HUD issues guidance on using community development block grant coronavirus funds

January 28, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
January 28, 2021

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued guidance on using community development block grant coronavirus funds for emergency customer payments to a public power utility.

The guidance comes in part because of public power utility inquiries about such payments and the disparate responses they were receiving from HUD regional offices.

At issue is an underlying rule that community development block grant coronavirus funds need to be spent on new programs, not existing ones.

HUD has taken the position that a public power utility is a “program” of the city in which it operates and, so, customer payment relief for this “existing” program would not be allowed.

While the HUD guidance appears to provide a clear path to using funds to help public power utility customers, it also retains some of the initial concerns for a utility that cannot distinguish itself from the city.

Specifically, the guidance states if the grantee “operates a public utility that is not budgeted or accounted for in a separate fund, the grantee is strongly advised to discuss options with its assigned HUD field office.”

$25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program

 Meanwhile, the National Energy and Utility and Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) and National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association recently held a webinar on providing an overview of, and recommendations for, using the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program to provide utility assistance.

The American Public Power Association is a member of NEUAC and ex officio member of the NEUAC board.

APPA believes that the bulk of program funds will likely go to rental assistance, rather than utilities, but is also strongly encouraging members to reach out to cities and counties eligible to receive a direct allocation of these funds to make known the needs of the utilities’ residential renting customer for utility assistance.

A recording of the event, slides from the event, and a detailed Q&A document can all be found on NEUAC’s website here.

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