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Additional Coronavirus Updates - Monday, May 26, 2020

NLIHC maintains a COVID-19/Housing and Homelessness News and Resource page with policy recommendations, factsheets, frequently asked questions, research notes, and additional resources.
 

National Updates  

Congress

Congressman David Price (D-NC), chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and ranking member Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson urging the department to take immediate steps to ensure that CARES Act funds are promptly disbursed to state and local governments.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) published an op-ed in the Richland Source discussing the urgent need for his bill, the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act,” to be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) emphasized the urgency of passing the next coronavirus relief bill despite Republican lawmakers’ opposition. “They may think it’s okay to pause. but people are hungry across America. Hunger doesn’t take a pause. People are jobless across America, that doesn’t take a pause. People don’t know how they’re going to pay their rent across the country. We have to address this with humanity,” she added.

Describing the House-passed HEROES Act, Representative Denny Heck (D-WA) said that the bill “tailors aid to the hardest hit Americans, and I’m proud to have written the provision that directs a large portion of the bill’s funds toward rental assistance for those who most need it.”

Department of Housing and Urban Development

HUD announced on May 18 nearly $77 million in a fourth wave of CARES Act funding to assist people with disabilities, including up to 8,300 additional vouchers. Provided through HUD's Section 811 Mainstream Housing Choice Voucher Program, this wave of relief will provide affordable housing to non-elderly people living with disabilities.

Federal Housing Finance Administration

FHFA announced on May 19 that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued temporary guidance concerning the eligibility of borrowers who are in forbearance, have recently ended forbearance, or are seeking to refinance or buy a new home. FHFA also extended Fannie’s and Freddie’s ability to buy loans in forbearance.

Advocacy

The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) will continue to advocate a broad array of resources and protections, including emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention assistance, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and emergency funds for homelessness service providers, housing authorities, and housing providers. For more information, see DHRC’s full list of recommendations.

Hasan Minhaj featured NLIHC’s searchable database of most properties covered under federal eviction moratoriums on the May 18 episode of Patriot Act. The show created a new website that highlights NLIHC’s database. Watch the episode “What Happens If You Can’t Pay Rent”!

ProPublica published an interactive database to help renters find out if their rental unit qualifies for eviction prevention. The ProPublica database uses data from NLIHC, the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation, legal researchers, and others. Click here to learn more.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness released an FAQ on FEMA’s Public Assistance Program Category B (Emergency Protective Measures). Communities seeking to apply for funds can use the Alliance’s FAQ document and template letter.

Reporting

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, more than 1 million New England households are at risk of missing their rent or mortgage payment due to coronavirus-related job loss. 

CNN Business examines how San Francisco’s sanctioned encampments, or “Safe Sleeping Sites,” have sparked debate among residents and lawmakers. Many San Francisco residents have submitted letters of opposition, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors arguing for other suitable housing alternatives.

Vox outlines seven proposals that Congress should consider for the next stimulus package to help people navigate the economic fallout of the pandemic, including mortgage and rent assistance. The article discusses the “Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act,” an NLIHC priority.

CNN Business examines how COVID-19 has worsened the housing crisis in the United States. While the affordable housing crisis existed before the pandemic, COVID-19 has drawn sharp attention to housing instability and homelessness.

A National Multifamily Housing Council report last week found that 12% of tenants at the 11.4 million market-rate properties it tracks did not make their rent payment. Even more stark, a survey by landlord trade group Community Housing Improvement Program found that about 25% of New York City apartment tenants did not pay their May rent.

An article in the Guardian examines how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, where COVID-19 and San Francisco’s homeless policies during the pandemic have created a perfect storm.

City Lab explores lessons that the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about solutions to homelessness. Approaches once deemed implausible are now being enacted to expand capacity and provide safe shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Analyzing which of these temporary solutions have been effective will allow us to work toward permanent solutions to homelessness.

A Health Affairs blog discusses the need to protect people living in temporary living facilities such as motels and sober living homes—individuals who often have unstable incomes and limited housing protections.

State and Local News

Alaska

Juneau will begin testing people experiencing homelessness for the coronavirus this week at mobile testing sites. Individuals experiencing symptoms will go to the city quarantine facility until their results come back.

