Advocacy is woven throughout our mission and history as an important component in achieving long-term, systemic changes.
Cornerstones’ dedicated board and staff advocate with and on behalf of those we serve to develop consensus for social change that benefits the entire community – from housing that is affordable and close to work or schools, to jobs that help people build wealth, to training that prepares them for future jobs, and investments in children to help them chart a different course for their future.
Even with the comprehensive services like those provided by Cornerstones and its partners, the growing housing and economic security gap in our region threatens the vitality of all who live and work in our community.
You can make a difference. Join the Community Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness or check out other community, regional, state and national campaigns that work to bring hope to our neighbors.
Advocacy Update (March 2017)
Cornerstones joined forces with nonprofit organizations from around the state on Thursday, February 2nd for Virginia Housing Alliance’s annual Housing Advocacy Day, to speak on behalf of policies and funding that support affordable housing. Kerrie Wilson, CEO of Cornerstones, and Jill Norcross, Cornerstones Board Member, met with the offices of Senator Janet Howell, Delegate Ken Plum, and Delegate Jennifer Boysko to discuss the importance of affordable housing for our clients and the impact of funding for housing and support services.
Following the announcement of an estimated $1.2 billion shortfall in revenue at the state level, there was deep concern that housing and human services would be targeted for cuts to reduce the shortfall. Last year, the General Assembly approved a $3 million increase to the Housing Trust Fund over the FY16-18 budget. Advocates spoke on behalf of defending these gains in the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, which provides critical support for the development, acquisition and preservation of affordable housing as well as accompanying support services. Consistent allocations over the past five years and the $3 million increase indicate support for these priorities from our elected officials and demonstrate our legislators’ understanding of the importance of affordable housing in the overall health of their districts.
Additionally, advocates spoke on behalf of increased resources for permanent supportive housing for adults with serious mental illnesses. This best practice reduces and prevents homelessness among adults with serious mental illnesses by bolstering individuals with rental assistance and support services to maintain stable housing. This approach to housing Virginia’s most vulnerable sees positive outcomes – with a success rates varying between 85-100% of clients not returning to homelessness and cost savings to localities who can avoid housing these individuals in jails, hospital emergency rooms, or mental health facilities.
The General Assembly session ended on February 25th, and despite a tough budgeting session, the Assembly has voted to maintain the increased level of funding for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund and additional supports for permanent supportive housing for individuals with serious mental illnesses, choosing to draw on the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” as opposed to cutting these critical services. However, Cornerstones’ work is not done! Budgeting at the County Level has already begun with the release of the Fairfax County Executive’s proposed budget, which does not include a tax increase. This will mean human services will need to compete with other worthy needs for limited funding.
If you would like to participate in Cornerstones’ advocacy efforts this spring, please contact Amelie Bailey at email@example.com or (571) 323-9556.
April 2016 Advocacy Update
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. Cornerstones joins its partners in bringing awareness about the work we are doing in this area to provide parents with the support and tools to manage the stress that can lead to child abuse, become the strong parents they want to be, and understand the developmental needs of their children.
Prevention and intervention cannot be downplayed in the healthy development of children and resilience of families. In January 2016, the New York Times reported the recommendations of an expert health panel promoting the need for prenatal and postpartum screening for depression in mothers to address causes of child neglect and abuse. It is now widely accepted that maternal mental illness is more common than originally thought, and that if a mother’s mental health symptoms are left untreated, the well-being of the mother’s child could be severely impacted
In Fairfax County and nationwide, the Healthy Families program is changing lives. This voluntary, home-visiting program has proven to be completely effective in preventing child abuse and neglect—and does so by working with first-time and at-risk parents and families to ensure a healthy pregnancy, birth and support as the child grows.
Here at home, Healthy Families Fairfax brings together Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Health Department and three nonprofit partners—Northern Virginia Family Service, Cornerstones and United Community Ministries in a unique partnership serving up to 500 families each year. In Fairfax, we found that 92% of families who participated in Healthy Families Fairfax for at least one year demonstrated positive parent-child interaction. In addition, since FY12 there has been a 24% decrease in the total number of youth entering foster care (Department of Family Services). Healthy Families Fairfax uses the Edinburgh Depression Screening tool to assess mothers’ mental health, and home visitors—known as Family Support Workers—check in on parents’ physical and emotional well-being and make the appropriate referrals, including counseling services, when necessary.
The benefit of the Healthy Families program is easily understood when considering the children and parents who benefit, but it is also an extremely cost-effective public health intervention—keeping children out of child protective services, foster care, the juvenile justice system—which can cost taxpayers 10-25 times more per child than the investment in this prevention program which builds and sustains strong, healthy families.
Virginia has seen the benefit of this nationwide prevention model and has invested in sites across the state. The Virginia General Assembly has passed a bill, approved by the Governor, to invest $9 million in sites across Virginia over the next two years. This is almost double the current budget and could mean the addition of new sites and expansion in programs with high impact results, such as in Fairfax County.
Despite the life benefits and cost-savings, Healthy Families Fairfax was at risk of being eliminated from the Fairfax County budget one year ago, as departments were forced to consider reductions or elimination of all non-mandated government programs. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized the short-sightedness of this and restored the program. Supervisors John Foust and Cathy Hudgins, long-time strong advocates of the program in our service area, are invited each year, along with other members of the Board of Supervisors, to join Family Support Workers for home visits to see how impactful this program can be as a public-private partnership for family health.
