Policy & Current Status of the Program

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program was intended to provide housing for the families, which are not having their own house, at little or no additional cost. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) were given the responsibility to accomplish this program for the betterment of the families which are living in public housings. The outcomes of FSS show that the participants involved in this program in 1996 achieved 72 percent average income growth by the year 2000 which was $6,936 to $11,960, whereas the increase in income of non-participant of FSS was approx 36 percent which was $6,606 to 8,996.

The income of FSS participants from employment earnings and transfer payments such as TANF/AFDC increased from 51 to 74 percent during 1996 to 2000 as compared to the increase in income of Non FSS participants which was 47 percent to 63 percent during 1996 to 2000. The FSS participants, who enrolled in this program in 1996, got a heavy rise in the average income from TANF/AFDC. This average rise of income was $5880 to $11,892 from 1996 to 2000 which was around 102 percent (Ficke, Piesse, 2004).

The candidates who were not involved in FSS program also got around 60 percent rise in their income from TANF/AFDC, which was from $5,880 to $9,412 in the time period of 1996 to 2000. This comparison covered all the factors such as age, gender, race, geographic distribution, attrition rate, earning level of FSS participants and non-FSS participants. The results demonstrated that the FSS participants had substantially higher income. The only factor which lacks in this comparison is the education data of non-FSS participants.

The active involvement of PHAs in FSS was 43 percents of 2,500 PHAs, who operated HCV (Housing Choice Voucher, formerly known as Section 8 tenant-based assistance) programs in 2000. On the other hand, there was 12 percent increase of participant of FSS who were living in public housings in 2000. During the period of 1998 to 2000, there were some changes in HCV and Public Housing FSS programs. During 1999 and 2000, the percentage of both HCV and public housing programs was at 43 and 12 percent, respectively. In 1998, the active FSS participation of HCV was 39 percent and public housing programs was 10 percent.

There was an increase of 15 percent of involvement of HCV in FSS from 1998 to 2000, which was 922 to 1,064. In the same period, the percentage increase of public housing programs in FSS was 31 percent which was 271 to 354 but this large increase is seen due to the low involvement of public housing programs in FSS (Ficke, Piesse, 2004). The figures of MTCS (Multifamily Tenant Characteristics System) and FSS addendum show that there was not a fix size of FSS programs and it changed substantially. Most of the PHAs covered only a small part of tenant population.

Data shows that around 31 percent HCV FSS programs had enrolled less than 25 FSS participants, whereas 15 percent enrolled 25 to 50 participants. Around 30 percent of it reported the enrolment of 100 or more of HCV tenants in FSS programs. The data for public housing shows that around 51 percent of FSS programs covered less than 25 participants whereas more than 100 tenants were enrolled in 15 percent FSS programs. The enrollment of tenants in FSS programs was a combination of voluntary enrollments and due to a function of legislative mandates. The FSS programs were not very large due to the small involvement families in subsidized housing.

Three-fifth of the total public housing programs had less than 5 percent of tenants who enrolled in FSS programs whereas a small number of programs covered more than 15 percent of their tenants who participated in FSS programs. There was not substantial increase during 1998 to 2000 in the number and percentage of public housing and HCV FSS programs but there was an increase of two third people in these programs. FSS programs witnessed an increase of 31,263 in 1998, 44,210 in 1999 and 52,350 in 2000. For all three years, the apportionment remained essentially the same for public housing programs and HCV.

According to HUD’s Office of Policy Development & Research, the increasing rate of enrollments in these programs were due to the wide accountability requirements established by the department of participation for HCV and FSS programs (Ficke, Piesse, 2004). HUD determined some measures of enrollment for HCV compliance with FSS programs. Due to this, many HCV programs had to concentrate on increasing the participation of families in them and thus, there was a substantial increase in enrollments during the period of 1998 and 2000. HCV programs were ranked by HUD on the basis of their performance.

One of the measures was the enrollment level of FSS programs. Pending Political or Legislative Initiatives Regarding the Program H. R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009 HR 46 is a pending legislative with regard to the family self sufficiency program. The purpose of this act is to create a system of paying administrative fee to the participating public housing agencies for covering their cost which occurs while carrying out the family self-sufficiency programs in relation to the housing choice voucher program started by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Floor Situation The bill was sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert of Financial Services Committee on January 6, 2009 in the first session of 111th Congress. It was referred to the Committee on Financial Services which had approved it. This bill was passed in the House of Representatives through roll call vote on 29 April 2009. This vote for the bill was brought under the suspension of the rules which allows for cutting short the debate and passing the bill. This needs a two-thirds majority in the House. This process is generally used for non-controversial legislation.

The total voting for the bill included 396 Ayes, 19 Nays and 17 Not, voting but Present. After the passing of the bill in the house, it now would go to the Senate for voting (H. R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009, 2009). Summary of the Bill According to this bill’s provisions, a fee would be charged on the public housing agencies so that they can pay the administrative costs of the family self-sufficiency (FSS) program. Under the family self-sufficiency (FSS) program, job training is provided for families which are getting rental assistance through vouchers and section 8.

Through the provisions of this bill, the fee collected would be utilized in paying the cost of one full-time employee of the public housing agency (PHA’s) which is catering to more than 25 families through this program. In order to receive this benefit, the PHA’s need to meet minimum performance standards which would make them eligible for it. These agencies can receive finds which cover the cost of two full time employees if they cater to 75 participating families and in case this number goes up to 125 participating families, then they would get the funds to support three full time employees.

