WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced bipartisan legislation today that would update and improve the outdated formula used to distribute funding for crucial housing programs that serve people with HIV/AIDS. Senators Collins and Reed serve as the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), which oversees spending for federal housing programs. A similar measure is being sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressmen David Price (D-NC) and Robert Aderholt (R-AL).
The Collins-Reed bill would adjust the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program to allocate formula funding based on the number of persons currently living with HIV instead of the cumulative number of AIDS cases since 1981. At present, 55 percent of the cumulative AIDS cases used to process the formula represent deceased individuals, which diverts funding away from parts of the country where the HIV/AIDS prevalence is more recent and unfairly distributes it to large cities that experienced the AIDS epidemic early on.
“The HOPWA Program is vital to ensuring that individuals living with HIV/AIDS, who have an elevated risk of becoming homeless, are able to access safe and affordable housing,” said Senator Collins. “The current method for distributing HOPWA Program funds is unfair to the regions of our country where individuals are feeling the effects of HIV/AIDS most acutely. Revising this outdated formula will allow these funds to benefit low-income individuals living with this illness and their families, precisely the population this program is intended to help.”
“HOPWA provides housing stability to help HIV-positive residents stay healthy. Medication is extremely expensive, and having a roof over their head enables people to better manage the disease, reduces the risk of HIV transmission, and results in better public health outcomes,” said Senator Reed. “We need to strengthen HOPWA, but the current formula shortchanges the most vulnerable. This bill provides a fairer and more accurate formula to meet the needs of those who really need assistance now and in the future.”
Persons living with HIV/AIDS who are homeless or unstably housed have been shown to be more likely to demonstrate frequent and prolonged use of high-cost hospital-based emergency or inpatient services. Approximately half of all persons diagnosed with HIV will face homelessness or experience an unstable housing situation at some point over the course of their illness. Despite the need for this funding, a recent Government Accountability Office report noted that, “Because HOPWA funds are awarded based on cumulative AIDS cases, these funds are not being targeted as effectively or equitably as they could be.”
The Collins-Reed bill transitions current grantees to the new formula over a five-year period by including a “stop-loss” provision so that grantees can lose no more than five percent of their share of HOPWA formula funds in each successive fiscal year from 2017-2021. Similarly, grantees can gain no more than 10 percent of their share in each successive fiscal year.
The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
The legislation was endorsed by multiple organizations, including the National AIDS Housing Coalition (NAHC) and AIDS Care Ocean State:
Rusty Bennett, Executive Director, National AIDS Housing Coalition (NAHC)
The National AIDS Housing Coalition is excited about this important step in improving the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program. This long-awaited modernization of the HOPWA formula will direct needed housing resources to focus on today’s HIV epidemic. As the only Federal program dedicated to addressing the housing needs of low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS, the modernization of the formula will create a more responsive program and effective tool to enable communities to address their current housing challenges while ensuring better access and engagement in care. NAHC would especially like to thank Senator Collins and Senator Reed for the support and introduction of this important legislation.
Arturo Valdivia Bendixen, NAHC board president and Executive Director, Center for Housing and Health, AIDS Foundation Chicago
Modernizing the HOPWA formula will help HIV/AIDS housing providers to focus their resources more acutely in helping to stop the spread of the epidemic. In Chicago the updated formula will provide more resources to house the homeless living with HIV/AIDS, connect then to treatment, and support them to become virally undetectable and no longer infectious.
AIDS Care Ocean State:
“AIDS Care Ocean State is pleased to support the bipartisan Collins-Reed bill, which provides a long overdue modernization of the way in which HOPWA funding will be allocated to ensure that help is directed to areas where the need is greatest. With this legislation, Rhode Island would be in a stronger position to receive additional HOPWA funding, and we look forward to working with all cosponsors to enact this legislation.”