TRANSCRIPT: NLIHC Webinar about Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

Here is a draft transcript from the NLIHC webinar held on 3/20. It focused on the proposed federal budget cuts.  Also, this report looks helpful for local advocacy efforts while members are on recess April 10th-21st.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Hi everybody thank you so much for joining us today for the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding webinar on How Advocates Can Help Stop President Trump's $7 Billion Cut to HUD in Its Tracks. My name is Elayne Weiss and I am the senior policy analyst at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding or CHCDF is an education strategy and action hub for national organizations dedicated to adequate Federal housing and community Development Funding for lower income families and communities. CHCDF members represent a full continuum of national housing and community development organizations including faith-based, private sector, financial, intermediary, public sector and advocacy groups. Joining us today on today's webinar is Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Barbara Sard, Vice President for housing policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Trey Reffett, the policy director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Just a few pieces of housekeeping information. If you have a question during the webinar feel free to type it into the question box. Please use that rather than the chat box. And know that we'll answer the questions at the end of the webinar. And we will have both the recording and the PowerPoint slides made available to you. You'll receive them in an email tomorrow I think about 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. >> Thank you Sarah for that piece of housekeeping.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: This is our agenda for today so we have a lot to cover so I'll cover over to Diane to give some opening remarks.
>> DIANE YENTEL: Great thanks Elayne and welcome everybody to today's webinar. We have over 3,000 organizations that registered for this webinar today which I think tells us a couple of things, one that things are very dire. That the threats facing affordable housing and community development programs are more significant than they have been in years maybe in decades and it tells us also that we are together ready to activate and to mobilize and together we can be very powerful. We've been really heartened by the number of people and organizations that have been reaching out to find out what more you can do to protect these vital resources and that's what today's webinar is all about. Because Trump's budget is even worse than many of us feared it might be. In order to increase the military budget by tens of billions of dollars, he would eliminate or drastically reduce much of the country's social safety net for low and moderate income households, including seniors, Veterans, people with disabilities, families with kids struggling to get by. And at a time when the United States already spends more on its military than the next 8 top spending countries combined and when America's pervasive housing crisis has reached historic heights, impacting most severely the lowest income people, the proposed budget truly is unconscionable and unacceptable. Just as a few examples of why. President Trump would cut or drastically reduce vital resources assisting some of the most vulnerable people in rural, urban and suburban communities alike. He would eliminate community development block grants which provides communities with flexible funding to address local needs as varied as Meals-On-Wheels food programs for isolated and hungry seniors to creating home ownership opportunities for low-income families he would eliminate the home investments partnership program which provides critical gap financing to make the construction and rehab of affordable homes impossible. He would eliminate entirely funding for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness of able works -- Neighborhood Works America and the only resource available to help low income people avoid unwarranted evictions and the list goes on. He would eliminate LIHEAP that keeps the heat on throughout cold winters in the homes of seniors and families with young kids and eliminate support programs that provide services to homeless and at-risk Veterans and their families. Outside of the budget process, Mr. Trump seeks to implement work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Putting punitive requirements between some of the most vulnerable Veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and their necessary often life-saving health care. This exist and others like it leave little doubt that Mr. Trump will try to move forward with planned efforts to attach similar requirements across the social safety net. So there are three things that I think are important to keep in mind about this budget proposal. One is that despite the spin from the White House, this budget has nothing to do with reducing the deficit. It would increase military spending at the expense of resources serving struggling households throughout the country. The second thing to know is that while the proposed HUD budget claims that it can find savings of over $3 billion through quote-unqoute reforms, that's simply impossible. Don't believe that one for a moment. The cuts that are contemplated in this budget would necessitate cutting back on the programs that are a back stop between housing vulnerable people and their eviction and possible homelessness. Then the third thing and maybe most important thing to know about this budget is that it can be stopped. We absolutely can stop these cuts if we mobilize and act together to prevent them. This budget proposal is just the beginning of what will likely be a long and protracted fight over funding the Federal Government. You're already likely hearing people refer to the proposal as a marker. It's an early point of discussion and debate. People note that it will not become law. And this is all very likely true. It's certainly receiving a very cool reception even among conservative repup cans on Capitol Hill and there's a saying in DC that the President proposes and Congress disposes that's likely never been truer than with this budget proposal and its pretty much extreme overreach but at the same time we have to be very aware that this budget proposal has moved goal posts so far that it can create an environment that cuts only half as deep or saving some programs saved for illumination while others still receive these funds can be seen as reasonable compromises and they are not and this is unacceptable. Also unacceptable are any vague promises of replacing these regular annual funding for key housing and community development programs with a one-time spending boost in a remotely possible infrastructure spending bill which has also been suggested. So the work starts now to defeat this budget soundly. We will work with allies in Congress and with each of you, residents, partners, stakeholders and advocates across the country, to ensure that Congress maintains funding for all critical affordable housing and community development programs. So thank you for taking the time to get on today's webinar. Thank you for your commitment, for your important work. And most of all, thank you for your advocacy now and in the future. It's never been more important. Elayne, I'll turn it back to you.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Thank you so much, Diane. So next on the call is Barbara Sard from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who will give an overview of the budget.