The bill has also provisions for the Public housing agencies which are providing assistance to less than 25 families covered under this program. According to the provisions of this act, these agencies will get a proportional amount which would help them in covering their administrative costs. Additionally, this law also has provision that any public housing agency which is into its very initial year of applying this program would be eligible for receiving this fund benefits irrespective of the families covered through this program(H.

R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009, 2009). In case the funds for this program are not insufficient in any fiscal year in order to pay for the program coordinators under family self sufficiency program, then it would be the priority of the government to provide funds of at least one employee for each public housing agency which is implementing this program. The whole administration and development of this fee program established under FSS system would be done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Not only this, they would be also responsible for developing performance standards, relocation of any other fees covered under this program but being used for some other function. This law would also provide $10 million to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for administrating in conducting a formal and specific evaluation of the effectiveness of the family self sufficiency program and the proposed fee structure. The HUD would submit tits report after eight years of the enactment of this law (H. R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009, 2009). Background

The family self-sufficiency (FSS) program helps the voucher families to grow independent of the government assistance that has been provided to them. The HUD offers a number of incentives to the public housing agencies to get involved with this program. But these incentives are serving no purpose as according to the Congressional Quarterly (CQ), the participation of the public housing agencies is very low. According to the reports, the number of public housing agencies who are participating in this family self-sufficiency program is less than half of the total PHA’s.

Majority of the public housing agencies who are participating in this program often curb the size of their participation. As a result, only paltry percentages i. e. 5 percent of the families with children who are covered under these voucher families participate. This law seeks to increase the participation of the PHA’s by levying fees to fund the employees carrying out this program. Cost The total cost of the bill is not available; however a sum of $10 million would be given under a provision to the HUD (H. R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009, 2009).

Problems with Family Self-Sufficiency Program There are various reasons which state the current family self sufficiency program is not providing the benefits perceived for it. This program has failed to impress the public housing agencies which are not showing full fledged participation in this program. The main reasons for them not participating or limiting their participation are listed below: • Insufficient Funds for supporting FSS case managers • Inadequate expertise in rendering the employment-related case management • Insufficient interest of the participating families

• Inadequate availability of employment opportunities and services in the society (Sard, 2001). These problems highlight a lot of problems which require solutions on the part of the Public Housing Agencies, welfare agencies and service providers. These problems are discussed in detail below: • Insufficient Funds for supporting FSS case managers • There are various concerns raised by the public housing agencies over the cost incurred in the running of these programs. Most of the PHA knows that the department of housing urban development pays for the escrow accounts established under the FSS.

But they are simply not aware of the fact that PHAs can get HUD funding for at least one of the program coordinator under FSS. Till 1999, this kind of funding by HUD for the program coordinators was given only to those agencies which covered a little less than 1,000 vouchers and certificates. This eligibility criterion was improved in 1999 which made this funding available for any agency irrespective of its size. The only condition was that the funding agency should cater at least 25 families. The cost of this funding was up to $46,350.

But in a report in 2000, it was noted that most of the agencies that operated such kind of programs didn’t receive such funds as most of these agencies didn’t avail them (Sard, 2001). • Inadequate expertise in rendering the employment-related case management. Another major problem in front of the PHA’s is that they don’t have the necessary staff expertise needed for supervising the delivery of these services. The funds for hiring the additional employees for such program are useless if the agencies don’t get necessary expertise. • Insufficient interest of the participating families

• One major problem associated with this program has been the low interest shown by the residents. This has actually been a major reason for not extending this program or better implementation of the program. While in the recent years, the interest of the resident families in participating in this family sufficiency program has been rising but still a majority of them are keeping away from it. One major reason that the residents lack interest in participating in this program is the inadequate understanding of the program’s benefits and related concerns regarding their participation.

They fear that they may lose their housing voucher as well as other personal advantages if they are not successful (Sard, 2001). • Inadequate availability of employment opportunities and services in the society Another reason why the family self sufficiency program is not doing so well is the lack of employment opportunities. This program is basically applied in the rural areas where the labor market is in a bad shape. Very fewer supportive services exist in these places. The basic facilities like the transportation services are not fully developed.

They have problem in linking the family self sufficiency program to the available opportunities. This has been a reason for low participation and failure of this program. Recommendations for the Family Self Sufficiency Program This initiative of the federal government is not working very well in the present scenario. So far it has not been able to reach its proposed goals. There are various recommendations to make this program more effective. These recommendations are listed below:

• The department of the housing urban development should change the Housing Choice Voucher FSS Coordinator funding in a manner that the allocated funds are distributed in a proper and equitable manner. • The congress should go in for adoption of the Administration’s proposed fix in order to reduce the size of the Family Sufficiency program. This move would result in less impact on the Budget. • The HUD should provide for the authority of the additional Public Housing Agency so that they can ask for more Operating Funds to cover the expenses of the FSS coordinators (Recommendations for Strengthening HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, nd).

• Training program should be given to the FSS coordinators. • The HUD should encourage the federal and state agencies to collaborate with HUD and public housing agencies so that more and more families can participate in this program (Recommendations for Strengthening HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, nd). References Cramer, R. (2004). Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. nhi. org/online/issues/137/FSS. html H. R. 46: Family Self-Sufficiency Act of 2009. (2009). Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. gop. gov/bill/111/1/hr46 H. R. 46. (2009).

Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. govtrack. us/congress/bill. xpd? bill=h111-46&tab=committees Ficke, R. C. , Piesse, A. (2004, April). Evaluation of the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. huduser. org/Publications/pdf/selfsufficiency. pdf Recommendations for Strengthening HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program. (nd). Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. fsspartnerships. org/includes/Joint%20FSS%20Recommendations. pdf Sard, B. (2001). The Family Self-sufficiency Program. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://www. cbpp. org/archiveSite/4-12-01hous. pdf