HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Critically needed COVID-19 relief funds provided by the CARES Act for affordable senior housing are long overdue to ensure the safety of at-risk populations and staff, according to LeadingAge.

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, took the Department of Housing and Urban Development to task on Tuesday for not effectively distributing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to assist providers of low-income, older adult housing.

“HUD-assisted communities for older adults living on low incomes serve a population at high risk for falling ill and dying during this pandemic,” Sloan said in a statement. “For months, starting in early March, LeadingAge has been advocating for congressional action to avert a COVID-elated disaster from reaching the more than one million older adults who reside in these homes nationwide.”

Although Congress allocated funding through the CARES Act in March for these providers, HUD has yet to deliver those funds. LeadingAge called on HUD to release $50 million from the CARES Act for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program as well as the remaining $200 million of Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance funds. 

“These communities operate on lean budgets and generally do not set aside money for infectious disease control,” Sloan said. “As HUD dithers, providers are spending thousands a month on COVID-19 costs, using funds that are earmarked for fixing the roof and the air conditioning, just so that they can support residents and staff with extra cleaning and disinfecting, personal protective equipment and services like security and meals, and extra staffing support.”

In a June 4 letter to Carson, Sloan stated that more than 1.1 million older adults live in HUD-subsidized apartment buildings and face “triple jeopardy during this public health crisis” — they are older, they have low incomes and they experience health disparities.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, HUD Secretary Benjamin S. Carson Sr. said in the coming weeks that HUD will continue to expedite getting funding provided by the CARES Act into the hands of communities.

HUD announces allocation of $2.96 billion in emergency grant funding

Carson also announced on Tuesday the allocation of $4 billion total in Emergency Solutions Grants targeted toward communities with high homeless populations or individuals at risk of becoming homeless, including low-income older adults.

The announcement includes an additional $2.96 billion in funding to support homeless Americans and individuals at risk of becoming homeless due to job loss, wage reductions or illness due to COVID-19. This funding is in addition to $1 billion in ESG grants announced within a week of President Trump signing the CARES Act.

The $2.96 billion in funding will be used to make more emergency shelters available, operate emergency shelters, provide hotel/motel vouchers, provide essential services to the homeless and prevent homelessness by rapidly rehousing homeless individuals.

“Homelessness was a major issue in some cities across our nation long before this pandemic occurred, and unfortunately the dire living conditions of our most vulnerable Americans left many without a home to isolate in or proper medical and healthcare resources to defend themselves against this invisible enemy,” Carson said.