[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 250 (Monday, December 30, 2013)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 79310-79312]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-31044]


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DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

24 CFR Part 985

[Docket No. FR-5729-N-01]


Partial Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) 
Indicator Waiver; Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program Demonstration

AGENCY: Office of Policy Development and Research and Office of Public 
and Indian Housing, HUD.

ACTION: Waiver.

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SUMMARY: This document advises the public of a HUD regulation that has 
been temporarily waived in order to facilitate voluntary PHA 
participation in the FSS Program Demonstration. The FSS Program 
Demonstration is a study using a random assignment methodology to 
evaluate the effectiveness of the FSS program. Specifically, this 
document announces a temporary, partial waiver to the SEMAP rating 
criteria at 24 CFR 985.3(o) (``Family self-sufficiency (FSS) enrollment 
and escrow accounts''), for PHAs with a mandatory Housing Choice 
Voucher (HCV) FSS program who are

[[Page 79311]]

participating in the FSS Program Demonstration.

DATES: Effective December 30, 2013.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Regina Gray, Ph.D., Office of Policy 
Development and Research, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 
451 7th Street SW., Room 8132, Washington, DC 20410; telephone number 
202-402-2876 (this is not a toll-free number). Persons with hearing or 
speech impairments may access this number via TTY by calling the toll-
free Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program Demonstration is a random 
assignment study conducted under contract by MDRC \1\ and its 
subcontractors to evaluate the effectiveness of the FSS program, as 
part of the Transformation Initiative.\2\ The FSS program has operated 
since 1992 and its objective is to enable participating low-income 
families to increase their earned income and reduce their dependency on 
welfare assistance and rental subsidies. FSS program coordinators 
create plans with participating families to achieve goals and connect 
them with services that will enhance their employment opportunities. As 
the family's earnings increase, money is credited to an escrow account 
on behalf of the family. This study, unlike the two previous studies of 
the FSS program, will use a random assignment model to determine 
whether FSS program features, rather than the characteristics of the 
participating families, cause participant incomes to increase.
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    \1\ MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy 
research organization dedicated to learning what works to improve 
programs that affect low-income individuals. See http://www.mdrc.org/about/about-mdrc-overview-0.
    \2\ In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, Public Law 
111-117, Congress enacted the Transformation Initiative, which made 
up to one percent of program funds available for (1) research, 
evaluation, and program metrics; (2) program demonstrations; (3) 
technical assistance; and (4) information technology. The 
Transformation Initiative was renewed under the full-year continuing 
appropriations act for FY 2011, Public Law 111-242. The Consolidated 
and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012, Public Law 112-
55, renewed the Transformation Initiative again, but designated a 
specific amount of money to remain available until September 30, 
2014. The continuing appropriations resolution for 2013, Public Law 
112-175, did not impose any additional limitations on the 
Transformation Initiative.
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    PHAs participating in the FSS Program Demonstration may experience 
unintended consequences due to the requirements for participation and 
the methodology of the study. For example, PHAs are required to recruit 
and screen about twice as many families as they would usually enroll in 
the program in a year, to maintain stable enrollment in the FSS program 
when only half of the families are randomly assigned to a treatment 
group (enrollment in FSS) and the other half are assigned to a control 
group (non-enrollment). In fact, PHAs may voluntarily increase the 
number of FSS participants they have because of the program demand 
resulting from the enhanced recruitment methods they are using and 
their commitment to the evaluative process.
    In addition to the requirement to screen more families for 
participation in the FSS program than in the past and the option to 
enroll more participants, PHAs participating in the FSS Program 
Demonstration will have less control over which participants are 
enrolled in their FSS programs due to the random assignment of families 
to either the treatment or control group. If families enrolled in the 
FSS program by random assignment (as a result of a PHA's participation 
in the FSS Program Demonstration) accrue escrow balances at lower rates 
than previous cohorts of families, PHAs participating in the FSS 
Program Demonstration may experience a decreased rating on the Section 
8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) performance indicator that 
specifically measures for the percentage of families with escrow 
balances.
    SEMAP, through a four-page questionnaire, provides one way for PHAs 
to certify their performance to HUD on fourteen indicators. Under 
current regulations at 24 CFR part 985, the SEMAP Certification form 
(HUD-52648) must be submitted annually by all PHAs administering 
Section 8 tenant-based assistance programs. (Information collection 
requirements have been approved by the Office of Management and Budget 
under control number 2577-0215). Upon receipt of the certification, HUD 
rates the PHA's performance under each SEMAP indicator in accordance 
with 24 CFR 985.3.
    As discussed above, there is a possibility that participating in 
the FSS Program Demonstration may result in a PHA having a lower 
percentage of families with escrow account balances than they otherwise 
would have had in their FSS program. This is problematic because the 
indicator at 24 CFR 985.3(o),\3\ which corresponds to items 14a and 14b 
of the SEMAP Certification, awards a PHA a rating ranging from zero to 
ten points based on a combination of two components: (1) The percentage 
of mandatory FSS slots filled; and (2) the percentage of FSS families 
that have escrow account balances. This, in turn, may negatively impact 
a PHA's overall performance rating, as described in 24 CFR 985.103. The 
possibility of this outcome may deter PHAs from volunteering to 
participate in this important study. In order to ensure that PHAs will 
not be affected negatively by participation in the FSS Program 
Demonstration, HUD is partially waiving 24 CFR 985.3(o), as discussed 
below.
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    \3\ Regulations at 24 CFR 985.3(o) are only applicable to PHAs 
with mandatory FSS programs.
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II. Partial Waiver of 24 CFR 985.3(o)