>> BARBARA SARD: Okay. So good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining us for this call. As Diane has said, the HUD budget itself is pretty scary combined with the other proposed program eliminations or cuts. And the adverse impacts they would have on low-income families and communities. I want to go over some of the same issues and talk a little bit more about how they fit in the overall budget process. As Diane mentioned, the cut of 6.2 billion from the HUD budget compared to 2016 and even more from the level of funding we still expect to see in 2017 based on what the House incentive has passed is part of a strategy from the White House to reduce funding for the non-defense discretionary programs overall by $54 billion below the already reduced caps that are due to go into effect in 2018 under the Budget Control Act. While also increasing the amount of non-defense discretionary funding available for immigration enforcement, wall at the border, Veterans programs, and other priorities of the Trump Administration. It's an inherent math problem if you don't want to raise revenue, you don't want to cut entitlements and don't want to increase the deficit, the only place to go is the non-defense part of the budget. Even though as the slide you're looking at shows that it's already been cut substantially since 2010. And so while I completely agree with what Diane is saying that we can beat these cuts if we all work together, we have to realize that this bigger budget strategy that we're up against is going to create some real challenges that will be difficult to overcome. And so what we really need to do is prove the value of these investments so that we cannot only preserve them but come up with a strategy for better funding them in the future and increasing the amount committed to these programs. So what we know on the HUD side is that first of all the President proposes to freeze or modestly cut renewal funding for all of the rental assistance programs. And the Center has estimated that under a freeze scenario from 2016, we would lose about 200,000 vouchers and we posted on our Web site how it would be distributed by state. Now the HUD proposed cut is about 13%. The Department of Agriculture cut would be 21%, although there are no specifics yet that enable us to know what he might be proposing for the rural housing programs in addition to the freeze on rental assistance renewals we know that he's proposing to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant -- the home block grant choice neighborhoods and other programs. So the freeze plus the block grant eliminations is only 4.1 billion out of the 6.2 billion proposed cut. And where is the rest likely to come? We know from some linked budget documents that most of that gap is likely to be made up by about a 30% cut in the funding for public housing. And again those numbers at the state level are on our Web site. Of all of the Congressional observations in response to this budget, my favorite one is from repeat Hal Rogers a rep can Congressman from Kentucky and the former long time chair of the appropriations committee who said the cuts are draconian, careless and counter productive. I couldn't have said it better myself. As Diane mentioned, the kind of throw-away line that Director mull veiny of the Office of Management and Budget said, oh, well don't worry about the HUD cuts we'll pick them up in an infrastructure bill, is a promise that you should never believe. It's highly unlikely that will happen. There may never be an infrastructure bill given what's being talked about now. If there is one, it may focus only on investments that can be repaid by user fees as the Trump campaign had proposed which wouldn't work for any of the HUD programs. And there has been no sign of willingness by the Trump Administration or by Republicans in Congress to include money for housing. And under no circumstance would an infrastructure bill cover rental assistance or the kinds of services that are linked -- that are integrated in many of the HUD programs. So as Diane mentioned, this is the opening bid in a long process. And our task together is to persuade Congress and the public that these investments are worth it. Indeed that we need more funding for these programs in order to make progress on homelessness community revitalization and other goals. So our goal must be not just to defeat the President's proposal, to defeat the $54 billion cut, but to raise the Budget Control Act cap to avoid sequestration. So as you can see, from the slide, that in 2018 under the sequestration level of the Budget Control Act, we would lose $14 billion adjusted for inflation compared to 2017. And then it would go further decrease of 54 billion under a Trump proposal. Without an increase in the overall NDD cap above the $516 billion level, it will be very difficult to get increased funding for HUD overall. And without increased funding for HUD overall, it will be close to impossible to maintain current rental assistance in terms of the number of households assisted. And at the same time avoid cuts to block grants, public housing, and other programs. So what you're going to hear a lot about in Washington is this word