Now with good budget news from the state, Cornerstones and its partners in Healthy Families Fairfax will continue to work with families locally, guiding them through pre-natal preparations, helping parents ready the home for the birth of a new child, observing and coaching parents in their interactions with child, providing positive parenting with educational activities and tools, and making referrals for other resources to help them address challenges that lead to stress and potential for neglect or abuse.
Despite effective interventions like Healthy Families, we remain concerned about the disproportionate number of minority children who are overrepresented in foster care, juvenile justice and other social service programs. Healthy Families Fairfax established a pilot through an initiative with CareFirst to reach out to underserved African American parents who might benefit. Continuing on the initial success, the Virginia Department of Social Services awarded a grant for FY16 (ending June 30, 2016) to Cornerstones and United Community Ministries to build on the pilot by reaching out to doctors’ offices and care providers who accept Medicaid, social service agencies, schools, civic, fraternal/sorority organizations and faith communities to make them aware of the services that Healthy Families Fairfax provides and know how to refer “at risk” parents to the program.
Click here to read about the inspiring relationship developed between Healthy Families and Anaya, and how this new mom made significant progress in her goals toward self-sufficiency and good parenting.
January 2016 Advocacy Update
In preparation for the 2016 Virginia General Assembly Session, Governor Terry McAuliffe released his $109 billion biennium budget for the Commonwealth on Thursday, December 17th. His plan provides investment in housing, educations/schools, workforce development, and expansion of Medicaid.
Governor McAuliffe includes $10 million per year for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a $6 million per year increase over previous allocations. Language in the budget names reduction of homelessness of families and youth as a special priority for Housing Trust Fund grant awards. The Virginia Housing Commission is also working to advance a bill for a dedicated source of revenue for the Housing Trust Fund. Delegate Chris Peace (Hanover) will sponsor legislation in the House to allocate 20% of all recordation fee collections above $325 million to the Housing Trust Fund. These allocations will fund development, rehabilitation or preservation of affordable housing assets in the state. Too often this need is underfunded or bypassed completely. Cornerstones is grateful for Governor McAuliffe’s wisdom in investing in affordable housing, and we look forward to supporting the push for a dedicated source of funding for the Housing Trust Fund.
Nearly $1 billion is reserved for K-12 and higher education initiatives, including $139.1 million for hiring 2,500 more teachers, and $83.2 million to provide a 2 percent salary increase for teachers. An additional $48 million is given to boost college financial aid options, and $50 million to increase the number of in-state students receiving degrees. McAuliffe’s budget places additional emphasis on improving access to trade programs, community college, and other certifications with the goal of strengthening Virginia’s workforce in high-demand technical fields.
Medicaid expansion was included in the budget, linked to $157 million in state savings to pay for a corporate and individual tax relief ($64 million and $42 million, respectively) and regional economic development grants. The expansion would be funded in part by a proposed “provider assessment” hospital tax to generate the state’s share of the costs of expansion. While Cornerstones will continue to support expansion of Medicaid, we don’t expect this portion of the budget proposal to have traction in this General Assembly budgeting session. We do, however, applaud the Governor for continuing to seek compromises to include provision of this program for 400,000 currently-uninsured Virginians.
The General Assembly will convene January 13th for a 60-day session to revise and adopt a budget, and set funding and policy priorities for 2016 – 2018.
August 2015 Advocacy Update
Cornerstones has used the summer months to meet with our elected officials in Washington to advocate for sufficient funding to federal programs that ensure that our low-income neighbors have access to housing that is affordable.
At the federal level, Cornerstones supports investment in:
- McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants: These grants provide funding for permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing for homeless individuals and families as well as homelessness prevention services, through competitive grants and formula-based allocations.
- Housing Choice Voucher Program: This program is the federal government’s core program to provide housing options to extremely low-income individuals and families – those earning at or below 30% of Area Median Income (AMI). Providing vouchers to families or individuals upon leaving shelter markedly improves their chances of remaining in stable housing after three years.
- National Housing Trust Fund: This fund, recently reinstated by Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt, will provide financial resources for the development, preservation, rehabilitation or operation of rental housing for extremely low-income earners, through proceeds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchases. These funds will be distributed to states in amounts calculated through a need-based formula.
Together, these programs make up a collection of resources to provide stabilizing housing options to our lowest-income earners. These are individuals and families who have the greatest need for services and are most at-risk for homelessness. In a high-cost-of-living-area like the greater Washington, D.C. region, these individuals and families go unserved by market-priced housing.
Cornerstones is working to quickly rehouse families and individuals in the Embry Rucker Community Shelter and has seen tremendous successes in the past year. In Fiscal Year 2015, Cornerstones was able to move 96 singles and 53 families out of the shelter and into housing. However, lack affordable housing and supportive housing financing options in our community presents a significant barrier to moving our clients out of the shelter.
These funding sources (mentioned above) have seen hard cuts in the past several years. The Housing Choice Voucher Program saw a cut of 67,000 vouchers in 2013 due to sequestration cuts. Those vouchers have, thus far, not been restored. The National Housing Trust Fund was put into place by the Housing Economic Recovery Act in 2008, but fund allocation was almost immediately suspended due to the economic collapse in 2009. McKinney-Vento funding is challenged each year by competing interests in the Transportation – Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill.
