unfortunately, Reid has not shown a desire to make sure this legislation is passed as soon as possible. With millions of lives, and hundreds of organizations doing lifesaving work, waiting on reauthorization, can you take ten minutes to make three calls today to help pass this legislation?
Today can you call:
- Both of your senators (unless one of your senators is part of the obstructionist "Coburn Seven") and say "As a constituent, I am incredibly concerned that the bipartisan Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Reauthorization Bill will not pass unless Senator Reid makes it a priority. I am calling to ask Sen. (your Senator) to encourage Sen. Reid to pass this critical piece of legislation, which will save millions of lives worldwide, as soon as possible." You can reach your senators by calling the Capitol switchboard toll-free at (800) 828-0498. If that number is busy, call (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected to your senator. If you don't know who that is, go to www.congress.org and enter your zip code in the upper left corner.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid —who can help dislodge this bill and make sure seven obstructionist Senators don't block an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill—and say "I am extremely concerned that the Global AIDS, TB and Malaria Reauthorization bill may be held up by seven Senators who are going against the overwhelming majority of Americans and Congresspeople. Will Sen. Reid make sure work to push this critical legislation through the Senate in the next few weeks?". You can call Reid's office and speak to staff in D.C. at 202-224-3542.
We have gotten the bill through the House. Will you help with the final push to make this important legislation law?
Thank you for your help passing this bill!
April 19, 2008
ACTION ALERT: ASK YOUR SENATOR TO BOOST SECTION 8 HOUSING!
Collins and Feingold support boosting Section 8 (your Senator could be that other guy)
Often, when we think AIDS housing, we think HOPWA and Ryan White. But because of the relative smallness of both, programs such as the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program are needed to fill in the funding holes for low-income people with HIV/AIDS.
But Section 8 hasn't kept pace with the nationwide rise in real estate prices, making truly affordable housing harder and harder to find. To help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, Sens. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are circulating the below letter for signatures. It urges the Senate THUD Appropriations Subcommittee to increase funding for the tenant-based Section 8 program for FY 2009. The letter closes on Thursday, April 24, so contact your Senator this very moment. Currently Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Warner (R-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Joseph Lieberman (D Independent-CT) have signed on.
New Yorkers, note that Sen. Chuck Schumer hasn’t yet signed the letter, so his office could definitely use your call!
Here's what to do:
1. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121 and ask to be transferred to your Senator's office. (Don't know who your Senator is? Visit www.senate.gov to find out.)
2. Ask to speak to the staffer in your Senator's office who handles housing issues.
3. Tell the staffer about the importance of Section 8 in providing housing for people with HIV/AIDS in your community.
4. Ask the Senator to sign on to the letter. If the staffer wants more information, Amanda Beaumont is staffing the letter for Feingold and Jen Capriola is staffing the letter for Collins.
5. Please let NAHC know the results of your call by e-`mailing Latoya Thomas at email@example.com.
Dear Chairwoman Murray and Ranking Member Bond:
We are writing to urge you to support the highest fiscally responsible increase in funding for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program in the fiscal year 2009 THUD appropriations bill. We ask that you include funding sufficient to renew existing vouchers as well as fund new vouchers in fiscal year 2009. Increasing numbers of American families are facing housing affordability challenges, whether they are renters or homeowners, and we are concerned that the current level of funding for the Section 8 program does not come close to meeting the existing rental assistance need in communities nationwide. The housing affordability burden continues to fall most heavily on low-income renters throughout the country and increased funding for the Section 8 program will help meet the affordable rental housing needs of these American families.
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, originally created in 1974, is the largest Federal housing program in terms of HUD's budget with approximately two million vouchers currently authorized. Yet the current number of vouchers does not come close to meeting the demand that exists in communities around our country including urban, suburban, and rural areas. We have heard from advocates in our states about the increased need for additional funding for the tenant-based program – not only to fund existing vouchers in use, but to also fund new, incremental tenant-based vouchers for low-income families currently unable to be served by the program. Advocates in our states also continue to tell us about the increasing numbers of families on waiting lists for vouchers and unfortunately, these waiting lists will only grow longer if the Section 8 program does not receive increased funding.
A number of different government agencies and advocacy organizations all cite the effectiveness of Section 8 in assisting low-income families in meeting some of their housing needs. In 2002, the Millennial Housing Commission reported to Congress that the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is “flexible, cost-effective, and successful in its mission,” and that the vouchers “should continue to be the linchpin of a national policy providing very low-income renters access to the privately owned housing stock.” The Commission also called on Congress to provide a substantial investment in the tenant-based Section 8 program in the future.
In order to address the growing need for affordable housing, we urge you to include the highest fiscally responsible increase for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program in the fiscal year 2009 THUD appropriations bill that will not only fully fund existing vouchers, but also provide funding for new Section 8 vouchers in 2009. We commend you for the support that you provided to the Section 8 tenant-based program in the Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution for fiscal year 2007 as well as the Consolidated Appropriations Act in fiscal year 2008. We look forward to working with you to not only boost funding for this valuable federal program that helps millions of American families secure affordable housing, but also promote responsible reforms to the Section 8 program that will allow the program to better serve the needs of American families for years to come.
Thank you for your consideration to our request. Your continued leadership on affordable housing issues is appreciated.