CARES Act rental and housing assistance still in the pipeline

Local governments will have latitude determining how money is spent. When they get it.

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The $16 million allocated to Nevada through the CARES Act to specifically address housing and homeless issues exacerbated by COVID-19 won’t be disbursed until well into May. 

“We believe the grantees could start receiving funds in their lines of credit as soon as the third week of May – a faster turnaround time than normal – due to the statutory and regulatory waivers HUD is operating under which allows grantees to complete the aforementioned actions in an expedited fashion.” said HUD spokesman Matthew Schuck.”

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development funding in the legislation can be used for multiple purposes, including rental assistance, rapidly rehousing people on the verge of homelessness, or constructing treatment facilities, and “the grantees” — local governments — will largely determine how to direct funds.

With another month’s rent due May 1, residents still dealing with unprecedented housing instability and Southern Nevada lacking enough beds for its unsheltered population, the number of people in need of help is already growing.

The National National Multifamily Housing Coalition estimated that a third of people nationwide couldn’t pay their rent the first week of April. While there hasn’t been any state-specific data, Nevada nonprofits have seen an increase in clients needing rent-based assistance.

“On average in March and April we get about 20 to 25 requests for financial support for paying rent or paying utility bills,” said Gary Costa, the executive director of Golden Rainbow, which provides financial and housing assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS in Southern Nevada. “That has increased to 100 requests per day.”

Prior to COVID-19, Golden Rainbow had helped clients get jobs and find needed footing to become self-sufficient.

With Nevada under a stay at home order and non-essential businesses closed, those jobs aren’t there anymore.

“We are seeing a lot of people who were once eligible for assistance but were able climb out of the hole to the point they didn’t need us,” he said. 

The HUD funding provided by the CARES Act could potentially fill in gaps for nonprofits aiding clients with housing and homeless issues.

The state received $13,517,302 for Community Development Block Grants, $6,770,451 for Emergency Solution Grants and $341,353 for Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS funding. 

For Community Development Block Grants:

  • Henderson – $868,938
  • Las Vegas – $3,082,302
  • North Las Vegas – $1,112,214
  • Reno – $1,269,663
  • Sparks – $402,633
  • Clark County – $4,731,978
  • Nevada Non-entitlement – $2,049,574

Emergency Solutions Grants:

  • Las Vegas – $1,537,579
  • North Las Vegas – $580,710
  • Reno – $670,428
  • Clark County – $2,333,003
  • Nevada Non-entitlement – $1,648,731

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS:

  • Las Vegas – $280,792
  • Nevada Non-entitlement – $60,561

Once funding is disbursed, municipalities could direct money to provide things like motel or hotel vouchers to people experiencing homelessness, build emergency shelters or rapidly rehouse people to prevent homelessness.

Both Clark County and North Las Vegas officials mentioned enlisting local nonprofits, who provide direct services to clients, when it comes time to direct those funds.

“We are looking at using funds for homeless prevention and rapid re-housing for people who are impacted by COVID-19,” Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said via email. “We’re also looking at additional funding for domestic violence shelters.”

North Las Vegas spokesman Patrick Walker said Emergency Solution Grant money is going toward homeless prevention for rental and utility assistance to low income households. 

The CDBG money, he added, would be split between:

  • Delivering meals on wheels to quarantine individuals or those who are medically vulnerable and need to maintain social distancing.
  • Rental and utility assistance to help keep people housed.
  • Food pantry assistance.

“We anticipate the rental and utility assistance (RUA) program hitting the streets of North Las Vegas in late May,” he said. “Many of the existing providers the city is in partnership with now already provide services — utility assistance, meals on wheels, food pantry — geared toward assisting those affected by COVID as well as lessening the economic impact of businesses affected by COVID in North Las Vegas. It just made sense to utilize existing partners to be able to quickly get the money out on the street by amending the existing agreements to add COVID related activities.”  

Jace Radke, a spokesman with the City of Las Vegas, said the community services department is working on its plan for CARES funding, which would be approved by the city council sometime in May, but didn’t specify where funds might go. 

Though CARES funding will help, Costa said there is going to be more allocated with the crisis, as well as unemployment, likely to increase.

In addition to the CARES funding, on April 7 Nevada lawmakers authorized $2 million to be split among the United Way of Southern and Northern Nevada to provide rent and mortgage assistance. 

Michael Brazier, the executive director of the United Way of Northern Nevada Sierra, said about $400,000 went up north while $1.6 million went down south.

United Way determines what nonprofits to disperse the money to, selecting established organizations that already provide direct assistance to clients. 

The organization made its first allocation of $100,000 and is expecting to make another next week. (Nonprofits are required to report how many clients were served from the funding, but those numbers won’t be available until later in the year.)

The demand for assistance is higher than the funding available, Brazier said. 

“We have been getting about $700,000 of requests in all basic needs categories.” he said. “We are seeing an increase in requests across the board not just for rent but for basic needs. Food pantries around Northern Nevada have seen a surge in clients.”

National groups like the National Low Income Housing Coalition said while housing funding from the CARES Act was a good step, more needs to done. The organization estimates that “U.S. needs an investment of between $76 billion to $100 billion to keep the lowest-income households stably housed” during the health crisis.

“Emergency rental assistance is needed now to ensure low-income renters can remain stably housed during the worst of COVID-19 outbreak and throughout the devastating recession it is bringing about,” said Diane Yentel, the president and CEO of the organization. “Providing temporary rental assistance to current and projected cost-burdened renters would keep at-risk tenants stably housed and protect and preserve our country’s limited naturally-occurring affordable housing.”

A fourth federal relief bill was signed into law last week assigning $310 billion to the depleted  Paycheck Protection Program to help small business, as well as, $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers, and $25 billion for COVID-19 testing. But Congressional Democrats in particular say that more, and more comprehensive relief legislation is necessary to help state and local governments meet needs that have been exacerbated by the crisis, including additional money for housing assistance.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.