April 14, 2023

Community Action Agencies’ Role in Distributing Rental and Utility Assistance from New COVID Bill

Video Transcript:

Webinar Focuses on Community Action Agencies’ Role in Distributing Rental and Utility Assistance from New COVID Bill

Great, thank you. Courtney welcome everyone um, as we record today’s session and host it live. We are here in the first week of january and we know that the burden that you are carrying across this country is great. We know you are tired. We’Ve come through a holiday season that in some ways perhaps there was moment were moments of peace, but we we know that community action is on the front lines of the covent pandemic in helping our families across this country, manage, stabilize and and stay healthy. So thank you for everything that you’re doing across this country. Um. The response to today’s webinar is fantastic, which tells us that there is again deep interest and need interest in whatever monies we can try to funnel through community action agencies. So we can help families stabilize, and today’s conversational focus primarily right on the 25 billion that was in the new covid bill, focused on rental assistance, as well as utility assistance and some of the nuances there.

Webinar Explores Nuances of Funding Streams for Local Agency Executives

But we also know that that means you really want to figure this stuff out, and there are some nuances to this funding stream and we’re so thrilled to have our presenters here today to walk us through some of those nuances and talk a little bit about. What’S going on in their particular states, as courtney mentioned, please put in the chat window questions as you have them, we’ll be sorting them as we go through the presenters here today to try to tease out the themes and the the topics that that agency folks have Questions about we likely also have state associations on today’s call as well, which is fantastic, and we may have board members of state associations, because those are oftentimes local agency, executive directors.

Community Action Agencies Ready to Help with Rental Assistance and Debt Relief Amid Pandemic

Today’S conversation is kind of a macro level conversation about how, in your state, the network of community action agencies can be ready, nudge, the powers that be how you might do that to be the funnel, because treasury has this money needs to move relatively quickly in the Scheme of things so – and our presenters will talk about that here today. Well, let’s start off with the promise of community action um if we were in a room together, we’d all uh jointly say this, but i just want to start off grounding us in the community action changes. People’S lives embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities and makes america a better place to live. We care about the entire community and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other. We know that in this moment the the paying the rent and keeping people housed is just so critical. We also know there’s this: pending debt load as the moratoriums have been in place, some have been extended for a longer period of time.

California State Association and Community Action Experts Discuss Housing Crisis and Moratoriums.

Some have been extended for a shorter period of time. We also know not. All landlords are necessarily honoring moratoriums in place as well, and the debt load that families are facing, even when those moratoriums end is going to be significant. So let’s go to the next slide. Today’S presenters – i am just so thankful that they are able here to join us here today. David knight is the newly named executive director of calcapa, the california state association. David has been an executive director of a local cap and a deputy director at a local cap. He understands the issues on the ground. He also understands the macro policy level of issues. Phil cole has been a mentor to me for for many many years. You want a policy guru in community action.I understand for years how it happens at a state level how you work with your governor’s office, how you work with your state legislature i’ll turn to phil all day long.

Experts Discuss Core Elements of Low-Income Family Advocacy in Ohio and Wisconsin

So thank you. Phil cole, the director of the ohio association being with us and brad paul, is an advocate from from day. One brad is a fantastic warrior on behalf of low-income families and has served as the wisconsin state association director for a couple of years, but has a long deep history fighting for families both domestically and internationally. So these three folks are going to really walk us through on the core elements here today and again, put your questions in the chat window, we’ll circle back to those as we go through here today and uh david, i’m going to turn it over to you to Get us rolling, because i know we have a lot of information to cover today, thanks for being with us and thank you denise and thank you and your team for uh all the quick uh action as soon as this uh bill was signed into law uh.

Speedy Holiday Work Results in Informative Presentation on New Bill and Law for Attendees

You know making sure that we put together this this presentation for the network, so really thanks and hats off to you guys for your speedy work over the holidays to make sure this was ready to go. So we could get this information out and i’d like to start to say you know it’s just exciting, to see so many attendees uh here to get this information, and so what we wanted to do is to make sure and get as much information as we could To as many people as possible very quickly so that you could help in this process, so, first of all, as denise said, the important part is to make sure that we understand what is this new bill in the law? What does it mean? What is it not? So that you can first of all, have the education. So when you go and speak and advocate and discuss this program, you have as much information as possible to do that.

Overview of Emergency Rental Assistance Program in Corona Virus Response Act

So my my role here will be to ultimately try to really stick to the to the bill itself and give as much information as possible, so without further ado, we’ll jump right into it. Ultimately, uh you’ll find uh that division, uh em uh of the current is the corona virus response and the lead supplemental appropriations act uh as many as you know, this was done uh in conjunction with uh the regular funding bill, uh and, as many of you know, It happened with the midnight oil around the holidays and was finally signed into a law by the president late sunday, uh two some days ago, so part of that under title. Five in the banking in subtitle a there is emergency rental assistance program, and many of you have heard much about it. Uh the approach appropriation from it and the biggest thing to to know about it is it’s 25 billion dollars, as billion with a b for the fiscal year 2021. So uh, the biggest thing to take away, is ultimately the sheer size of this rental assistance program.

