Thousands of Americans with disabilities will have housing assistance specifically targeted to meet their needs.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today.
As part of President Obama's Year of Community Living initiative, HHS and HUD collaborated to provide housing support for non-elderly persons with disabilities to live productive independent lives in their communities rather than in institutional settings.
HUD is offering approximately $40 million to public housing authorities across the country to fund approximately 5,300 Housing Choice Vouchers for non-elderly persons with disabilities, allowing them to live independently. HHS will use its network of state Medicaid agencies and local human service organizations to link eligible individuals and their families to local housing agencies who will administer voucher distribution.
"This number of vouchers to this community is a major milestone for HUD," said Donovan. "I am pleased that two federal agencies have combined efforts to give these individuals the independence they so desperately want and deserve."
"This commitment by HHS and HUD to directly link housing support to these individuals will be of immeasurable value not only to them, but to the communities in which they will be living," said Sebelius. "Individuals with disabilities have so much to contribute to the quality of life in our communities when given the freedom and opportunity to do so."
Of the 5,300 vouchers set aside as part of this program, up to1,000 will be specifically targeted for non-elderly individuals with disabilities currently living in institutions but who could move into the community with assistance (Category II). The remaining 4,300 (Category I) can be used for this purpose also, but are targeted for use by non-elderly individuals with disabilities and their families in the community to allow them to access affordable housing that adequately meets their needs.
In addition, HUD is encouraging housing authorities to establish a selection preference to make some, or all, of their Category I allocation available to individuals with disabilities and their families who, without housing assistance, are at risk of institutionalization. Housing authorities have 90 days to submit their applications to HUD. HUD expects to have funding awards ready late fall 2010.
"Many of these individuals are low-income and can not afford market rates for housing. For a number of Americans, these vouchers, along with Medicaid home and community-based services, are essential supports that make the President's vision for community living possible," Sebelius noted.
The vouchers will augment work already being done by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through its Medicaid Money Follows the Person (MFP) grant program. Originally set to expire next year, the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010" extended the MFP program through 2016 with an additional appropriation of over $2 billion.
The Act also cut to three months, from the previous six months, the amount of time a person must be in an institution to qualify for help making the transition to community life.
Now in its third year, the MFP program has made it possible for almost 6,000 people to live more independent lives by providing necessary supports and services in the community. Some 29 states and the District of Columbia have MFP programs.
The Year of Community Living is an outgrowth of a 1999 Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., in which the court ruled that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unnecessarily institutionalizing a person with a disability who, with proper support, can live in the community can amount to discrimination. In its ruling, the Court said that institutionalization severely limits the person's ability to interact with family and friends, to work and to make a life for him or herself.
As a result of the Olmstead ruling, HHS issued guidance to states on how to make their Medicaid programs more responsive to people living with disabilities who wish to reside in the least restrictive setting. Today's announcement is yet another step in HHS's 10-year effort to achieve that goal.
To read the full funding announcement, visit HUD's Web site. More information about the Money Follows the Person program can be found at www.cms.hhs.gov/CommunityServices/20_MFP.asp