The Ritz Herald
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, April 7, 2017. © VOA

Appropriations and Tax Package Passed by Congress is a Big Win for Low-income Rural and Urban Communities

President Trump's signature brings to a close a fraught year for spending

Published on January 10, 2020

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills passed through Congress and signed by President Trump before the December 20th deadline, averting a government shutdown like the one experienced with the FY 2019 spending bills.

Rapoza Associates, a public interest government relations firm specializing in appropriations, community development, housing and tax issues, noted that the passage of the FY 20 spending bills successfully pushes back against the downward trend in federal investments for housing and community development in low-income rural and urban areas.

“Since 1981, there has been a 75 percent reduction in federal investment in community development programs, as measured as a share of GDP,” notes Bob Rapoza, founder and president of Rapoza Associates. “As this trend grew, we worked with rural housing and community development clients to ensure they received the funding necessary to continue providing the essential development opportunities and services needed by low-income communities left outside the economic mainstream.”

The FY 2020 President’s budget, as it has done for the past three years, proposed to decimate funding for community development and rural housing programs used by the firm’s mission-led clients to serve the housing and economic development needs in rural and urban low-income communities. Congress, which has had the opportunity to see many of these programs first-hand, not only rejected the cuts, but deepened its investment in these proven federal programs.

The FY 20 measures include H.R. 1158, which includes appropriations for Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Financial Services and Homeland Security funding, and H.R. 1865, which includes Agriculture-FDA, Energy-Water, Interior-Environment, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA, State & Foreign Operations and Transportation-HUD, as well as the tax extenders.

“We’re very proud of our clients and the good work they do to provide and increase access to safe, affordable housing; grow local business opportunities for entrepreneurs and create quality jobs in areas with high unemployment and poverty; and expand community services like safe, rural water and wastewater systems, healthcare and childcare facilities and grocery stores in the towns and neighborhoods where it’s needed most,” adds Rapoza.

As a result of the successful outcomes of the federal programs operated by these organizations, many members of Congress stepped in and have served as advocates and leaders for these housing and community development programs. Congressional champions have pointed to the work of the organizations in their districts and states to lead letters to peers, calling for a restoration of funds and additional resources during the House and Senate appropriations process. Members of Congress have spoken to the media and have gone to the House or Senate floor, highlighting the need for safe, affordable housing, small business, rural water system assistance, community revitalization efforts addressed by the housing and community development industry.

In the end, the federal programs operated by these effective organizations resulted in increases over the Fiscal Year 2020 budget of over $150 million in rural housing assistance at USDA, over $20 million in rural water technical assistance at EPA, over $30 million in community economic development and rural facilities technical assistance at HHS, $248 million at Treasury, and $4.5 million at SBA. In addition, the New Markets Tax Credit, which faced expiration at the close of 2019, received a one-year extension at $5 billion in credit authority, a $1.5 billion increase in allocation that will go far to meet the demand for this important resource that is often four times the availability. That amount is an increase of over $500 million above inflation.

“With the omnibus restoring funding levels for some of these programs that had been slated for reductions or elimination, and higher funding levels for several other programs, Congressional leaders have recognized the success of housing and community development organizations in underserved communities and the need to continue and in some cases enhance these important efforts. Moreover, the extension of the New Markets Tax Credit recognizes the value of encouraging the private sector to play a role in distressed communities’ revitalization,” said Rapoza.

Rapoza Associates has four decades of experience providing government relations guidance on appropriations, community development, housing and tax issues. Working with the National Rural Housing Coalition, the CDFI Coalition, the NMTC Coalition, Community Development Corporations, Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Friends of the SBA Microloan Program, as well as several other organizations, the firm provides research, policy and communications expertise to its clients, helping them share their stories of community impact.

SOURCE Rapoza Associates
Senior Writer