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President’s Forum: Three Years into the Pandemic

Closer to “Normal” but Effects Still Linger

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

We are nearing the third anniversary of the worldwide pandemic. Last year around this time, I wrote that I looked forward to seeing even more progress in the fight against COVID-19. There is no doubt that things have steadily improved since then and we are getting closer to “normal.” The question remains, however, what the new normal will look like as the pandemic has forever changed the way we live, work and interact with one another.

As of this writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 6.8 million people worldwide have died from the disease. In our country, 1.1 million people have lost their lives so far. We are still losing many people across the world including more than 3,400 in the U.S. alone during the first week of February, according to the WHO. Many of us have felt the pandemic’s impact personally, losing family members, co-workers and friends over the last three years.

We will always remember the events of March 2020. Schools, businesses, and government offices around the country closed, many shifting to an on-line virtual mode. Many HAs, of course, could not close their doors and maintained their operations delivering needed services to low-income seniors and families. The massive federal aid Congress approved was invaluable in this effort.

Despite the ongoing threat posed by COVID, most of the world has now learned to live with it as vaccines and boosters have become more widely available. In addition, many have natural immunity after contracting the disease. Our co-workers and residents are much less at risk now. As a result, we will reach a symbolic milestone on May 11 in the United States. That is the day President Biden will formally lift the public health emergency.

While the emergency designation will soon be gone, our operating environment is quite different in many communities around the U.S. The eviction moratorium and declining rental payments have had a significant financial effect that has raised concerns about the fiscal solvency of some HAs. Many of us are still finding it hard to locate goods and supplies required for basic maintenance and construction. This has resulted in the kind of increases in inflation not seen since the 1970s. Additionally, as a result of the “great resignation” and switchover to remote working, finding and retaining quality staff has become a challenge for many of us.

The way we interact with state local and federal government partners has changed too. Many of them, particularly HUD staff, are no longer working in their offices on a regular basis. We now tend to meet with HUD remotely as opposed to in-person. This has both positive and negative effects.

Work from home has also had a significant impact on many communities especially larger U.S. cities that have seen an economic downturn in their business and governmental districts. This new dynamic could add to the financial challenges facing many communities as federal assistance wains.

As we mark this third-year anniversary, it is important to remember those we have lost. It is also important for agencies such as HUD to view our situation in the proper context. The challenges mentioned above are still very real for many HAs. That is why we continue to press the Department and Congress on the need to ease up on new initiatives and regulatory requirements and give agencies more local flexibility. The need for more latitude will become even more pronounced this year and next when congressional appropriations are expected to remain stagnant (or worse) even as inflation persists.


Opportunity to Give Now to Scholarship Winner

During our upcoming Annual Convention in Denver, PHADA will award the 2023 Bollinger Scholarship to a talented youth who will soon be off to college. Our Scholarship Committee, which I once headed and is now ably led by Earl Rickman (Mt. Clemens, MI), is reviewing applications now and will soon announce the winner of the Bollinger and two other scholarships.

It is customary for us to ask for personal donations during the scholarship luncheon and we will continue to do so. This money, provided through the personal generosity of PHADA members, is used to supplement the tuition assistance the association provides. The additional donations made by individuals may be used for things such as schoolbooks, room and board, computers and other necessary supplies.

We have found over the years fewer people carry cash to our meetings but would still like to donate. The committee therefore suggested that we ask the winner if they want to make their banking information known to PHADA members for donations. We will arrange that once the Bollinger Scholarship winner is selected.

As another alternative, members can send in personal checks to PHADA, 511 Capitol Court NE, Washington, DC 20002. Please make sure to include a notation that the funds are designated to the 2023 scholarship winner. Thank you!

Please note donations are not tax deductible under IRS rules.

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