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President’s Forum: Looking Back on 2021

Pandemic Continues, but Conditions Improved Throughout the Year

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

This is the last edition of the Advocate that you will receive in 2021. The time sure has gone by fast. I thought it would be worth taking a brief look back on a period in our professional and personal lives that none of us will forget.

This time last year, we were reflecting on 2020 with much anticipation about what the new year would bring regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. With the creation of vaccines and now even pills to address the terrible disease, our country and the whole world have made great strides, but we still have a way to go. Sadly, more people died from COVID-19 in 2021 than the prior year.

In the USA, almost 800,000 Americans have passed away with roughly 5 million perishing worldwide. Those are the official numbers, but the reality is the count is considerably higher. Like millions of others around the world, I contracted the disease as did some of my family members. I am sure many of you also know firsthand how debilitating this disease can be. Unfortunately, many of us have lost family and friends since the onset of the pandemic.

It is rewarding to know that our agencies have played an important part in addressing the crisis in our communities. The CARES Act funding and flexibility provided by Congress has been instrumental in helping us overcome some of the many challenges brought on by COVID-19. In many communities, HAs returned to their full operations in-person even before the start of 2021, performing necessary day to day operations.

The last year and a half have been a roller coaster ride for our economy and society in general. The eviction moratorium was helpful to ensure that many did not lose their homes at a desperate time. Nevertheless, the situation has created financial hardships for owners and operators including many HAs that have seen their tenant accounts receivable escalate significantly.

The Biden Administration took office in late January and immediately began working with Congress to provide additional funding for renters and owners as well as states and localities. In addition to the previously appropriated CARES money, Congress has appropriated tens of billions of dollars more in Emergency Rental Assistance and Emergency Housing Vouchers that are now being put to good use all over the United States.

At the same time, the Administration has delivered on its promise to try and secure additional funding for our programs through the regular budget process and as part of the historic reconciliation bill (the Build Back Better legislation). Following the Budget’s release in May, both chambers of Congress increased funds for the operating, capital and voucher accounts in their respective bills that are still pending. You can read about the specifics in PHADA’s Position Paper.

Please ask your Representatives and Senators to approve a final bill with the higher sums identified in our paper. You can also read more about the latest on the reconciliation bill here. We are hopeful congressional action on that historic package will be finished in the remaining days of 2021.

 

A Good Year for PHADA

I was proud to be elected PHADA’s President in May, and we are finishing the year in a very good position. The overall membership is strong, and our finances are excellent. Like so many other organizations, we had to postpone some of our meetings (the January Commissioners Conference and May Annual Convention), but we conducted successful on-line meetings that enabled us to provide valuable information to members while also interacting with one another.

While the virtual meetings were helpful, we were pleased to return to an in-person format at our Washington meeting in September. That gathering was very successful as we were able to meet with HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and others from the Department, outside groups, and Capitol Hill staff.

We also set important goals for the organization this year including securing the previously referenced budget objectives and making progress towards greater racial equity. We also won the pending appeal in our second operating reserves litigation, which will pay out roughly $136 million in damages to the 550 HAs in the lawsuit.

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

I hope all members and readers have a wonderful and healthy holiday season. I look forward to seeing many of you at our Conference in San Diego next month. It you are unable to make it then, I hope to see you some other time soon in 2022.