California excited for $25 billion in funding for families in new bill

Uh is something that really raised: uh our eyebrows uh in california to make sure that this is a lot of money uh. This is a lot of opportunity, and so we’re really excited to see this put into the bill. So the first thing uh is 25 billion dollars, and so i hope that each and every one of you will take time out reach out to your your legislators, reach out to your senators, to make sure and thank them for this opportunity, because our families need it. So, just to give you a quick glance as what does that mean for your state or your area uh. These aren’t just estimates. This is obviously not included into stone as to how this is out, but you can see the sheer amount of money that’s being placed into each state uh into each territory uh and into the tribal areas as well. So uh it’s a pretty large uh, a pot of money. And if you look at the the amount of commas in each one of those appropriations, you can see uh the sheer amount and so we’re going to talk a little bit about.

Eligibility Criteria for Receiving Federal Funding in the US and its Territories.

What does that mean and how does that affect the delivery in our opportunity? So without further ado, the biggest thing is, who is eligible to receive the money so uh? Obviously this is pretty standard. We’Ve seen this in a lot of federal programming. The way that it’s laid out, obviously a state as a whole uh if it’s one of the 50 states or the district of columbia, can can apply for the funding.A lot of the states are planning to do that, but also a unit of local government located in it within the state can can also apply so some of the major uh cities and also some of your smaller towns. There is no uh limit as to who can actually apply as far as a local government, and so you will have some government uh in that sense, that will do as well. Obviously, the commonwealth of puerto rico, uh u. virgin islands. You can see the rest as well, uh, very, very comparable to what is typically and how it’s typically laid out in the funding, so that that’ll be the first.

Understanding the Direct Nature of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program

So as an agency, no, you cannot apply directly. This will go to your states or to your local government. So how does this going to work? How is this set up a little bit different? Well, the important part is to understand that this is a very direct uh program in the way it’s written. Many of the uh rental assistance programs that have been run under cares act and throughout the pandemic, have been taken and developed at a state level or developed at a local government level. Uh, based on just basic, cares that funding that they had and they set some of those parameters. They set some of those issues and some of those things have been developed. This is a little bit different because the bill itself sets where these parameters are, and it’s not built off any other program that has been set before so. Ultimately, the facts are not less than 90 of the funds received by an eligible grantee from a payment made under section should be used for god.

California Allocates Financial Assistance for Rent, Utilities, and More to Keep Families Housed

Financial assistance, so, first of all the most important thing is that nine percent must go out to the families into the households of need. So that leaves us 10 percent off the administration and we’ll talk about that just in a little while, but we’ll also talk about how california is addressing that now. This is a little bit different too. There are four areas: uh that that can uh the money can be used for, and you see those listed there – it’s not just for rent, it can also be used for utilities, and this is this is a big deal. The ultimate goal, uh, is to make sure that individuals stay housed, and so the money can be through for rent mental rears utilities, home energy costs, and you can also see on five as well.

COVID-19 Housing Assistance: Families Eligible for up to 15 Months Support

Other expenses related to housing occurred, deer directly or indirectly, to the uh kovid 19 outbreak now biggest parts of this slide that i want us to take note is this: assistance can be provided to families for a period of up to 12 months, okay, so 12 months, They can also have an additional three months only if necessary, to ensure housing stability, so you can have 12 months and up to 3 months going forward. So that’s a pretty large payment for a lot of our families. Now, typically, a lot of your families may not be 12 months behind on rent, but they could easily be seven to eight nine months. This is important from an agency agency standpoint, because, if you’re looking at writing this into law or trying to be a part of this, how do you share those administrative costs so that you can deliver this again?

Understanding the Financial Implications of Large-Scale Programs for States and Regions

It’S a large amount of money when you’re looking at 25 billion, if you saw the amount that you could get as a state or your region will get you start looking at that and saying we’ve got to spend that money and we’ve got to spend it quick. That’S a lot of money.I don’t know if we can take that on well, if for each family, you’re able to spend five ten thousand dollars and you’re getting anywhere from seven to eight, depending on your negotiation with your partners percent of that administration, you can have a lot of funds to Help you cover that, so these are big big differences and we want to make sure that we’re knowledgeable about that uh, whether you’re running the program or you’re partnering with somebody to run the program.

Limitations and Guidelines for Rental Assistance Program

So there are some limitations on assistance uh for rent payments uh. Just in general, uh again, like i said, perspective, rent payments or upcoming rent payments for more than three months, based on any application, buyer i have to buy or on behalf of the household, so uh it does allow you to to pay those up until three months. Uh we’ll get into the uh to the understanding about income and how uh the funding uh or excuse me how you have to validate somebody’s income after three months. So if you helpful for the past three years uh, then you also help them for two to three months, going forward that you will have to revalidate their income um they really. This is really not built to do that. Ultimately, they’re trying to make sure that you make the family stable and then go forth with that one things i don’t want to ski it talks about other household services. It does not specifically at this time state what it can and cannot be used for uh on the other uh housing stability.

10 Ways to Ensure Housing Stability and Payment of Rent and Energy Costs

So there’s another 10 we’ll talk about that in a minute that you can use for housing stability uh to make sure that the individual is able to stay in their home. Now there is an exception ultimately, with with paying forward for rent is to make sure that the funds are available. So again, it’s really built around uh, making sure that that individuals, uh are are able to pay past view, rents primarily past the energy cost. Primarily one thing to note in your discussions and so when you’re negotiating or when you’re having conversations across the state with different individuals. It’S very very important to understand that this is under the banking aspect. And so the idea is to make sure that individuals that have large uh capacity rents have large mortgages that are due uh, that that this is able to get paid so we’re able to pay those so that landlords can pay their mortgages to banks.

