As the government shutdown started by a Donald Trump temper tantrum in response to the lack of support for his mythical border wall continues, those most vulnerable to its impact continue to suffer.
NBC News reports that a handful of federal Housing and Urban Development employees who are still on the job are hard at work trying to find funding for affordable-housing contracts that have expired because of the government shutdown.
Those funds would help the management team at San Jose Manor II Apartments—a community for low-income senior citizens in Jacksonville, Fla.—fix a long-leaking roof that needs to be replaced.
Alma Ballard, executive director of the nonprofit Family Housing Management, told NBC that water from the leaking roof has at times dripped into some of the residents’ rooms. She said that the company has been saving to get a new roof, but had to put plans on hold while waiting for its contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to be renewed. Ballard said the company is under financial strain now because it has not received its December and January payments from HUD, which total about $40,000.
That is just one example out of the more than 200 properties like San Jose II that had their contracts expire in December. Those contracts, under a program called Section 202, provide housing for about 400,000 low-income elderly people through both the Section 8 Project-Based rental assistance program and a separate HUD program called Project Rental Assistance Contracts.
According to NBC, HUD sent messages to property owners whose contracts had expired or would expire in January, and gave detailed instructions on how they could request reserve funds if their property was not receiving payment or is experiencing an emergency situation.” That same email was also forwarded to affordable housing groups and other industry associations.
In the meantime, House Democrats—who have criticized HUD’s failure to salvage the expiring contracts ahead of time—are investigating the agency’s management of the shutdown and questioning what happened to the $400,000 in backup funding that was set aside for the Section 8 rental assistance program.
Jereon Brown, a HUD spokesman, said in a statement “HUD is actively resolving issues with these pending contracts with owners and identifying available resources for payment.”
Earlier in the week, Brown said the agency was working hard to find money for the properties whose contracts had expired, and in the email sent out on Wednesday, HUD indicated that once funding was restored, any property owners who had to draw from their reserves would be reimbursed by the agency.
Those words mean nothing however for the residents of places like San Jose Manor II apartments who depend on the funding for their shelter. If the property owners don’t have enough funds to keep their buildings going, what happens to the residents?
They would simply be out of options.
But hey, maybe we will get that wall after all.