BEYOND THE NUMBERS
With Mother’s Day approaching — and the House considering cutting funding for housing assistance — we’d like to celebrate that roughly 1 million mothers use housing vouchers to help them keep a roof over their kids’ heads. But many more mothers (and other low-income people) who are in great need of housing assistance don’t receive it due to scarce funding, as show. And the proposed cuts would make things worse.
Vouchers, the main form of federal housing assistance, help pay for housing that low-income families rent in the private market. Studies show that vouchers sharply reduce homelessness, lift more than a million people out of poverty, and enable many families to move to safer, less poor neighborhoods.
These gains, in turn, promote educational, developmental, and health benefits among children that help them succeed over the long term.
Vouchers are especially important to mothers. Nine in ten households with children receiving vouchers are headed by women. Here are just a few examples of how vouchers have helped mothers improve their families’ lives:
- In Maryland, a single mother who had lived in a high-poverty, high-crime area since she was a teenager used a voucher to move herself and her daughter to a safer neighborhood with more opportunities. The daughter, who previously couldn’t attend a better school because it was too dangerous to walk there, loves her new school. The move also enabled the mother to take in her elderly father, who otherwise might have needed to go to a nursing home.
- In Maine, a mother of three who was working in a factory received a voucher about 20 years ago. The stability it gave her and her family enabled her to go to college, from which she graduated with highest honors, without worrying about how to keep a roof over her children’s heads. She earned a law degree and founded her own law firm, which has enabled her to become a financially independent homeowner.
- In California, a single mother living with her 6-year-old son in temporary housing for formerly homeless families received a voucher last year and used it to move them into permanent housing. She has since enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which helps families earn more and rely less on government assistance. She is also continuing her recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and is training to become an addictions counselor herself. She plans to enroll in community college this fall.
As we’ve explained, the House’s proposed funding bill for 2015 likely provides too little money to renew all of the vouchers in use this year — let alone restore the 40,000 vouchers that were cut last year due to sequestration and not funded this year.
At a minimum, Congress should provide enough funding to continue all of the vouchers in use and avoid reducing further the number of families receiving housing assistance. But, given the program’s proven success and the large and growing need for help, a better approach would be to expand assistance to more mothers and other vulnerable families, first by restoring the vouchers cut under sequestration.