An area housing authority in is among 700 across the country who will share in more than $79 million in funding, according to an announcement Tuesday from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The funds are intended to help residents of public and voucher-assisted housing increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on public assistance and rental subsidies. Specifically, the funding is intended to support education and employment among HUD-assisted families.
Locally, the Northwest Regional Housing Authority in Harrison serving clients in seven counties, including Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Searcy, is scheduled to receive $37,336 in federal funding.
Funded through HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), these grants enable public housing agencies (PHAs) to collaborate with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses and other local partners to help participants further their education, gain marketable skills, and otherwise increase their income potential through new employment or by advancing in their current workplace.
HUD’s FSS Program funding helps local public housing authorities to hire service coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with existing programs and services in the local community. These service coordinators build relationships with networks of local service providers, who provide direct assistance to FSS participants.
The broad spectrum of services made possible through FSS enables participating families to find jobs, increase earned income, reduce or eliminate the need for rental and/or welfare assistance and make progress toward achieving economic independence and housing self-sufficiency.
Participants in the program sign a five-year contract requiring the head of the household to obtain employment. In addition, no member of the FSS family may have received cash welfare assistance for 12 months prior to program graduation. Families in the FSS program have an interest-bearing escrow account established for them.
The amount credited to the family’s escrow account is based on increases in the family’s earned income during the term of the FSS contract. FSS participants who successfully complete the requirements of their FSS contract receive the escrow funds upon completion and are able to apply those funds to advance their personal circumstances, including, for example, paying educational expenses or making a down-payment on a home.
Over 90% of FY19 FSS awards are to public housing authorities with units in opportunity zones. Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, opportunity zones aim to stimulate long-term investments in low-income communities.