Arizona

Governor Doug Ducey announced $300,000 in grant funding to provide rental assistance, telehealth, and transportation to health services. The funds come from the state’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund. In March, the governor announced the Rental Eviction Prevention Assistance Program.

Sonora Quest Laboratories has partnered with national and local nonprofits to test 300 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County. Local organizations will transport people for testing and help them to find permanent housing.

Arizona has spent only 10% of the $5 million allocated to emergency rental assistance. More than 11,000 renters have applied for emergency rental assistance during the pandemic, but the state has given money to fewer than 550 people.

Arkansas

Fayetteville will use federal CARES Act funding to provide services and resources to people experiencing homelessness. Seven agencies will receive a total of $197,772, while the remaining $238,563 will go to a city program providing rental and bill assistance. Community Development Block Grant programs in Northwest Arkansas received more than $1.1 million in coronavirus relief money.

California

The Los Angeles Times editorial board outlined seven steps California can take to prevent a coronavirus-related housing and homelessness disaster. The article discusses solutions such as emergency rental assistance and purchasing hotels and motels for permanent housing.

More than 300 people experiencing homelessness were moved into an undisclosed hotel in downtown Los Angeles as part of Project Roomkey. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority hopes that Project Roomkey is a launching pad to provide services and permanent affordable housing.

While the city of San Francisco has swept homeless encampments for years, the city is now establishing city-sanctioned open-air encampments. San Francisco launched the first of five “Safe Sleeping Sites,” with the hope that people experiencing homelessness can practice social distancing in a controlled site and have access to shelters and foods.

Santa Rosa will open its first ever city-sanctioned homeless encampment to protect people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The new site will accommodate up to 140 people.

California counties face barriers to housing people experiencing homelessness in hotels across the state. Acquiring rooms, negotiating leases, managing local protests, and getting adequate staffing are some of the concerns expressed by local officials.

Dozens of community members protested on May 16 outside of a Motel 6 in Rosemead, which will soon provide shelters to people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The protesters expressed concerns about how the hotel program, which is part of California’s Project Roomkey, might negatively impact on the community.

Just over half of the hotel and motel rooms the State of California has leased are occupied, while the rest remain vacant. As of May 18, 7,919 hotel rooms were occupied, and another 7,700 were vacant. The occupied rooms account for less than 5% of the 151,000 people experiencing homelessness statewide.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized the Los Angeles County Development Authority to use Community Development Block Grant funds to create and administer the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on May 15 requiring the city of Los Angeles and LA County to provide shelter for an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 people experiencing homelessness camping near freeway ramps and under overpasses. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter gave officials until May 22 to develop a plan for providing humane housing for thousands of people experiencing homelessness living near freeways. Los Angeles advocates and Mayor Eric Garcetti are objecting to the order, concerned that it could result in people experiencing homelessness being moved, but not into shelters or housing.

Colorado

Aurora will begin providing rental assistance to eligible tenants impacted by the pandemic. The rental assistance program will offer up to two months of payments directly to landlords and property managers. At least $620,000 will be available initially, and the funds will come from the House Aurora Partnership and block grants.

Colorado announced recipients of a third round of funds from the Colorado COVID Relief Fund. A committee that advises the fund tracks the most pressing community needs, reporting that requests for rental assistance and food comprise 40% of calls to the state’s resource hotline.

Colorado affordable housing advocates proposed a plan to Governor Jared Polis and other state officials to prevent a wave of evictions and homelessness when the statewide moratorium expires on May 31. The plan calls for more than $196.5 million in direct rental assistance and other housing resources.

Kaiser Permanente and Denver County announced a $1 million contribution to support Denver’s Housing and Homeless Services Fund. This fund will be used for coronavirus suppression efforts, including expanded testing, contract tracing, cleaning and hygiene supplies, and isolation and quarantine of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Denver is expanding coronavirus testing among people experiencing homelessness. A spokeswoman for the city announced on May 15 that 299 people experiencing homelessness in Denver have tested positive for the coronavirus and six of the individuals who tested positive have died.

Connecticut

WSHU discussed housing advocates’ concerns about the pandemic’s impact on affordable housing development in Connecticut. Advocacy groups are calling for additional federal and state assistance to support affordable housing construction.

