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Policy Update 4-15-20

Around the State

General Assembly Update
The General Assembly remains out of session. The House Select Committee on COVID-19 continues to meet virtually. The committee has a deadline of April 24th to report their recommendations. As of this writing, the Short Session remains scheduled to convene on April 28th. The session is likely to be short, lasting just a day or two, with legislators voting on COVID-19 related measures soon convening. There appears to be hesitance to appropriate funds in the near-term because legislators are expecting that tax revenue this spring will be significantly reduced due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. The Coalition is working with committee leaders to ensure that housing is a part of the GA’s statewide response. Visit the blog post for details on our recommendations to state policymakers.

City of Charlotte Approves Plans to Use Federal Funds for Local Housing Relief
On April 14th, the City of Charlotte approved plans for $5.7 million in coronavirus relief for city residents. The funds are part of what the city expects to receive as part of the federal CARES Act that was enacted a few short weeks ago. The Charlotte city council approved the following housing related resources:

  • $1.3 million towards extended-stay hotels for homeless individuals and families for up to eight months;
  • Nearly $1.2 million for up to three months of mortgage relief for 350 households earning up to 80% of the Area Median Income, or about $63,000 per year for a family of four;
  • $1.05 million for three months of rent relief for 350 households earning up to 80% AMI;
  • $1.05 million for one-time security deposits up to $1,500 for 700 homeless households to move into permanent housing;
  • $175,000 for one-time utility deposits of up to $250 for to 700 households.

The city is able to offer these resources as part of the CARES Act’s allocations towards Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) funds. The rent and mortgage relief being provided addresses growing concerns about renters and homeowners being unable to make their payments due to reduced wages and job losses. Recent data finds that 1 in 4 apartment renters in Charlotte were unable to make their April rent payments on time. The NC Court system has currently postponed court proceedings until June 1st, however, that directive does not prevent the possibility of widespread evictions and foreclosures once the courts return to regular operations. 

For more about the housing provisions included in the CARES Act go here. The Coalition has prepared a fact sheet summarizing potential uses of CDBG funds in North Carolina.

Durham County Approves Use of RTP Hotel to House Homeless During Pandemic
Last week, the Durham County Commissioners approved a plan to house homeless persons at a Marriott hotel near RTP during the pandemic. The hotel rooms will allow people to self-isolate in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The plan will cost the county $1.6 million, 75% of which will be eligible for reimbursement under North Carolina’s FEMA approval for non-congregate sheltering during the pandemic. Continue reading for more details of the use of FEMA funds for housing. 

FEMA Approves NC Funding for Non-Congregate Housing for Homeless
On April 7th, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Governor Roy Cooper’s request to use FEMA funding to utilize facilities such as hotels and college dormitories to temporarily house people that are currently unstably housed who need to quarantine due to coronavirus. Cooper says this will provide “safe options to self-isolate or social distance” to those without stable housing. 

The approved plan will provide 16,500 individual units spread out across hotels, motels, trailers, and dorms for people in the following situations:

  • People who test positive for COVID-19, needing isolation but not hospitalization
  • People who have been exposed to COVID-19 and require quarantine
  • People needing social distancing because they are in at-risk groups for contracting COVID-19 such as the elderly, people with underlying health conditions, the immuno-compromised. 

FEMA will fund 75% of the costs and the state or local governments will cover the remaining 25% which includes support security, food, utilities, and laundry.

National

Work Begins on Next Coronavirus Relief Package
Last week Senate majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released an interim spending bill to provide additional economic relief from the pandemic impacts. The bill was criticized for lacking resources to assist lower wealth individuals and families. In response, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a separate plan. Neither of these plans included additional resources for housing and homelessness programs. Advocates nationwide continue to call on Congress to include funds for housing programs. Please see the Coalition’s blog post for details on our recommendations for national housing policy that will address some of North Carolina’s specific issues during the pandemic.

H.R. 6314 – Emergency Rental Assistance Act of 2020
Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced H.R. 6314 last week. The bill would provide an additional $100 billion towards emergency rental payment assistance on top of what has already been enacted within CARES Act ESG funds. If passed, this bill would increase the income limits for emergency rental assistance to 80%, above what it typically allowed under ESG provided rental payments. The bill intends to provide access to rental assistance to low and moderate-income renters who live in unsubsidized rental housing, much of which was not covered by the provisions of the CARES Act.

CARES Act CDBG Funds Begin Rolling Out
On March 27th the President signed into law the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), enacting a $2 trillion stimulus and relief package. The CARES Act is an historic relief package intended to help keep individuals and businesses afloat during the ensuing economic crisis through provisions such as individual cash payments to individuals, emergency unemployment benefits, and emergency grants and loans for small businesses. To address housing and homelessness needs, the CARES Act includes $12 billion for housing programs. HUD’s CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program is receiving $5 billion which will be deployed in three tranches. While CDBG funds provide communities with great flexibility to address local needs, advocacy will be needed to ensure that those resources are utilized to aid those most vulnerable to the health and financial impacts of COVID-19. The Coalition has developed a fact sheet summarizing the roll out of these funds.  

ESG Funds from the CARES Act
HUD has released the expected allocation amounts for Emergency Support Grants (ESG) coming from the CARES Act. North Carolina will be getting approximately $23.7 million, with $18.4 million to non-entitlement areas and $5 million to large cities. HUD has yet to release guidance on the application and administration of these funds. Although they have announced that the income limits will be slightly higher (50% of AMI) than what is normally allowed for ESG (30% of AMI). Further HUD has stated that there will be no “double-dipping” of CDBG funds and ESG funds from the CARES Act.

Resources for Nonprofits
The CARES Act includes several provisions to provide support for nonprofit organizations as they weather the coronavirus crisis. Nonprofits are eligible for several loans and grant programs from the Small Business Administration. Please visit the NC Center for Nonprofits website for comprehensive information on the CARES provisions most relevant to nonprofits.

Rep. David Price of Durham recently held a townhall explaining some of these resources. A recording of the townhall can be found here: https://priceforms.house.gov/components/redirect/r.aspx?ID=1678-2249675

Resources/Reports

National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) – Rent Payment Tracker

National Low Income Housing Coalition – “Working with FEMA to Address COVID-19 Housing and Homelessness Needs”

Internal Revenue Service –  Tool to Help Non-Filers Register for Economic Impact Payments

Recommended read

Housing Priorities for COVID-19 Response

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