COVID-19 Project Roomkey

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information and guidance about Project Roomkey which provides non-congregate shelter options to people experiencing homelessness, particularly private hotel rooms and trailers.  California has distributed 1,305 trailers for Project Roomkey.

CDSS recommends that who are experiencing homelessness and have tested positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to COVID-19 or are at high risk of COVID-19 be prioritized for Project Roomkey.

Project Roomkey providers should: 1) anticipated the need within priority populations and determine how best to triage individuals, 2) identify appropriate locations and properties and execute agreements with property owners, and 3) identify and operationalize core operating services, including wraparound supports.  (ACWDL, June 1, 2020.)

COVID-19 HUD extension of foreclosure and eviction moratorium

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has extended the foreclosure and eviction moratorium announced in Mortgagee Letter 2020-04 for borrowers with FHA-insured Single Family mortgages covered under the CARES Act through June 30, 2020.

FHA-insured Single Family mortgages, excluding vacant or abandoned properties, are subject to this extension to the moratorium on foreclosure.  The moratorium applies to initiation of foreclosure and to foreclosures in process.

Evictions of persons from properties securing FHA-insured Single Family mortgages are also suspended through June 30, 2020.

Deadlines for first legal action and responsible diligence are extended by 90 days from the date of the expiration of the moratorium.  (Mortgagee Letter 2020-13, May 14, 2020.)

COVID-19 HUD waivers

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued several waivers regarding requirements for various programs because of COVID-19.  This summary focuses on waivers that directly affect tenants and voucher holders.

Waivers for both public housing and voucher

The public meeting requirement for public housing authority (PHA) 5 year plans and annual plans is waived.  HUD provided alternative deadlines for some PHA to complete their plans.

Annual recertifications for public housing, housing choice voucher (HCV) and project based voucher (PBV) are delayed. All recertifications need to be done by December 31, 2020.  PHAs can forgo third party verification and accept self-certification as the highest form of verification.  Self-certification can be done by telephone, email or mail.  Recertifications do not need to be done in person.

Third party verification for interim reexaminations because of decrease in income is waived through July 31, 2020.  Self-certification can be accepted as the highest form of verification.

PHAs can extend Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) plans for up to two years for good cause.  COVID-19 is good cause to extend a FSS plan through December 31, 2020.

Notice of a PHA opening a waiting list can be posted on the PHAs website and voicemail through July 31, 2020.

HCV and PBV

Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections are delayed.  Through July 31, 2020, owners can certify that they have no reasonable basis to know of life threatening conditions at the property. Inspections must occur by October 31, 2020.

For initial HQS inspections, through July 31, 2020 there is a 30 day extension for non-life threatening repairs to 60 days and payment can begin while repairs are occurring.

Occupancy will be allowed if the unit passed an alternative inspection in the last 24 months.  A new HQS inspection must be done no later than October 31, 2020.

Biannual HQS inspections are delayed to no later than October 31, 2020.

Public Housing

PHAs can make changes to their Admissions and Continuing Occupancy Policy (ACOP) without approval of their Board.  The Board must approve changes no later than July 31, 2020.

The community service requirement is suspended until March 31, 2021.

Families with income exceeding the maximum income for two consecutive years can remain in their unit at their current rent until the next annual recertification.

Indian housing

For Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), providers can do less frequent income verification, allow verification of income remotely including self-certification by phone or email for fiscal year 2020 grants.

IHBG funds can be used for public health for fiscal year 2020 grants.

IHBG funds can be used to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19 for fiscal year 2020 grants.

Indian Community Development Block Grant funds can be used for emergency payments for low and moderate income individuals and families impacted by COVID-19.  Initially, payments are limited to 3 months.  (PIH Notice 2020-05, April 10, 2020.)

COVID-19 loss mitigation options for single family borrowers

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued instructions regarding loss mitigation options for covered single family borrowers that are in the CARES Act.

For borrowers experiencing financial hardship because of COVID-19 which impacts their ability to make mortgage payments on time, the mortgagee must offer a forbearance which allows for one or more periods of reduced or suspended payments without specific terms of repayment.  The mortgagee may use any available method for communicating with a borrower regarding forbearance.  The initial forbearance period may be up to 6 months.  If needed, the borrower can request an additional 6 months forbearance period.  The mortgagee must waive all late charges, fees, and penalties as long as the borrower is on a forbearance plan.  Any borrower granted forbearance and is otherwise performing as agreed is not delinquent for purposes of credit reporting.  This provision is effective immediately.

The CARES Act established the COVID-19 National Emergency Standalone Claim.  Borrowers are eligible if the mortgage was current or less than 30 days past due as of March 1, 2020, the borrowers states they can resume making mortgage payments on time, and the property is owner occupied.  If this claim is granted, the borrowers accumulated late fees are waived, and the claim only includes arrearages, consisting of principal, interest, taxes and insurance.  The mortgagee is also automatically granted a 90-day extension to the 6-month deadline for recorded mortgages.  All borrowers who receive a forbearance must be evaluated for the National Emergency Standalone Claim.  This program starts no later than April 30, 2020 but mortgagees can start it sooner.

The mortgagee must evaluate any borrower not brought current by a National Emergency Standalone Claim for other loss mitigation options.

These remedies do not affect the terms of the mortgage.

For Home Equity Conversion Mortgages, upon request of the borrower, the mortgagee must delay submitting a request to call a loan due and payable.  The initial extension period may be up to 6 months.  If needed, an additional 6 month period can be approved by HUD.  The mortgagee must waive all late charges, fees, and penalties as long as the borrower is in an extension period.  For loans that have become automatically due and payable, entered into a deferral period, or become due and payable with HUD approval, the mortgagee may also take an automatic extension for any deadline for foreclosure and claim submission for up to 6 months.  If needed, HUD can approve an additional 6 month extension.  (Mortgagee Letter 2020-06, April 1, 2020.)

COVID-19 new interim homeless assistance program guidance

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued new guidance CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA) and COVID-19.  This new guidance supersedes CDSS’ March 19, 2020 All County Welfare Directors Letter for HA only.

Up to 16 days of motel vouchers are available from HA for eligible or apparently eligible CalWORKs participants.  Because of COVID-19, counties may waive the three-day limit to verify homelessness.  Counties may issue benefits in increments of more than one week, up to all 16 days at once.

Families should be granted good cause for not completing daily permanent housing search.

Receiving HA because of a state or federally declared disaster does not count against a client’s once per 12-months limit on HA.  In addition, clients affected by COVID-19 may be eligible for an exception to the once per 12-months limit because of uninhabitability of the home or a medical illness. For example, if a parent needs to isolate themselves because of COVID-19, HA should be granted based on exception because of medical illness.

HA applications are not required to be made in person or to include a face-to-face interview.  Counties can complete the application and have the client electronically sign it.  Counties can also record a verbal attestation over the phone or enter a case note stating the client attested to the information.

Counties can accept sworn statements for not providing paper verification such as hotel receipts or counties can grant good cause for not submitting paper verification.

Although existing guidance requires counties to issue vendor payments when there has been a finding of mismanagement, if there is no feasible way to issue vendor payments because of COVID-19, counties should consider issuing benefits on the client’s EBT card.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, March 31, 2020.)