The Journal Gazette
Thursday, July 23, 2020 1:00 am

Help with housing

Congress must act quickly to help rescue low-income Hoosiers facing end of aid

Jessica Love

Prosperity Indiana values healthy, vibrant, inclusive communities for Hoosiers of all ages and capabilities.

Especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, healthy, vibrant, inclusive communities require safe, affordable housing options that are free from discriminatory practices. To realize the promise of these values, we've joined with other advocates to form the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition. It is on behalf of this coalition that I am calling on Congress to act to protect housing stability in the next COVID-19 relief package.

The coalition is a nonpartisan group of Indiana nonprofit organizations that recognizes the vital role federal, state and local policies play in supporting short-term housing stability and long-term housing security and growth for Indiana's economy and people. We seek to reduce the number of evictions and ensure that no Hoosier is made homeless, while increasing the availability of affordable housing and tenants' rights throughout the state.

The public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19 have the potential not only to keep us from achieving these goals, but could even erase housing and economic stability for millions of families who have been living on the edge of financial well-being.

Our nation is experiencing an urgent need for additional funds to help low-income Americans afford safe, stable housing during the pandemic and economic downturn. In Indiana, estimates find that 258,782 Hoosier renter households affected by COVID-19 will need emergency assistance for housing stability this summer.

Data shows that low-income renters, including Black and Hispanic households, have been subject to a “triple whammy” of COVID-19: public health risk, job and income loss, and resulting housing instability.

Emergency rental assistance can help many of these households in the short term, but the most vulnerable Hoosiers will need more sustained help.

Without additional aid:

• Communities will be unable to take adequate precautions to protect the health of people experiencing homelessness.

• People with low incomes who struggled to pay rent before the pandemic will face even greater challenges keeping a roof over their head. Some will experience eviction and homelessness, worsening their hardship and exposing them to more health risks.

• The consequences will be most severe for people who have extremely low incomes, a history of housing instability or homelessness, disabling physical and mental health conditions or are attempting to flee domestic violence.

We ask our senators, Todd Young and Mike Braun, to work in Congress to include $26 billion for Emergency Housing Choice Vouchers that would address the needs of more than a quarter million extremely low-income Hoosiers and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or fleeing domestic violence.

Additionally, we see a need for substantial funding in Emergency Solutions Grant program funding for two purposes – homelessness-related services to supplement the $4 billion the CARES Act provided and short- to medium-term rental assistance for certain low-income families struggling to pay their rent.

As this COVID-19 crisis continues, early supports are beginning to run out. Soon the boost added to unemployment insurance from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation will expire. Indiana's eviction moratorium will end on July 31.

Amid rising COVID-19 cases, support is ending and rent will be due. Now is the time for Congress to act to ensure Hoosiers receive the housing stability we're counting on them to provide.

Jessica Love is executive director of Prosperity Indiana.

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