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Policy Update 4-29-20

Around the State

General Assembly Convenes Short Session
The General Assembly convened yesterday (April 28) in Raleigh. The session is expected to be brief, possibly a couple days or up to a week, and will be focused almost entirely on COVID-19 related issues and directing the state’s use of federal resources coming down to states to deal with the pandemic. 

Last week Governor Roy Cooper released his plan for how federal relief funds should be directed. Yesterday afternoon, both chambers of the General Assembly released their proposals related to COVID-19 responses. The Senate plan, Senate Bill 704, proposes a framework for facilitating the delivery of federal relief funds. However, the plan does not include direct provisions regarding specific uses of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG-CV) coming from the CARES Act, leaving the door open for the Governor to take the lead on directing those funds. The House proposals also make no mention of housing resources.

Regarding the Workforce Housing Loan Program and Housing Trust Fund, there are currently no appropriations in any of the proposals. Housing providers and advocates need to contact state legislators to remind them of the critical role these funds play in the preservation and construction of affordable housing, which is especially important during the pandemic and as the state recovers from its economic impacts. 

After COVID-19 related work is concluded, General Assembly members are expected to adjourn until late June or early July, when they will convene a Special Session. During that summer session, legislators will presumably work on the budget and other matters normally dealt with during the regular Short Session.  

COVID-19 Response Coordination in Governor’s Office
There is a small team within OSBM that is being formed to play point on the COVID-19 recovery similar to the Office of Economic Recovery and Investments that was formed after the foreclosure crisis. At its peak, OERI had up to 20 employees who were time-limited whose charge was to coordinate, work with others, provide guidance, make sure there is a clean audit, etc. Barbara Baldwin is temporarily heading this effort up as it is being formalized. She led OERI from 2011 to its closure. 

Raleigh Updates on Affordable Housing Bond and CDBG
The city continues to gather input from residents regarding the use of a proposed affordable housing bond. The bond would be on the November ballot for approval. Residents are encouraged to complete a survey on the use of bond funds. The survey closes on May 3rd. Additionally, a website has been created where further information on the bond.

City staff have outlined their recommendations for the use of CDBG funds that Raleigh expects to receive as part of the CARES Act. Staff recommends that a major focus of the funds be on providing direct rent, utility and mortgage assistance to households with income between 30%-50% of Area Median Income (AMI). Households above 30% AMI are not typically eligible for federal rental assistance programs such as Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG). Those recommendations can be viewed here. The latest blog from the Coalition provides more detailed information regarding the use of CDBG-CV funds for rental and mortgage assistance.

National

Congress Passes Additional COVID-19 Relief
Late last week, an interim coronavirus aid package was passed & signed. The package, known as Phase 3.5, directs $484 billion primarily towards replenishing small business programs (such as the Paycheck Protection Program) and financial assistance to hospitals/healthcare facilities. The package did not provide additional housing resources. National advocates continue to call on Congress to provide in $100 billion rental assistance and a broadening of the national eviction & foreclosure moratorium. Find your representatives here and let them know that housing needs continue to grow and must be addressed in future relief measures.

Events/Reports/Resources

Enterprise webinar Wed 4/29 @ 2pm – “How Communities Can Use CDBG Funds to Address COVID-19”

National Housing Conference webinar – FHA Commissioner on COVID-19 Fri 5/1 @ 1pm

Pew Research Center – National survey on lost wages

National Low Income Housing Coalition – “Multifamily Properties Subject to Federal Eviction Moratoriums”

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved – “Rental Assistance and Adult Self-Rated Health,” 

Recommended read

Using CDBG for Rental Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis

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