The city hopes to be able to efficiently distribute federal funding for homelessness by the deadline
Oahu has approximately $ 24 million in federal COVID-19 funding to be spent on homeless services and housing construction – of which $ 10 million will go to a new program called Oahu Housing Now. It places homeless people and families in rental apartments at market prices.
However, 20% of the $ 24 million – or $ 4.8 million – has to be spent by September, said Laura Thielen, executive director at Partners in Care, Oahu’s planning agency that coordinates housing and services for the homeless.
If the funds aren’t spent, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development could withdraw $ 5 million.
“Not only will we be affected, not just my program,” she said.
“It’s the whole system.”
Thielen emphasized the need to coordinate with the city’s customer service and tax office to ensure that the invoices are processed properly.
“All of our service providers are asking me to tell me what exactly I need,” she said.
“Because if they are 1 cent cheaper or their declaration does not precisely state the tax requirements, it will be deferred.”
City Council Chairman Tommy Waters pointed out that the budget recently passed by the council, pending approval from the mayor, includes five additional purchasing positions within the Department of Budget and Finance to help expedite these transactions.
Waters also spoke out in favor of revising the computer system within the Department of Budget and Tax Services.
“What I understand is that it’s still paper going back and forth,” he said.
“It could really, really be more efficient if we upgrade our computer system.”
There is a second deadline in March when 80% of the $ 24 million must be spent. Thielen said meeting these deadlines is critical to the Oahu Housing Now program, which pays participating landlords a full 12 months’ rent. According to an article in the Honolulu Star Advertiser highlighting the difficulty of attracting landlords to the project, Thielen said she received 25 calls from potential landlords asking to contribute.
“That tells you there are people out there who want to help with this program,” she said.
âWe need to inform landlords about these types of programs. We must also take action against discrimination against social housing. “
Thielen called on the council to deal with the amount of advertisements that do not allow housing subsidies – as all four bills failed in this session in the state parliament.
âWe go through the newspaper every day and look at ads for units. Without exception, half of them say no section 8, no subsidies, âshe said.
“We are one of the very few states that have no anti-subsidy laws.”