March 26, 2014

Quality Healthcare is Key to Strong Neighborhoods

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This week is a very important week for our country.  We are in the final stretch of the historic inaugural enrollment period of affordable health care for all Americans and I have been overwhelmed at the response.  Expanding access to quality, affordable healthcare is key to ensuring that people of all ages and all backgrounds are able to have economic security and peace of mind when it comes to their personal lives. 

Working in HUD’s Department of Public and Indian Housing, our mission is to make sure people have safe, decent and affordable homes in neighborhoods across the country.  We are also dedicated to revitalizing impoverished and low-wealth neighborhoods through various programs, such as HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program, which focuses not only on the housing, but also on the surrounding community.  While some may think of having an affordable home or revitalizing a neighborhood as being separate from maintaining one’s health, it is not. Neighborhood revitalization means access to good schools and quality transportation, which in turn, provides access to stable jobs and better healthcare centers.

The individuals and families to whom HUD provides assistance are among the most vulnerable in our society. The average income for a HUD assisted family is $12,500; too often, they have no opportunity to obtain health insurance because, in many cases, prior to the Affordable Care Act, health care was too expensive for those families.  Compared to the general population and other poor households, individuals in HUD-assisted housing have a higher rate of usage of emergency rooms and are more likely to have health problems, such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.  Plain and simple, when residents aren’t saddled with high medical bills, they can go to work or school, and pay their rent

The Affordable Care Act can benefit all individuals served by HUD programs, including Section 8 residents, individuals staying in homeless shelters and public housing residents. Meeting the health needs of these individuals and families will help them start a fresh chapter in their lives and contribute to the overall success of HUD’s programs.

 

March 24, 2014

How the Affordable Care Act is Helping HUD Combat Homelessness

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Note: The Affordable Care Act is already helping millions of Americans, including many people in the community HUD serves. With the deadline to enroll for health insurance on March 31, this week  the HUDdle blog will be devoted to how housing and health care are intertwined and how the ACA is helping us achieve HUD’s mission. There is still time to get covered, so visit www.healthcare.gov for more information.

In my role at HUD, I focus on combating homelessness. In 2010, the Obama Administration launched a federal strategic plan, Opening Doors, to combat homelessness. The goals we set are ambitious, but achievable. We are on track to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015; end chronic homelessness by 2016; end homelessness for families, youth and children by 2020; and we are setting a path to eradicate all types of homelessness in the United States. 

Our success in reaching these goals will rely on many factors, and the Affordable Care Act is a critical tool for us. The health care system is changing for the better and there are enormous opportunities to help people who are experiencing homelessness get off the streets and into permanent housing.

If we take advantage of all the opportunities of the Affordable Care Act in order to end homelessness, it will show that no one chooses to be homeless when given a real choice of a place that feels like home and the ongoing community supports to help them stabilize and recover.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, states can choose to expand their Medicaid coverage to all adults with incomes below 133% of poverty. In return, states receive 100 percent of federal funding to cover those costs for the first three years and no less than 90 percent federal support for those costs in the years following.

So far, 25 States and the District of Columbia have taken up this Medicaid expansion opportunity, giving millions more of their residents access to affordable health care. If all 25 states that haven’t expanded coverage did, approximately 5.4 million additional uninsured Americans would gain access to health insurance coverage by 2016.

States that have expanded Medicaid have removed the hoops you need to jump through to get people eligible for health benefits. In every state that has expanded Medicaid a person who has been living on the streets and in shelters can now be enrolled for health care.

This will make a huge difference in people’s lives. Many people experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness have serious health needs and pre-existing conditions. Before the Affordable Care Act, these conditions made the barriers to receiving adequate care even greater for those in need and more costly to the general population because their only source for treatment was the emergency room. By expanding Medicaid, we can help people who are experiencing or are on the verge of homelessness stabilize their lives, receive badly needed care and treatment, and give them the opportunity to recover.

The Affordable Care Act creates new incentives for better care for those who need it most and introduces new tools for states to provide more services that could help a person find and retain housing. This means, for people experiencing homelessness, the benefits of the Affordable Care Act can really make the difference between living on the street and having a roof over their heads.

Making Progress for our Nation’s Families

Cross posted from White House.gov

Shortly after he took office, President Obama created the White Housing Council on Women and Girls. Chaired by Valerie Jarrett, the council is charged with ensuring there is a coordinated effort between federal agencies of policies and programs that impact women and families.

As a partner of the interagency council, HUD serves as a safety net for vulnerable women and girls, whether they are living with HIV/AIDS or living in shelters for victims of abuse. Providing them with physical and emotional safety, HUD works hard to place women and girls in transitional housing, public housing and rental housing, where they will experience a continuum of care ranging from substance abuse counseling, to financial literacy classes to job training.

Through the Continuum of Care grant competition, HUD has awarded $46.7 million to continue 349 projects that predominately serve victims of domestic violence as well as an additional $2.6 million to support 28 new projects. All these projects provide much needed housing and services for victims of domestic violence.

In 2013, HUD was able to expand housing protections for victims of domestic violence thanks to the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This allowed HUD to make necessary changes and begin alerting the public of how the changes will impact tenants and housing providers in HUD-assisted housing and shelters.

