McHenry Calls on Public Housing Authorities to Prepare for Impact of Coronavirus on Residents

  

Washington – On Monday, Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), the Republican leader of the House Financial Services Committee, and Congressman Steve Stivers (OH-15), the Republican leader of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance, sent letters to the nation’s largest Public Housing Authority (PHA) leaders urging them to implement policies to protect vulnerable residents from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Republican leaders note that “Federally-assisted housing properties serve populations that are particularly vulnerable, including the homeless, older adults, and persons with pre-existing medical conditions.” In light of this heightened risk of serious illness from COVID-19, McHenry and Stivers urged the PHAs, the owners and managers of federally-assisted housing, and appropriate Continuum of Care (CoC) services providers to:

  • Implement policies that limit non-resident access to buildings that house older adults.
  • Notify all residents in federally-assisted housing properties in the event that a resident in a dwelling tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Work with their local partners to develop strategies for managing outbreaks within the unsheltered homeless population.

Read the ten letters here or the text of the letter below.

The nation’s Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. Federally-assisted housing properties serve populations that are particularly vulnerable, including the homeless, older adults, and persons with certain pre-existing medical conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

The homeless population presents a unique set of challenges related to the viability of social distancing strategies and access to resources. For instance, the CDC advises anyone who is sick to avoid public spaces and limit contact with other people. The homeless population may require specific assistance from local Continuum of Care (CoC) services providers to implement CDC’s guidance.

In light of the above, we urge you and your teams to direct your PHA, the owners and managers of federally-assisted housing, and appropriate CoC services providers to take the following steps to support the federal, state, and local effort to address COVID-19:

  • Implement policies that limit non-resident access to buildings that house older adults. COVID-19 disproportionately affects older populations. Many older adults have been advised to avoid travel and crowds and employ social distancing strategies. Limiting access for non-residents for essential purposes only could protect this vulnerable population and such policies are consistent with the President’s advice “that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits.”
  • Notify all residents in federally-assisted housing properties in the event that a resident in a dwelling tests positive for COVID-19. Mandatory notifications will allow residents to take additional precautions pursuant to CDC guidelines in the event that a neighbor tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Develop strategies for managing outbreaks within the unsheltered homeless population. The homeless population may not have viable options for self-quarantine or social distancing in the event of contact with a COVID-19 patient.  Homeless patients also create a broader public health risk related to spreading COVID-19 throughout public spaces. CoC services providers should develop and implement tailored strategies appropriate for the local challenges of the homeless populations they serve.

Please provide a written response to cover how and when your housing authority will implement the recommendations described herein. Provide your response to the House Committee on Financial Services minority staff as soon as possible, but no later than March 20, 2020. Please contact staff at (202) 225-7502 with any questions about this request.  Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Patrick McHenry
Ranking Member

Steve Stivers
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance