Government Shutdown - Low-Income Renters Face Eviction

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Government Shutdown - Low-Income Renters Face Eviction

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:14 pm

Low-Income Renters Face Eviction, Thanks to the Government Shutdown

Contracts for federal housing assistance are expiring, and thousands of low-income seniors and disabled renters could face eviction.

Kriston Capps Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
Jan 10, 2019

Where the rent checks will stop. National Low Income Housing Coalition
Low-Income Renters Face Eviction, Thanks to the Government Shutdown

Contracts for federal housing assistance are expiring, and thousands of low-income seniors and disabled renters could face eviction.

With the federal government shutdown in the U.S. nearing the three-week mark and no end in sight, more than 800,000 furloughed workers are starting to feel the sting of missing paychecks and mounting bills. The real-world impacts of this political brinkmanship—from airport-security sick-outs to sharply curtailed food inspections to fears that contractors may never see any backpay—are starting to metastasize throughout the economy.

That anxiety is setting on some of the most vulnerable families in America. Between 70,000 and 85,000 low-income households that rely on assistance for housing—many elderly or disabled, and some of whom make less than $13,000 per year—could see shocks to their housing status if the shutdown persists.

On Tuesday, housing advocates issued a letter to top leaders in the House and Senate outlining the plight of vulnerable families during the federal shutdown. Their immediate concerns revolve around a program known as Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, a benefit that favors older renters and people with disabilities especially. Contracts under this program that were up for renewal last month instead expired after the government closed on December 22.

Two-thirds of the people who receive housing aid under this program are seniors or individuals with disabilities; the average income level for these beneficiaries falls below the federal poverty limit. For these fixed-income households, there’s no margin between disruption and despair. And with more Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts set to expire this month and next, the ranks of seniors and disabled people facing a housing crisis may grow.

An interactive map assembled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows where these expiring Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts are located. The soon-to-be-affected households live in affordable housing developments in nearly every state.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Project-Based Rental Assistance program differs from the more familiar tenant-based Section 8 vouchers. Under Project-Based Rental Assistance, HUD contracts with private property owners to open up some or all of their rental units to low-income families. To be eligible, at least 40 percent of the units in a development must go to families with extremely low incomes (at or below 30 percent of area median income or the poverty line, whichever’s higher). That makes Project-Based Rental Assistance useful for seniors, people with disabilities, and others on fixed incomes—right up until the federal government stops cutting the checks.

Thanks to the shutdown, roughly 1,150 contracts between HUD and private property owners are already in limbo. Another 500 contracts are set to expire in January, affecting tens of thousands of residents, with another 550 contracts to follow in February. These lost contracts could jeopardize the rental status of 80,000 low-income households or more. That’s in addition to the tens of thousands of residents whose rents are already up in the air, after HUD failed to renew contracts with their landlords last month.

“Without additional funding, HUD cannot renew these contracts or obligate funds,” reads the letter from the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, an umbrella coalition of more than 70 national organizations.

Disruptions stemming from these lapsed contracts are likely to compound. Section 202, for example, provides supportive housing for the elderly; the program is supported by a combination of subsidies through Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts and another category called Project Rental Assistance Contracts. Section 202 provides housing and services for more than 400,000 older adults with average incomes of $13,300. These housing developments could soon go unfunded.

Problems that multiply for low-income households will inevitably hit entire communities. Carol Ott, tenant advocacy director for the Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland, counts 542 units of project-based affordable housing in the Baltimore metro area (plus scattered subsidized homes and apartments that may add up to thousands). “That could mean absolute disaster not only for the residents, but also local economies,” she writes in a tweet.

While urban areas with large low-income populations stand to be severely affected, it won’t be just the Baltimores and Detroits dealing with the ramifications of broken housing, if the shutdown lasts much longer: More than 270,000 rural families also receive rental housing aid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which distributes this aid through its Rural Development program, has not indicated yet how far its rural housing funds can stretch. But the Idaho State Journal reports that local rural housing authorities are already dipping into savings to cover aid for tenants.

The true housing aid cliff, however, looms in February. If the federal shutdown isn’t resolved before the end of next month, Section 8’s tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher program will run out of funds—meaning public housing authorities will not be able to pay out vouchers to landlords for millions of households across the country when the rent comes due on March 1. The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can only guarantee food benefits through February, too, which means that some truly unlucky families could face the prospect of eviction and hunger. A federal government shutdown stretching beyond February would be unimaginably chaotic.

But the shutdown wouldn’t have to reach these kind of endgame scenarios to trigger a crisis; to do that, it won’t even need to extend through February. For landlords whose contracts with HUD for low-income properties expired in December, the end of January will mean a second month that they don’t receive federal subsidies. Landlords use those contract subsidies to make mortgage payments, perform maintenance, and pay staff. Few people expect that Uncle Sam missing a single month’s rent will lead to widespread evictions (although they’re bound to happen). But two months in a row?

Days into the federal government shutdown, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management posted sample letters that they suggested federal workers give their creditors and landlords, in lieu of payment. (Helpful advice: “If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney.”) It was laughable then; two weeks later, it feels more like gallows humor, as feds face tough questions about stretching their budgets from paycheck-to-no-paycheck.

For extremely low-income seniors and disabled people who depend on federal housing aid for rent, there is not going to be any belt-tightening or consultation with personal attorneys. If landlords can’t afford to house them, then they’ll face eviction; if federal agencies can’t afford to feed them, then they can’t buy food. The toll of the federal shutdown extends beyond closed museums and overflowing trash cans on the National Mall, and it affects more and different people than the faceless bureaucrats that conservatives sometimes imagine as the justifiable casualties of budget wars. Real pain from this shutdown is surfacing in small towns and cities across America—not next week or next month, but right now.

The real price of President Donald Trump’s border wall isn’t the billions of dollars that Democrats in the House are never going to give him. It's the many thousands or even millions of vulnerable people that will suffer for as long as this farce lasts. ... rs/579925/
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Re: Government Shutdown - Low-Income Renters Face Eviction

Postby seemslikeadream » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:38 pm

Shutdown puts strain on hundreds of Native American tribes

Annette Squetimkin-Anquoe, third from right, a member of the Colville Indian tribe and the Chief Traditional Health Officer at the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle, leads a talking circle meeting Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, to discuss the practiceThe Associated Press
WATCH Longest government shutdown in history hits 22-day mark

Fallout from the federal government shutdown is hurting Native Americans as dwindling funds hamper access to health care and other services. The pain is especially deep in tribal communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment, where one person often supports an extended family.

The effects were being felt far and wide.

In New Mexico, a lone police officer patrolled a Native American reservation larger in size than Houston on a shift that normally has three people, responding to multiple car wrecks during a snow storm, emergency calls and requests for welfare checks.

Elsewhere, federally funded road maintenance programs are operating with skeleton crews and struggling to keep roads clear on remote reservations. Tribal members said they can't get referrals for specialty care from the Indian Health Service if their conditions aren't life-threatening.

Native American tribes rely heavily on funding guaranteed by treaties with the U.S., acts of Congress and other agreements for public safety, social services, education and health care for their members. Because of the shutdown, tribal officials say some programs are on the brink of collapse and others are surviving with tribes filling funding gaps.

About 9,000 Indian Health Service employees, or 60 percent, are working without pay and 35 percent are working with funding streams not affected by the shutdown, according to the Health and Human Services department's shutdown plan. That includes staff providing direct care to patients. The agency delivers health care to about 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

The agency gets money from the Interior Department, whose budget is snared by the shutdown. For many tribal members, IHS is the only option for health care unless they want to pay out of pocket or have other insurance. Benefits under programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are unaffected by the partial government shutdown.

Much administrative work at IHS has come to a halt, and while most of it doesn't have an immediate effect on health care delivery, some patients were experiencing delays.

Clara Pratte's 68-year-old mother had surgery to clear up vision in one of her eyes earlier this month, but the Navajo woman wasn't able to get a referral from IHS for a follow-up appointment after pressure built up in her eye.

"We're managing, but it's a matter of when the government might open again to have it evaluated by a specialist," Pratte said.

In Washington state, the Seattle Indian Health Board plans to cut services if the federal shutdown continues more than a week or two. Endangered programs include an in-patient treatment center for chemical dependency and a traditional medicine program that incorporates a sweat lodge, storytelling and drumming to help people in recovery, government affairs officer Aren Sparck said.

About one-fourth of the organization's funding comes from IHS, he said.

IHS spokesman Joshua Barnett said tribal health programs and ones in urban areas can continue operating, but the agency cannot fund them during the shutdown.

