Budget cuts could equal evictions
Sequestration may squeeze rental assistance program
It's looking less likely that Congress will reach a deal to avoid $85 billion in automatic budget cuts by this Friday, which means many in Hawaii are bracing for the fallout.
Including over 3,500 families who receive rental assistance. They are on notice that -- that help could suddenly end.
Marin Tower is just one of the many public housing buildings owned by the city. It is also one of the places the city sent letters to residents who receive Section 8 housing assistance.
The letters inform renters that if automatic budget cuts take effect their housing assistance may be terminated.
Shawna Jan Allan has a number of friends in the building who received the letter. She worries about what will happen to the woman who just recently started receiving federal assistance.
"She doesn't know where she's going to go. It came as a shock to her and to everyone who got one of those letters," said Allan.
Uncertainty, over the fate of the federal budget is the reason for the letters from the city.
"We're not sure what is going to come out of Washington D.C., and what solutions will come from D.C.," said the Department of Community Services Director Designate Pamela Witty-Oakland.
Witty-Oakland does know that if cuts are made to the federal program, the clock would start ticking before vouchers disappear.
"If we find out on March 1, it would be May 1 before anyone would be without a voucher. It would take 60 days," said Witty-Oakland.
Section 8 vouchers pay for the portion of a rent greater than 30 percent of the income of the household.
But not all participants in the program got a letter.
The Hawaii Public Housing Authority expected budget cuts and reduced spending and the number vouchers given out ahead of time.
"We staffed at that reduced level, issued vouchers for that level and we manage it as if we don't have the money. The money we have saved up will pay for the next six months and a little reserve that we have should tide us over for a year. So we should be OK," said Hakim Ouansafi, with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority.
Those with city vouchers instead wait, worry and wonder what will happen on Friday.
"I check the rents all the time. I just hope those residents have friend and relatives who can take them in," said Allan.
According to the city, those who came into the Section 8 program last would be the first removed. They would then be put on the waiting list. A waiting list so long, some families have been on it since 2006.
How much money would families be out? The state said the average amount of assistance is just under $1,100 per month.
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