The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is committed to working with our Federal and community partners to ensure the success of the national response to HIV/AIDS articulated in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). In my prior post, I described some of the activities we are undertaking and how community members can engage with us on them. Today, I want to share information about our efforts to carry out one of the important tasks assigned to HUD in the Strategy’s Federal Implementation Plan.
The Strategy asks all Federal departments and agencies to review the methods used to distribute Federal HIV/AIDS-related formula grants or project implementation funds and take steps to ensure that resources go to the States and localities with the greatest need. At HUD, this means an examination of formulas related to the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program.
First, a quick overview of that program for those of you who may not be familiar with it. To address housing needs for low-income persons who are living with HIV/AIDS and their families, HUD manages the HOPWA program. The program is the only Federal program dedicated to address the housing needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families. In program year 2010, grantees utilized HOPWA funds to provide housing support to 60,699 households, and leveraged other funds to provide housing support to an additional 31,000 households.
In fiscal year 2010, the appropriation for HOPWA was $335 million. Ninety percent ($298.5 million) was allocated by a formula based on cumulative AIDS cases to 133 qualifying areas. That formula, however, was crafted in and has been in use since 1990. It reflects the nature of AIDS surveillance information available at that time. As changes have occurred in HIV/AIDS surveillance tools over time, the method used for allocating HOPWA formula funds has become increasingly dated. Recognizing this, the Strategy’s Federal Implementation Plan specifically tasks HUD with responsibility for working with Congress to develop a plan (including seeking statutory changes if necessary) to shift to HIV/AIDS case reporting as a basis for formula grants for HOPWA funding.
At issue is the notion that basing the formula funding on cumulative AIDS data fails to reflect the present state of our domestic epidemic—or present need. Cumulative data includes over one half million Americans who have died due to AIDS. In addition, given the significant advances in HIV testing and treatment since 1990, fewer HIV-positive persons are transitioning to AIDS. So, instead, the HOPWA formula could —if authorized by Congress—be based on CDC’s surveillance data on the number of persons currently living with HIV (including persons living with AIDS). This would better target the distribution of HOPWA housing assistance resources to communities based on a more targeted data set reflecting present need. In light of these advances, another Federal program, the Ryan White program, transitioned initially to living AIDS cases as a basis of formula funding in 1996, and then to living HIV and AIDS cases upon reauthorization in 2006.
As we explore this formula modification, HUD is seeking comments from the public, program beneficiaries, service providers, and grantee staff who manage HOPWA state and city programs. Stakeholders can share their ideas and comments about updating the formula through an online HOPWA forum on the HUD Ideas in Action webpage. This forum will be open until April 19, 2011, and also provides the opportunity for the public to submit their ideas and suggestions related to increasing access to housing and non-medical supportive services and enhancing the HOPWA program to help prevent and end homelessness for people living with HIV/AIDS. The input from stakeholders shared via this forum is helping to guide the development of HUD recommendations on the potential incorporation of other factors into the HOPWA formula, as well as the drafting of related policy or procedures related to the suggested changes for modernizing the program.
A number of great comments and suggestions have been posted on this HOPWA forum. The forum allows users to submit their own ideas, post replies to the comments of others, and cast votes for their favorite submissions. HUD has also participated in two listening sessions in Washington, DC and Alabama and conducted two webinars for HOPWA grantees in order to gain feedback on improving the program from as many stakeholders as possible.
On behalf of the HOPWA team at HUD, I encourage you to submit your ideas to the HUD Ideas in Action forum before April 19th. The Department is taking all ideas into account. Together, this agency, our community partners, clients and other stakeholders will be considering how to advance the housing-related goals set forth in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.