LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The U.S. House of Representatives will consider an amendment Friday that would eliminate millions of dollars in federal housing assistance for those living with HIV.
Congressman Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican, submitted an amendment to the House Rules Committee earlier this year to eliminate the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, or HOPWA, program. It sat there until Wednesday night when a change in House rules moved all amendments to the House floor for a vote.
HOPWA helps house and pay utilities for people living with HIV throughout the United States. In this current fiscal year, it was funded with $499 million.
The current proposed budget would see a $6 million increase to $505 million, says Lauren Banks, executive director National AIDS Housing coalition.
“This would cause a huge public health crisis,” she says. Her organization notes that 55,000 Americans receive direct housing assistance through the program.
Davidson did not respond to a request for comment from 6 News.
Studies have shown that people living with HIV who have stable housing are more likely to keep taking their medications. Those medications not only keep them healthy, but also prevent them from passing the virus along during childbirth, or to sexual and needle partners.
Lansing has the third highest population of people living with HIV in Michigan – coming in behind Detroit and Grand Rapids.
The Lansing Area AIDS Network oversees the funds distributed by the federal government to the state and then to local agencies.
Kristina Schmigdall, executive director of LAAN, says the loss of HOPWA dollars would cause “a significant reduction in the number of people we can serve.”
Schmigdall was unable to immediately provide how much money the agency received through HOPWA nor how many clients it served in the last year. The agency provides funds to support people living with HIV in Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham and Shiawassee counties. Jackson County is supported by Unified, an organization based in Ypsilanti.
“It would mean some of our clients would become homeless,” she says.
State Sen. Sarah Anthony represents Lansing in the Michigan Senate. Before ascending to the legislature, she served on the Ingham County Commission where she says they dug deep into HIV-related data.
“I have not been briefed on this yet, but that’s jarring, right?” she says. “You know, before I became a state lawmaker, I served on the Ingham County Commission and we would dissect data as it relates to our health outcomes. We know that there is a huge percentage of our population that is living with HIV.”
She says she believes it’s important to keep people healthy and remove barriers and will be looking more into the HOPWA funding issue.
Banks says the debate is slated to begin Friday morning sometime after 1 a.m. with a vote to occur sometime before noon.