WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $75 million to help public housing and Housing Choice Voucher residents across the country connect with local services to improve their education and employment and to put them on a path to self-sufficiency.
Funded through HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS), these grants allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to work with social service agencies, community colleges, businesses, and other local partners to help public housing residents and individuals participating in HUD's Housing Choice Voucher Program to increase their education or gain marketable skills that will enable them to obtain employment and advance in their current work. In 2014, Congress combined funding for the Public Housing FSS (PH FSS) and Housing Choice Voucher FSS (HCV FSS) programs into one program serving both populations.
As HUD approaches its 50th anniversary next year, HUD Secretary Julián Castro is focused on advancing policies that create opportunities for all Americans, including helping families and individuals secure quality housing by connecting housing efforts to education and job opportunities.
"HUD connects folks to opportunity," said Castro. "These grants will link people to the computer access, financial literacy, job training, childcare and other tools they need to compete and succeed in the workplace. Every American deserves access to the skills and resources necessary to become self-sufficient."
HUD's FSS Program helps local public housing authorities to hire service coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with programs and services that already exist in the local community. These Service Coordinators also build relationships with the network of local service providers so as to more effectively serve the residents. The program encourages innovative strategies that link public housing and Housing Choice Voucher assistance with other resources to enable 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 that requires the head of the household to obtain employment and that no member of the FSS family is receiving cash welfare assistance at the end of the five-year term. 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. If the family successfully completes its FSS contract, the family receives the escrow funds that it can use for any purpose, including improving credit scores, paying educational expenses, or a down-payment on a home.
The Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program is a long-standing resource for increasing economic security and self-sufficiency among participants. HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research issued Evaluation of FSS Program: Prospective Study in 2011 that evaluated the effectiveness of the FSS Program. Conducted from 2005 to 2009, the study showed that financial benefits are substantial for participants who remain in and complete the program. An earlier study found that individuals who participated in the FSS program fared better financially than those who did not enroll in the program. HUD is currently conducting a longitudinal study on the program, with the first set of results expected in 2018.