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Morning Sun
  • Section 8 facing tough cuts

  • Section 8 housing is a program that provides assistance for low-income housing. What it isn't is getting any easier for officials to administer.

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    Section 8 housing is a program that provides assistance for low-income housing. What it isn't is getting any easier for officials to administer.

    Budget cuts are hitting the housing authorities that provide Section 8 housing, meaning fewer families are getting assistance.

    "Much of Section 8 is up in the air," said Steve Lohr, executive director of SEK-CAP, which is the Section 8 housing authority for Crawford County. "We don't have precise numbers. Until July 25th, we won't be able to hammer that out."

    Deena Hallacy, Pittsburg community development specialist, said that she continues to see cuts every year. But it's important to first recognize how these groups get and use the money.

    First, low-income housing is at 50 percent of the area median income. What does that mean? For a one-person family, it's up to $19,350. For a family of four, that's $27,600.

    Each housing authority is allocated a maximum number of housing vouchers it could give out each year. Also, they're given a certain amount of funding to provide that assistance. Further, the agencies get a certain amount of administrative dollars for staff and other needs.

    "We have a number of 429 vouchers that are assigned to us. Because of cutting, we've only leased about 330 units," Hallacy said. "We have to stay with a dollar amount, or you have to stay under the number of vouchers issued to us. The money amount has been cut so much, we've not been able to get up to that for a number of years. The number leased is continuing to go down."

    SEK-CAP is in the same boat. They have the authority to give out as many as 407 vouchers each year, but have only used in the low 300s. And as the number of vouchers they're able to lease go down, so do the administrative dollars. And even that per-voucher allocation has been cut.

    "Sequestration hit Section 8 as much as any other program," Lohr said. "They reduced the administrative resources. That's the universal refrain. It's just fewer money."
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    At a recent city commission meeting, Pittsburg city manager Daron Hall said that some of the staff positions in Pittsburg could be covered in other parts of the budget.

    Lohr said reserves are helping at SEK-CAP, but there are only so many reserves available. Already, $30,000 is being pulled from the reserves.

    Lohr said that he feels Housing and Urban Development is pushing agencies to pool their resouces and work together more. But working together won't necessarily solve the issue of declining funds to run the program.

    "People say well, cut the administrative costs, but the paperwork is mindnumbingly intense, and we have a spartan crew. I know other groups are equally challenged," Lohr said. "Fewer people served mean fewer administrative dollars. That's where they cut. It's beginning to cause folks to see how they can work with other organizations or if they can offer it at all. We're not at that point for us."
     
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