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Comments from Executive Director, Marilyn Frank – Creative Living vs. Congress

June 18, 2006

Creative Living has had a very challenging past 5 months and for those of you who have not been in our e-mail loop this may be news to you. If you go to our website: www.creative-living.com you can follow the whole scenario including the newspaper articles. I will do my best to summarize for you.

Early this year, Creative Living was made aware of some legislation that became law with serious implications for Creative Living and our mission.

Because of some abuse of Section 8 housing in Iowa where it was found that scholarship athletes were living in Section 8 housing rent free regardless of their income, Senator Harkin of Iowa wrote legislation intended to prohibit student-athletes with athletic scholarships from receiving Section 8 rental assistance. Specifically, Senator Harkin's legislation prohibits Section 8 assistance to students enrolled in “an institution of higher education,” who are under 24 years old, unmarried, non-veterans with no dependent children and who would not be individually eligible or have parents who would be eligible for this program. Additionally, any financial assistance in excess of amounts received for tuition must be counted as income in determining Section 8 eligibility.

Unfortunately, Senator Harkin's law had an unintended consequence in not exempting persons with disabilities. At this time, we had 6 of our 34 residents under the age of 24 and students. In fact, in our 31 year history, 61 of our 131 residents were students and under the age of 24 at move in. This new law would have a serious impact on Creative Living’s mission and future. Creative Living immediately issued a press release.

Creative Living, with the help of many people, started a letter writing campaign to our Ohio Congressional leaders. In one week, we brought Creative Living’s plight to Congress's attention. Representative Deborah Pryce wrote a letter to HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson asking him to make sure the new law didn't wind up harming disabled students. Basically, HUD knows the intent of the legislation was not to hurt people with disabilities pursuing higher education but HUD cannot create exemptions where the legislation does not permit it. Basically, Congress has to fix the law they made. HUD's responsibility is to write the regulations to implement the law.

We hit the The Columbus Dispatch several times over this period. (See our website)

May 24, 2006, Congresswoman Deborah Pryce’s legislation to remedy a law negatively impacting disabled students living in government subsidized housing was unanimously approved by the Financial Services Committee. Now the bill needed to go to the House and then to the Senate and would become law after the President’s signature. We were assured that everything should go as planned.

At this point Creative Living was very optimistic that everything would pass.

On June 7, 2006, I was contacted by Alex Wayne a reporter with Congressional Quarterly in Washington D.C. who informed me that the bill was yanked from the House schedule late the night before. Apparently, the Congressional Budget Office said it would cost $1 billion over five years if it became law. The CBO, not thinking logically, said that many more disabled people who aren't currently eligible for Sec. 8 would become eligible due to the bill, hence the cost. Again we hit the press.

Now we have a bureaucratic nightmare. In the meantime, Representative Pryce immediately worked to pass an amended bill protecting the students with disabilities that lived in Section 8 before November 2005. At this point we have passed the House and are waiting on the Senate.

The news is bitter sweet in that it does protect our current residents so they can remain at Creative Living and finish their education but the future is a different story. Representative Pryce promises to continue working with the Congressional Budget Office to get the figures right so she can proceed with getting legislation to exempt students with disabilities.

More press: As an article from Jonathan Riskind in The Columbus Dispatch of June 18 states “Housing Fix Takes Ridiculous Detour”. He said “Marilyn Frank has received the full taste of the frustrating and often ridiculous world known as Capitol Hill.” He could not have said it better.

Yes, we are constituents whose voice was heard by Congress. But we need to continue our efforts to get a 7th exemption for the disabled. We are very appreciative of the efforts so far in exempting our current students but we need our Congressional leaders to continue working to exempt the disabled so Creative Living can continue their mission without age parameters. We welcome your help in our legislative efforts. We want to encourage you to contact Representative Deborah Pryce and Senator Mike DeWine or your own representatives. Contact us ( info@creative-living.com or 614-421-1226) and I will tell you how you can help. While we appreciate the efforts so far, we need our congressional leaders to continue to fight to exempt persons with disabilities from this ruling. Thank you in advance for caring and helping us with this issue.

Marilyn Frank, Executive Director

 

 

 

 
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