New Policy Allows Direct Financial Assistance to Eligible Households for Rent and Utility Payments

And so that’s that’s a very, very key piece to understand that we’re trying to reach now going forward the distribution of financial assistance um, ultimately uh. This is, this is a different uh aspect as well, so with respect to financial assistance for rent rental arrears. Actually, the home energy cost uh. If an eligible grantee show my payments to a lesser or you two we’re used to that. So we always make it to the utility provider or to the or to the uh to the landlord. This does have something very direct. It says if the landlord refuses. So if you have a landlord that says, i don’t want to take that money for whatever reason it may be, they may have uh uh funding situations that they that they don’t want to disclose. Uh. If that’s the case, then such payments can be made directly to the eligible household.

Understanding Housing Stability Services and Opportunities for Eligible Households

So if you can document uh that that a landlord or a utility provider which is very highly unlikely, does not want to accept the funds and you can make the payment directly to the eligible household, so that leaves a lot of opportunity uh for our families. So that’s very, very important uh that we know um. So one of the questions that’ll probably come up is what does it mean by housing stability services? Ultimately, all the law states at this time is not more than 10 percent of funds received by an eligible grantee made under the section may be used to provide eligible households with case management, other services ready to govern 19 outbreak that will be defined by the secretary. As of today, as far as i know, that’s not been defined as to what that means. Yet so um it’ll be interesting to see how that comes out. We want to make sure we keep involved as to what all that includes, don’t know.

California introduces bill to help families stay in their homes with financial assistance program.

Maybe it includes house repairs, maybe it does not. Maybe it includes court payments, those type of things as well to make sure that that gets finalized. That information is not out as of yet, but there will be a 10 opportunity to kind of make sure ultimately, when they built. This uh bill is to make sure that families have the opportunity uh to stay in their homes, so whatever that may or may not take now continuing to go again, we did talk a little bit about the administrative costs uh, ultimately, not more than ten percent uh. Can be used for administration uh, so we jumped on this extremely quickly just to take a minute and tell you how we did that uh. We ultimately worked with a couple different associations across our state to begin to write in uh some of the legislation for the state of california to make this as simple as possible. The reason we did that is you’ll see there’s two things on this slide that are highlighted.

States Urged to Quickly Spend Excess Funds to Avoid Federal Recapture

Beginning september, 30th, 2021 secretary can start recapturing excess funds uh. So that doesn’t leave us very much time and then all of these funds are supposed to be spent by the end of the year. Now again, a reminder that we can make large payments. You can make 10 to 12 months at a time which will allow us to spend the money very quickly. But at the same time, our opportunity to community action agencies is to make sure that we’re in place to spend the money and spend the money quickly. And we want to make sure that we can provide that. Because states are going to need that. So each state is going to need to have that majority of that money up to 65 really spent by september 30th, so that the feds do not start to recruit their money uh and give it to other states. And so you want to be that opportunity to do that.A lot of our states have already established other programs or other departments that are distributing this money uh.

Tips on Administering Large-Scale Funding Programs: Expert Advice

My suggestion, for that would be to obviously come, come up to them and let them know that this money is a lot. It’S going to be spent very quickly, so make sure that that you uh have the opportunity to show them how your organization can be a part of that. When we wrote this into our state legislation, we did request that uh the state take two percent of the administration and we, our agencies, will take eight percent. When you look at the sheer size of this program, uh two percent is quite quite a bit uh in itself, and then eight percent allows us to put things in place and put things in place quickly to administer it at the speed in which it needs to. As far as our state legislation language, i am more than happy if you would like that. Please just request that the partnership and we’ll send that over to them uh in a word doc.

Eligibility Criteria for COVID-19 Housing Assistance Programs Explained

So if it could be easy for you to cut uh copy and paste to present that to your your body of legislation, then i’ll, be it so moving forward trying to wrap up a little bit here, uh, it does talk about what is an eligible household. So we pulled this out of the definitions as to what an actual eligible household is um. So one or more of the individuals in the household has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced reduction in household income due to covet 19 uh, which that shall test in writing. So again, simply that the applicant can say i’ve affected i’ve had a i’ve been affected by coping 19, have lost income or they’re they’ve been unemployed, uh because of coping 19. Then then they qualify and it also has uh the one or more individuals in the household conducting a risk of experiencing homelessness. Now this is big, a big major difference in a couple states that i’ve spoken to they uh in the previous video. They had to show that they were currently homeless.

New Law Provides Assistance for At-Risk Homeowners at Risk of Homelessness

Well, if, if the law is saying that they can be kicked out of their home, then they’re not currently homeless, and so there was a catch-22 in a lot of places. This law says that they can have to be at a risk, and this gives them great opportunity, uh, which they can simply show by a past due utility bill, unsafe or unhealthy living conditions or any other evidence of such risks, as determined by the grantee involved. Then also the last piece on the on the eligible household in the household is not more than eighty percent of the area of immediate income.A lot of programs that are currently in place are running 50 to 60. This is 80, so it’s a little bit higher. Now that said, there are some priorities for assistance and what they’re looking for is for families that are 50 of the area. Immediate income again doesn’t mean that that’s the requirement, that’s just where they’d like to see us uh prioritize our services.

Focus on Unemployed and Low-Income Families in Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The other priority is 90 days of being unemployed, so if they haven’t been employed for 90 days uh, then they want us to focus on those families as well. We do know we have a lot of families in that so income determination. This is pretty big. You’Ll see a highlight of the word or here, because the household’s total income can be for the county year 2020. So if we uh we’re at a good time as this program rolls out very quickly uh to be able to get people’s evidence of what their income was for 2020 or they could have a confirmation of what their monthly income is at the time of application process. Assistance so let’s say that you’re doing this application in march or april uh and their income has greatly changed recently. Then they have the opportunity to show that income at that time now. One other question that usually has come up yeah.

