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House Committee Moves Forward on Reauthorization of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act

August 6, 2008

On July 31, the House Financial Services Committee unanimously approved a revised version of HR 840 - the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act.  The bill represents the most far reaching effort in more than 15 years to reform and expand federal programs to address homelessness.  The bill passed with a “Manager's Amendment” authored by Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The Manager’s Amendment makes the bill similar to S 1518 - the Community Partnership to End Homelessness Act.  Among the changes in the Manager’s Amendment are improvements to enhance McKinney-Vento programs such as authorization for increased funding, program consolidation, simplified local match requirements, increased homeless prevention and rapid re-housing funding, codifying the current requirement for 30% of overall funding going to permanent supportive housing and many other improvements. 

An amendment was offered by Rep Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rep Geoff Davis (R-KY) to dramatically expand the definition of homelessness, but it was withdrawn after debate.  NAMI opposed this amendment out of concern that broadening the HUD definition of homelessness would undermine investment in permanent supportive housing and lead to states and localities to shift limited resources away from homeless individuals with mental illness experiencing chronic homelessness.

Several amendments were approved by the Financial Services Committee, including an amendment by Representative Bill Foster (D-IL) to clarify that nothing in the bill seeks to alter the Department of Education's definition of homelessness; an amendment by Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) to require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the varying definitions of homelessness and how well agencies are responding to the most dire housing needs of communities and make recommendations; and an amendment by Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) to clarify that communities applying for Continuum of the Care funds through the new rural program can use funds to address doubled-up individuals and families.

Learn More:

Read additional information on HR 840.

View NAMI’s letter of support for the Manager’s Amendment to HR 840.

View NAMI’s letter of opposition to the Biggert-Davis Amendment.

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