Campaign partners are looking forward to and anticipating the key legislative events and policy decisions of 2013 that will impact efforts to end homelessness in our region. Here is a brief overview of upcoming key events:
Federal 2013 Outlook
Earlier this month, Congress and the White House delayed the Fiscal Cliff automatic budget cuts by two months in order to craft a different deal to reduce deficits. If implemented, these budget cuts will likely result in an overall negative ripple effect to employment with the elimination of many federal jobs and contracts.
The legislation to avert the Fiscal Cliff was called the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) of 2012. It postpones a 26.5% Medicare pay cut for physicians for one year (originally set for January 1, 2013) and preserves a hefty Medicaid raise for those in primary care as authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The deal also delays a 2% cut in Medicare reimbursement until March 1, 2013. Preventing these rates from going down helps to temporarily ensure that hospitals, doctors, and providers will continue serving low-income and homeless individuals.
In mid-February, both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will issue their draft budgets for fiscal year 2014. We will report the highlights of these budgets and how they affect efforts to end homelessness in our March newsletter, including items such as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, the HUD Tenant- and Project-Based Rental Assistance voucher programs, the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, and the Veterans Affairs Zero Homelessness Initiative. We will also provide in-depth coverage on the status and budget proposals of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
State 2013 Outlook
On January 10th, Governor Jerry Brown released the State budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14, which begins on July 1st of this year. His budget proposal includes a “$350 million placeholder” for the cost of Medi-Cal expansion of coverage to more people under the Affordable Care Act.” (Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program.)
California is on the cutting edge of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which allows the state to expand Medicaid income eligibility up to 133% of the federal poverty level for uninsured residents ages 19 to 64. This will expand eligibility for much of the State’s homeless population and will help increase provider payments for uncompensated care, which could have a significant impact on care for the homeless.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling which allowed states to opt out of the ACA Medicaid expansion program, California began moving forward to expand its Medicaid program with its 2010 “Bridge to Reform” program, which aimed to bring at least two million uninsured Californians into Medicaid. In addition, the Governor’s Administration recently announced that the state legislature will convene a special session at the end of January to “discuss the state’s implementation of key components of the Affordable Care Act.”
Regional and Local 2013 Outlook
Counties and cities throughout California will be releasing their budgets in January and February for the fiscal year that starts in July. In the months to come, we will continue to monitor and report on innovative regional and local policies related to homelessness.
Locally, two new members of Congress have been sworn in – Congressman Scott Peters, who has made housing and services for veterans a top priority, and Congressman Juan Vargas, who was a leading advocate of solving homelessness during his City Council tenure, sponsoring Operation Restore, a program that employed homeless individuals in an effort to improve and revitalize blighted homes and neighborhoods in San Diego.
Finally, newly elected Mayor Bob Filner continues to speak strongly on his commitment to affordable housing and homelessness. During his first State of the City Address on January 15th, Mayor Filner discussed tackling the issue, stating “[w]e are going to deal with the homeless head-on” and presenting homeless advocate Father Joe Carroll with an award on stage. His fiancé, Bronwyn Ingram, has also been gaining attention for her efforts to “get involved in local discussions and efforts to combat homelessness,” as profiled recently in the U-T San Diego.