Delaware

The Delaware Does More COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund released $163,000 in community investments to help 11 local organizations across the state provide services for low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness.

Florida

The city of Port St. Lucie established a COVID-19 Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance Grant Program to support residents who have experienced loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials in St. Augustine provided coronavirus testing on May 15 for people experiencing homelessness.

Hawaii

One person experiencing homelessness in Hawaii has tested positive for coronavirus thus far. The health department said that even though the state will begin to reopen, it needs to remain vigilant and increase testing, particularly for people living in congregate settings such as homeless shelters.

Illinois

The Illinois legislature will vote on a bill that would cancel tenant rent debt, compensate landlords for canceled rent payments, and suspend mortgages. The bill, “Covid-19 Emergency and Economic Recovery Renter and Homeowner Protection Act,” would be in effect until Governor Pritzker’s disaster declaration has expired and Illinois’ unemployment rate returns to its pre-pandemic levels.

A Chicago shelter, Franciscan Outreach, experienced its first major outbreak of the coronavirus, with 19 individuals out of 80 testing positive. The organization’s executive director commended the city’s efforts to provide temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness and expressed the need for permanent housing solutions.

Indiana

Concerned about a potential wave of evictions after the statewide moratorium ends, the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition is urging Governor Holcomb to extend the eviction moratorium and establish statewide emergency rental assistance.

Fort Wayne will use federal coronavirus relief funding to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The funds will be used to provide temporary shelter for women experiencing homelessness; emergency housing through hotel vouchers; quarantine shelter; deep cleaning and sanitizing services; and PPE and other supplies for local shelters.

Advocacy groups, including Prosperity Indiana, an NLIHC state partner, are urging the state to create an emergency rental assistance fund to help low-income renters. Indiana allocated money to its Hardest Hit Fund, which helps homeowners pay mortgages, but the fund does not assist renters.

Marion County will receive $8.6 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, which will be used to provide rental, utilities, and food assistance for low-income residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly $2.8 million will be dedicated to homelessness prevention, including the cost of non-congregate shelters and up to two years of rental assistance and wraparound services.

Iowa

People experiencing homelessness who are awaiting test results are being moved into hotel rooms paid for by Polk County and the city of Des Moines. Polk County reported between 50 and 78 hotel rooms have been used every night since March 21. The total cost of the hotel program was approximately $130,000 as of last week, and FEMA is expected to reimburse the city and county.

Kentucky

A survey of 100 Fayette County landlords and apartment owners found that nearly 70% have at least one or more tenants at risk for eviction due to nonpayment of rent. More than 60% of respondents had at least one tenant who was unable to pay rent in April. A group of nonprofits, apartment, and landlord groups started a COVID-19 rental assistance program to prevent a wave of evictions.

Louisiana

Shreveport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Monroe, and several other Louisiana cities have decided to spend CARES Act funding on both businesses and housing. Lafayette’s Mayor-President Josh Guillory, however, proposed using all of the city's CARES Act funding on small businesses, drawing criticism from housing advocates. Lafayette’s city and parish councils approved the mayor-president’s plan, but Guillory committed to spending at least $200,000 of the city’s annual HUD appropriation toward rent and utility assistance.

Two encampments in East Baton Rouge were cleared after their residents were moved into local motels.

Housing advocates praised Governor John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend the state’s eviction moratorium until June 5, but argue that Louisiana should extend the moratorium further until August 24 when the federal moratorium in the CARES Act expires.

Maine

The Portland City Council has approved a plan to use $500,000 of $1.7 million for an emergency rental assistance program. The city dedicated more than $570,000 for shelter operations, including more than $130,000 for hotel vouchers.

Maryland

Baltimore housing activists called on the city to provide tenants facing eviction with free legal aid. A study from the Abell Foundation found that providing free right to counsel could save tens of millions of dollars spent when tenants are left homeless or otherwise need government assistance.

Massachusetts

Coronavirus testing of people experiencing homelessness in Boston revealed that larger, more crowded shelters are seeing higher rates of infection. The testing also revealed high rates of asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Michigan

Michigan will receive $1.5 million from HUD to provide housing to non-elderly people with disabilities. Nine organizations in Michigan will receive allocations to provide housing options for people living with disabilities.

