CARH Broadcast Email—Legislative Update
Early on Thursday, March 26, the Senate, by a vote of 96-0, passed H.R. 748, the CARES Act, which totals $2 trillion and provides significant expansions in small business lending, unemployment insurance, tax relief to individuals and employers, healthcare measures, $500 billion in economic stabilization funds, $274 billion in emergency appropriations, and other measures aimed at combating the COVID-19 healthcare and economic crisis currently confronting our country. The House will vote on the legislation today and when passed, send to the President for signature.
Holland and Knight, CARH’s Legislative Representative, has done an extensive analysis of the tax provisions of the bill, including the small business loan section which from a business perspective may be useful to CARH members. In addition, Nixon Peabody, CARH’s General Counsel, has analyzed the housing provisions in the bill.
As members know from our Broadcast Email of March 19, 2020, CARH, together with other housing groups, were concerned about Congress providing additional rental assistance for residents in properties where loss of jobs would impact their ability to pay rent. We had urged Congress to provide an additional $500 million for Rural Development’s (RD) Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA) program, and additional project based Section 8 subsidy. Several CARH members, from a variety of states where key members of Congress are located, worked over the past weekend and the early part of the week to have these additional funds included. We greatly appreciate your assistance and information about how the virus and shutdowns have impacted you and your residents.
Unfortunately, Congress’ belief formed that RD had sufficient monies to fund all existing RA contracts. This belief, which we disagreed with, was based on the notion that the number of elderly/retired residents on fixed income who live in properties would insulate RA and that RD could fund any shortfall as a result of COVID-19 from the $1.375 billion funding that had been provided for FY 2020. Therefore, Congress did not provide our requested increase.
CARH also joined with the ACTION campaign to include some of the industry’s supported housing credit changes in the bill. Again, none of those provisions outlined in our March 19th email were included in the bill.
On the RA program, it is important for CARH members to keep a close watch on rental assistance usage on your properties. If it appears in the next month that you will experience a shortfall later in the year please advise the national CARH office. We need to hear of any projected shortfall, the number of units that will be impacted, and the demographics of the residents. RD will obviously also be keeping a close watch on RA usage.
While the ink is not yet dry on the stimulus bill as explained in the linked analyses above, it is possible there will be a fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill. From our reading, Congress will need to make technical corrections to provisions and address implementation issues. At the same time, there is already a need to address funding and other measures that were not included in H.R. 748. Work on Phase 4 has already begun among CARH and other housing advocates. We ask you to continue providing Congress with information on the impact of COVID-19 on your residents, employees and operations.
Additionally, CARH, along with other industry groups, sent a letter to Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security requesting that construction of single-family and construction and operation of multifamily housing be deemed an “Essential Infrastructure Business.”
During this crisis CARH staff, executive committee, board members, and members will continue to work with stakeholders, federal agencies and lawmakers to find the best ways to support all of our rural communities.