Advocates Demand an End to Sequestration in a Rally Outside the Capitol

a (14)By Malik Siraj Akbar 

Advocates from across the nation seeking more funding for affordable housing, education, healthcare and many critical nondefense sectors staged a rally outside the Capitol Hill on Wednesday urging Congress to end budget cuts. Using the hashtag #raisethecaps, which was trending Wednesday afternoon in Washington D.C. on Twitter, these advocates, who belonged to a variety of organizations focusing on several core areas of life, assembled under the umbrella of Nondefense Discretionary or NDD United to raise awareness about what they describe as the devastating impact of the budget cuts on ordinary Americans.

The Minority House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the Members of the House of Representatives, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Robin Kelly (D-ILL), and Nita Lowey (D-NY).

The NDD United had organized a similar rally outside the Hill last month in an attempt to urge Congress to end budget cuts but Wednesday’s rally attracted more participants, including many advocates for affordable housing, health, disability rights and veterans’ groups, who had come to the nation’s capital from other states.

Steny Hoyer urged the Republicans to agree on a rational, workable policy to end sequester for the sake of America and American families. He opposed the GOP proposal to only turn off the defense sequester which, he contended, would lead to deeper cuts in other areas critical to America’s national health and education.

According to Emily Holubowich, Co-Chair of NDD United NDD United, which is an alliance of 2500 local, state and national organizations, if Congress does not raise the spending caps, “veterans could lose medical care, women could be denied access to parental and family planning services. NDD cautions that if sequestration continues, preschool programs in 18 states would be defunded which will impact 60,000 children who will lose access to preschool while the budget cuts will also impact veterans, policemen, firefighters etc.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, while speaking at Wednesday’s rally, said he wished NDD was instead called NDS or “No Damn Sequester”.

“Sequester will hurt our economy and we know that because the Congressional Budget Office told us. Sequestration will lead to the loss of half a million jobs next year. It will knock off 20 percent of growth.”

Images From NDD United Rally 

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News Round-Up: The Affordable Housing Shortage, Explained

Sequestration is already having a clear impact on low income renters across the U.S. As Fox 5 DC reported, the DC Housing Authority is already making tough choices to balance the cuts required by sequestration with the agency’s mission to house the lowest income residents of DC. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the housing agency in that city is in the process of cancelling vouchers recently issued to low income families, taking away vouchers from households that had not already found an apartment during the period allowed.

While sequestration will reduce the amount of affordable rental housing made available by the federal government, market conditions are the cause of the majority of the existing housing shortage. Affordable Housing Finance explains that severe housing cost burden- where low income renters pay 50% or more of their income for rent- is a problem in every state in the nation. As Progress Illinois explains, many in that state pay more than half their income for rent, leaving little left for other necessities like food or medical care.

The Washington Examiner takes us back to the nation’s capitol with a video on what the rental housing shortage means for those who are trying to escape homelessness. An article in the Stamford Advocate shows the struggle both low and moderate income households go through when attempting to rent in America’s highest-cost cities.

Talk of the Town: Sequestration and Housing

Sequestration is the talk of the town this week in Washington, D.C. and much of the rest of the country as we close in on the end of the first week in this new federal budget environment. The New York Times predicted early this week that people living in poverty would be hit hardest by sequestration, the ten years of automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that started March 1.

The impacts of sequestration are already starting to show, with furlough notices being issued and cuts to overtime pay already begun.

Outside of D.C., communities are scrambling to cope with upcoming cuts. In Redondo Beach, CA, city leaders fear what cuts to Section 8 vouchers will do to the lowest income people in their city. Meanwhile, the local economy is dependent on defense contractors, who could also face reductions. Unemployment in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been since December 2008, but it remains to be seen what impact sequestration will have on the steady, if slow, growth the economy has seen over the last four years.

Has sequestration begun to impact your community? How has your local housing authority planned to deal with sequestration? Are you worried sequestration will cause you or a loved one to lose housing or a job? Let us know in the comments.

What does sequestration mean for housing?

As housing advocates know, the impacts of sequestration will be felt most deeply by America’s poorest individuals and families. But how big will the cuts be? How will HUD and other agencies handle them? What can advocates like us do to ask Congress to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to the budget?

NLIHC just created two pages on its website with all the information you need to help you understand sequestration from a housing perspective.

First, we’ve compiled a page on sequestration with links to all the necessary HUD, Obama administration, and Office of Management and Budget information. We also include links to resources from other organizations, like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. We’ll update this page regularly as agencies post new guidance and other information on sequestration becomes available.

Second, the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, a coalition of over 70 national organizations staffed by NLIHC, has its own sequestration resources specially created for housing and community development advocates. On our CHCDF sequestration page, you’ll find talking points, a Twitter campaign, and in-depth information about the housing impacts of sequestration.

Sequestration was never supposed to happen; it was a “stick” Members of Congress adopted as a way to force themselves to negotiate a budget deal. The stick didn’t work, and now we’re living with the consequences. It will be crucial for all of us to advocate this month– beginning today– for the damaging impacts of sequestration to be minimal and short-lived. Take a look at our sequestration resources, join our National Call-In Day today, and encourage your colleagues and friends to join you in this fight for a more balanced approach to the federal budget.