Missouri

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas appealed to the Jackson County Legislature on May 18 to receive $54,588,149 from Jackson County’s $122.7 million disbursement of CARES Act funds. Of that amount, Kansas City plans to allocate $10 million for housing assistance, $500,000 for legal aid for low-income tenants facing eviction, and $5.5 million for social services, including support for homeless shelters and housing providers.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire housing advocates—including Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, an NLIHC state partner—are warning officials about the wave of evictions that will flood the state if critical actions are not taken. Advocates and officials have outlined several proposals to address homelessness and stabilize the state’s rental market when moratoriums are lifted.

New Jersey

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced on May 18 the launch of the Newark COVID-19 Tenant Based Rental Assistance program. The program has $1 million in available funding through local resources and federal HOME funds.

The New Jersey Apartment Association expressed its support of the legislature for passing Senate Bill 2332/Assembly Bill 3956 that would establish the 2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program and appropriate $100 million to the program. The program would expand the current Homelessness Prevention Program to assist low- and moderate- income families as well as middle-income residents and those in workforce housing.

New Mexico

Bernalillo County and Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) are partnering to provide motel vouchers to APS families who have recently become homeless due to the pandemic. Families will also receive assistance in seeking permanent housing and educational support.

New York

Rachel Fee, executive director of the New York Housing Conference, an NLIHC state partner, published an opinion piece in City Limits arguing that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to cut the city’s housing budget by 40% is shortsighted.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is thwarting efforts to move everyone experiencing homelessness into hotel rooms during the pandemic. Advocates are concerned that the city’s delay could increase hospitalizations or death among people residing in congregate shelters. Read more in Politico.

An editorial in the Buffalo News discusses the need to protect both tenants and landlords. COVID-19 has created a conflict between tenants who are now unable to pay their rent and landlords who may desperately rely on rental income.

North Carolina

An article in the Spectrum News examines the pandemic’s impact on homelessness in Charlotte. Although tent encampments existed before COVID-19, they are more accepted now. Advocates like those at the Urban Ministry Center are concerned about how to ensure that people experiencing homelessness can access safe, affordable housing after the acute crisis ends. Read more about the Urban Ministry’s efforts during COVID-19.

North Dakota

The North Dakota COVID Emergency Rent Bridge program is providing temporary assistance to renters impacted by the pandemic. The program will pay up to 70% of the lease for up to three months.

Ohio

Fair housing advocates in Ohio are monitoring predatory and illegal housing practices like illegal evictions, discrimination, and sexual harassment, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, Toledo’s Fair Housing Center, and Legal Aid of Western Ohio held a roundtable discussion to help tenants, landlords, and homeowners understand their rights.

Oregon

A Common Dreams article makes the case for why Portland should commandeer hotels to house people experiencing homelessness. Portland has secured two hotels for people experiencing homelessness who exhibit coronavirus symptoms, but only one of those hotels is currently being used, and it is only partially filled.

The Oregon Housing and Community Services announced over $8.5 million to provide rent relief across the state. The money was allocated to regional Community Action Agencies through a needs-based formula.

South Carolina

The South Carolina Housing Authority allocated $5 million to an emergency rental assistance program. The authority had $5 million in an emergency fund, and the money comes not from taxpayers, but from bonds sold by the Authority. The program will be administered through SC Thrive, a statewide nonprofit organization. Eligible households could receive a one-time payment up to $1,500 made directly to landlords.

Tennessee

Nashville Launch Pad, a nonprofit that serves young adults in the LGBTQ community, is urging the city to house people experiencing homelessness in hotels during the pandemic. The Nashville nonprofit has expanded its program and has witnessed the positive outcomes of its efforts to house people in hotels.

Texas

The Harris County Commissioners Court approved a $30 million COVID-19 rental relief fund. Funds from the Harris County COVID-19 Relief Fund is expected to help between 20,000 to 25,000 families. The program will be managed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

More than 1,100 new eviction petitions have been filed in North Texas since March 16. While Texas’ statewide moratorium on evictions began in March, landlords were still able to submit filings for eviction cases.

The City of Amarillo is working to protect people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic by moving people out of shelters and into non-congregate settings. The Salvation Army is the primary short-term shelter in Amarillo, but it has become overcrowded, increasing risk of infection. Amarillo’s Director of Community Development reported that the city has moved approximately 25 families and some individuals out of the Salvation Army shelter and into apartments.

