ROCHESTER, Minn. - Thirty-two days into the government shutdown, the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority presented their recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on how to protect affordable housing. They recommended to authorize the use of the HRA's levy, county money, to supplement Housing Choice Voucher (also known as Section 8) funds through March if there are no federal funds available. The board voted 5 to 1 to approve the recommendation.
"That allows us kind of one more month before we have to evaluate solutions that are maybe more dramatic and certainly something that we don't want to do," explains Dave Dunn, housing director of the OCHRA. He eleborates that the government shutdown is impacting affordable housing in the area in multiple ways. For one, federal employees not receiving a paycheck may be struggling to make their rent or mortgage payments. Additionally, federal funds used by multiple housing programs in the area including the Housing Choice Voucher rely on federal funding.
This reassurance is coming at a good time, as some community members are beginning to worry about how they will maintain a roof over their heads. Che Lopez, lead organizer of Communities United for Rochester Empowerment, has met with CURE members who rely on Section 8 housing. "They're very concerned...A lot of our members that are living under section 8 are worried that they're not going to have a place to stay if the program closes," he explains.
"For our clients, not knowing where their next rent payment may come from, you can imagine just how concerning and distressing that is so what we're trying to do is provide some reassurance and stability to let our clients know that not only are their rental assistance payments going to be fine for February, they're also going to be fine for March," adds Dunn.
The OCHRA is hoping that the government shutdown ends before the end of March, but what if it doesn't? "We would absolutely find other solutions," says Dunn. "We'd have to get really creative and we'd have to dip into some reserves, but we would find other solutions."
Some of the population utilizing affordable housing options overlaps with some of the population utilizing the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. While housing is now secure through March, SNAP is only secure through February at the moment. "A lot of them are saying where are we gonna get money for food, what's going to happen with our situation feeding our kids?" says Lopez.
According to Olmsted County, "staff are monitoring state and federal guidance regarding March benefits" for SNAP. Snap participants may also be eligible for funding through the Women Infant and Child Program, which has federal funding through April.
Veteran services are not impacted as this time, as the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is funded through the end of the year.
According to Olmsted County, here is a list of other programs and services that are not affected currently, but the county is monitoring: · Child Care Assistance Programs (CCAP); Medical Assistance (MA); Group Residential Housing (GRH); Child Support (CS); Diversionary Work Program (DWP); General Assistance (GA); Minnesota Supplemental Assistance (MSA); Emergency Assistance/Emergency General Assistance (EA/EGA); Public Health services including home visits, immunizations and check-ups, refugee screening, and food and lodging inspections and licensing; Transportation and road construction projects in the county; Elections, passports and vital records services.
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