Cornerstones supports the administrations suggested levels of funding of $2.480 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, and $21.1 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, which includes $512 million for the restoration of the 67,000 vouchers lost during sequestration. We also support Mel Watt’s decision to reinstate funding for the Housing Trust Fund, and will ask our legislators to work towards distribution and capitalization on those funds as soon as possible. These support systems make it possible for at-risk individuals and families in our area to transition from homelessness or severe housing cost burdens to self-sufficiency.
The Supreme Court Ruling on King vs. Burwell – Affordable Care Act Subsidies Upheld
The highly anticipated ruling on the King vs. Burwell decision by the US Supreme Court arrived Thursday morning, June 25th, upholding a key tenet of the Affordable Care Act. This verdict sustains premium subsidies for 6.4 million Americans (286,000 in Virginia alone) who benefit from the tax credits in states like ours who are using the federal-run health insurance marketplace. These tax credits ensure that low- and moderate-income families and individuals are able to purchase health insurance that would otherwise be unaffordable.
The loss of premium subsidies would have been devastating to those who receive subsidies for health insurance, with ramifications extending beyond those directly benefiting from the tax credits. Had the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff (disallowing subsidies through the federal exchange) not only would recipients of the subsidies have suffered (both their finances and their overall health), but business productivity and the Virginia economy would have suffered as a result of a less-healthy workforce. Average premiums in Virginia would have increased an estimated 287%, which would have likely priced out even those who do not currently receive subsidies for the health insurance market. This decision by the Supreme Court will mitigate increases in number of uninsured families as well as financial burdens for those badly needing health care.
The federal exchange gives uninsured low-income individuals and families the ability to purchase comprehensive insurance plans at affordable costs that allow them and their families to receive preventive care in less expensive settings like a primary care physician’s office. This shift from emergency/intervention care to preventative care benefits patients, hospitals and insurers by reducing overall health care costs.
This historic decision is a welcome one—not just for Virginians and their families who were able to secure affordable health insurance to provide for their families medical needs—but mitigates the very real disruption and negative economic impact for healthcare institutions, insurance marketplace and business in our region.
The decision opens the door for the Commonwealth of Virginia to now consider anew the financial and health incentives to extending coverage under our state Medicaid program—thus ensuring the health and vitality of some of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens: retirees, veterans, people with disabilities and working Virginians and their families.
June 2015 Advocacy Update
June is children’s awareness month, and we are pleased that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved a fiscal year 2016 budget that recognizes the critical needs of pre-school-age children which set the course for their growth and development through school and beyond. The County has chosen to fully fund Healthy Families Fairfax, a program that prevents child abuse and neglect, and promotes positive parenting in vulnerable populations through education and referrals.
Due to funding challenges, Healthy Families Fairfax funding was an optional cut in the County Executive’s proposed budget. In response, Cornerstones joined forces with Northern Virginia Family Service, United Community Ministries and other nonprofit partners across the County to meet with our Supervisors, submit op-eds, and testify before the Board to explain the strength of the program’s outcomes, the potential cost-savings to the County, and the necessity for this service in ensuring low-income children’s success in school. It was a testament to the critical protective factor of this program that the Chief Judge of the Juvenile Domestic Relations Court and other programs that serve at risk youth and families, joined in the call to maintain this program. Read our testimony before the Board of Supervisors here.
On April 28th, the County voted to officially restore funding to HFF as part of their FY16 budget package. As a result of the restored funds, family support workers in the Healthy Families Fairfax program will continue to assist 613 at-risk families (including 535 children) in our community.
However, Healthy Families currently serves only about one third of those screened as “high-risk” due to capacity limitations. Cornerstones would urge the Board to consider ways of expanding Healthy Families and other opportunities for at-risk children in order to meet the current need. The result will surely be a healthier population, a stronger future workforce, and undoubtedly cost savings from juvenile courts and the foster care system.
New research from Harvard’s “The Equality of Opportunity Project” suggests that low-income children who grow up in Fairfax County will earn $3,150.00, or 12% more by age 26 than their counterparts who grow up in an average city. What we must take from this is that the investments that we make in our young children and students are funds well spent. They facilitate paths out of poverty for children in poor families and fight cyclical poverty in our community. We as a county should continue to push for programs that allow full opportunities for our vulnerable residents, and Cornerstones will continue to advocate for programs and funding that will expand such opportunities.
April 2015 Advocacy Update
Fairfax County has struggled to maintain quality of services to County residents while still balancing the budget post-financial crisis of 2009 and the recalibration of our economy and workforce. This year will be no exception as the Board of Supervisors works to finalize the FY16 County Budget amidst many worthy, competing budget interests.
Cornerstones joined voices with other members of a Northern Virginia advocacy coalition for the Board of Supervisors’ budget hearing on April 8th, to ask for support from our Supervisors for this County’s social safety net. This coalition includes nonprofit housing developers, human service providers, and advocacy organizations within Fairfax County who serve homeless, low- and moderate-income households. We as a coalition support investments in affordable housing, child abuse prevention, child care, and other human services and employment opportunities for our neighbors in need. This coalition gave testimonies before Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors with concerns with the proposed budget cuts.
