What is the FSS Program?
FSS (Family Self-Sufficiency) is a program that enables HUD-assisted families to increase their economic security and self-sufficiency. The FSS program promotes the development of local strategies to coordinate the use of assistance under the Section 8 and Public Housing programs with public and private resources. Enabling participating families to increase earned income and financial literacy, reduce or eliminate their dependency on welfare assistance, rental subsidies, and progress toward economic independence and self-sufficiency.
How Does the Program Work?
Once an eligible family is selected to participate in the program, the PHA, and the head of each participating family execute a FSS Contract of Participation that specifies the rights and responsibilities of both parties. The term of the FSS contract is generally 5 years, but it may be extended for another 2 years by the PHA for good cause.
The FSS contract also incorporates the family’s individual training and services plan. The contract is the document that records the plan for the family. That is, the series of intermediate and long-term goals and the steps the family needs to take – and the services and resources they may need to access – to achieve those goals.
Some of the services coordinated through the program include: education, job training, employment counseling, financial literacy, and homeownership counseling, among others. Services are generally not provided by the PHA, but rather outsourced to service providers in the community.
An interest-bearing escrow account is established by the PHA for each of the participating families. Any increases in the family’s rent as a result of increased earned income during the family’s participation in the program result in a credit to the family’s escrow account. Once a family graduates from the program, they may access the escrow and use it for any purpose.
Who is Eligible to Participate in the FSS Program?
The FSS program is available to residents after a year under Public Housing or Section 8 programs.
How do Families Enroll in the FSS Program?
Eligible families should discuss participation in the FSS program with their assigned case worker. They determine eligibility and refer you to an appointment with the FSS Program Coordinator.
What is the Role of the FSS Program Coordinator?
FSS program coordinators assist the family in the development of their contract of participation, they assure that FSS program participants are linked to the supportive services they need to achieve economic self- sufficiency, and that the escrow account is properly maintained, among other responsibilities.
What is an FSS Contract of Participation?
One of the basic requirements of the FSS program is execution of an FSS Contract of Participation between the Head of the FSS family and the PHA. The FSS Contract of Participation includes the rights and responsibilities of the FSS family and the PHA, the services to be provided to the family, and the activities/goals to be completed by the family.
What is the Term of the FSS Contract of Participation?
The term of the FSS contract is up to five years; however, such term may be extended for up to two more years provided that there is good cause for the extension, such as serious illness or involuntary loss of employment. Participants may also successfully graduate in less than five years.
What is an Escrow Account?
An interest-bearing account established by the PHA on behalf of the FSS family where deposits are made throughout the duration of the family’s participation in the FSS program if and when a family’s rent increases as a result of increased earned income of the FSS family.
Can a Family Access the Funds of its Escrow Account before the Family Successfully Completes the Program?
The PHA may make a portion of the escrow account available to the family during the term of the contract if the PHA determines that the family has fulfilled certain interim goals established in the contract and requires a portion of the FSS escrow account funds for purposes consistent with the contract of participation.
When does a Family Receive all the Funds in its FSS Escrow Account?
The family will receive their Escrow Funds Disbursement when they have fully completed all of its FSS obligations under the FSS Contract of Participation on or before the expiration date of the contract.
Under what Circumstances can Escrow Account Funds be Forfeited?
A FSS family will forfeit its escrow account if the Contract of Participation is terminated in accordance with the regulations, or the contract was not completed at the end of the contract term.
Can Families be Required to Participate in the FSS Program?
Participation of families in the FSS program is voluntary and cannot be a condition of receipt of assistance under Section 8 or Public Housing programs.