WASHINGTON -- More than 500 public housing authorities will split $150 million left over from the 2003 budget to help them deal with cutbacks in a government program that helps families pay the rent, the Bush administration says.
House Democrats warned that may be too little and too late to help cash-starved housing authorities offset budget cuts in the $14.5 billion housing voucher program known as Section 8. They say the money should have been released much earlier and that thousands of poor people now face a choice of paying more than they can afford for rent or losing their apartment.
The program helps nearly 2 million families through some 2,500 local agencies.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development released yesterday the list of 505 agencies that qualified for some of the $150 million.
HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson said the $150 million, along with a recent revision in the program's complicated funding formula, would alleviate local officials' worries.
"We will continue to work hand in hand with the public housing authorities to apply the funding cap in the fairest manner possible," Jackson said Thursday in his first appearance before the House Financial Services Committee since being confirmed by the Senate in March.
Jackson angered some Democrats on the committee when he said in response to a question: "I do not believe being poor is a condition; it is a state of mind."
Representative Michael E. Capuano, Democrat of Massachusetts, called the statement insulting.
"It just implies to me that he doesn't know anyone who is poor and doesn't have the ability to get out of it," he said.