COVID-19 Housing & Homelessness Update 3/24/20

As the global pandemic continues and the situation changes rapidly, the VAHC is following COVID-19 news with a special emphasis on housing, homelessness, and our low-income and vulnerable Vermonters. Please read the following news updates.

BREAKING NEWS: Governor Phil Scott orders Vermonters to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” The statement from the governor’s office reads: “The Governor’s order directs Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons, critical to health and safety… Effective March 25, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., all businesses and not-for-profit entities not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations.” Read the press release | Executive order w/ essential worker list | More info from VT Digger

  1. Housing and homeless service providers and others providing essential services to low-income and vulnerable populations are covered under subparagraphs l, m & q on the exemption list.

  2. For organizations serving the unhoused community that need to remain open, please see the VCEH updates at bottom of this email for more resources.

For the most recent information about the pandemic in Vermont, visit the Department of Health webpageHere is the last daily update from the Department of Health.

Translated materials are now available on the Vermont Health Website: www.healthvermont.gov/covid19*Scroll down to the Translated Materials part of the page*

For a comprehensive list of resources about COVID-19 in Vermont, click here.

Written comments on the FY21 budget are due to the Senate Appropriations committee by March 31. Though the Legislature is on break due to the pandemic, some committees are meeting remotely. Clearly the first priority for Appropriations Committees will be to address emergency funding needs due to the coronavirus crisis. However, once things settle down somewhat they will still need to pass an FY 21 budget, which is a must-pass bill. It will be more important than ever to weigh in on VHCB and all the other funding issues in the VAHC & VCEH State Legislative Priorities | Read the press release

  1. If you are essential personnel and you require Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect yourself and the people you serve, fill out this request form. for essential personnel. only Note that this form is

  2. For a summary of the implications of HR6201 the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” for employers and non-profits, read this memo from Legislative Council and this summary from Paul, Frank & Collins.

  3. Breaking legislative news: Senate reconvenes to pass emergency COVID-19 measures

Updates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

  1. NLIHC will be hosting weekly national calls on COVID-19 and housing/homelessness every Monday afternoon. The next call is this coming Monday, March 30 at 2:30pm to 4:00pm ET. You can register for the national call here: https://tinyurl.com/t3oftj7

  2. You can find a recording of the last call as well as the presentation slides and up-to-date news and resources on NLIHC’s website

  3. The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition is pushing for a broad array of resources and protections, including emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention assistance, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and emergency funds for homeless service providers, public housing authorities, and other affordable housing providers, among other recommendations. For more information visit their website.

  4. Federal legislative update from NLIHC: “Congressional leaders are finalizing negotiations over legislation to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with the goal of wrapping up the bill over the coming hours and days. This is possibly our last opportunity to influence this bill and ensure desperately needed resources for people experiencing homelessness and America’s lowest-income renters. Please call your senators and representatives today to urge them to include housing and homelessness resources in the coronavirus response package.” Full set of recommendations | Comparison of House & Senate relief packages

The Agency of Natural Resources has issued an instruction to disinfect drinking water. The Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Division is requiring all communities and NTNCs to disinfect (Non-Transient Non-Community Water Systems), if not already doing so. VAHC member mobile  home park owners are concerned about the cost and health effects associated with chlorinating drinking water in small communities across the state. More info here.

Updates from the VT Office of Economic Opportunity about Housing Quality Standard Inspections (HQS)  from HUD:

  1. HQS inspectors should follow their state Health Department’s recommendations on limiting social interaction and pausing on inspections of occupied apartments.

  2. HUD will NOT be enforcing compliance on any missed HQS inspections during this time

  3. HUD is working on granting temporary waivers of HQS requirements for all funding sources (Continuum of Care, Emergency Solutions Grant, and Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers)

  4. HUD confirmed that organizations SHOULD still provide rental assistance to tenants, even if an inspection has not been completed.


Also from VT OEO: 

  1. HOP is temporarily suspending the requirement for an HQS inspection if it cannot be easily completed in the usual time frame.

  2. VSHA and BHA are delaying annual inspections and triaging initial inspections for prospective lease-ups as best as they are able.

  3. Inspections will be done following a strict protocol which minimizes personal contact and will only be done in vacant units.  Prospective tenant(s) would not be present and only the landlord or agent with a key would be present (or a key left under the mat).

HIPAA confidentiality update

  1. Housing and homeless service providers have asked if they can learn when a resident/guest tests positive (or negative) for the virus?

  2. The VT Department of Health provided this guidance to VHCB staff: HIPAA prevents any health care provider from disclosing identifying information about a patient. The onus is on the patient, or tenant, to disclose to you, the property owner/manager, if they have symptoms or are in quarantine. And, depending on the severity of their symptoms, someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 is likely to be quarantined at their home and not at a health care facility.

