Sequester Pushes Virginia Families, Working Poor, a Step Closer to Homelessness

Fairfax County human services officials say more funds are needed for housing and other programs.

Fairfax County officials have said the impacts of sequestration are largely unknown, but for some of the county's low-income residents that's no longer true: Last week, the cuts forced the county to stop issuing Section 8 vouchers for affordable housing to families in need.

Officials say that up to 150 families in the county might not be getting housing vouchers that will help them pay their rent. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides funding to the county for the program, but the budget sequester has put that in jeopardy.

The county stopped issuing vouchers earlier this month and while some residents were able to get help at the last minute, others might not be so fortunate.

These cuts directly impact organizations such as FACETS, a non-profit that helps low-income residents and the homeless find housing.

“We depend on vouchers to house people that we’re serving, especially those people who might be very low income even though they’re working,” said Amanda Andere, FACETS’ executive director. “It’s some of the most vulnerable folks … Their kids might have a disability that prevents them from working full time. The vouchers are critical to their success.”

She and other human services supporters intend to speak at this week’s county budget public hearings and advocate for more funding.

“We’re working with Fairfax County and the local congressional delegation,” she said, adding that fundraising efforts were in motion.

With Fairfax County’s tight budget situation for Fiscal Year 2014 and sequestration on the horizon, human services providers don't know how much longer they'll be able to help people with the resources available.

Kevin Bell, chairman of the county’s Human Services Council, outlined the situation in a March letter to the Board of Supervisors.

“The gap between resources relative to human service needs is widening,” Bell wrote. “The cumulative impact of several years of stringent budgets leaves our community facing a critical juncture.”

The Council has asked supervisors for an additional $3.3 million to fund human services. About $1.25 million would be put in a fund and used for unforeseen, emergency service needs.

Federal budget cuts are among the council’s main concerns. While federal funds make up only 1 percent of the county’s total general fund, they comprise about 20 percent of human services revenues.

Andere acknowledged that the proposed FY2014 budget did provide some support for the effects of sequestration, whatever they may be.

The Human Services Council agreed, applauding County Executive Ed Long’s inclusion of an $8 million reserve to address cuts from sequestration and other state and federal reductions.

“We just need to fix this,” Andere said of housing funds. “People are depending on this type of help.”

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