The deadlines attached to coronavirus relief funds have led to some projects not happening or being scaled back.
“The December 30 deadline is really impacting our organization's ability to use coronavirus relief funds for housing to meet the needs of people who are homeless as a result of the pandemic,” said Jennifer Hollar, director of policy and special projects at the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, on Friday.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board received funds from the federal CARES Act to distribute to entities in Vermont working on housing projects to assist people experiencing homelessness. The projects have to be complete by the end of the year, which isn’t much time depending on the scope of the work.
Hollar said VHCB has distributed grants to fund 200 new apartment units and help 13 shelters for homeless people across the state.
“But there are a number of projects in the state that just can’t meet that deadline for reasons of permitting, or it just takes a while to negotiate an agreement with an owner to purchase a property that are just not possible by the end of the year,” she said. “One of the disappointments for us has been, for instance, in central Vermont or the upper valley there weren’t any projects identified that could get done by that deadline, so we haven’t been able to fund something there.”
She said some of the rehabilitation projects that have gone forward have been lighter than they might have otherwise been, forgoing energy efficiency and other elements that would be included in a longer project.
For projects that require Act 250 permits, Hollar said the District Environmental Commissions that oversee those permits have been good about making sure stakeholders have the information needed to make the process as smooth as possible.
“It’s been terrific that local officials and the Act 250 district commissions understand the need to allow these projects to go forward, so they’ve tried to make sure they can do a timely review of all of them, which has been really important,” she said.
Earlier this week, Congressman Peter Welch introduced a bill that would extend the deadline for CARES Act funds to Sept. 30, 2021. Lincoln Peek, a spokesman for Welch, said Friday it was introduced the day it was announced and co-sponsored by Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla.
According to Welch, the current deadlines impact not only the housing funds but broadband and IT projects, school upgrades including HVAC projects, agricultural needs, and safety improvements for government facilities used by lawmakers.