Landlords Can Apply for Rental Assistance on Behalf of Tenants with Signature Requirement

Well, this one’s a little bit different as well is that the landlord or the owner uh can do an application for assistance, but they must require that they have a signature attendant or such application again. So there has to be a signature of the tenant, but the landlords can go in and apply on behalf of their tenants as well and again this is a great opportunity. If you have a a large, low-income neighborhood with the same landlords, then you have an opportunity to go in and assist them very quickly. Reporting requirements we’ll spend a lot of time on those one of the big things to just make. Sure you understand is that they are going to be looking for how many families under 30 percent, how many between 30 and 50, and how many between 50 and 80, as well as just how many applied and how many qualified and such and so forth, uh.

Navigating Reporting Requirements and Treatment of Assistance under CARES Act: Key Considerations for Advocating for Families

So you want to make sure that you’re very very aware of these reporting requirements and how successful and how knowledgeable we are at that opportunity to do that. The last thing is the treatment of assistance. Um household from the payment made intersection uh should not be regarded as income, so, if you’re not working with this but you’re gon na be advocating for families, i do understand that they receive this assistance, that they know that this is my income. They won’t have to report this income. That’S a lot different from some of the other issues that the care’s act uh, just the last minute again, uh we’re more than happy to offer up what we uh have submitted to uh to california. For us to give to the minister administer this program, my suggestion it’ll come with the other speakers as well.I will stop there we’ll answer questions. Thank you, david appreciate that and yes, we will be sending out copies of the slides copies of the recordings.

State Association Directors and Community Action Agencies Learn the Importance of Networking in Program Success

Everyone who registered for today’s session i’m going to turn the ball over now to phil um bill. What would you add to the conversation you’re experiencing in ohio? Am i on video? Now? Yes, yes, okay, um, i’ve had i mean i’ll, tell you denise.I made him. First, i thank you for a great introduction dude for me. Um today i decided to work from home, which i forgot.I had to connect remotely and i’ve been getting knocked off um a few times, so i hope to stick with you for the next 10 minutes. But i want to tell you the story of why the state came to us for this program and why they’re coming back to us to do it again, i’m going to be speaking, i guess probably directly to state association directors, but it’s all. This message is also applicable to anyone who runs a community action agency and first, as uh was said to me when i was asked to uh to do this. This is about who you know, but it’s also about who knows you and those are not necessarily the same when i say who knows: [: Music ].

Experience in Politics and Public Policy Essential for Agency Success

They really know what your agency does all the great work that you do, because in the end, when officials are looking at a program like like rental assistance or mortgage assistance, the other things that are related here, they’re saying do we trust these folks and can they Get the job done now most of our money comes to us through public policy, of course, which is politics now that i’ll admit that came as second nature to me, because i come from a very uh political family.I was born into this uh and it did and before i started this position, which i’ve been in i’m completing now a few months. Every 32 years i served in various roles for the speaker of the high house of representatives. He was ohio’s most powerful politician for over two decades, so i don’t go through all the roles i did with them, both legal and administrative, but because of those roles i knew a lot of people and i still do.I have maintained as many of those relationships as i could over the years now.

The Importance of Maintaining Relationships in Government

Not everyone you know starts with that kind of an advantage, but whatever connections you have are important, because government is a very small neighborhood people come, they leave, they often come back or even if they don’t come back in an official position, you may find they’re still Involved somehow they may become lobbyists, they may start a business that works with government. They may be a private citizen who whispers in the ear of new officials they’re often still around. Now most people let those relationships slide when someone leaves and then try to, and they try to rebuild it. If that person comes back, don’t do that maintain the relationship. Contact them have have lunch a couple of times a year.

Maintaining Strong Relationships and Building Reputations in Small Agencies

That’S always been, my practices is, but there are people that i that i like and i think are going to come back or it might come back or on the edge i’ll blush with them a couple of times a year just to maintain a relationship, because the Relationship is stronger. If you keep it when you don’t need it and always remember you work in a very small neighborhood right now, your agencies need to be known and they need. They need those good, strong reputations. If you believe the good you do speaks for itself. You’Re, probably wrong um, you have to make your work known.I have learned that you must get comfortable being uncomfortable at times. If you’re, not comfortable approaching your members of congress and other elected officials get comfortable doing it right, you have to get comfortable by doing it. Um now you were not comfortable the first time you drove a car, but now you’ve done it so many times it’s automatic working with decision makers and funders is the same thing.

Effective Communication and Promotion Key to Maintaining Reputation in Business

The more you do it the easier. It is just remember, promote your work, so they know what you can do and how will you do it develop a communication strategy with them and execute it? Um – and i say we went through a period of time, uh in ohio, when we didn’t have a reputation, because we had not really told the story of our real success, and then we had a couple of agencies over a period of time that performed below expectations.I’Ll say that um they became public problems for the network. Now um we took care of that. The last of those public problems was 17 years ago.

Building Credibility and a Strong Reputation for Successful Advocacy Efforts.

Now, over that 17 years we have developed a small network of our best staff from our agencies around the state that are trained by us to take care of issues, and i tell you that, because elected officials and others took note of that, they saw that we Were working on taking care of our own problems and keeping them out of the public eye during the first 10 years of this time, though, i never asked the state for money, because i knew our reputation as a network was not as strong as we wished.I wanted officials to know that we understood we understood that um and i wanted to earn back the respect for our network before we ask for money. You must always have credibility in your approach.I remember when i worked for the speaker of the house. There’D be guys who would show up only when they wanted money um, those those are not the guys that got what they wanted. It was the other guys who come in often, and just say what can i do for you? Those are the ones. You really took.

