Empower Missouri has been saying it for years: Homelessness in the United States is a solvable crisis. It is unacceptable that our neighbors work full time jobs and are still unable to cover their basic necessities, like nutrition and housing. According to the 2021 Out of Reach report, parents in Missouri need to work a 65-hour work week (at minimum wage) to afford a decent 2 bedroom rental. The minimum wage increase from $10.30 to $12 over the next few years will begin to alleviate some of this burden for families, but the wage increase is still not enough. It falls well below the $16.66 housing wage in Missouri. Even then, if a renter were able to pay 30% of their income toward housing, it leaves little wiggle room for much else. Childcare, meals, transportation, and healthcare costs would quickly deplete any of their financial gains. We have to do better for our community members, but Missouri can’t solve it alone.
Homelessness and the extreme lack of affordable housing are problems across our country. Representative Cori Bush (MO – 01) knows how hard life can be when someone is without a home. As a single mom, she experienced a period of homelessness following an eviction. After being elected to congress in 2020, Bush has worked tirelessly to save families from experiencing similar troubles. In July, she introduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights to end the homeless crisis by 2025. Her efforts to bring awareness to the homeless crisis also went as far as sleeping on the steps of her new office building and the U.S. Capitol and demanding that congress extend the eviction moratorium this past summer.
Over the last two years, all of us have seen how the global COVID-19 pandemic has harmed Missouri families and pushed them further into poverty. The housing crisis became so bad during the pandemic that Congress had to delegate historic levels of rental and utility assistance to keep people in their homes. The American Rescue Plan included 70,000 additional housing vouchers and an infusion of cash to states and localities that could’ve been used for housing. However, the aid has been very slow in reaching renters who need it. And, because of this, evictions are moving forward as people urgently wait for rental assistance.
To speed up the disbursal of emergency rental assistance, the Biden administration has taken new action on the national level to protect Missouri renters. In late August, the administration announced new measures to speed up state and local grantees’ delivery of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) to help keep American families stably housed.
Additionally, the administration has introduced its Build Back Better Act to also help struggling communities in Missouri. The bill includes housing investments upwards of $327 billion. It also includes $90 billion for rental assistance, $80 billion for public housing, and $37 billion in the National Housing Trust Fund. Missouri could certainly use our portion of those funds to support our neighbors. We are confident these improvements, including a deeper investment in rental vouchers paired with state level policies, will help our neighbors stay in their homes.
We cannot wait any longer to address the housing crisis! Now is the time to pass the Build Back Better Act without any cuts to housing or nutrition programs to protect renters and homeowners with low incomes.
We are so close to making major housing investments! Contact your senators and representatives TODAY and urge them to include the highest funding level possible for the HoUSed.
Policy and Advocacy Director