Jill Norcross, Chair of the Cornerstones Board of Directors, spoke on behalf of the agency, and our particular priorities. Namely, we support:
- Restoration of Funding for Healthy Families Fairfax: Healthy Families is an evidence-based child abuse and neglect prevention program that works through home visiting services to promote positive parenting skills, provide referrals for any child development delays and to educate parents on family planning and child health. The result is marked reduction in abuse and neglect, and children who are developmentally on-target and ready for kindergarten. Cornerstones supports full restoration of funding for Healthy Families based on the remarkable success of the program in preventing abuse and neglect, promoting health of young children, and its undeniable cost effectiveness when compared to the cost of foster care placements.
- Adjustments to the sliding fee scale for the School Age Child Care (SACC) program: Cornerstones supports the modifications to the SACC sliding fee scale that will increase affordability and participation for families with low and moderate income, and draw additional revenue for the program. We would also support efforts to use this new revenue to reduce waiting lists for the program, and/or to increase other childcare opportunities for low-income families.
- Investment in Housing and related supports: We support full funding for the Bridging Affordability Program, which has proven successful in moving homeless families out of emergency shelter into safe and stable places to call home. However, we support further investment for acquisition of affordable housing, as all programs that aim to move individuals and families out of shelters require a sufficient stock of affordable housing. We also support continued funding for the Employment Pilot program, which provides individualized skills assessment and training to high-barrier, low-income clients. Through this program, clients are prepared with strong job readiness skills to ensure that they can get and maintain jobs that will pay their bills and keep them in their housing.
In the future, we would encourage the Board of Supervisors to think long-term in looking for budget solutions that will build a more comprehensive safety net, bring us up-to-speed on our blueprint goals, and draw us closer to our community’s goal of ending homelessness by 2018. To that end, we would recommend that the Board consider new revenue streams, such as housing bond financing or a stronger penny fund. The Board will finalize the FY16 budget by the end of April, and Cornerstones will remain in conversation with our Supervisors on the outlined priorities until that time.
March 2015 (Updated 3/26/15)
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is in the process of finalizing the FY16 County Budget. Fairfax County Executive Edward L. Long presented his budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors on February 17th, and final revisions and a vote will take place by the end of April.
Cornerstones supports the existing $10.28 million investment in human services and level funding for school readiness and childcare programs. However, we are concerned with the proposed elimination of the Healthy Families Fairfax program and long-term investment strategy for the County’s Housing Blueprint and signature Bridging Affordability program. Tough economic times and competing budget interests require compromise, but if these cuts are approved and lack of services ignored, a significant number of individuals and families living in Fairfax County will endure negative impacts towards their quality of life.
Cornerstones supports policies and programs that ensure a bright future for our children.
One of Cornerstones’ top policy priorities is full restoration of funding for the Healthy Families Fairfax Program. Healthy Families Fairfax (HFF) is an evidenced-based, accredited home‐visiting program offering at-risk families an opportunity to learn parenting skills and receive emotional support and case management services. The program has excellent outcomes for reducing child abuse, neglect and ensuring that children are healthy and prepared for kindergarten. In addition, HFF is successful in improving family economic self-sufficiency, reducing juvenile delinquency as well as reducing family violence and crime. Without this program, at least 613 at‐risk families with young children (535 children) would no longer receive early childhood home‐visiting services, a backwards step in the County’s goal of promoting positive early childhood development and school readiness.
Cornerstones supports policies that foster the increase and preservation of housing that is affordable for families and our workforce.
Cornerstones applauds the County’s $4 million allocation for the Bridging Affordability program; the County’s signature program within the Housing Blueprint which effectively moves families out of homelessness, off County waiting lists, and into supportive housing with rental subsidies and case management. However, we also would urge a more substantial investment in acquisition of affordable housing infrastructure. The proposed budget provides $6,600,000 for a private partner acquisition and new construction of 120 units of housing, but this funding is insufficient when compared to the growing need for new affordable units outlined in the Housing Blueprint. The Blueprint for Housing shows a shortfall of 1,818 units for FY15 in meeting the goals of the 10 Year Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. In 2014, the total affordable housing gap in Fairfax County for low and moderate-income renters (earning no more than $85,000 for a family of four) was 28,405 units. Adequate investment in housing and human services is the first step in promoting self-sufficiency for our workforce. These supports are of equal importance as investments in education, public safety, health care and transportation.
Investments in these critical housing programs would represent a longer-term contribution towards the economic strength of Fairfax County, and would put our area in a position to be prepared for extension of the Silver Line, a growing and changing job market, and the new “normal” of our economy, post-recession. Part of a longer term vision must include moving away from a “cuts only” approach to budgeting, and towards new revenue streams to support these investments, such as a housing revenue bond.
Cornerstones leadership and Board Members, along with partnering organizations, are meeting with County supervisors to express our concerns about the proposed elimination of the Healthy Families Fairfax Program, and to start a dialogue about the County’s vision for affordable housing. Continued cuts to housing and human services programs are unsustainable as needs continue to grow. Cornerstones advocates will appear at the Fairfax County Public Hearing on Wednesday, April 8th for testimony regarding our human services and housing priorities.
March 2015 Policy Update
Cornerstones supports the Virginia General Assembly’s FY 2016 budget increases to the Housing Trust Fund and Rapid Re-Housing.