Housing advocates are concerned that with more than 1.9 million Texans filing for unemployment relief in the past two months, eliminating eviction protections could lead to a sharp increase in homelessness. Texas’ shortage of affordable housing and the fact that renters have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic suggest that lifting the eviction moratoriums will adversely impact thousands of households.

Vermont

Vermont Governor Phil Scott proposed $50 million in housing assistance as part of the state’s $400 million COVID-19 response package. The plan includes $42 million in direct rental assistance and an $8 million housing rehabilitation program. The program will provide up to three months of rental assistance, with more than 13,000 households expected to benefit from the program.

Vermont housing advocates are urging state officials to move quickly to allocate the $1.25 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund in support of people experiencing homelessness through Vermont Rental Vouchers. Federal funds should be used to provide rental assistance and supportive services to prevent homelessness, as well as capital to acquire, renovate, and build permanent housing.

Virginia

Governor Ralph Northam shared new resources on May 19 to protect residents from eviction, including a new website to help Virginians navigate housing programs and services. The governor also signed two bills that had been approved by the General Assembly on April 22 to cap late fees on rents and protect tenants from eviction during emergencies.

Washington

The Seattle City Council is introducing an emergency budget amendment to define more narrowly when encampments can be removed during the pandemic. This comes after a recent removal of an encampment in Ballard.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced on May 11 the allocation of nearly $4 million in federal CARES Act Community Development Block Grant (CDBG-CV), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) funding to provide rental assistance.

The Olympia City Council allocated $310,000 of more than $1.1 million in CDBG funds to shelter, housing and human services programs. Of the total amount, $110,000 will fund a homeless response coordinator position, $100,000 for mitigation site hygiene, and $100,000 for the Downtown Ambassadors program. Olympia received $237,383 in supplemental CDBG funds as part of the CARES Act, as well as carried $580,000 of FY19 funds into this year. The city will gain access to $350,000 of its regular 2020 allocation in September.

King County launched a new modular pilot shelter in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood as part of its efforts to reduce density in congregate shelters. The modular shelter offers safe housing, 24/7 on-site access to health and behavioral health care, showers and laundry facilities, and meals.

Washington, DC

Coronavirus infection and death rates reveal disparities between people experiencing homelessness in DC and the city’s general population. As of May 13, 269 people in DC shelters had tested positive for the coronavirus, nearly 6% of the approximately 4,700 people who were staying in a shelter. Around 1% of Washington DC residents overall have tested positive.

Wisconsin

Governor Tony Evers announced the launch of a $25 million Wisconsin Rental Assistance Program that will be funded through federal CARES Act funding. The Department of Administration will administer the program. If approved, applicants would receive rental assistance up to $3,000 in a combination of rental payments, security deposits, and wraparound services. Learn more here.

Dane County announced plans to allocate $10 million in federal disaster relief to reduce evictions and increase access to housing. The county is partnering with the Tenant Resource Center to administer the $10 million eviction-prevention fund using CARES Act funding.

Local groups in La Crosse are developing new partnerships to address the housing and health needs of people experiencing homelessness amid the pandemic. While many of the agencies have historically worked together to address housing issues in the community, responding to COVID-19 is requiring additional collaboration.

Wyoming

FEMA approved COVID-19 crisis counseling assistance for Wyoming residents.

State and Local Resources

A list of state and local emergency rental assistance programs from NLIHC is available here.

A list of local shelter closings from NLIHC is available here.

Guidance

Affordable Housing Advisory Council 2020

Affordable Housing Advisory Council Call: May 27, 2020 @ 3:30-4:30pm ET. Register today!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Checklist for Homeless Services Providers During Community Re-Opening - May 21

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Office of Multifamily Housing: COVID-19 Q&A - Updated May 21

Availability of a Waiver and Alternate Requirement for the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report for Community Planning and Development Grant Programs in Response to the Spread of Coronavirus - May 19

Engaging Persons with Lived Experience of Homelessness in Your COVID-19 Response – Materials Posted

How to Make a CARES Act Grant Amendment Submission to HUD: Webinar for Entitlement Grantees – Materials Posted

New State and Local Resources

San Francisco Department of Public Health