Building Strong Relationships with Governors Leads to Appointment on Pandemic Strike Force

Note of um we held off when we got old, it’s our problems, we were patient and it was the right move and it’s paying off.I’Ve been paying off that for us now for the last few years now, um. With all that background and to shorten this story, i developed a very good relationship with governor john kasich to surprise me and that, along with all the other things that i just mentioned, set us up well with governor dewine and his staff. Why? Because we work in a very small neighborhood, we maintained relationships. We built more people, know of our successes. Now, when the pandemic came along governor dewine set up things, he called strike forces to meet the challenges of the pandemic and he appointed very small groups on these strike forces and i was appointed to one it was called philanthropy.I think it was called uh.

Non-profit members recommend $100 million rental assistance, face resistance from strike force.

I was there, along with the homeless coalition in the food banks, and i was it the other and we were called the non-profit members of that that strike force now also in the strike force, were three cabinet members, two large foundations and an unknown number of state Staff people seemed like they’re, 100 of them, but anyway now the non-profit members, the three of us decided to recommend to this strike force that at least 100 million dollars be set aside for rental assistance. This was in april um, and we decided that i would do the ask um, and i also requested that they. So i did the ask – and i also requested that they split the money among us. Do a third of it serve it to us. The community action a third of the food banks. Third wellness coalition um – that request – did not go well. Um.I’Ve never heard a group on conference call get that quiet that fast and um.

State Allocates $16 Million in Rental Assistance Funds, Administration Delays Distribution

Finally, one of the cabinet members who i won’t mention by name went just after about – i don’t know six or seven seconds of nothing went uh-huh and then changed the subject.I think that was the next last call we ever had so they uh they weren’t excited about the idea of giving us money to take care of the issues so but in ju, but they talked about it.I knew they talked we’re talking about behind the scenes and then in june the state awarded 16 16 million dollars 1-6 in rental assistance funds to one of the other networks. All right, we thought. Okay. Well, that’s a start! Um! Then, in september a member of the cabin called me and said there was a problem that that sick of that 16 million dollars only 1 million had been distributed in rental assistance. So far, so the administration turned to us and they said. Okay, it’s going to begin in october. You all got ta have 90 days, but we’re going to give you 55 million dollars fist.

Successful Collaboration Leads to Effective Use of $55 Million COVID Relief Funds in Iowa

You got to get it spent by december 30th and then the the general assembly had a little issue. There was they had to pass something and they failed to do it and we ended up not getting this money until november. Second, we had less than two months to get up 50 to set up a program and then to get our 55 million dollars. How’D that go um well, according according to the administration, as of december 30th, we had spent over 90 of that money and that looked pretty good compared to another coalition, less than a third of that and spent almost none of it. Um we worked with the bankers league. We worked with the iowa real estate, investors association, which is uh landlords that worked the chamber of commerce. We were the realtors association.I worked with a whole lot of others uh to get the word out. It was a great time to form new partnerships and to strengthen a couple of older ones that there were a lot of benefits from this.

Successful Performance Leads to $56 Million Funding and Potential Additional Support for Ohio

The administration was so pleased with our performance that they’ve told us now matter of fact. At two o’clock, we have a seminar with them because they’re giving us a second pot of funds for 56 million dollars. That’S going to be starting as soon as they get had to sign off on it, and i also believe a third pot is going to be coming for us because they because they know who we are, they know what we’ve done um and it’s worked out. Well now, as congress has debated us another, i think it’s a second covert response or statements like we were close to getting a line item for community action because of the performance of ohio and wisconsin, and some other states and our delegation had a lot of input On the bills they drafted, and they were very aware of our success in ohio, we told them about our success, but also the governor’s people, governor dewine people told them about our success, but in the end not enough states and agencies are talking so [, Music ].

Community Action Programs Advocate for Funding Amidst COVID-19 Crisis

We can get the funding from our programs.I really believe that, in fact, i had a long discussion this morning about funding for more programs, not not rental assistance, it’s a much bigger program, but it begins with communication to office holders where we tell of our successes – and we all have to do that – we’ve Got to keep our national organizations informed too. It’S national community action foundation, the partnership, let them also tell our story um. It sounds good when it comes to other people. It sounds good when it comes to muscle, sounds great when it comes to other people when, when um, senator portman and others who were talking about these uh next round of code. Well, they were hearing us tell the story.

Importance of Reputation and Networking in Advocating for Your Agency or Network

They knew was true, but when the governor’s office called them and told them that really made the impression we need to get our story out so anyway, the moral of my story, the way i tell it is you have to have a strong reputation because of the Work you do, and because of the story that you can tell the honest story, you can tell about the work that you do. You want to know your key decision makers and their staff, and you want to make sure that they know your agency or your network that begins with members of congress. Go through your state capital and if your local agency goes out, saying that your local officials need to know the work that you do now. We ran our program.A lot like heap. It was since because we run heap of high was a lot of. This.

Ohio and Wisconsin Republican leaders discuss successful organizing strategies.