On Thursday, February 26, the House and Senate of the Virginia General Assembly approved the FY 2016 state budget that allocates $8 million to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The $8 million in funding for the HTF is a source of flexible funding and a low-interest loan pool used to facilitate the creation and preservation of affordable housing options across Virginia. These funds can be used for a variety of purposes such as construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of affordable housing, as well as rental assistance, support services, and foreclosure counseling. This funding is specifically targeted at serving Virginia’s approximately 7,000 homeless individuals and most vulnerable populations including seniors, veterans, those with disabilities and extremely low-income families, or those with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI).
The state budget also includes $1 million for rapid re-housing. This funding restores half of the $2 million for rapid re-housing that was previously cut from the state budget. This increase in funding to the rapid re-housing program ensures homeless families and individuals can be quickly placed into supportive housing with wrap-around services to guide them back to self-sufficiency. Also, half of the $1 million in rapid re-housing funding is dedicated specifically to Virginia’s veterans. This increase in funding will help more than 600 homeless veterans receive the supportive housing and services they need to move towards self-sufficiency. Rapid re-housing is a proven and effective program that moves vulnerable Virginians out of the shelter system and away from homelessness, towards stability.
Cornerstones applauds the $9 million in housing assistance provided in the FY 2016 state budget. Currently, about 1/3 of Virginians are housing insecure, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on their housing. In Fairfax County alone, there are approximately 1,200 individuals who are literally homeless. In our area, the fair market rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,485, requiring a family income of at least $58,320 per year, equal to about 155 hours of work per week for a minimum wage earner. The high housing costs in the Fairfax-Falls Church community along with the gap of over 28,000 units of affordable rental housing for low- to moderate-income workers, indicates the urgent need for investment in solutions that address the need for housing and supportive services for vulnerable Virginians. The $8 million in Virginia’s HTF and $1 million for rapid re-housing are a positive step towards addressing this need and moving closer to Fairfax County’s community goal of preventing and ending homelessness. We would like to thank Virginia’s legislators for investing in housing that is affordable, and for increasing opportunities for vulnerable Virginians to reach self-sufficiency by addressing this crucial need.
February 2015 Advocacy Update
On December 11, 2014 Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) director Mel Watt announced that the FHFA will lift its suspension of mandatory funding to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) and Capital Magnet Fund (CMF) from the profits of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The CMF and HTF were created in 2008 to supplement low-income housing tax credits in order to better address supportive housing needs across the nation, but were suspended as a result of the economic crash later that same year.
Should Mel Watt’s directive go forward, consistent funds (not subject to federal budget appropriations bills) will be dedicated to the HTF and CMF starting this year, amounting to $300 -$500 million each year. These contributions will be used for the preservation, rehabilitation, acquisition and development of housing that is affordable, across the United States.
This decision received mixed reactions. Community housing agencies (Cornerstones among them), housing advocates, and many legislators praised the decision, which will fund efficient, effective mechanisms for the creation of affordable housing options. Others, including Representatives from the House Financial Services Committee, would rather have Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s profits directed to the U.S. Department of Treasury, as is dictated in recently proposed legislation (H.R. 3901) to suspend Mel Watt’s directive.
Cornerstones CEO, Kerrie Wilson, traveled to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, February 11th to speak with the Virginia delegation and members of the House Financial Services committee about the effectiveness of the HTF. She was joined by Rebeckah Armistead, coordinator for the F.A.C.E.S. of Homelessness Speaker’s Bureau. During her visit, Kerrie had the opportunity to explain that the HTF and CMF address a critical need for housing supports for working families, who otherwise are priced out of our very high-cost-of-living area. These resources (HTF and CMF) provide a specific funding source for housing targeted at extremely low-income earners, those earning around 30% of the area median income.
Lawmakers were generally supportive of the goals of the HTF, acknowledging that access to affordable housing for the full continuum of income levels that is both safe and affordable is a critical need for a thriving economy.
There is a demonstrated need for assets like the HTF and CMF. Cornerstones’ permanent and supportive housing team sees this need every day. Currently, 19 million families in the U.S. are either homeless or are housing insecure, meaning they pay more than half of their monthly income on housing. This number includes 578,000 people who are literally homeless, either sleeping in shelters or on the streets.
How HTF and CMF Work: The Housing Economic Recovery Act of 2008 dictates that funds will go towards HTF and CMF through a 4.2 basis point assessment on new business purchases at Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Based on business volumes at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the HTF and CMF will see $300 million – $500 million per year, which will be split 65 – 35 respectively.
- Housing Trust Fund – HTF dollars will be distributed to states by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) based on a needs-based formula to fund construction, preservation and operation of housing for the highest-need Americans. The formula puts particular emphasis on reaching and supporting extremely low-income families (defined as earning less than 30% of the AMI) through rental housing, but also allows limited funds to go towards supporting sustainable homeownership.
- Capital Magnet Fund – The CMF is used to help nonprofit housing organizations and other community development financial institutions leverage private funds to finance affordable housing initiatives. The CMF differs from the HTF in that it is distributed in grants based on a competitive application process to organizations for preservation, rehabilitation, or purchase of affordable housing, and limited economic development activities. This fund is overseen by the Treasury Department.
What this Means for Virginia: Should Mel Watt’s directive go forward, Virginia is estimated to receive $99,200,000 for every $5 billion invested in the HTF. According to revenue projections of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this translates to $99,200,000 every 15 – 25 years, depending on business volume or $3.9 – $6.4 million each year.
