February 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Ryan White housing aid cap lifted

Faced with the prospect that low-income people with HIV or AIDS would be evicted from temporary housing facilities, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services on Wednesday announced it has rescinded a policy limiting short-term and emergency HIV/AIDS housing subsidies to 24 months.

The Bush administration put in place the 24-month cap on the housing subsidies as a cost-saving measure, saying at the time that funding for the program under the Ryan White Care Act was intended only for short-term, emergency housing.

But an HHS official said Feb. 10 that the nation’s “difficult economic situation” has prevented people receiving the subsidy from finding permanent housing.

“Late last year, I became aware of growing community concern over the impact of this policy, especially as the date (late March) was approaching when the first persons subject to this limit faced the possibility of losing their housing,” said Mary Wakefield, administrator of the Health Resources & Services Administration, an arm of HHS.

“The need for housing assistance exceeds the available resources in many communities in the best of circumstances, but is further constrained by tight local and state budgets as the country works to recover from the most serious economic downturn in may peoples’ lifetimes,” she said in a statement.

Wakefield called the rescission of the housing subsidy cap a “temporary step” while a review of the Ryan White housing policies is conducted.

“We’re very pleased with the Obama administration’s decision to do this,” said Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, a national advocacy group. “This was one of the top requests that we and other groups made to the new administration.”

Up until now, most federal AIDS housing assistance came through a program operated by the Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, also known as HOPWA. AIDS activists have said the Ryan White program’s housing subsidy program was aimed at short-term, emergency cases where people in need were expected to shift to the HOPWA program for longer term assistance.

Schmid said that in recent years, people seeking help under the HOPWA program faced long waiting lists, forcing them to turn to the Ryan White Act’s “emergency” program as an alternative means of assistance.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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