Was a second nature, but in in um much a much shorter time period, um that 60 day or less than 60 days that we had really caused some concern for some of our rival organizations. They thought we couldn’t do it, but we showed the world what a great organization. We are, what great, what a great network we are in ohio and we’re very proud of the work that we’ve done. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you appreciate that. Yes, there we go. Thank you, phil all right, i’m going to turn over to brad paul from wisconsin brad. We look forward to your remarks. Thank you. Thanks denise appreciate it. Can you hear me okay? Yes, we can great excellent hi. Everyone um.I guess my.I have a really similar story instead of observations uh to what phil has just shared with everyone about uh building relationships, telling your story – i you know i i would repeat everything he just said um.I think that’s really the key as we as we move forward. So i’m glad he sort of set the table with that um.

Community Action Agencies in Wisconsin assist with rental assistance program funded by CARES Act.

I don’t have phil’s considerable political experience um, but i share his observations and i think, maybe maybe let me try to add a few wrinkles um to what he said from from wisconsin, and maybe some of that would be of value too to folks who are tuned In from from late may, early june, until uh, until the end of the year, we were selected to help run the governor’s rental, wisconsin rental assistance program which was made available through the the cares act funding and we, this was run through the 16 community action agencies That make up our network. We have two single purpose agencies that weren’t directly involved with this, but um, because they wanted to organize it by geography uh, but those those those agencies also played a role in terms of referral.

Governor’s Office Utilizes CARES Act Funding to Address Potential Eviction Crisis with Network Collaboration.

So the whole network was engaged on this um and at the time uh, when the state was trying to figure out how to do this uh. They they came to this this policy through the governor’s office who, who rightfully identified that there was going to be a potential eviction crisis uh there was a state um, um moratorium that was about to expire at the end of may uh. The governor’s office, rightly um, saw that there was going to be a need for more assistance, and so they began to think about how they might utilize some of the cares act, funding um uh to respond to that, and they they undoubtedly had several options. Uh similar to what what phil talked about – and i don’t know the full length of the conversations or who was approached – but i suspect you know, housing authorities probably could have been an option, maybe a collection of non-profits.

Community Action Selected to Distribute Homelessness Prevention Funds in Wisconsin

There was some discussion about using the homeless continuum of care uh system, but between uh, the coordinated entry, uh requirements and the narrow eligibility of that that set of programs. It just really didn’t um strike. It was a less than ideal vehicle to try to get this money out and serve its purpose. So, most importantly, the governor’s office wanted statewide reach. They needed an entity that had some experience in the housing arena, obviously, and they like the idea of having some supportive services potential attached to this, where, where appropriate and obviously community action, um checked all three of those boxes and so um. They they made the decision to go through our network um.

Successful Implementation of Rental Assistance Program in Wisconsin.

They contracted with um, both without our association uh, a technical assistance sort of contract uh, and then they contracted directly with our our member agencies, uh to administer this program and and to get the assistance out there and and i’d like to think that we delivered quite Well, um, during the course of that uh, i guess. That’D be six months. We got out 28.4 million dollars in rental assistance, uh that we served uh uh over fourteen thousand uh households across the state and we we provided assistance to someone in wisconsin and seventy two counties, and at least a household in all 72 of those counties. Uh received assistance.I feel like we accomplished what what the governor’s office wanted to do: uh and the program uh. While there were some challenges that stan at standing it up initially, as you might expect um we got through those pretty we got through those rough patches.

Wisconsin’s Successful Partnership for Pandemic Relief Programs

Pretty quickly and by the end of the program, it was a pretty well oiled machine, so i’m hoping that the consideration from the state is that they’ll um they’ll they’ll go through us again in in this next round and we’ll have similar results. We certainly know that the need is is great um.I guess i would just make um two points uh in addition to what what bill is laid out. Speaking from the wisconsin example, and then i know, there’s a lot of questions and both in the chat and maybe why the people are going to want to talk through with dave and myself and and phil um. The first point i guess i would make is that this was a true partnership.

Collaborative Efforts in Shaping and Implementing State Program for Member Agencies.

Uh with the state, we were at the table right from the beginning, helping shape the program’s eligibility and criteria um, the distribution formula, get these dollars out uh and then once that had been sort of achieved and agreed to with with the state we we got into Action developing a faq for our member agencies and that was kind of a a living document as as as we we worked through the program and learned more, we hosted a weekly calls among the state and our field staff and we provided ongoing ta. We worked with agencies in the state on contract amendments as we got towards the end of the program and we sort of we worked our with our network to support each other and so at the end of the program, as some agencies were exhausting their funds. Um.

Agencies reallocate funds to ensure equitable distribution of rent assistance program.

Other agencies that hadn’t reached their spend out were reallocating funds um to those agencies to allow them to to serve their population, for example, some of our rural caps um. You know they have lower than lower rents, lower market rent in those areas, smaller population, and so they may not have exhausted all the funds in their in their original allocation, whereas an urban tab. You know milwaukee, for example, the day we announced the day the governor announced the program uh. That agency received nineteen thousand inquiries for a rent assistance uh and by the end of the program, i think it was in excess of 40 000 So there was, there was some sort of shuffling within the original design to try to make sure that all the areas received, the funding that they needed and our in our network really stepped up and really engaged in some really great sort of mutual aid.

Successful Partnership and Dedicated Staff Key to $35 Million Program Implementation

Um uh, the the other thing that is important for us is that we had dedicated staff to this, and you know we weren’t when you infuse what ultimately turned out to be 35 million dollar program into the network. Uh we weren’t, we weren’t cannibalizing existing staff and really spreading people. Then we were able to in our agencies, were able to use some of that admin uh to to staff up redirect folks within the agency, to focus on this, and so we really had dedicated staff throughout um the network that that really provided sound programming. The the the second point – i guess i would i would make uh in addition to this being a real partnership with with the state um, was that this partnership, in particular occurred outside of our our our traditional um state authors, the one that we usually work with, Which is the department of children, families, they’re they’re, our csbg, um grant manager and so um uh?