Cornerstones supports policies and programs that increase and preserve housing that is affordable for families and our workforce.
In his proposed budget to the joint House and Senate money committees in December 2014, Governor McAuliffe reasserted his commitment to addressing the urgent needs for housing in the Commonwealth. We applaud his inclusion of $1 million for rapid rehousing programs that ensure homeless families and individuals can be quickly placed into supportive housing with wrap-around services to help them back to self-sufficiency. In the most recent Fairfax-Falls Church Point-in-Time survey, there were 1,225 people who were literally homeless, indicating the urgent need for investment in solutions that address the need for housing and supportive services for vulnerable Virginians. This move restores half of the $2 million for rapid rehousing that was previously cut from the state budget.
Cornerstones also supports S. J. 235, sponsored by Senator John Watkins, which directs the Virginia Housing Commission to study options for a dedicated revenue source for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.
Currently, about 1/3 of Virginians are housing insecure, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on their housing. In our area, the fair market rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,485, requiring a family income of $58,320 per year, equal to about 155 hours of work per week for a minimum wage earner. The Fairfax-Falls Church region is experiencing a gap of over 28,000 units of rental housing that is affordable for low- to moderate-income workers. The state Housing Trust Fund is one solution to the need for affordable housing for housing insecure Virginians.
The Housing Trust Fund is a source of flexible funding and a low-interest loan pool used to facilitate the creation and preservation of affordable housing options across Virginia. These funds can be used for construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition of apartments that will be designated affordable, as well as rental assistance, support services, and foreclosure counseling. This funding is specifically targeted at serving Virginia’s most vulnerable populations; chronically homeless, seniors, veterans, those with disabilities and very low-income families. The Housing Trust Fund was originally allotted $7 million in 2012, but has not been funded for this budget cycle.
Cornerstones supports policies that improve the health and well-being of our community today
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is transforming our nation, giving many individuals and families access to affordable health care for the first time. However, Virginia has still not closed its coverage gap, which includes those earning too much to qualify for Virginia’s Medicaid program, but too little to receive subsidies on the federal market. The Commonwealth is trailing behind other states whose uninsured rates are dropping significantly and are seeing declines in unpaid medical bills. In fact, in 2014 Virginia’s uninsured rate increased to 13.4 percent from 12.3 percent in 2013. Last year, the Virginia General Assembly rejected a Medicaid Expansion bill which would have expanded coverage to approximately 400,000 uninsured Virginians. Thus, A Healthy Virginia was established by Governor McAuliffe to ensure that those who qualify for health care programs have the knowledge and resources to access them. Although this 10-point action plan will improve care for many Virginians, it does not replace the impact that would be provided through Medicaid expansion. Click HERE for more details.
A Healthy Virginia will improve access to care for up to 20,000 individuals suffering from serious mental illness (SMI); enroll an additional 35,000 eligible children into Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) or Medicaid; ensure up to 160,000 additional Virginians sign up for coverage through the Federal Marketplace by improving application assistance and educating consumers; and enhance the Cover Virginia website (which provides information for Virginia’s uninsured seeking health coverage). A Healthy Virginia will also provide comprehensive dental coverage to pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid and FAMIS MOMS, and increase access to health care for all of Virginia’s veterans through partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and private health providers. Lastly, A Healthy Virginia will use a CMS State Innovation Model grant to improve the quality and reduce cost of Virginia’s Medicaid health care delivery system; seek health homes for up to 13,000 individuals with mental illnesses enrolled in Medicaid; and reduce the number of deaths in Virginia due to prescription drug and heroin abuse.
It is important to emphasize that although A Healthy Virginia will improve access to care for those who need it most, adopting Medicaid expansion would extend affordable coverage options to all uninsured Virginians. As of January 2014, 430,000 Virginians could gain Medicaid coverage through Medicaid expansion, including 25,000 to 30,000 in Fairfax County. Expanding Medicaid would bring economic benefits to the entire state, not just the uninsured, by creating thousands of health care jobs, a healthier workforce, and lower insurance costs associated with a healthier population. Virginia is moving in the right direction towards health coverage for those in need, but Medicaid expansion, or a private-market alternative, would ensure a truly healthy Virginia for all who live in the Commonwealth.
As budgeting seasons approach at both the state and local levels, Cornerstones will be working with our partners in Fairfax County and across the state to identify the priority issues that are most important for the individuals and families we serve. Cornerstones strives to foster strong, healthy and connected communities through policies and programs that:
- Improve the health and well-being of our community today
- Increase and preserve housing that is affordable for families and our workforce
- Help workers gain the education and skills that employers need now and in the future
- Ensure a bright future for our children
Background information on some of those issues can be found below. The Cornerstones Advocacy Committee will provide more information on its policy priorities after review the Governor’s “New Virginia Economy” plan, and other information from members of the Virginia General Assembly and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Cornerstones has identified some key dates or events relating to the upcoming budget session. Check back frequently for updates or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Joint House Appropriations/Senate Finance Budget Hearings (Location TBD) – January 7, 2015
- Town Hall Meeting with Delegate Ken Plum and Senator Janet Howell – Thursday, January 8, 7:30 – 9 p.m., Reston Community Center Hunters Woods
- Northern Virginia Delegation Hearings – January 10, 2015, 9 a.m., Fairfax County Government Center
- General Assembly convenes – January 14, 2015
- Fairfax County Board of Supervisors FY16 Budget Public Hearings – April 7, 8, 9, 2015
Additional Background on Key Issues
- Allocations to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund
The Virginia Housing Trust Fund is a critical resource for providing much-needed affordable housing in the Commonwealth. However, this pool is underfunded, having seen no allocations in the last budget cycle.
