By Mr. REED (for himself and Mr. BLUNT):
S. 454. A bill to promote the development of local strategies to coordinate use of assistance under sections 8 and 9 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 with public and private resources, to enable eligible families to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing the Family Self-Sufficiency Act, and I am pleased this Congress to be joined in this effort by my colleague, Senator BLUNT of Missouri.
The Family Self Sufficiency, FSS, program is an existing Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, employment and savings incentive initiative for families that have section 8 vouchers or live in public housing. The FSS program provides two key tools for its participants: first, it provides access to the resources and training that help participants pursue employment opportunities and meet financial goals, and second, it encourages FSS families to save by establishing an interest-bearing escrow account for them. Upon graduation from the FSS program, the family can use these savings to pay for job-related expenses, such as additional workforce training or the purchase or maintenance of a car needed for commuting purposes.
Our bipartisan legislation seeks to enhance the FSS program by streamlining the administration of this program, by broadening the supportive services that can be provided to a participant, and by extending the FSS program to tenants who live in privately-owned properties with project-based assistance. In short, we seek to make the FSS program easier to administer and more effective.
First, to streamline the FSS program, our bill would combine two separate FSS programs into one. Today, HUD operates one FSS program for those families served by the Housing Choice Voucher Program and another for those families served by the Public Housing program. This is the case even though the core purpose of each FSS program, to increase economic independence and self-sufficiency, is the same. Unfortunately, Public Housing Agencies, PHA, have to operate essentially two programs to achieve the same goal. With our bill, PHAs would be relieved of this unnecessary burden.
Second, our legislation broadens the scope of the supportive services that may be offered to include attainment of a GED, education in pursuit of a post-secondary degree or certification, and training in financial literacy. Providing families in need with affordable rental housing is critical, but coupling it with the support and services to help families get ahead increases the effectiveness of this federal investment. Our legislation makes it easier for FSS participants to obtain the training necessary to secure employment and the education to make prudent financial decisions to better safeguard their earnings.
Lastly, our bill opens up the FSS program to families who live in privately-owned properties subsidized with project-based rental assistance. It shouldn't matter what kind of housing assistance a family gets, and families seeking to achieve self-sufficiency shouldn't be held back by this sort of technicality.
I thank Senator BLUNT for his partnership, and I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill, which will help give those receiving housing assistance a better chance to build their skills and achieve economic independence.
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