Other Updates:

  1. Cathedral Square Corporation has openings for RESIDENT ASSISTANTS in BURLINGTON and WILLISTON. This is a great way to help your community in these troubled times. More info.

  2. The Hoehl Family is launching an emergency grant round this week in response to the tremendous need across the state. They are specifically looking to award grants in the areas of: Food, Housing, and Healthcare. These are $5,000-$20,000 grants with one-week turnaround. Apply here

  3. VT Legal Aid has discontinued in-person access to offices, however clients may still contact their intake helpline at 1-800-889-2047 to receive assistance.  Clients with a legal or benefits problem related to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak also may receive assistance by going to https://vtlawhelp.org/.

  4. They are tracking changes to Vermont courts and state agencies operations, changes to public benefits programs, and other changes at: https://vtlawhelp.org/coronavirus-updates | Read the Press Release

  5. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on food assistance: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will strengthen states’ ability to address rising food needs, and governors’ coronavirus plans must protect nutrition for pregnant women and young children.

News Updates from VT Digger: 

  1. Substance abuse treatment providers: ‘Help is still out there’ – Many services are shifting to online meetings and sessions and implementing changes for those receiving medical assisted treatment. Here is a list of resources Read more

  2. Landlords, tenants worried; advocates seek eviction moratorium – For now, the Scott administration is not calling for a moratorium, seeks more housing assistance. Read more

  3. Live Updates from VT Digger

Good news not related to COVID-19:

  1. The coalition has recently received two grants! Our most sincere thanks to both the TD Bank Charitable Foundation and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund (NEGEF) for their support.

  2. The TD Bank Charitable Foundation grant will offset the cost of attending a Neighborworks America Training Institute.

  3. The New England Grassroots Environment Fund grant will help us continue to expand the Voices of Home storytelling project at Burlington’s Cambrian Rise development.

  4. Apply here for NEGEF COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding.

 

*Please read the following news updates from our partners at the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness*

*The COVID-19 Homeless Response webinar with the Agency of Human Services and Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness has been rescheduled to Wednesday, March 25, 2020.*

This Webinar is for those organizations who are providing services to homeless during the COVID-19 or novel coronavirus. If you haven’t registered for the webinar series you can do so here: Homeless Service Provider Weekly Call -COVID19

For the PowerPoint that was shared on Friday:  COVID19: Homeless Service Provider Call Slides

 

March 19, 2020: HOMELESS SERVICE PROVIDER GUIDANCE

 

Social Distancing in Congregate Facilities to Limit further Spread of COVID-19 Disease Limiting the number of people who congregate and interact with one another within a facility and allowing more physical space between people can help to curb spread of this infection. Depending on specific facility needs and severity of exposure to persons with COVID-19, social distancing can range from decreasing the number of people who can congregate at a time for different activities to suspending all non-essential activities. Explain to clients and staff why people are isolated from others to avoid stigmatizing those who are affected.

The following are examples of social distancing that can be considered in congregate settings to limit the spread of an infectious respiratory illness:

Sleeping Arrangements • Increase spacing so beds are at least 3-6 feet apart • If space allows, put less residents within a dorm/unit • Arrange beds so that individuals lay head-to-toe (or toe-to-toe), or use neutral barriers (foot lockers, curtains) to create barriers between beds • Move residents with symptoms into separate rooms with closed doors, and provide separate bathroom if possible • If only shared rooms are available, consider housing the ill person in a room with the fewest possible number of other residents • Avoid housing people with underlying conditions in same room as people with symptoms

Mealtimes • Stagger mealtimes to reduce crowding in shared eating facilities • Stagger the schedule for use of common/shared kitchens

Bathrooms & Bathing • Create a staggered bathing schedule to reduce the amount of people using the facilities at the same time

Recreation/Common Areas • Create a schedule for using common spaces • Reduce activities that congregate many residents at once such as “house meetings” and opt for smaller group activities • Limit the number of people in a room to 10

Transport • Opt for transporting less people per trip and ensure that passengers have more space between one another

Communication • Reduce the amount of face-to-face interactions with residents for simple informational purposes • Consider using the following methods of communication:  Bulletin boards, signs, posters, brochures, emails, phone, sliding information under someone’s door or mailbox

Staff Activities • Reduce unnecessary assembly of staff (e.g., large meetings where information can be communicated otherwise) • Where appropriate, opt for conference calls instead of in-person meetings

View the full COVID-19 SNAPS resource digest on the HUD Exchange for a comprehensive list of websites and resources.

 

For organizations serving the unhoused community that are unable to close after Governor Scott’s order, please see the following resources:

  1. Social distancing practices (maintaining six feet between people),

  2. Handwashing,

  3. Sick employees remaining home

  4. regularly disinfecting and cleaning high traffic objects and surfaces.

Examples of the signage are available through the VDH COVD-19 website (https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus).

#Homelessness #DisasterRelief #Housing #COVID19 #Vermont

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