The need for investment in affordable housing is evident. Zooming in closer to home, a recent report by the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs highlighted that in Fairfax County alone, 83,069 units will have to be developed by 2032 in order to accommodate the growth projections of a burgeoning (and aging) Fairfax County. Of these 83,000 units, 44.1 percent will need to have rents of $1,250 per month or less to accommodate the growing workforce in the retail, hospitality and construction services sectors, according to George Mason University studies. The state housing trust fund is needed to help localities like Fairfax keep pace with our growing economy.
Trust Fund dollars can be used for flexible, low-interest financing for affordable rental housing (construction, rehabilitation, or acquisition), short term payment assistance, as well as mortgage foreclosure counseling and other related services. Without a steady source of funding to this pool, Virginia will fall behind on the infrastructure needed to prepare for our state’s future economy.
- Extending Medicaid Benefits
Cornerstones will continue to work with partners across the state who are working to extend Medicaid health benefits for Virginians earning less than 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. This issue was not resolved last year and the Governor and General Assembly will be looking at different options beginning in January.
The benefits of expanding coverage are clear in terms of improving the health of Virginian’s citizens and workforce, creating jobs through increased utilization of the health care industry, and in savings to the state and in reducing the burden of uncompensated costs of caring for uninsured Virginians. The statistics demonstrate that both extension of Medicaid and alternative methods of extending affordable insurance are working both to get low-income workers enrolled in insurance plans, and to save states money. Kentucky and New Mexico expanded their Medicaid programs and as a result, saved $80 million and $78 million respectively in the current budget cycle. Arkansas and Michigan took alternative approaches to extending affordable health insurance, and they too are expecting significant state savings, $89 million for Arkansas, and $100 million for Michigan.
- Protection of funding for Human Services/Affordable Housing
Fairfax County’s Executive and the Board of Supervisors are working now to address priority needs in the FY2016 county budget draft. Cornerstones will work to sustain local investments in human services and protection for the funds that provide a social safety net that keeps Fairfax County a diverse and caring community. In particular, Cornerstones supports allocations to the County’s Housing Blueprint Projects, including the Bridging Affordability Program. These funds provide options along the full continuum of housing needs in Fairfax County, and address a critical and growing need in our region. Almost 60,000 residents of Fairfax County are cost-burdened by their housing, meaning they are paying more than 30% of their income on housing. Additionally, though we have seen a steady decline in homelessness in our area, there were 1,225 people who were literally homeless in the Fairfax-Falls Church community in January of 2014, including 407 children under the age of 18.
Currently, Fairfax County is behind its blueprint goals by 145 units for FY15, leaving 1,818 units needed total by the end of 2018. Budgets have been tight at the federal, state and local level, and funds are scarce. However, Cornerstones advocates will ask the Board of Supervisors to remember their commitment to ending homelessness by 2018.
For more information, contact email@example.com or call 571-323-9556.
The Governor’s Housing Conference met in Norfolk last week, drawing housing advocates from across the state to discuss the housing crisis at hand. During his address, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that there are currently about 8,400 homeless Virginians, 10% of which are veterans. Narrowing to our own region, in January of this year there were 1,225 people who were literally homeless, including 530 singles (45 veterans) and 695 people in families, according to the Fairfax-Falls Church Point in Time Survey. Thirty-three percent of all persons who were homeless were children under the age of 18 (Office to Prevent and End Homelessness). While our region prepares for what looks to be another exceptionally cold winter, more than 820 homeless families in Washington, D.C. are expected to need services, up 16 percent from last year (Washington Post).
In light of this reality, Governor McAuliffe pledged support for funding the Housing Trust Fund moving forward, issuing Executive Order 32 which expressed commitment to meeting the state’s housing needs, and his interest in hearing creative approaches to addressing those needs. The Housing Trust Fund, initiated in 2012, provides funding for efforts to reduce homelessness, low-interest loans for financing housing projects, rehabilitation of previously foreclosed homes, and for foreclosure counseling for families. The Housing Trust Fund funnels state dollars into cost-effective programs, but there was no new money devoted to this fund for the FY14-16 state budget.
The problem is that lack of affordable housing isn’t just a housing market issue. Access to and cost of health care, economic diversity, economic growth, and transportation (among other concerns) are all tied to the availability of affordable housing. Ensuring that Virginians have options for housing that is affordable is critical to economic recovery and building our thriving workforce.As Northern Virginia’s economy begins to edge out of recession, net job growth is in the retail/trade, leisure/hospitality, construction and other services positions rather than some of the highest-paying professional and business services (George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis). This means that as our population increases and our job market grows, we will need housing that is affordable to those growing professions. According to George Mason University studies, by 2032, 44.1 percent of rental units in our region will need to have rents of less than $1,250 a month in order to keep up with population growth and the expanding job market.
