HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) posted its seventh update to COVID-19 FAQs for Public Housing Agencies on March 24. The update includes 46 updated and 16 new frequently asked questions (FAQs). Many of the updated FAQs indicated by “(Updated 3-24-21)” make only minor changes, often simply referring to the more recent Notice PIH 2020-33, REV 2 (see Memo, 12/7/20) or extending due dates for specific actions.
What Coronavirus Assistance is Not Counted as Income?
OC28 (page 15) clarifies that Economic Impact Payments (stimulus payments) to individuals are not considered income. Annual income does not include temporary, non-recurring or sporadic income such as EIP. The FAQ adds that “Any additional future one-time stimulus payments made directly to individuals and families would be excluded from annual income, as they are temporary, non-recurring payments.” The latest EIP amounts are $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples and up to $500 for each qualifying child.
OC29 regarding the details of various types of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act remains unchanged. However, the FAQ adds, “HUD is aware of an unemployment extension in the ‘2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act’ and is evaluating the impact to income calculations. HUD will provide an updated guidance for income calculation soon.”
OC33 (page 17) is new, addressing the $400 per week of additional unemployment benefit described in an August 8, 2020, Presidential Memoranda (PM). The FAQ states that public housing agencies (PHAs) must exclude this unemployment benefit from income calculations because the PM authorized the $400 per week under the Stafford Act using FEMA’s Lost Wages Assistance Program, which is normally excludable income.
OC34 is also new, addressing benefits from the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and “Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021” (HEERF II). For a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) participant who is a student, the amount received through HEERF is excluded as annual income unless it exceeds tuition and any other required fees and charges. Any excess is considered income unless the participant is over the age of 23 with dependent children, in which case it is excluded from income. Amounts received through HEERF II are to be treated in the same manner as HEERF. For Public Housing residents, the full benefit would be excluded.
Internet Connectivity for Residents
EU17 (page 58) is a new FAQ replacing and augmenting three FAQs from the previous FAQ update (EU27 and EU28, pages 59-60).
For public housing, CARES Act Supplemental Public Housing Operating Funds (Supplemental Funds) can be used for costs that are already eligible uses of public housing Operating and Capital Funds related to internet access included in the guidance “Public Housing Funds for Internet Connectivity for Residents.” In addition to these expenses, CARES Act Supplemental Operating funds can also be used for expenses that help prevent, prepare for, or respond to the coronavirus. Supplemental Funds and other Operating and Capital Funds cannot duplicate or be used when other governmental funding sources are available (e.g., Department of Education, state, or local funds available for laptops for students). See FAQ EU18 and Notice PIH 2020-07 (see Memo, 5/4/20).
Housing Choice Vouchers
For HCV households, CARES Act Administrative Fee funds may be used for:
- Any currently eligible HCV administrative costs during the period that the program remains impacted by the pandemic; and
- New coronavirus related activities defined as eligible activities by HUD, including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, as well as costs related to the retention and support of participating owners.
CARES Act Administrative Fee funds may also be used for devices for residents as described in Notice PIH 2020-08 (see Memo, 5/4/20), Notice PIH 2020-18 (see Memo, 8/10/20), and as posted on the HCV website. A PHA must determine that an activity is necessary to support or maintain the health of assisted households or otherwise to prevent, prepare for, or respond to coronavirus.
For Both Public Housing and HCVs
A PHA may purchase laptops or other computer devices for individual residents and for shared use (e.g., on loan to residents for a defined period of time), provided the PHA has policies reflecting their distribution and retention methods consistent with equipment requirements and cost principles (at 2 CFR part 200). A PHA must retain documentation to support how the activities and expenses prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. Examples of eligible uses include providing families with devices to access telehealth services and job training, and to support education.
OC46 (page 21) is updated, indicating that while public housing unit inspections have been suspended, HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) is working to prioritize the restart of inspections for the public housing portfolio in mid-calendar year 2021 for properties considered high-risk. REAC is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to further validate that its existing protocols meet CDC guidelines and that any inspections completed are done in a safe manner. REAC’s protocol includes the ability to cancel inspections if state/local law considers it unsafe to conduct inspections, or if a situation arises such that and inspection cannot be safely conducted. This is true even after an inspection begins and new information becomes available indicating that it is not safe to conduct the inspection.
