Last week’s Building Bridges blog introduced a new tool for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to consider adopting and implementing for the weeks and months ahead: a public health and economic recovery framework response to address housing instability and homelessness.
In response to the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, and anticipated surges in the number of people who will experience housing instability and homelessness, there has been a significant increase of public and private funding at local, state, and federal levels. In addition, waivers have been issued to remove historic barriers; processes have been shortened or otherwise modified to be more flexible; and communities have improvised to deal with rapidly changing conditions. This is an important moment for communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg to pause; then consider strategic alignment and appropriation of all housing and homelessness funding across the full housing continuum for maximum efficacy.
On May 1, the National Alliance to End Homelessness; the National Low Income Housing Coalition; and the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities introduced A Framework for COVID-19 Homelessness Response. The framework provides guidance to homelessness assistance systems (like Continuums of Care or CoCs) on how to maximize new funding (whether from the CARES Act or other sources) to both respond to the immediate crisis and plan for a lengthy economic recovery using an equity lens. Communities can begin to adapt and implement this framework as part of both their near- and longer-term COVID-19 housing responses.
This week’s blog post takes a closer look at the framework, focusing specifically on the complex web of funding sources, including new COVID-19 related funding allocations and waivers.
FEDERAL COVID-19 FUNDING EXPLAINED
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress on March 27, allocated more than $12 billion in housing and homelessness resources. The CARES Act also provided flexible funding to state and local governments to address housing instability and homelessness. Federal COVID-19 funding to address housing instability and homelessness is allocated to multiple entities in our community. These include Mecklenburg County Government, the City of Charlotte, and several non-profits.
The total available COVID-19 related funding from the CARES Act that could be used for housing and/or homelessness assistance is roughly $200MM. Of this total, the Coronavirus Relief Fund portion of the CARES Act provided approximately $154MM to the City of Charlotte, with another $39MM allotted to Mecklenburg County. Additional federal resources were allocated through the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG); Community Development Block Grant (CDBG); and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) programs.
Another federal stimulus package is currently under discussion on Capitol Hill.
This link provides an overview of the funding sources in the framework, including descriptions of the funding; any waivers involved; and ways the funding can be applied.
LOCAL COVID-19 FUNDING EXPLAINED
In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation for the Carolinas launched a fundraising effort, which has raised over $19 million from individuals, corporations, and local government to support efforts including homelessness and eviction prevention. These funds have so far been allocated to non-profits that fall into categories of basic needs; childcare; education; emergency financial assistance; food security; health and mental health; legal advocacy; shelter and housing; and workforce development.
ALL COVID-19 FUNDING MAXIMIZED
To align funding sources toward a common framework, it is vital that all entities that receive any COVID-19 related funding coordinate activities with each other. An important first step to maximize the multiple layers of COVID-19 related funding is to outline all currently available and projected funding amounts, including any restrictions on use. Communities can then use this table to monitor spending of COVID-19-related funding across the housing continuum from prevention to permanent housing.
It is also important to note where funds can supplement more effective efforts, and where the ability to supplant funding allows otherwise encumbered dollars to be redirected toward remaining gaps.
Below is an example of the kind of table that communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg can use to start this process:
|FUNDING SOURCE||FUNDING AMOUNT AWARDED||FUNDING GRANTEE||FUNDING AMOUNT ALLOCATED BY GRANTEE||ORGANIZATION|
|IMPACT AREA ADDRESSED||SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES FUNDED||OUTCOMES|
Prior to COVID-19, 44% (78,862) of all renter households experienced cost-burden, meaning that they were spending more than 30% of their gross income on housing related expenses. These households are especially at risk of experiencing housing instability, often one paycheck away from an eviction. These households are also more likely to work in sectors that have been negatively impacted by the economic fallout from COVID-19. An analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data conducted by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance reveals that as of April 30, 23% of the workforce in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg MSA is considered economically vulnerable and therefore, immediately at risk.
Local, statewide, and national eviction moratoria have provided a pause, potentially allowing time for other measures to be developed. The CARES Act eviction moratorium protects renters in properties with federal backing or subsidies until late July; this covers only a fraction of all renters, nationally. North Carolina recently extended the eviction moratorium by three weeks, to June 20. The new Executive Order also requires landlords to give tenants at least six months after the order ends to pay outstanding rent. However, after the eviction moratoria and protections expire, rent will still be still due; this includes the 3 to 4 months of deferred, unpaid rent. In August 2020, the federal $600-per-week increase to unemployment benefits ends, leaving many low-income (or now, unemployed households) with little to no assistance to maintain their housing.
In addition to the 3,172 households experiencing homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a new wave of homelessness is coming. The extent to which the residents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg will be crushed by this wave depends ultimately upon the actions taken right now to ensure policies, funding, and programming across the housing continuum are calibrated as efficiently as possible. Only by stacking every available bag of sand will we divert or reduce this surge.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog, which will dive into specific impact areas addressed within the framework.
Courtney LaCaria coordinates posts on the Building Bridges Blog. Courtney is the Housing & Homelessness Research Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Community Support Services. Courtney’s job is to connect data on housing instability, homelessness and affordable housing with stakeholders in the community so that they can use it to drive policy-making, funding allocation and programmatic change.