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Family Self-Sufficiency -
Frequently Asked Questions

- -
 Information by State
 Print version
 

Note: The following questions and answers on the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program were prepared by the Office of Public and Assisted Housing Delivery of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Please see the FSS program summary page for more information.

Questions

 -   Was the FSS Program eliminated by the Public Housing Reform Act of 1998 (also known as the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act or QHWRA)?

 -   How did QHWRA change the mandatory minimum program size requirements for the FSS.

 -   Does QHWRA state that PHAs need no longer recruit families for FSS?

 -   Is the FSS program being phased out?

 -   May PHAs operate voluntary FSS programs?

 -   Can PHAs require families to participate in FSS?

 -   In FY 2000 and beyond, how can PHAs fund their FSS escrow accounts?

 -   Does HUD provide funding for housing choice voucher FSS program coordinators?

 -   Are funds available for an FSS program coordinator for public housing FSS programs?

 -   Did QHWRA eliminate HUD's ability to approve full or partial exceptions to a PHA's mandatory minimum program size?

 -   Does HUD approval of a full or partial exception permanently reduce a PHA's minimum FSS program size?

 -   Do the FSS regulations at 24 CFR Part 984 apply to voluntary public housing and housing choice voucher FSS programs?

 -   Did the definition of "welfare assistance" change for purposes of determining if an FSS family is eligible to claim its escrow account?

 -   Will the Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) still include indicators for FSS programs?

Was the FSS Program eliminated by the Public Housing Reform Act of 1998 (also known as the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act or QHWRA)?

No.

How did QHWRA change the mandatory minimum program size requirements for the FSS Program?

QHWRA made the following changes to the FSS program mandatory minimum program size requirement:

  • Reservation of funds on or after October 21, 1998 for additional Section 8 certificates or vouchers and for acquisition or construction of additional public housing units will not increase the PHA's mandatory minimum program size for its Section 8 (now known as housing choice voucher FSS) or public housing FSS programs.

  • The mandatory minimum FSS program size, prior to any reductions approved by HUD, will be reduced by one slot for each FSS family that fulfills its FSS contract of participation on or after October 21, 1998.

Does QHWRA state that PHAs need no longer recruit families for FSS?

No. PHAs with mandatory FSS programs must complete their FSS program obligations. A PHA's FSS obligation continues until the number of families successfully completing the FSS program on or after October 21, 1998, is equal to the number of the mandatory FSS slots of the PHA prior to any reduction approved by HUD. (Since the obligation for public housing and housing choice voucher FSS are separate, graduation of housing choice voucher FSS program participants reduces the mandatory housing choice voucher FSS program size and graduation of public housing FSS graduates reduces the mandatory public housing FSS program size.) PHAs with voluntary FSS programs may maintain FSS programs at the level reflected in their HUD- approved FSS Action Plan.

Is the FSS program being phased out?

No. Although the mandatory aspect of the program will gradually be eliminated as families successfully complete the program, the ability of PHAs to operate voluntary FSS programs is not being phased out or eliminated.

The Department supports FSS. HUD will continue to pay for escrow costs and intends to continue to make funding for housing choice voucher FSS program coordinators available through annual NOFAs. Operating subsidy will also continue to be available to fund an FSS coordinator position for the public housing FSS program.

The Department believes that the FSS program is an invaluable tool for PHAs and families in connection with welfare reform, and that it can support a variety of HUD initiatives including welfare-to-work vouchers, the Family Unification program, and the new Resident Opportunities and Self Sufficiency (ROSS) program. The FSS program helps families move from welfare and low-wage jobs, to employment that pays a living wage allowing families to become truly self-sufficient.

May PHAs operate voluntary FSS programs?

Yes. Whether or not a PHA has a mandate to operate an FSS program, it may operate a voluntary FSS program. PHAs with no mandate can obtain HUD approval to operate a completely voluntary program while PHAs with mandatory FSS programs can receive approval to operate FSS programs larger than their mandates. Approval to operate a voluntary FSS program is obtained when HUD approves the PHA's FSS Action Plan that reflects the PHA's voluntary FSS program.

Can PHAs require families to participate in FSS?

No. Participation of families in the FSS program is voluntary and cannot be a condition of receiving assistance under the housing choice voucher program.

In FY 2000 and beyond, how can PHAs fund their FSS escrow accounts?