    This document announces a partial waiver to the rating criteria of 
the ``Family self-sufficiency (FSS) enrollment and escrow accounts'' 
SEMAP indicator item discussed at 24 CFR 985.3(o)(3)(i)-(vi) for PHAs 
with a mandatory HCV FSS program, who are participating in the FSS 
Program Demonstration, effective from December 30, 2013 through 
September 30, 2018. During only the second and third full reporting 
periods ending after the PHA's enrollment in the demonstration, PHAs 
meeting the aforementioned criteria may elect to have the SEMAP 
performance indicator for FSS enrollment and escrow accounts rated by 
omitting reference to the percent of FSS families with escrow balances 
(SEMAP indicator item 14b of form HUD-52648).\4\ Thus, the rating would 
be determined solely by the percentage of mandatory FSS slots that have 
been filled by the PHA, as reported in SEMAP indicator item 14a of form 
HUD-52648.\5\
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    \4\ For example, if a PHA enrolls in the FSS Program 
Demonstration in July 2013, and has a SEMAP reporting period of 
October 1 through September 30, the waiver would be applicable for 
October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015 (the second full 
reporting period ending after the PHA's enrollment in the 
demonstration) and October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016 (the 
third full reporting period ending after the PHA's enrollment in the 
demonstration). The waiver is not applicable to earlier reporting 
periods because the SEMAP score measures escrow among families with 
progress reports, and treatment group families generally will not 
have progress reports until the second full reporting period ending 
after the PHA's enrollment in the demonstration.
    \5\ For example, if a PHA has filled 80 percent or more of its 
mandatory FSS slots, it will receive 10 points (24 CFR 
985.3(o)(3)(i)), regardless of the percent of families with escrow 
account balances.
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    In order to affirmatively elect to apply this waiver, a PHA 
participating in the FSS Program Demonstration must select ``Check here 
if not applicable'' under SEMAP indicator item 14b of form HUD-52648. 
PHAs participating in the demonstration that have a mandatory

[[Page 79312]]

HCV FSS program \6\ must continue to report on item 14a and may not 
select ``Check here if not applicable'' under SEMAP indicator item 14a 
of form HUD-52648.
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    \6\ Some PHAs are required, by statute, to carry out a FSS 
program; see 42 U.S.C. 1437u.
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III. Authority To Grant Waivers

    Under 24 CFR 5.110, HUD's regulations in 24 CFR may be waived upon 
a determination of good cause, subject to statutory limitations. A 
partial waiver of 24 CFR 985.3(o) was determined necessary to eliminate 
penalties that may be associated with voluntary participation in the 
FSS Program Demonstration.

IV. Findings and Certifications

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection requirements applicable to this waiver 
have been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under 
the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520) and assigned 
OMB Control Numbers 2528-0296 and 2577-0215. In accordance with the 
Paperwork Reduction Act, HUD may not conduct or sponsor, and a person 
is not required to respond to, a collection of information, unless the 
collection displays a currently valid OMB control number.

Environmental Impact

    This document does not direct, provide for assistance or loan and 
mortgage insurance for, or otherwise govern or regulate, real property 
acquisition, disposition, leasing, rehabilitation, alteration, 
demolition, or new construction, or establish, revise, or provide for 
standards for construction or construction materials, manufactured 
housing, or occupancy. Accordingly, under 24 CFR 50.19(c)(1), this 
document is categorically excluded from environmental review under the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321).

    Dated: December 19, 2013.
Sandra Henriquez,
Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing.
[FR Doc. 2013-31044 Filed 12-27-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4210-67-P