Democrats' reconciliation bill includes more than double the money President Biden requested for public housing — a significant chunk of which could go to New York City's "scandal-plagued" housing authority after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s involvement.
Schumer, D-N.Y., has been pushing for a major increase in federal funding to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for the better part of a year. And Biden proposed $40 billion in funding for public housing in his "American Jobs Plan," which is now the Democrats' fledgling reconciliation bill.
But Schumer demanded that number be doubled to $80 billion, while saying the NYCHA – which has a long history of misconduct, bribery and failing its residents – should be one of the top recipients of the funding.
"U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, today, unveiled a push for at least an $80 billion dollar investment in federal public housing funds via the just-proposed American Jobs Plan," an April press release from Schumer reads. "Schumer said the administration’s plan calls for $40 billion dollars for the whole nation—but that number is just not enough given the mammoth needs of public housing properties across the country, particularly here in New York."
"I am announcing today that one of my number one priorities in any infrastructure package is to double down on the President’s original proposal and fight for at least $80 billion in new funds to meet the capital repairs needs of Public Housing Agencies across the country, especially those of NYCHA," Schumer himself added.
Schumer said there is a $40 billion repair backlog at the NYCHA alone.
The content of it is subject to change as Democrats continue their negotiations this week, but the initial draft of Democrats' full reconciliation bill does indeed include $80 billion total for public housing.
Of that, $66.5 billion is given to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to spent as she sees fit on "priority investments as determined by the secretary to repair, replace or construct properties."
"I have proposed we at least double that amount to $80 billion in order to address the crisis in New York City and fully fix public housing around the country," Schumer said in a recent op-ed in City & State New York. "I have pledged to use all of my power as majority leader, alongside my New York colleagues in the House of Representatives, to secure a funding package that can restore and transform NYCHA."
Schumer said in the op-ed that the NYCHA's woes are "due to decades of disinvestment" and argued the more than 400,000 New Yorkers need swift action to alleviate poor conditions on NYCHA properties including mold, lead, broken elevators and more.
"With an adequate level of funding we can make the critical repairs that NYCHA residents need while also transforming the authority to confront the problems of tomorrow," Schumer said.
But a Senate GOP aide argued this strategy is tantamount to rewarding failure and said the money could be wasted given the NYCHA's history.
"The American people should take Senator Schumer at his word when he says he will ‘use all of [his] power as majority leader’ to funnel tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to New York City’s scandal-plagued public housing system," a Senate GOP aide told FOX Business. "Don’t be fooled: this will be a $40 billion earmark to bail out a failed government agency infamous for taking bribes from contractors, employing people who drink on the job, and poisoning children by exposing them to lead paint."
The aide noted that according to the New York Times, NYCHA funding from the city was increased from $17 million in 2014 to $288 million in 2019, yet "New York’s Public Housing Isn’t Getting Better."
Schumer's office did not respond to a request for comment for this story, which asked whether Schumer plans to push for Fudge to use a large percentage of the money to be spent at her discretion to fund NYCHA.
HUD did not respond to a request for comment asking whether Fudge has heard from Schumer about how he wants this money spent, and whether she'll consider spending a large percentage of it on NYCHA.
In a blow to the chances that the reconciliation bill passes in its current form, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that she no longer plans to insist it passes with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The speaker blamed what amounts to a full reversal on a stance she's held for months about how the House should pass the two bills.
This move could upset progressives who aso were in favor of passing both bills at the same time – or the reconciliation bill first – for months. And if the progressives kill the infrastructure bill during a planned Thursday vote it could lead Senate moderates to block the reconciliation bill entirely.
Pelosi, meanwhile, said that Democrats are still committed to passing reconciliation.
"It isn’t about diminishing the importance of the reconciliation," Pelosi said.
"We had to accommodate the changes that were being necessitated. And we cannot be ready to say until the Senate passed the bill, we can’t do BIF," she added.