PHAs will fund their escrow accounts as they have in the past:

For public housing FSS programs
, PHAs should continue to follow the procedure outlined in question C-1 of HUD's May 1993 questions and answers on FSS which was included in HUD notices PIH 93-24 and PIH 94-59 (HA). Public housing families will pay their rent to the PHA in accordance with normal procedures and the PHA will credit the applicable portion of a family's rent charge to the family's FSS escrow account. For purposes of reporting the total monthly rent roll in the calculation of operating subsidy under PFS, a PHA is allowed to exclude the amount credited to the escrow account.

For housing choice voucher FSS programs, the escrow credit is part of the PHA's housing assistance payments cost that is requisitioned from HUD and reflected in the PHA's housing assistance costs in its year-end statement. When a family's earned income increases making the family eligible for an escrow credit, the FSS family will pay a higher rent to the owner based on its increased income and the PHA will adjust the housing assistance payment to the owner to reflect the family's increased income. Each month the PHA will make the appropriate housing assistance payment to the owner and deposit the escrow credit in the family's FSS escrow account. In its requisition, the housing assistance payment amount requested by the PHA will be the sum of the actual housing assistance payment to the owner on behalf of the family plus the full amount that the PHA has credited to the family's FSS escrow account. Since the escrow costs are included in the amount of housing assistance payments in the PHA's year-end statement, the escrow costs are taken into account in calculating the PHA's per unit cost for housing choice voucher program renewals.

Does HUD provide funding for housing choice voucher FSS program coordinators?

Yes. Through an annual notice of funding availability or NOFA, HUD makes funding available to pay the salaries of housing choice voucher FSS program coordinators. In recent years, the FSS NOFA has been published as part of the Department's SuperNOFA.

Are funds available for an FSS program coordinator for public housing FSS programs?

Operating subsidy is available for reasonable and eligible administrative costs of public housing FSS, including the costs of employing a full-time FSS program coordinator.

Did QHWRA eliminate HUD's ability to approve full or partial exceptions to a PHA's mandatory minimum program size?

HUD field offices have continued authority to approve full or partial exceptions permitting a PHA to operate an FSS program smaller than its mandatory minimum size. To obtain an exception, the PHA must demonstrate that at the present time it cannot administer an FSS program of the mandatory minimum program size because of local circumstances such as lack of supportive services, lack of funding for reasonable administrative costs, lack of cooperation by units of state and local government or lack of family interest.

As in the past, after reviewing and evaluating the PHA's request for an exception, the HUD field office must offer technical assistance to the PHA to help resolve the problems that are interfering with the PHA's implementation of its FSS program. The HUD field office staff should share with the PHA information about techniques used by other PHAs, refer the PHA to other PHAs that have successfully implemented FSS programs and assure that the PHA has tried different approaches. For example a PHA having difficulty establishing an FSS program of the required minimum size may combine its FSS program with that of another PHA so that both can share available supportive services and administrative resources. All PHAs must try to implement an FSS program of the initial minimum program size prior to approval of a complete or partial exception.

When approving an exception, the HUD field office letter to the PHA authorizing an exception must state the number of families under the PHA's original FSS obligation, the new FSS obligation and the expiration date of the exception.

Does HUD approval of a full or partial exception permanently reduce a PHA's minimum FSS program size?

No. Exceptions expire three years from the date of HUD approval. If a PHA seeks to continue an exception after its expiration, the PHA must submit a new request and new certification to HUD for approval.

Do the FSS regulations at 24 CFR Part 984 apply to voluntary public housing and housing choice voucher FSS programs?

Yes. Both voluntary and mandatory public housing and housing choice voucher FSS programs must comply with the FSS regulations found in 24 CFR Part 984.

Did the definition of "welfare assistance" change for purposes of determining if an FSS family is eligible to claim its escrow account?

Yes, the new definition was included in the Admissions and Occupancy final rule that was published in the Federal Register on March 29, 2000 and became effective on April 28, 2000. Under the new definition, which applies only to the FSS program, welfare assistance means income assistance from Federal or State welfare programs and includes only cash maintenance to meet a family's ongoing basic needs. Food Stamps, SSI, SSDI, Social Security and amounts for health care are no longer counted as welfare assistance for the FSS program.

Will the Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) still include indicators for FSS programs?

Yes. Two indicators will apply to PHAs with mandatory housing choice voucher FSS programs. One indicator will measure FSS enrollment as a percentage of the PHA's mandatory housing choice voucher FSS program size or HUD-approved exception program size; the other will measure the percentage of housing choice voucher FSS families with FSS addendum progress reports that have escrow account balances. Since HUD will obtain this information from the HUD-50058 FSS/WtW Addendum, it is essential that PHAs assure that each 50058 FSS/WtW Addendum is completed accurately and submitted as required.

 
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