HUD funding headed to Hawaii County to help families reach self-sufficiency

KAILUA-KONA — More than $66,000 is headed to the Hawaii County Housing Agency to help residents living in public housing to reach self-sufficiency.

The funding is among $74 million awarded to hundreds of public housing authorities across the country. Some $441,896 in total has been awarded to five public housing agencies in Hawaii, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced Thursday. The Hawaii Public Housing Authority was awarded $72,000.

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The funding, HUD said, will help the agencies to continue helping public housing residents participating in the Housing Choice Voucher Program and/or reside in public housing to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on public assistance and rental subsidies.

The grants renew HUD’s support of 688 public housing authorities through the department’s Family Self-Sufficiency program. The program helps local public housing authorities hire service coordinators who work directly with residents to connect them with programs and services that already exist in the local community. It encourages innovative strategies that link housing assistance with a broad spectrum of services that will 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.

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FSS participants sign a five-year contract that requires the head of the household to obtain employment and that no member of the household will receive certain types of public assistance at the end of the five-year term. These families 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 debt reduction to improve credit scores, educational expenses, or a down payment on a home.

HUD said the average household income of FSS participants nearly tripled during their time in the program, from $10,000 at the time of entry to more than $27,000 upon program completion.

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