The Denver Housing Authority is using millions in federal relief dollars to cover the cost of working from home and other pandemic expenses.
DHA, the largest public housing provider in Colorado, has so far received $6.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds earmarked for operating expenses and to run a housing voucher program. DHA spokeswoman Stella Madrid said the money was needed to keep “the DHA operating during these last three or four months.”
The agency, like many public and private entities, sent staff home when the pandemic hit to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the initial weeks, no one was coming into DHA offices. Now, about 60 percent of the staff continues to work from home, Madrid said. Those who are going into offices are staggering their shifts to keep the numbers in at any one time low.
The agency’s expenses linked to COVID-19 include improving technology and providing laptops to allow employees to work from home. It’s also had to create electronic versions of paper forms and make other changes to allow tenants to apply for housing vouchers or report changes to their income online.
DHA may have to request more funding if the pandemic spikes, Madrid said.
The federal funds cannot be used for rent relief, though DHA has reduced rent for some tenants whose incomes have been affected by the pandemic. DHA also has referred tenants in need of rent relief to city and state programs that have used other federal pandemic funds, and to nonprofit organizations.
DHA has nearly 5,000 public housing units, most subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. DHA also administers the federal program known as Section 8, providing vouchers that low-income residents can use to rent from private landlords in Denver rental housing throughout the city.