parity for any increase in spending there has to be a defense -- decrease in non-defense spending that may sound like words to you but it's all about raising this $516 billion cap that the law otherwise requires that -- to apply across the board. My most important message is don't give up, the Trump proposal is not popular on the Hill now it will hopefully become less popular as representatives hear from their constituents. An appropriations bill and any change in the Budget Control Act to increase defense spending will require 60 votes in the Senate. And there is no apparent way to -- for the Trump Administration to get that level of support in the Senate without a very, very dramatic shift in the priorities in the budget. It will be a long year. But we have to keep up this fight because as Diane said, it is one we can win. Thank you.
>> ELAYNE WEISS:  So next we're going to move on to our next section of the webinar with Trey Reffett from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation who will speak of an opportunity for advocacy.
>> TREY REFFETT: Thank you. And thanks for everybody on the webinar for joining us. It's a critical time. So it's really heartening to see so many people eager to engage with their communities and their local leaders. So I've recently hit ten years of experience working on seeking community building. I spent the last year working in the Congressional affairs -- as a Senior Advisor in the Congressional affairs office at HUD and before that I was in Senator Reid's office for nine years during my time there I worked on social safety net issues as well as housing and homelessness issues. And fought quite a few fights around doing some of the things that pop up in this budget in terms of testing, systems beneficiaries in terms of dramatic cuts to programs, scaling back block granting. So luckily a lot of us have fought these fights.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: So you have a good sense of what moves lawmakers, what gets them listening to advocates.
>> TREY REFFETT: Yeah that's a great question. So first and foremost, have data. Have the data that is going to back up your request so that you can come and support what you're asking for with results-driven information. So that's key to anything. Particularly when we're talking about making -- pushing against austerity measures, the numbers that show what we're doing really matters. So that's core to anything. But after that, knowing that everybody has really great data because our work is really important and really impactful. I would say when you're approaching on audience, -- an office, know your audience know whether the member has worked in your area before. Were they formerly a Mayor, formerly with a community development organization? Also people overlook the role of their spouse in these efforts. I think that's important, as well. And the state or district director. A lot of these offices and a lot of these communities are pretty small so you would be surprised who associated with that member has worked with organizations you're familiar with. And those are often leverage points and that will shape the language that you use when bringing in information. Also when meeting with a staffer, note if they are new to the issue, to the -- know if they are new or to the member office know if they are seasoned staff or if coalitions you have networked with have met with them before so you know how much background you need to give them. If you have a sense of relationship. That's always important. Also if you have a relationship with them you can get a sense of whether they are more emotionally driven or data driven and bring the necessary tools with you. But I would say in addition to all of that, now more than ever we need to work on establishing our narrative. We have an incredible story to tell across all of these program areas and the influence of these Federal investments in our communities and we need to do that. Key to investing -- or establishing that narrative is creating a story. Because stories will win the war. Stories plant themselves in peoples' minds and will be what really drives them forward. You want the data to confirm those stories. But you want something that will make that individual you're meeting with, not forget you, not forget the program that you're advocating for. And not forget the people that benefit from those and that's the key.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: I would like to add that the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding is made up of many members who produce and research a lot of data so if you ever need data please feel free to reach out to us. We just put out a report called A Place To Call Home that makes that case for increased Federal investment in housing by talking through why housing helps health outcomes, education outcomes, what the real positive impacts that housing has on peoples' lives. It also includes over 100 housing success stories of people who were directly impacted by both HUD investments. We talked a little bit about the narrative when crafting that narrative what stands out in your mind as the most effective messages to share with Members of Congress?
