WASHINGTON DC -- Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy, Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing & Insurance, today delivered the following remarks in support of the Family Self Sufficiency Act (H.R. 4258).
The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program is an existing employment and savings incentive initiative for families that have Section 8 vouchers or live in public housing. The FSS program provides two key tools for its participants: first, it provides access to the resources and training that help participants pursue employment opportunities and meet financial goals, and second, it encourages FSS families to save by establishing an interest-bearing escrow account for them.
To streamline the FSS program, this legislation combines two separate FSS programs into one. This authority has already been provided through the HUD appropriations bill, but the FSS Act would make that authority permanent. Previously, HUD operated one FSS program for those families being served by the Housing Choice Voucher Program and another for those families being served by the Public Housing program. The Family Self Sufficiency Act passed in a bipartisan fashion, with a vote of 412-5.
To view Congressman Duffy’s remarks on the legislation, click HERE or the image below.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today in support of H.R. 4258, the Family Self-Sufficiency Act. This legislation will streamline a program designed to help those unable to purchase a home, while reducing their dependency on welfare assistance and rental assistance provided by the government.
“I want to thank my colleague from Missouri, my friend from Missouri, Mr. Cleaver, for all of his bipartisan and helpful work on this legislation. It passed out of our committee 58 to 0, which is somewhat historic for the Financial Services Committee. Now, the Family Self-Sufficiency Act, or FSS, is focused on helping families in public housing and the housing choice voucher program. The goal is to utilize a number of services coordinated through the program to help families with individual training to increase their employability and become less dependent on assistance. These services can include basic education, child care, transportation, education, financial literacy, mental health referrals, and home ownership counseling. While receiving these services, an interest-bearing escrow account is established for the family that can be used for any purpose once the family has graduated from the program.
“Now, currently HUD operates one program for families served by the housing choice voucher program and a separate program for those families served by the public housing program. This legislation will combine those two separate FSS programs into one to streamline and reduce regulatory burdens. The bill will also broaden the scope of supportive services that may be offered to families that could include attainment of a G.E.D., education in pursuit of a postsecondary degree or certification, and, I think this is important, but training in financial literacy. Lastly, H.R. 4258 opens the FSS program to families that live in privately owned properties that are subsidized by project-based rental assistance.
“Now, 4,793 families have successfully completed the program, with 1,557 graduates exiting rental assistance within another 606 graduates that eventually went on and were able to purchase a home. So more than 10% of the people who graduate from the program go on to buy a home.
“I want to leave you with just a quick anecdote, a written testimony that came to our committee from the Compass Working Capital Group. And it's a story about Tanya, and she graduated from the FSS program in Lynn, Massachusetts. Now, when Tanya enrolled in the FSS program in she had been receiving housing assistance for about four years. She was working full time and raising two children, but she had bigger dreams. And one of those dreams was to one day own a house. At the time, Tanya believed that owning a home was, in her words quote, ‘not for families like mine.’ A low-income, single mother who came from a family where no one has ever owned a home. So when Tanya graduated from the program, she got the assistance, got the counseling, and in the end, she was able to increase her annual income by $8,000, she was able to improve her credit score by 140 points, pay down her debt, and save $3,000.
“She graduated from the program in 2015 and achieved her dream of becoming a homeowner the first person in her family to do. And she said, ‘but what makes me happiest of all is seeing my children love their new home.’ And she said, ‘thanks to the Compass FSS program, now I too believe that families like mine can get ahead, live better, and accomplish our big dreams and goals such as buying a home.’
“This is a remarkable story of a program that actually works. That helps people get from public assistance into self-sufficiency, and hopefully into home ownership. And I think it's this kind of artful review of policy that our committee has done in a bipartisan level that brings us to reforms that can look at the successes of a program, but build upon those successes and make them work for more families.
“Again, I want to thank my colleagues and friends across the aisle for working on this legislation and again bringing it out with such a bipartisan vote. With that, I would reserve the balance of my time.”