Members of Congress, including Washington’s Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, sent a bicameral letter to President Donald Trump on Friday that highlighted the consequences of the ongoing government shutdown on affordable housing. The shutdown is about to enter its second month.
The letter signed by 170 congressional leaders, not including Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, urged the president to reopen the Department of Housing and Urban Development to resume funding rental assistance initiatives.
“This partial shutdown is undermining both the short-term operations and long-term viability of our affordable housing programs that serve over four million Americans, the majority of whom are seniors and people with disabilities living on a fixed income,” the letter reads. “For the sake of the families whose homes are at stake, we urge you to end the shutdown and protect the American people.”
HUD has been searching for new funds for its renewing contracts since the shutdown. Approximately 2.2 million low-income households are at risk if rental assistance programs do not receive funding.
“HUD proposes that private owners use their individual funding reserves, where available, to cover shortfalls,” the letter continues. “The longer the shutdown continues, the more untenable this guidance becomes.”
Locally, the Vancouver Housing Authority said it has not yet seen any significant impacts but relies heavily on the federal government to fund housing programs for low-income households.
The agency posted a statement on its website about a week ago saying that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has enough money to make February payments for the Housing Choice Voucher program, otherwise known as Section 8, and operating funds will be made available to public housing authorities.
“All VHA business will continue as usual. We will update this website with any changes,” the statement said.
Saeed Hajarizadeh, VHA deputy director, said in an email that the agency typically conducts business with several federal agencies, including the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Affairs and Labor, but has not been able to do that since the government shut down.
“The American people should not be used as leverage, or be held hostage, to fulfill a political agenda,” the members of Congress continued. “In these times of uncertainty and tension, we must continue to prioritize the American people. We owe it to the people we serve to choose their best interest over politics.”
Patty Hastings contributed to this report.