Homelessness:

HUD's and FEMA's Progress in Implementing the McKinney Act

RCED-89-50: Published: May 11, 1989. Publicly Released: May 11, 1989.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO evaluated the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) disbursement and use of appropriations for homeless assistance programs.

GAO found that: (1) FEMA increased its ability to provide year-round funding for its Emergency Food and Shelter program by extending its spending period and establishing plans for grant approval and review for more timely distribution; (2) HUD was generally timely in reviewing and approving funds for its programs, although it disbursed only a limited amount of funds due to lengthy funding periods, recipients working on a reimbursable basis, and lack of applications; (3) poverty and unemployment data used to allocate FEMA and HUD funds did not always reflect community needs; and (4) HUD distributed Emergency Shelter grant funds to communities in proportion to their homeless populations, including some communities with few homeless persons. GAO also found that a national survey of 1987 Emergency Food and Shelter program recipients indicated that: (1) recipients cited unemployment, low wages, decreases in available subsidized housing, and increased housing costs as significantly contributing to homelessness; (2) 40 percent of grant recipients provided shelter, with 26 percent going to children under 16 years of age and 63 percent to 17- through 55-year-olds; (3) 70 percent of recipients believed that overall demand for services increased between 1987 and 1988; (4) 46 percent believed that FEMA funds enabled them to provide more assistance; and (5) 80 percent were satisfied with FEMA requirements and guidelines.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FEMA has taken action to ensure more timely funding.

    Matter: To enable Emergency Food and Shelter Program recipients to receive funds in a timely manner, Congress should consider providing FEMA with its Emergency Food and Shelter appropriation no later than August of each year. It should also consider other funding alternatives, such as advance appropriations or forward funding, in which funds are appropriated sooner than the months just preceding the year in which they are available for obligation, or are available for obligation for periods other than the traditional fiscal year.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HUD issued grantee annual reports for the SHD Program (HUD-40076-A and HUD-40083-A) in April 1992 which achieved the desired results.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should ensure the completion of departmental efforts to: (1) develop methods for measuring the success of the Supportive Housing Demonstration (SHD) Program in facilitating the movement of homeless persons to independent living within a reasonable amount of time; and (2) establish procedures for reviewing work done by those processing grant applications to ensure that program guidelines are consistently interpreted and applied.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HUD believes that its funding approach takes into account factors cited by GAO by not reducing rental assistance cost estimates for the vacancies that would exist during the rehabilitation and initial leasing period, or by estimating any cost offset for tenant contributions.

    Recommendation: After the construction phase of the program has been completed, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct program officials to recompute the total amount of rental assistance payments, taking into account the public housing authority administrative allowance and the HUD-estimated inflation factor. Future awards under the Section 8 single room occupancy program should be determined using known cost escalation factors and the experience gained from the first-year program funding process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The 1990 Housing Act created the Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategies (CHAS) in order to open more housing programs to the homeless. CHAS consolidates two existing planning documents required by HUD, CHAP, and the Housing Assistance Plan. CHAS has five parts outlining state and local plans for meeting housing and support service needs for homeless.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should, in requesting and reviewing future Comprehensive Homeless Assistance Plan (CHAP) submissions, make the CHAP requirements more specific. They may, for example, help identify the number and types of homeless persons throughout the United States, help identify shortfalls in needed services, and help ensure that all homeless assistance and related programs are coordinated effectively.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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