CARES Act provides funding for low-income housing

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Within a few weeks residents of low-income housing could begin to benefit from two waves of HUD funding that is allocated to help families during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money, which is part of the CARES Act, total $726.067. Just how the money will be used will be decided when the Tallahassee Housing Authority completes an action plan, said Executive Director Brenda Williams.

The first amount is $272,712 to cover Housing Choice Voucher, while THA also received an additional $453,355 that can be use in a more varied fashion.

 Because the amount of money allotted and the high demand caused by coronavirus in the low-income housing sector, Williams said she will seek the tenants’ help to determine a list of priorities.

“What we intend to do is to survey our public housing and housing choice voucher clients to determine what their needs are,” Williams said. “Based on that survey, we will budget for what they need.”

Brenda Williams, director of Tallahassee Housing Authority, said residents will help decide what spendings are priorities. Photo by St. Clair Murraine

Almost 3,000 families are in housing under the jurisdiction of THA, with 2,300 families in the voucher program and 544 families in public housing. Several of those families have been feeling the pinch of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and have given notice about their loss of income.

Many residents have been given a reprieve on making monthly payments. Additionally, they will continue to get financial assistance from THA with their utility bills, a practice that Williams said been in place before the virus outbreak.

 “We don’t anticipate a lot of issues with them paying their rent,” Williams said. “All they have to do is notify us and we will reduce their rent.”

She added that tenants won’t be asked to make back payments on their rent.

While HUD announced that $685 million have been allocated for low-income housing nationwide, Congressman Al Lawson also announced that Tallahassee and Jacksonville, two areas in his district, will receive more than $2 million from HUD. 

Congressman Al Lawson served on the Financial Services Committee that crafted CARES Act funding. Photo courtesy Congressman Lawson’s office

Lawson serves on the Financial Services Committee, which drafted spending for the CARES Act. He said the housing funding is essential because many who live in low-income housing are the ones on the frontlines such as hospitals and grocery stores workers.

“Many of those are experiencing financial strain so any relief that we can provide, especially for the most vulnerable residents is critical,” Lawson said. 

Earlier in a statement Lawson said: “It is critical that we provide them with support and stability during this public health crisis.”

He also said that provisions were made for people who are disproportionately among the victims of COVID-19 by securing billions of dollars in CARES Act funding for hospitals.

“It helps a great deal,” Lawson said. “We also put another 75 billion into the hospital so that if people need to go to the hospital they’ll get care.”