>> TREY REFFETT: I think making that message hyper-local is very important if you can get somebody in their neighborhood and their community that will resonate both kind of on a broader level of how they interact with their constituents back home, a message they can take back but also on a very personal level I want to give two anecdotes both one that affected me and one that affected my boss when I was on the Hill. In terms of something that really stuck with me when I was doing my work around the Recovery Act I went on a tour a local organization took me on a tour of homes that benefited from weatherization funding. We went to this one family. I walked in the door. And the owner of the home was there with her three kids but also her extended family had -- in the dining room kind of waiting for us to walk in and they were really excited to tell their story. The woman talked about the small investment of the weatherization program in terms of improving -- getting rid of drafts in their home, wrapping their water heater. I think it was ultimately under $1,000 investment but the impact on her utility bill reduced her need -- she was able to get off SNAP and she just felt so empowered and she felt that this tiny investment allowed her to kind of fulfill what she thought a mother should be to her children and her independence was something that she was proud to bring to her family. And it just -- that -- early in my career. Every time I think about it I get kind of a little emotional but also it drives me forward in why I was doing some of this work and why these investments are important. And so that time that that organization spent on getting that visit prepared for me and the warrior I became for those programs and those people in that office, the return on that investment was priceless. And one other anecdote. So when Senator Reid had an opportunity to go back to Nevada, he met with a young woman who was -- had eaten some bad spinach and because of that there was E. Coli in that and she got very, very sick and it really impacted her life. And she wanted to talk to him about food safety and improvements in our food safety system. And because of that meeting, he went from someone who was a supporter of changes to USDA and improving food safety to a huge advocate for food safety reform. And was a driving force on the food safety Modernization Act that passed in 2010. So even when you're talking to somebody who you think is an ally, there is an opportunity to strike an emotional cord with them that turns that ally into a leading advocate regardless of their position on the committee, regardless of their history. That's why these stories that couple with good data are so essential. You need -- again we're doing fantastic work. And we're impacting peoples' lives. And just confirming that and giving some -- giving these members something to rally against oraly with is -- or rally with is critical.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Great, President Trump has really relied on the populous rhetoric throughout his campaign and term in office however his budget is anything but that. We can all agree on that. How can advocates capitalize on that messaging and turn it on him to further support affordable housing programs?
>> TREY REFFETT: I'll keep hammering the same message I think President Trump has shown us that anecdote can often over come fact and common sense and that's why these stories are so important if you have something that you can hold up as a champion or point to as to why this impacts your community, you can push through a lot of opposition again it really helps that a lot of our work is supported by incredible data. So our job over the next four years is to remind people that these programs are not for others. They are for us. That the beneficiaries are not them. They are us. They are ours. We make communities. So we need to tell that story of how our work shapes our communities, has shaped it and will continue to shape it in a very positive way going forward. So again it's about how our programs are already in the community, are already helping our neighbors, our friends or family. >> ELAYNE WEISS: Okay so you've got your pledging down. It's solid. You're ready to retalk to your Members of Congress. What's the best way to do that? Is it through meeting? Site visits? The media? What should people do.
>> TREY REFFETT: We're at such a critical time we need to use all of the tools we have in our toolbox. I would say you need to think of multiple points of entry into any member's office and to the mind of the member you're trying to influence. Starting out with op eds and getting stories about your local -- the impact of your work in local media is important. Both to get in the mind of local staffers, to get in the mind of the communications director in that office. And just building out your support for members of that community as a whole. Working in the district. I think people often think district is just constituent services and DC is just policy. But oftentimes the district director is as critical in influencing the member as anybody in the DC office. Usually the district director is a long-time advisor for that member. And hearing from that person and the local staff that this is really important to his constituents, his or her constituents is going to be really important going forward. Don't discount that. Don't just think you have to push this stuff to DC. Also, again, site visits. Trying to get a staff member out to see the work that's being done is important. You're not going to get a member right away. No staffer would let their member go into an unknown unless they are forced to by the member. But -- so don't think spending time getting that local staffer to an event, to a meeting, to just a tour of what you guys are doing is not going to pay dividends. I would also say long-term investment because 1 in 6 Members of Congress both -- including both the House and Senate are former staffers so that's an immediate investment that can reach long-term benefits.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Great so we're coming up to a long Congressional break that runs from April 10th through April 21st. When is the best time to schedule those meetings?
