LeadingAge calls for support, guidance from HUD

Regulation | March 19, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

On March 19, LeadingAge sent a second letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, urging the federal government to help affordable housing communities serving older adults navigate the global health emergency.

On March 19, LeadingAge sent a second letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, urging the federal government to help affordable housing communities serving older adults navigate the global health emergency.

The LeadingAge letter, which was addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, asked for the White House and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue guidance and offer regulatory relief for HUD-assisted communities. While federal guidance has helped nursing homes, hospitals, and other health facilities serving older adults, HUD-assisted communities have yet to receive the level of relief and resources necessary.

Centers for Disease and Control data show the coronavirus has a disproportionate impact on older adults. Given that there are thousands of HUD-assisted communities serving primarily older adults, and that their residents have more chronic health conditions than their peers without housing assistance, the need for federal support and direction is critical. However, HUD’s current emergency preparedness plans do not cover infectious disease control.

While HUD has provided some guidance in a question and answer document on its webpage, both housing providers and residents of HUD-assisted senior housing urgently need more support and guidance. Outstanding questions to HUD include what a multifamily housing practitioner should do if a resident is diagnosed with COVID-19, particularly if they need continued access community-based health or food services, and how providers should pay for extra staff and supplies.

In its letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, LeadingAge urged HUD to offer provisions of regulatory relief, effective immediately, including waiving annual income recertifications and TRACS requirements, and temporarily streamlining administration requirements that require in-person resident interaction. The letter also urges HUD to temporarily renew all expiring subsidy contracts, clarify staffing and visitation policies in HUD-assisted housing, and allow housing providers expanded access to funds for handling COVID-19.

For elderly residents of affordable housing, the letter urged HUD to halt current and new evictions proceedings as a result of COVID-19 economic displacement, suspend minimum rents and expand hardship clauses, and require housing providers to notify residents of any new and existing rights if their incomes have decreased due to the health emergency. The letter also directs HUD to work with health officials and other agencies to offer mobile testing and health services for low-income residents, many of whom have limited mobility or transportation options.

The March 19th letter follows an earlier letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force that requested more guidance, funding, equipment, and communication from HUD. Meanwhile, LeadingAge has urged lawmakers in Congress to provide relief and emergency supplemental funding for both housing providers and residents.