While ensuring victims of domestic violence don’t end up homeless, HUD is also continuing to identify best practices, share guidance and award funding to communities based on the policy priorities of the Opening Doors plan to prevent and end homelessness. Since 2010, family homelessness has decreased by 10.7 percent.

Last year, HUD graduated 3,400 families from the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. This means they were free of welfare assistance and employed. Over 90 percent of FSS participants are female-headed households, 33 percent of graduates no longer needed rental assistance, and 15 percent went on to purchase a home.

HUD has also aggressively investigated and resolved cases where women experienced lending discrimination for being pregnant or on parental leave. In 2013 alone, HUD settled 28 cases obtaining almost $300,000 for 43 complainants. Thanks to HUD’s efforts, some of the country’s largest lenders have changed their policies and practices on maternity leave lending.

HUD continues to make great strides in ensuring our policies and programs are taking into account the needs of women and girls. HUD had many great accomplishments last year, but we have work left to do. As we look forward to making more progress in 2014, we are driven by what President Obama said in the State of the Union, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

Click here for a fuller list of accomplishments by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Shaun Donovan is the Secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development

March 20, 2014

Creating Equal Ladders of Opportunity in Baltimore

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Yesterday I traveled to Baltimore, MD to tour the renovated housing units in the Barclay neighborhood and to announce HUD’s initial award of Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD, to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC). I also brought additional good news in that HUD was awarding more than $1.8 billion in capital funds to public housing authorities in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to make major large-scale improvements to the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units. HABC would be receiving more than $17 million of that funding. I was joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Ray Skinner and HABC Commissioner Paul Graziano.

The housing models we toured were great examples of what can happen when public-private partnerships come together to create quality, affordable housing. Telesis, the developer of the project, has been working closely with the city of Baltimore for years to rehab hundreds of units and their work is nothing short of remarkable.  Many units in that neighborhood had not been renovated in over 40 years, so to see the updated models is a true testament to why we need to invest more money in updating our nation’s housing stock. 

Under RAD, HABC will be able to convert more than 4,000 units of its housing inventory to the Section 8 platform.  This will allow the housing authority to use the proven Section 8 model to harness new resources, such as debt and equity financing, to preserve and recapitalize public housing. Based on the extent of need in Baltimore and a successful initial application, Baltimore and HABC are receiving one of the largest awards in the country and we expect they will lead the way in showing how RAD can preserve and improve vitally important public housing properties.With this authority, HABC will be able to tackle well over a third of the $800 million in needed repairs over the next 2-4 years. Without the authority, it would take HABCmore than 60 years to come up with the same amount of repair funds not to mention, conditions in those properties will continue to grow worse. So far nearly 400 Public Housing Authorities have applied for RAD authority to improve more than 1,000 public housing properties including 180,000 units- in need of repair. If these projects move forward under RAD, it could generate over $6 billion in additional funding taking down nearly a quarter of that $25 billion backlog in just a few years’ time. 

Unfortunately, our nation faces a backlog of over $25 billion in capital needs for public housing across the country.  If we do nothing to renovate our current stock of housing, this nation will lose approximately 10,000 units of public housing units annually. While Congress continues to provide some resources to preserve and improve our public housing properties, over the past few years it has simply not been enough to sustain for today, let alone for the next generation.  That’s why RAD is so important.

This is, as President Obama has said, is a make or break moment for the middle class and those striving to get there. The President has made clear that we must build an economy that works for every American because no matter where you grow up, you deserve an equal chance at a good life and to move up the ladders of opportunity.

 

 

March 18, 2014

Prevent Poisonings!

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National Poison Prevention Week: March 16 – 22, 2014

Do you know what poisonous substances are lurking in your home? Are household cleaners and prescription drugs out of reach of children? Poisoning is now the leading cause of death from injuries in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 This recent report noted that the number of poisoning deaths in 2008 exceeded the number of motor vehicle traffic deaths for the first time since as far back as at least 1980.  It also showed that the number of poisoning deaths is rising significantly every year.preventpoison

Take some time during National Poison Prevention Week, March 16-22, 2014, to assess your home and protect your family against accidental poisoning. Below are some tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy.

 Poison Prevention Tips

 * Program the toll-free Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, into your phone and make sure your children’s grandparents, caregivers, and childcare providers have it handy.

 * Always store pesticides and other household chemicals and products in their original containers and with their original labels. Never store them in bottles, cups, or other containers that can be mistaken for a drink.

 * Store all household medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight of young children, and put them back after each and every use!

 * Close all household cleaning and laundry product containers immediately after use and store them out of children’s reach.

 * Read the label and follow the instructions on over-the-counter medications every time you take them or give them to a child. Call the Poison Help number if you have any questions about medications.

 * Install carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near or in your home’s sleeping areas and on every level of your home.

 * Never ignore a beeping CO alarm. Go outside and call 911 from there.

 * If you use portable generators, keep them outside the house and garage, never inside.

As soon as you think someone may have been poisoned, call the toll-free Poison Help number at 1‑800-222-1222 (TTY: 1‑888-244-5313) right away. Do not wait for the person to look or feel sick. Do not try to treat the person yourself. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 for an ambulance.

A poison is any substance that can harm someone if it is used in the wrong way, by the wrong person or in the wrong amount. For more tips on Poison Prevention and other Home Safety tips visit HUD.gov/healthyhomes