Leaders of Native American organizations wrote to Congress on Thursday describing the impact the shutdown is having on their communities, including on education, housing programs, child welfare and economic development.

"The long-term effects of this shutdown will ripple throughout our communities for months or even years following the reopening of the government," read the letter released by the National Congress of American Indians.

Michelle Begay was furloughed in late December from her administrative job with IHS and said she cannot seek work in the same field under the agency's regulations.

She doesn't know how she will pay for her daughter's parking pass for college or a plane ticket to Chicago to see her son graduate from a Naval academy next month without dipping into her savings. If she does, she risks not being able to cover her house payment and utilities beyond January.

Begay also had applied for health insurance through her employer before the new year to avoid high deductibles on her husband's plan, but the paperwork didn't get processed because of the shutdown. She recently paid $600 to be seen for bronchitis but couldn't cover the costs when she was hit with a second bout. She went to an IHS clinic after calling for three days to get an appointment.

"I was very fortunate, my situation was treatable," she said. "My lung didn't collapse, that's what they were really concerned about. But, still, I had to wait two, almost three days to be seen."

Another federal agency serving Native Americans, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, was expected to furlough nearly 2,300 of its roughly 4,060 workers, according to its contingency plan. An agency spokeswoman didn't respond to messages left by The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, tribal communities were trying to help furloughed workers.

The Mescalero Apache in south-central New Mexico was offering people jobs at its casino and ski lodge. The Navajo Nation's power company says it will work with any furloughed employees struggling to pay their bills.

With the shutdown now entering its third week, the strain on the tribes was expected to increase.

Gabe Aguilar, the Mescalero Apache vice president, said a late December winter storm dumped more than three feet of snow on the mountainous reservation. The BIA runs the police force there, furloughing much of the staff and limiting the ability to respond to calls, Aguilar said.

In one instance, concerned relatives of an elderly man asked police to check on him because they couldn't get out of their own driveway, Aguilar said. By the time authorities reached his house, Aguilar said the man had died. He stopped short of blaming the federal shutdown.

"I don't want to get into a finger-pointing contest because right now, everyone is grieving," he said. "It did happen, though, an elder passed away. It's hard, it's a hard job and I wouldn't want to say what could've been."

Democratic members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas, have cited the man's death as an example of the impacts felt across Indian Country.

"Every day the president continues to treat tribal health and public safety programs like hostages for political gain endangers families across Indian Country," Udall said this week on the Senate floor.

Javier Kinney, executive director of the Yurok Tribe in northwestern California, said the tribe is about 90 percent funded through federal grants and is stretching its budget and using financial reserves to provide services to its 6,200 members. He said the tribe will have to cut workers' hours or furlough them if the funding isn't restored soon.

"Democrats and Republicans shouldn't look at is as a partisan issue in regards to tribal relations or tribal affairs," he said. "It's just the right thing to do." ... s-60333247
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Re: Government Shutdown - Low-Income Renters Face Eviction

Postby Cordelia » Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:50 am

Government Shutdown's Ripple Effect on local economies...

U.S. towns with federal workers brace for
impact as the shutdown continues

Bob Neeley eats lunch at Bickering Sisters in Ogden, Utah on Jan. 4.

By Heather May
January 6

OGDEN, Utah — The snowy streets of Ogden are quiet these days. Parking lots are half-empty. Restaurant sales have dropped. Without federal workers to serve, Bickering Sisters cafe has cut the hours of its lunch service.

More than 4,000 federal employees who work for the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Forest Service have been furloughed from their jobs in this outdoorsy haven north of Salt Lake City as part of the partial government shutdown. The closing of federal offices has reverberated across the city of 87,000, where roughly a third of annual revenue comes from the sales tax.

Far away from the behemoth federal office complexes in Washington, small towns and cities with workforces dependent on government jobs are beginning to feel the pinch of one of the longest shutdowns in history, now at more than two weeks old.

Many of the affected federal workers — including 10,000 people in Utah, 6,200 in West Virginia and 5,500 in Alabama — have salaries far below the average $85,000 for government employees. But those paychecks drive local economies, and workers are starting to make tough choices about how to spend them — eating out less, limiting travel and shopping at food pantries instead of grocery stores — creating a ripple effect through the neighborhoods and towns where they live.

MORE... ... 85114b4188
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Re: Government Shutdown - Low-Income Renters Face Eviction

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:13 pm

Be careful what you food inspections ... tions.html
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