>> TREY REFFETT: You want to get in early. You want to give those staffers a reason to come out. It's easy for them to kind of focus on what's going on on the Hill and by the time they are right up against recess to say oh I really wish I had something to justify my travel expense. So get those requests in early. And be flexible with your time. Knowing that things shift very quickly but persistence and flexibility are key.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Okay so now that you've got your meeting scheduled, what should you do to prepare for that meeting?
>> TREY REFFETT: So I would say experiences stick in peoples' mind. So a bad site visit could even if that staffer or member is sympathetic could really have a long -- a long-term impact on your relationship with that member office so run through your site visit. Know who you're talking to. Know who -- where all of the steps in the process are. And try to make that as finely tuned as you can to show that you value that member's or staffer's time that's really important. I've gone on a couple of site visits where I really want to love the work they are doing and it just seems so haphazard that they kind of threw it together at the last minute. Even though I wanted to fight for them, a little bit of the fight is taken away if it just seems like it's a bungled operation and you have to worry about potential bad stories coming out or people are not running their processes correctly. I would say humanize whenever possible. Again this is going back to try to make this hyperlocal, try to make this personal, try to give both the staff and the members anecdotes that they can then carry forward that sticks in their minds. And also that you can say, look, this is the impact of your actions both positively and negatively the negatively part should be unsaid. You want to try to keep this as positive as possible. Give them a narrative to bring them along. Give them talking points to bring them along.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Should you be reaching out to other groups if you're doing an in district meeting to perhaps try to coordinator anything like that.
>> TREY REFFETT: Yeah if it's possible. If you think there's a story to tell that you're one part of that could benefit from having multiple organizations and multiple sites on a tour, I think that's really helpful because that could establish kind of a broader narrative. You're a group in a morning that leads to whatever you're -- whether you're doing financial literacy and you partner with an organization that's into job placement then go to a site visit of where individuals have been placed, I mean that could -- just think about the narrative that you're trying to set and what could be additive to that. And particularly with the time we're in right now. People are focused on jobs. Going back to Trump's populous rhetoric, how our work is actually empowering individuals to enter the workforce and maintain themselves in the workforce, empowering them to be on their own and empowered individuals, how your time with that staffer that helped establish that narrative and allow them to bring the narrative to the press to the member that member brings it to the House floor and supports the request that you're asking them.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Is there a way you can elevate the profile of your site visit or meeting I'm thinking how do you get the media involved?
>> TREY REFFETT: Well I think the media is going to be interested in the member. Having even a staffer doing a site visit going to the press and saying, hey, we have -- we just had this member office engaged. Here is what we took them on. Here is the impact of our work. You can kind of lock that member into your organization by saying we showed them the value of our action. So that's a great way to do it. Get the media on board after to try to get a larger profile of your work on that site, if possible. You can ask if the member's office is okay with having a reporter shadow. That would be a huge accomplishment. I personally would never feel comfortable with that for a couple of reasons. I would be hesitant to ask the real questions I would want to ask because I wouldn't want anything directly attributed to my boss if I'm just trying to do a basic fact finding or ask questions in a way that would give me ammunition against opposition, I wouldn't want people to think that I am opposed to these programs so I would be a little less candid a little less forthcoming as a staffer so that's why I think trying to do it after the visit is better then it would give the members some time to provide a positive response, as well.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Okay. So we've gone over a lot of things people should do when they are advocating. Is there anything you would recommend against when doing their advocacy work?