Since the start of the pandemic, REAC has conducted inspections where there is an exigent circumstance or reason to believe that there is a threat to life or property at a specific location. Those inspections are conducted by HUD quality assurance inspectors in compliance with CDC guidelines.
OC68 (page 27) adds at the very end that PHAs will be required to complete an inspection of every public housing property during calendar year 2021.
OC81 (page 31) is a new FAQ addressing whether owner certifications are required for all delayed biennial inspections or only for initial inspections. At minimum, an owner certification that there are no known life-threatening conditions is now required for all delayed biennial inspections (in addition to initial inspections). This requirement applies to all biennial inspections after November 30, 2020, the effective date of Notice PIH 2020-33. However, HUD encourages PHAs to get an owner certification for all delayed biennial inspections.
OC136 (page 46) regarding remote video inspections (RVIs) is updated to indicate that RVIs may be conducted not only during the pandemic, but also after the pandemic. Notice PIH 2020-31 (see Memo, 12/7/2020) about RVIs is in effect until amended, suspended, or rescinded.
OC140 (page 47) is a new FAQ addressing whether a member of a household or their family can conduct a RVI (serve as a proxy) and whether they need to be certified. A proxy can be a landlord, property representative, tenant, or any adult associated with a tenancy. The selection of a proxy is a mutual decision between a PHA, landlord, and tenant. A proxy streams an inspection back to an HQS inspector, following instructions and responding to probing questions from the inspector. An inspector makes an assessment based on what is observed through the video streaming and makes the determination about whether HQS were met.
OC144 is also a new FAQ, clarifying that if a tenant is a proxy RVI inspector, the tenant must successfully complete a Lead-Based Paint Visual Assessment training. For the HCV program, visual assessments for deteriorated paint are only necessary in units built before 1978 where there is (or will be) a child under age six in a unit. These requirements have not been waived by HUD during the coronavirus pandemic. The visual assessment course contains 45 slides, a short test, and can be completed online.
OC145 (page 48) is new. It addresses whether a proxy needs to take the Lead-Based Paint Visual Assessment course for RVI inspections of buildings built before 1978, many of which have Project-based Voucher (PBV) assistance, that have been rehabbed and issued new lead certificates. Unless a property has been found to be lead-based paint free by a state-certified inspector, it is still covered by HUD’s Lead Safe Housing Rule. (Usually “lead certificates” issued by state or local agencies indicate the unit is lead safe, but not lead free.) Requirements for project-based assistance are different. They require a full lead-based paint risk assessment. Visual assessments using RVI could be used for annual re-evaluations in accordance with Notice PIH 2020-31.
OC11 (page 10) addresses residents who want family members who are being released from congregate facilities (such as jail, prisons, and homeless centers) to be able to live with them during the pandemic. Text of the previous FAQ is modified, indicating that PHAs have discretion to take into account relevant circumstances of an applicant’s situation when establishing tenant screening criteria and guest policies.
OC25 (page 14) addresses waivers of households’ annual income reexaminations allowed by Notice PIH 2020-33 REV-2. The previous FAQ is modified by concluding that reexaminations due between January 1, 2021 and June 30, 2021 must be completed by June 30, 2021.
OC40 (page 19-20) addressed technological requirements for remote hearings to ensure they are accessible to people with disabilities. The updated version adds that PHAs may not rely on a minor child accompanying a person with a disability to interpret or facilitate communication for that person, except in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public when there is no interpreter available. In addition, PHAs may not rely on an adult accompanying an individual with a disability to interpret or facilitate communication, except in an emergency involving an imminent threat to the safety or welfare of an individual or the public when there is no interpreter available; or when the individual with a disability specifically requests that the accompanying adult interpret or facilitate communication, the accompanying adult agrees to provide such assistance, and reliance on that adult for such assistance is appropriate under the circumstances.
OC82-OC90 (pages 31-33) include four updated and five new FAQs regarding a PHA’s Section 8 Management Assessment (SEMAP) score.
The update to COVID-19 FAQs for Public Housing Agencies is at: https://bit.ly/3tXtS2k
More information about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about Housing Choice Vouchers is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide