HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) sent an email to public housing agency (PHA) executive directors announcing guidance regarding using public housing funds to support Internet connectivity for public housing residents. The email links to a four page document that provides a comprehensive summary of how public housing funds can be used to support resident access to broadband Internet and devices using public housing Operating Funds and Capital Funds.
PHAs may use public housing Operating Funds to provide internet services to public housing residents in their units and in common areas. PIH has allowed PHAs to use Operating Funds to cover costs of internet service for computer labs, common areas, and PHA operation and management purposes. PIH notes that access to the internet in buildings and individual units enables public housing residents to better communicate with PHA management and resident councils.
Operating Funds may be used for ongoing costs of operating computer centers in public housing including:
- Ongoing internet connection fees and utilities
- Computers and computer equipment
- Staff salary
- Other activities related to operating a computer center (e.g., training programs)
- Network maintenance and security expenses
In residents’ homes the Operating Fund may be used for:
- Internet service for residential units and common areas
- Ongoing maintenance of PHA-purchased broadband equipment and wiring, Wi-Fi/mesh network equipment, satellite/cellular receivers, and in-unit routers, hotspots, and modems
- Related staff expenses
PHAs have used public housing Capital Funds to update buildings to support broadband internet and Wi-Fi. They have also used Capital Funds to purchase and install equipment, and for capital expenditures to facilitate programs to improve resident empowerment and economic self-sufficiency, tenant accommodations, and training to operate equipment.
In residents’ homes, the Capital Fund may be used for:
- Installation of or upgrades to broadband infrastructure and hardware equipment such as modems, switches, or Wi-Fi extenders
- Equipment to establish Wi-Fi (or mesh) networks/or upgrades to such equipment
- Wiring of individual units
- Installation of special directional antennae to extend wireless internet connectivity from the PHA’s management offices to public housing properties, enabling households within reach of the wireless signal to have free connectivity
- Installation of satellite/cellular receivers to connect properties to wireless broadband
- Routers, hotspots, and modems for individual units (but not internet connectivity, this would be an Operating Fund expense)
Resident Councils can use the $25 per occupied unit funding they receive for the same internet connectivity expenses mentioned above under the Capital Fund and Operating Fund eligible uses.
The “CARES Act of 2020” provided additional funding and flexibilities as described in Notice PIH 2020-07 and relevant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). CARES Act funds may be used to cover in-unit internet service and shared devices to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including activities to support or maintain the health and safety of assisted individuals and families, and to support education and childcare for impacted families.
Examples of PHAs using CARES Act funds to support internet connectivity are offered. PHAs have purchased laptops or tablets for students. Some PHAs opted to fund internet service for units with school-aged children. Others installed Wi-Fi routers or provided mobile hotspots for loan, and some allowed residents to borrow devices for telehealth purposes.
The PIH email is at: https://bit.ly/36jyUNj
The four-page guidance document is at: https://bit.ly/2KRyara
More information about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.