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COVID-19 Housing Response and Resources

As we are all working to understand the potentially far reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to assure you that VHA is working to stay abreast of the rapidly changing landscape and evolving crisis response. There is little doubt that no corner of our Commonwealth will be spared by the effects of this health crisis and we are committed to ensuring that the needs of our low-income and at risk neighbors are met during this unprecedented time.  As we work (remotely) to understand the impact and needs across the housing continuum, we will be updating this page with additional information.

WHAT’S BEEN DONE SO FAR

S. 3548 – CORONAVIRUS AID RELIEF, AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT 

On March 25th, the Senate passed S. 3548 Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act sending it to the House where it is expected to pass and go on to be signed by President Trump. This omnibus legislative package provides significant investment in federal housing  and community development programs.  

 $12 billion for HUD programs, specifically:

  • $5 billion for CDBG (and elimination of the service cap)

  • $4 billion for Emergency Shelter Grants

  • $1.25 billion for Tenant Based Rental Assistance

  • $1 billion for Project Based Rental Assistance

  • $685 million for Public Housing

  • $300 million for Native American Programs

  • $65 million for Housing Opportunities for Person with Aids (HOPWA)

  • $50 million for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly

  • $15 million for Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities

  • $2.5 million for additional fair housing enforcement

 While CDBG did not receive the $10 billion initially included in earlier versions of the proposal, two separate accounts were created for states and localities to draw upon to address similar needs: 

  1. A $150 billion relief fund that will be made available to States, Tribal governments, and local governments,

  2. and a $45 billion FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.

 In addition, the bill:

  • Prohibits foreclosures on all federally-backed mortgage loans for a 60-day period beginning on March 18, 2020, and provides up to 180 days of forbearance for borrowers of a federally-backed mortgage loan who have experienced a financial hardship related to the COVID-19 emergency.

  • Provides up to 90 days of forbearance for multifamily borrowers with a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan who have experienced a financial hardship. Borrowers receiving forbearance may not evict or charge late fees to tenants for the duration of the forbearance period.

  • Provides a 120 day temporary moratorium on eviction filings for properties assisted in any way by HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the rural housing voucher program, or the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

H.R. 6201 – FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS ACT

On March 18th, President Trump signed into law H.R.6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This bill responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. Though important, this effort does little to protect 

We will continue to monitor other relief efforts in the days ahead. Count on the Virginia Housing Alliance as we work with our partners to best understand the short and long-term implications these measures have on housing opportunity in our Commonwealth.  

Specifically, H.R.6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides FY2020 supplemental appropriations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for nutrition and food assistance programs, including

The bill provides FY2020 appropriations to the the respective departments of the Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to expand 

  • the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC);

  • the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP); and

  • allow certain waivers to requirements for the school meal programs,

  • suspend the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program), and

  • allow states to request waivers to provide certain emergency SNAP benefits.

The bill also includes provisions that

  • establish a federal emergency paid leave benefits program to provide payments to employees taking unpaid leave due to the coronavirus outbreak,

  • expand unemployment benefits and provide grants to states for processing and paying claims,

  • require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees,

  • establish requirements for providing coronavirus diagnostic testing at no cost to consumers,

  • treat personal respiratory protective devices as covered countermeasures that are eligible for certain liability protections, and

  • temporarily increase the Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (collectively known as Government-Sponsored Enterprises, or Enterprises) to suspend foreclosures for at least 60 days to help borrowers who are at risk of losing their home due to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The foreclosure suspension applies to homeowners with an Enterprise-backed single-family mortgage.

The FHFA also announced that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are working with mortgage servicers to offer payment forbearance to borrowers impacted by the pandemic, which allows for a mortgage payment to be suspended for up to 12 months due to hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. FHFA Director Mark Calabria noted that this foreclosure suspension “allows homeowners with an Enterprise-backed mortgage to stay in their homes during this national emergency,” and asked impacted borrowers who are having difficulty paying their mortgage to reach out to their mortgage servicers as soon as possible. The announcement does not include any mention of eviction protections for tenants who reside in rental properties with Enterprise-backed multifamily mortgages. (FHFA, March 18) 

WHERE WE STILL NEED TO GO

  • House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson asking for the release of greater guidance and other assistance to help low-income families and the organizations that serve them deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released a letter pressing President Donald Trump to issue an immediate, nationwide moratorium on all foreclosures on GSE or Federally owned or insured properties.

ADVOCACY

Click here to explore essential resources compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition to combat coronavirus. 

The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition is advocating for 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, which will continue to be expanded and refined.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness is publishing COVID-19/Homelessness resources on their website

The National Healthcare for the Homeless Council is collecting resources on COVID-19 and homelessness on their website.

NLIHC signed on to a letter headed by the World Institute on Disability and others urging all levels of government to put in place strategies to address the needs of people with disabilities throughout all phases of the outbreak. To learn more, contact Marcie at marcie@wid.org.

Novogradic Consulting has a new blog post with policies from state allocating agencies.

The National MultiFamily Housing Council called on lawmakers to provide direct financial assistance to renters.

The Coalition on Human Needs sent a letter to the Senate asking for swift action on housing, healthcare, and economic needs for low-income Americans.

LeadingAge, a coalition of groups working in aging, sent a letter to the White House Coronavirus Taskforce asking for HUD to increase its focus on senior affordable housing during the outbreak.

SHOULD YOU HAVE QUESTIONS AS TO HOW TO ACCESS SERVICES HERE IN VIRGINIA. PLEASE DIAL 211.

2-1-1 VIRGINIA provides information and referral for:

  • Basic human needs: Food banks, shelters, rent or utility assistance

  • Physical and mental health resources

  • Work initiatives: Job training, English as a second language classes, GED preparation, financial and transportation assistance

  • Support for seniors and those with disabilities: Adult daycare, meals at home, respite care, home healthcare

  • Support for children, youth and families: After-school programs, tutoring, mentorship programs, counseling, child care centers

  • Volunteering in your community: Mentorship opportunities, locations to donate food, clothing, furniture, computers or other items

  • Disaster support services: Up-to-date information on community and regional response, volunteer and donation coordination, crisis intervention and human service coordination

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