>> TREY REFFETT: Yeah, if you see things -- well, I would not -- you do not want to get into a debate or confrontation. You want to shape a narrative that brings that office or that staffer or that member along with them give them an avenue towards yes and if you become conversational that will shut them down if you get into a debate about facts this will shut them down unless you think it's a lost cause, you want a pure victory -- I would say any time that you are in a strong debate with a member or staff in one of these settings, you're going discounted. You'll have less of an impact. Ultimately you want to hand them the tools to be your advocate. And trying to do that in a positive way is better than trying to get in an argument.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Thank you so much Trey for that. That was really helpful. So again we are asking Congress and the Trump Administration to work together to lift the spending caps for fiscal '18 for parity of defense and non-defense programs ensuring housing and development programs receive the highest level of funding possible so you can see on the screen that there are some actions you can take right now. One is signing our letter that has right now over 3,000 organizations and local governments on it and we would love to get more support for that letter. We're really quite pleased with how many organizations and governments have signed on but we know we could always get more. Individuals could also email Members of Congress and urge them to protect critical resources for affordable housing by visiting that link. And as we discussed you can start planning your meetings and invite your lawmakers to site visits. In order to do those things we have provided a toolkit which has the Place To Call Home report which we discussed earlier we very much encourage you to share that with your lawmakers especially if it has the fouring success stories from your district -- affordable housing -- humanizing the issue it includes talking points and sample op eds and how-tos for setting up the district and site visits if you have any questions you can feel free to reach out to me and Trey or Barbara related to the budget. And with that I'm going to turn it over to Nan for concluding remarks.
>> NAN ROMAN: Well, thanks so much. thanks to Diane, Barbara, Elayne, and Trey for really illuminating presentations. I was taking notes. And also I just want to say especially after going through all of those resources that the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding is providing really what a terrific coalition of groups that is, a wide range of different housing and community development groups that have been working together for years in easy concert to try to build support, general support for those activities. So thank you so much for that. The President's budget certainly is very important. It indicates his Administration's priorities quite clearly. And it kicks off the budget season. While the budget as other people have said that was just introduced is not going to be enacted as-is. It does unfortunately set a bar. And in this case it's a very, very low bar. Starting that low it means almost anything can be claimed as a victory or improvement over that and we need to be careful to watch out for that kind of strategy. The President's budget is very important but it really is only the first skirmish in a much longer war and we need to get organized for that. There's a lot of process ahead of us for us to be able to get where we want to go. So some of the things we have heard today and I certainly didn't get everything and maybe a little of my own thoughts about it. First is just do not hesitate to push really hard now at the outset for what it is that we need to lay that out now. We have a tremendous argument to make. The programs are effective. They are oversubscribed and underresourced now. There's all kinds of data about how they work. They link to all of the goals that people have, whether they are liberal or conservative around effectiveness, around jobs, employment, health, education outcomes, all kinds of other outcomes. We know they are effective. We have lots of stories to tell about it. So we shouldn't hesitate to make a very strong case now and establish where the real bar should be. So that we're looking at a real bar and not at the bar that's been placed there by the Administration's budget. The cuts -- we should also remember that cuts to the housing programs do not stand alone. There are a lot of cuts in a lot of other areas that are going to be severely impacting the households that we care about and making it even more difficult for them to pay for housing. Proposed cuts in health care, employment supports, education, these things are all going to affect these households. Plus private sector donors and foundations that are being touted as the people who should be stepping up to fill some of these gaps are going to be sticking their fingers in the holes in the dikes all over the place trying to stop all of these other cuts, as well it's certainly folly to think that their attention is going to be turned to housing, even if they turned all of their attention to housing, it wouldn't be enough resources to solve the housing problems that we have. I think it's really important that we keep our eye on the prize. And that prize is the money. As several people have said there's a lot of political chatter and diversion going on. But it really is about the money. We can't be diverted by talk about reform and accountability. We believe in a reform and accountability. If things need to be reformed, they should be reformed. Not eliminated. We need to watch out for discussion about adding things into the infrastructure. About not putting people out of housing. It's like getting insurance versus access to insurance. There's a lot of language that disguises what's really going on. If there is less money, fewer people are going to be in housing. And that's what we need to watch out for, focusing on the money. And finally, I think we need to bring some new voices to the chorus. Put more public and elected officials, faith-based groups, the private sector, those are voices that are going to have traction with the current Congress. Smaller cities, rural areas, the middle and south of the country I think will also need to be heard more loudly. Nonprofit organizations, Hausers, advocates, big coastal cities we should all still make our voices heard but we should also be spending more time mobilizing the other voices, as well. It's not just us continuing to say the same thing. We need a lot more people speaking up to these things. And I know from the experience on homelessness that these concerns about peoples' instability and housing and their lack of housing are becoming much more acute problems around the country and I don't think it's going to be hard to get these other voices to speak up. We know that housing is the foundation of everything else. That families and individuals cannot achieve well-being without housing. We know that everyone needs housing. And we have a strong, strong case to make. And I know that we will prevail. I have full confidence that we will prefail, if we work on this together. So thanks to everybody for putting together all of this information to help us do that today. And I turn it back to you, Elayne. >> ELAYNE WEISS: Thank you so much Nan for those inspirational words to close out our webinar.