Collaboration Across Departments: The Importance of Working with Other Agencies

My point is that it’s important and phil touched on this is, is don’t be shy about working with other departments in your state other than the one that maybe you work with most, which is you know who handles your cspg contract now dcf department, children, families was Great throughout this, they provided referrals. They work really closely with with other departments, there’s a really great interagency collaboration here in wisconsin, but the particular program that we’re talking about the rap program was was run through what we call the department of administration, that’s where our housing programs are parked, and that is That is not our usual go-to agency as an association, although we do work with them very very closely in terms of housing programs.

Importance of Building Relationships Across Departments for State Confidence and Opportunities

Our member agencies all have very good relationship with doa, but i i just want to stress it’s important to think across departments um and when, when you do that and when you build those relationships, something like this comes comes available. Uh for you to take advantage of and and create the uh the confidence uh among uh among the state that both david and philip talk about it’s so crucial to have that uh uh. That has a um a reality um. Let me just say one last thing and i’m i’m looking at the time, and i want to be sensitive to that is you may have questions i haven’t.I haven’t been following in the chat box.I’Ve been listening, so i don’t know what what might be in there on this question, but one of the one of the things that we were able to structure the concern of our members. Initially, when this was rolled out, um they had been.

State Implements Home Energy Plus System to Streamline Rental Assistance Program Administration

Many of them have been used to working with the department of administration on kind of a reimbursement basis for a lot of their programs, and when you talk about this kind of money coming in um, that creates some challenges and we certainly didn’t. There was great concern that there was going to be huge, um demand, and that proved to be the case, and we and our cap agencies didn’t want to sit down and have to be writing checks, left and right and and and seeking reimbursement in it. And so the state worked with us to go through um, their home energy plus system, which had a built-in application portal that we use it had the added benefit of having um uh applicants also potentially be eligible for for energy assistance, uh and, most importantly, it allowed The state uh to cut a check directly to the landlords and that really saved um kind of the administrative um challenges that some of our agencies were rightfully concerned about.

Successful Rental Assistance Program in Wisconsin Highlights Importance of Landlord Cooperation and Utility Coverage

So we kind of troubleshooted that right out of the gate and that worked really well um in our case uh. We could also use some of the money for security deposits that helped uh, not utilities.I’M really thrilled to hear that the utilities can be part of this. That was a piece of the uh, the demand that we were able to satisfy in this last round um and then i would also just finally stress the the importance that, certainly in our experience uh how important it was to work um closely with with landlords uh, We had really good cooperation from from um. You know, there’s an exception here: there uh, but the landlords um in the state really um uh worked well with with our agencies. We had the apartment association of southeast wisconsin that was very vocal sort of on a policy front very advocating very loudly for war rental assistance. They also held weekly calls where they would invite myself and others to come.

Partnerships Key to Success of Housing Assistance Programs, Say Experts at CARES Project

Talk about the program and sort of talk about what what needed to be done, the landlord side of of the equation, and so that that partnership, um was was was crucial as well and – and i think we saw really good results as because of that. So i think um, i think i’ve hit it about on right on 10 minutes i’ll, stop there and kick it back to denise or david or. However, you want to move on from this point. Denise. Do you want me to go through questions as best?I can that would be great.I know we have a lot of them in the chat window, so i’ll turn it over to you. Thank you great thanks. This is lana shope and i’m one of the co-directors of the cares project at the partnership, and i think you heard both from well from all three presenters uh being at the table. Helping make these decisions is key to the success of the program and both phil and brad were part of getting their programs set up in a way that worked both for the applicants, as well as for the community action agencies now brad.

Clarifying Allocation of Funds for Housing Assistance and Case Management Activities.

These are kind of specific or david. These are kind of specific questions. Um. We talked about 10 admin and 10 for case management. How does that play into the requirement that 90 go for assistance, yeah separate, so ten percent is admin which will be shared.I would assume by whoever uh applies for funding and who is delivering the ten percent of means of the ninety percent, that is, that has to be used in case management activities or you know, housing, uh development activities, so it’s 20 or it’s 10 for each and Eighty percent for assistance – that’s what i think yeah from my understanding is the ten percent of case management is still assistance, but it’s leaving it open to other areas of assistance that will allow people to continue to be housed or you know, to get themselves um correct. In in the in the rental area, so there’s not really any limitations.

Discussion on Allocation of Emergency Rental Assistance Funding and Eligible Expenses

I would assume the secretary will set some of those, and maybe the states have some opportunity to set what those items may be, but it’s pretty wide open to what that could or could not be. There was a lot of discussion about uh, ultimately he’s trying to make him stable, so that 10 percent is not to be used essentially for uh, staffing or administrative. Like things, it’s actually still services to people, but it does includes another other four areas, which is you know, rand utilities. Okay, um can a state make a requirement that this money only go towards rent and not be allowed for utilities, not from uh. It is supposed to be all inclusive, okay, um, and it cannot pay for plumbing correct.I don’t have that answer yet it seems to me that it would not because it is a renter, but i don’t want to assume anything yeah and a questions for some clarification on the 12 months.

