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Key HUD programs get funding boost; wastewater plant funding takes a hit.

The Senate completed action on funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency last week, with a vote of 91-9.

While the Senate approved a 1994 appropriations measure that increased funding for municipal priority programs in HUD, they also clearly directed the department to begin "substantial program consolidation and simplification." Alternatively, funding for construction of federally mandated wastewater treatment plants was reduced to accommodate the administration's proposed loan program for drinking water infrastructure needs.

Housing and Community Development

The appropriations bill increases funding for the community development block grant (CDBG) and HOME state and local block grant programs.

In passing the bill, an amendment introduced by Sen. Hank Brown (R-CO) that would have reduced the funding level for the community development block grant (CDBG) program was defeated 51-48.

In appropriating funds for housing and community development programs for 1994, the Senate passed a bill that contained committee report language that clearly expressed the frustration of senators on the Appropriations Committee members with the Department of Housing and Urban Development's performance to date.

The committee was critical of HUD's emphasis on "regulations and processes" versus "specific outcomes and program objectives" to improve the conditions of communities.

The committee called on HUD to executive "substantial program consolidation and simplification" as it prepares its 1995 budget and reauthorization bill. (The nation's housing and community development programs will expire October 1, 1994.)

The committee report also expressed concern about he slow spend out rate of the HOME program. It requires HUD to provide a quarterly report on the rate of dispersement of HOME's program funds by October 15, 1993.

The committee report said that it is "unlikely" that HUD will receive funds to hire additional staff requiring HUD to find and then implement "substantially more efficient ways of conducting business".

The report language cited more than $103 billion in unfunded contractual commitments as an example of why HUD needs to change it methods of conducting business (75 percent of these unfunded commitments are for section 8 rental assistance). It also calls for each program office to begin developing consolidation efforts.

Additionally, the report also called for HUD to consider major changes in its field staff to ensure that there is a simpler application process, faster decisions on pending applications, less onerous regulations, and a clarification of authority between assistant secretaries and headquarters' program offices with the actual program administration in the field.

Finally, the report calls on HUD to review the HUD Reform Act and propose changes to eliminate cumbersome regulations and to develop work measurement indicators for every program office with "specific, tangible, and realistic financial and programmatic objectives for each fiscal year."

Environmental Protection Agency

In addition to admonishing EPA on unfunded mandates, the Senate approved $2.5 billion for "water infrastructure" programs. Included in this amount is funding for both the State Revolving Loan program for construction of wastewater treatment plants and other Clean Water Act mandates such as Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) (just over $2 billion), and a potential loan program for drinking water infrastructure needs ($599 million).

In effect, this is a decrease in funding available for wastewater in order to finance a new drinking water SRF. Funds for the drinking water program, however, may not be obligated or spent until such a program has been enacted into law.
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Title Annotation:Department of Housing and Urban Development
Author:Barreto, Julio; Kocheisen, Carol
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Sep 27, 1993
Words:556
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