Northern Virginia’s population is not only growing, but also aging. We will need housing that is affordable to senior citizens, as well as need a sufficient stock of housing that will be affordable to the home health aides that will be in demand. In tight budgeting sessions, when programs and services that support affordable housing are pushed to the “back burner”, it is important to remember that affordable housing is a critical component to overall economic development.
Cornerstones is playing our part in ensuring that emergency and affordable housing along the full spectrum of need is available. As we prepare for the winter months, the Embry Rucker Community Shelter is on nightly weather watch and will open the shelter to additional clients with a “no turn away” policy if the temperature drops below freezing. Hypothermia prevention programs are scheduled to start December 1, accepting additional clients at both the Shelter and the North County Government Center.
We are also successfully continuing to move clients from homelessness to permanent supportive housing. As participants of the Fairfax-Falls Church Rapid Rehousing Challenge, Cornerstones housed 18 families and 28 individuals in the first quarter, and has housed 9 families and 15 individuals so far in the current quarter. It is with excitement that we also announce that as of Thursday, October 30th, Cornerstones has officially acquired the Apartments at North Point, which will provide permanent affordable units close to restaurants and shopping, with integrated services for our clients as needed.
Despite these successes, lack of investment in affordable housing and critical rapid rehousing services is holding our region back from achieving its goal to end homelessness by 2018. It is time to explore new options for facilitating the creation, restoration and preservation of affordable housing. Budgeting sessions at the national, state and local level are difficult and many worthwhile public interests are competing for the same limited pool of funding. But as we prepare for the winter months with expected increases in the number of families seeking services regionally, we need to take a hard look at how much investment is required to help the County achieve its Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. In Fairfax County, the annual cost of an emergency shelter bed is approximately $13,500, not including the cost of case management or other services a shelter client might need. The average housing subsidy cost through the Housing Choice Voucher program is $7,400 for efficiency apartments, or $10,500 for two or three-bedroom units. Though counterintuitive, we can’t afford NOT to invest in affordable housing. It’s time to think creatively about our options to leverage public and private dollars to prepare our region for the growth and diversification of our economy given our job market trends and greater connectivity with Washington now that the Silver Line has arrived.
How YOU can help: Cornerstones will be traveling to Richmond this January to advocate for future investment in the state Housing Trust Fund and other critical services. If you are interested in advocating with us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 2014 Advocacy Update (As of September 20)
On Thursday, September 18, the General Assembly met for their planned special session to consider Medicaid Expansion – a promise that was made in exchange for the budget agreement in June that prevented state government shutdown. The General Assembly was able to quickly agree upon a revised budget deal that accounts for a $2.4 billion gap in the state budget by pulling funding from the “rainy day fund” and reducing spending at state agencies and public universities. However, the House of Delegates voted 64-33 to dismiss Delegate Tom Rust’s compromise Medicaid expansion proposal, “The Virginia Health Care Independence Act”, effectively ending the possibility for Medicaid Expansion in Virginia until at least the 2015 General Assembly session in January.
Rust’s bill intended to use federal funds to provide affordable health insurance options for low-income uninsured up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line. The plan would have provided subsidies to the working uninsured to allow them to enroll in employer-provided private health insurance plans, and would have extended insurance through Medicaid Managed Care programs to those who didn’t have access to employer-based coverage. Rust’s bill made it to the house floor but was killed without a formal vote, and the measure did not continue to the Senate. Without having passed any legislation to expand Medicaid to Virginia’s uninsured, the General Assembly will have turned away nearly $2 billion in federal funds by December 31st – funds that would have afforded health insurance to nearly 400,000 people, created 30,000 healthcare-related jobs, and in the long-run, saved the state up to $1.7 billion dollars over the next 8 years.
Cornerstones will continue to advocate for expansion of affordable healthcare, whether that be through traditional expansion of Medicaid or through some sort of compromise measure. We know that access to affordable health insurance is a crucial ingredient to self-sufficiency, and we will work with partners across the Commonwealth to advocate for closing the coverage gap in 2015.
For the time being, the Commonwealth will proceed with Governor McAuliffe’s “A Healthy Virginia” plan, which will extend Medicaid coverage to about 20,000 Virginians with severe mental illness and expand existing coverage for about 13,000 Virginians with serious mental health issues who are enrolled already. Additionally the Governor’s plan will work to increase awareness of and enrollment in existing programs like Medicaid, FAMIS and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchange.
If you have any questions about advocacy at Cornerstones or wish to become involved in our efforts, please email email@example.com.
Affordable Housing and Human Service Campaigns and Coalitions
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness
“Think Twice Before You Slice”
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Voices for Virginia’s Children
The Commonwealth Institute of Virginia
Social Action Linking Together
Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance
Communities of Faith United for Housing
Fairfax County Alliance for Human Services
Capital Area Foreclosure Network
Below are examples of Cornerstones’ recent advocacy work:
- Cornerstones and its CEO have played a lead role, as a member of the Executive Committee on the implementation of the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in Fairfax.
- Cornerstones staff work on community wide initiatives to address issues surround aging population in our community and increase accessibility for the disabled.
- We are a founding member of Nonprofit NoVA, an affiliate of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, to enhance the voice and value of the nonprofit sector.
- Cornerstones’ CEO serves on the Board of Directors of the Nonprofit Roundtable, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Meyer Foundation, the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, and the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.