Understanding the Limitations and Requirements of Rental Assistance Programs

So if a family comes or a family applies and they’re six months behind, we can pick it up six months. We can also pay forward, but they do have to re-verify the need after two months. Is that correct, correct yeah? The limit now is is three months. So there’s a 12 month max, but if you only did six months prior you’re still limited to that three months going forward and um can funds go towards court eviction? Trust i’m assuming that’s a state decision, but i’m not positive about that. From my understanding. That’S that’s still correct. Yes, it would be a state okay, so in terms of what family would need to prove to show hardship that will be a state decision. So again, i just want to say being at the table and engaged in those conversations will help create a process that you think works best.

Community Action Urges Engagement with State Entities for Rental Assistance Program Implementation

Also, i think it’s important to know this money for rental assistance is not going to come to the local local agency. It’S going to be part of government, and so you need to find who, in your state, will be the entity managing this program and get engaged and involved in the conversations with them to make sure that community action can be an entity that helps implement the program. At the local level we are in 99 of all counties across the country. We already know 19 states did rental assistance with this. First cares act money, it’s more than half a billion dollars. Our local agencies used to help families get their rent paid, so they could stay in their home. We want to build on that. We are the best entity to make sure states spend this money and we know in some states they didn’t get. That initial cares act. Money that they had intended to use for rent they didn’t get it paid and in those they didn’t use community action.

State Associations and Member Agencies Encouraged to Get Involved in Homelessness Conversation and Eligibility for Housing Grants Clarified.

So i just want to encourage state associations and member agencies to get involved in the conversation. So your plan for your state works best for you. There was one other easy question: um: can this money go to help someone who’s already homeless, to help them exit being homeless? Uh the the definition as stated under eligible household is: it means a household of one or more individuals who are obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling and with respect to which the eligible grantee involved determines that one or more individuals in the household has qualified Yadda yadda yadda, that’s the income qualifications, but the the clear distinction is that they are obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling. So, if they’re currently homeless – and they do not have an obligated rent um to pay to to remain housed, then they that is not it.

Ohio and Wisconsin did not create a new application for rental assistance, utilized existing system.

This is for ones that are at risk and and uh.I would stretch to say that if somebody has recently uh become homeless because of you know, uh estates not following the law of kicking them out that then they may have an argument to say this will get them back in the house if we pay the trend. Okay, um, a quick question on for phil and or brad did ohio and wisconsin utilize a current you’re going to have to fill until i get the question asked: okay, did you use a current community action application or was there a brand new application created in order To access the rental assistance dollars and brad will, have you go first and then bill? Okay, am i awesome there yeah there we go okay, um good question. Uh.I made passing reference to this.I thought um. No, we uh we did not have. We did not have to develop a new application. We utilize um the home energy plus system here in wisconsin to take the application and then determine eligibility and get the funds out.

Ohio agencies efficiently distribute weatherization funds with state support.

I think, with the exception of maybe two or three of our agencies, um that run um, leihe weatherization programs – all of that they were all very familiar with that system, so we just plugged into that and we’re able to, i think, be pretty efficient um getting those Funds out so no, we didn’t. We want to avoid reinventing the wheel for sure yeah. Okay, thanks brad, how about you, phil, okay, um, sorry about this problem with the sound um.I can’t remember exactly.I think there was a new form, but i do want to say this. We are fortunate because the state of ohio goes out of their way to make these kind of things as easy as possible for us as they act within the law. Of course, their goal is to serve as many ohioans as possible, and i know that the best way to do that is for us to serve them. So i think there was a new application if it was, it was pretty simple, um um because, like i said, they’re they’re always there to try and make this stuff work. They are great people.

Reminder: Management and Leadership Training Conference for Community Action Agencies Coming Up

They are great partners for us and great people to work with. Okay, great so here’s where we’re at we’re going to close the webinar.A couple of things to note, i believe, courtney, you have put the slides in the chat. We will also include in a follow up email to everyone who registered for the webinar. In addition to that, we’re going to do our best to provide a q, a so david phil and brad, and i and denise and others will go through the questions and try to make sure we get those answered that may not get sent out as quickly. But we will get back to you as soon as we possibly can courtney.I don’t think i can move the slide. So if you can go to the next slide, i do want to remind everyone of our management and leadership. Training conference. That’S coming up. We will be having some trainings on covet related activities and how our agencies have responded to the pandemic, as well as lots of other really important information for our community action agencies as they move forward.

Co-Directors of CARES Act Project Provide Contact Information and Encourage Involvement in Decision-Making for Poverty Programs

And the last slide includes the email addresses of myself and arlene, who are the co-directors of the cares act project as well as aaron, who is our vice president of organizational capacity building? We tried to get through the questions as best we can, but when you have 700 people on the webinar we did not get to all of them.I apologize, but we will do our best to get you answers as soon as we can and just know, getting involved at the table in making these decisions is what will make a program work for families that are experiencing poverty in your state. So good luck! Thank you so much for being a part of this training. We appreciate your interest and desire to keep helping people changing lives. Thank you. You

Additional Resources:

Looking for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers legal services and financial help to eligible applicants who are experiencing housing instability due to the pandemic. 

HUD’s monthly report shows that many households are struggling to pay their rent and utility bills. If you have received an eviction notice or are facing financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance. 

Also The Salvation Army and the Human Services Department have set up a call center to help connect eligible applicants with resources. You can also apply for assistance online or by filling out a paper application. 

To qualify for assistance, your income must be below the median income for your area and you must be able to show that you are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic. Property owners can also apply for assistance to cover future rent payments. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to Community Action Center in Greater Kansas City, HUD and other organizations for help with your housing and financial needs during this difficult time.