Acting after concerns were raised by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday reversed a decision which had threatened to cut funding for critical housing programs in five regions across Oregon.
Merkley said HUD had decided to reduce the number of staff it would fund in some local housing authorities because errors in HUD’s own data led local housing authorities to under-report the number of Oregonians their programs served.
As one example of problems created by the HUD website, the Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority (Housing Works) received funding for only one Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program Coordinator instead of two.
As a result, Housing Works has had to lay off caseworkers and reduce the amount of households they are able to help. Other housing authorities threatened with staffing cuts include Linn-Benton, Northeast Oregon, Marion County and Yamhill County.
“No Oregonians should lose their jobs or lose the roof over their head because a government website made a mistake,” said Merkley. “There’s nothing more frustrating than when you have to pay the price for a government agency’s screw-up, and to their credit, HUD fixed this problem promptly.”
In order to correct the awards that were reduced due to mistaken data, HUD is reaching out to all regional organizations that have been affected and is allowing them to re-apply for full funding. Additionally, they are working to improve the quality of data on their website so this doesn’t happen in the future.
The program in question is the Family Self Sufficiency Program, which provides housing vouchers and promotes self-sufficiency through efforts to educate participants in job hunting and financial planning.
Over 140 Oregonians have graduated from the Central Oregon Housing Works FSS program, and it has been instrumental in helping families support themselves, the senator said.
The Central Oregon Housing Works FSS Program currently has over 100 families participating in the program, a number that would have been reduced if HUD had not fixed this problem.