We now have time for Q&A so I'll turn it over to Sarah who has been monitoring the board for any questions people have posed during the webinar.
>> OPERATOR: So first to kick things off we've gotten quite a few questions from people who are recognizing we are talking about Fiscal Year '18 budget proposal but asking about Fiscal Year '17 proposal and what prospects are likely for that.
>> BARBARA SARD: So it's uncertain what's going to happen. The optimistic take is from news late last week that House and Senate negotiators were hard at work putting the finishing touches on the '17 bill based on what they had done before. And that they were not prepared to consider the 11th hour 59 minute request from the Administration to add more defense spending and reduce the amount of non-defense discretionary spending available for other programs by -- I forget the amount. It was under $20 billion. But -- in order to accommodate the increased defense requests. But that was the proposearity speaking and it still -- -- the appropriator speaking and we haven't heard what the Republican leadership is going to do on that. So funding expires April 28th. We think that they will be ready to do a final bill, if they leave it within the current parameters that they were negotiating. If they decide to let the Trump Administration intervene at this point, it's more uncertain. Because if they push forward with an unequal increase in defense, a cut in non-defense, it would violate the parity principle that I mentioned when I was speaking and Senate Democrats have already announced that they will not accept that.
>> another question? >> But do we have a timeline. People recognize it's now March and the budget won't be done until October at the very earliest for Fiscal Year '18 so they wanted to understand a bit more about the process of when things are appropriated and how that works and so they can target their advocacy to that.
>> BARBARA SARD: Sure. Because of the uncertainty around 2017 and the controversy over 2018, treat all of this as just today's impression because things change. We expect that the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate will at least begin preliminary work in May assuming they do finish 2017 in April. But it's going to be difficult for them to get very far along in the process until at least each House -- respectively the House and the Senate have a number they are working towards as the overall spending for discretionary accounts in 2018. That's called the 302A. And then a division of that pie into the 12 pieces of the Appropriations Committees. That's going to be hard to do if they can't come to agreement and they kind of -- it may kind of mess things up. I would expect that we'll be lucky to see final FY18 appropriations by December.
>> ELAYNE WEISS: Thanks. Sarah, do we have any more questions? >> We do. There was a question about how -- there are so many people trying to get their stories heard so what strategies can we take to get our stories heard ahead of what are other very important stories.
>> TREY REFFETT: So I'm going to take a stap at this. And by the way, others, please feel free to weigh in. I would say that I would not look at this as a zero sum game. I think right now one of the benefits of how deep and broad the cuts are in this budget are that pretty much everyone is in agreement that this budget is terrible. And we need to have across-the-board investments in our communities. I think trying to go it alone or trying to step on top of other advocates is the worst case scenario for everyone. I think looking at building local coalitions and having the united voice is going to be the key to overcoming these very large hurdles. >> You would say instead of getting into the fight about which programs to fund over others and picking and choosing within HUD's budget that we really should keep that top-line message about the need to increase overall funding for housing but also to stop the cuts to end it overall. >> TREY REFFETT: That's exactly right and if you can have partners with you in the room you guys can all talk about the benefits to your program and it does reinforce that, look, Federal spending shapes communities in ways that would not be possible any other way. We provide benefits across the board. That's the message that needs to be brought at a time like this.
>> Yes. One question to kind of sum up and help us to keep going past this webinar, will CHCDF do weekly or monthly update calls? If not, could you please consider this? It would certainly help us stay in the know. >> ELAYNE WEISS: It's absolutely something we are considering and have on our agenda to do. We absolutely want to keep advocates informed so they can continue to do the great work on the ground up we know that they are doing. So again, thank you all for tuning into our webinar today. There was a lot of great information today that we help you really take advantage of. Thanks again so much.