June 22, 2010

Schumer, Gillibrand, Tonko Urge HUD Sec To Accept Amsterdam Housing Authority’s Grant App After Technical Glitch By Feds Tossed Out Application

AHA Was In Line to Receive Critical Grant, But HUD Changed Grant Deadline without Notifying Applicants

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Paul Tonko announced that they have sent a personal letter to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Shaun Donavan, urging him to reexamine the Amsterdam Housing Authority’s (AHA) grant application.  AHA’s grant application was denied based on a technicality after HUD mistakenly sent applicants the wrong due date and failed to properly notify applicants of the new date. The loss of this grant, which the AHA has received annually, would deliver a devastating blow to residents by turning off access to key community jobs program that helps residents find and maintain gainful employment.

“Here we’ve got a situation where the federal government is penalizing residents for a mistake that some bureaucrats made,” Schumer said. “The Amsterdam community has used these funds to help residents find jobs and become financially sound.  It is unthinkable that HUD would deny AHA’s application at a time when this critical resource is needed most because the agency couldn’t manage to put the right date on their application.”

“The Amsterdam community should not be penalized by this type of administrative mistake.  These federal dollars are too important,” Senator Gillibrand said. “During these tough economic times, when thousands of New Yorkers are concerned about affordable housing, these federal resources would help families get back on their feet. This program can make all the difference in our community.”

”We need to correct this situation so the Amsterdam Housing Authority can continue to help families improve their own lives,” said Congressman Tonko. “To deny these funds because of a clerical error could have devastating consequences for those residents who need assistance. They should not suffer because of this mistake.”  

The AHA has successfully operated a Housing Choice Voucher Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program for many years. The program works to make  sure that families living in housing communities like Amsterdam can be connected to local resources that will help them find a steady job and become economically independent. For instance, the AHA has for years used funds from the program to hire staff that direct Amsterdam residents to gainful employment opportunities. Unfortunately, the AHA was recently denied Fiscal Year 2009 funding for their FSS program coordinator’s salary. This denial is unfair and carries devastating consequences. The anticipated $46,000 annual grant would provide the entire salary for one of the authority’s three Section 8 program staff. This valuable staff person provides important and much needed services depended upon by 45 families striving to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

AHA’s application was denied because HUD originally sent out the wrong due date to applicants and then failed to adequately notify applicants when the original wrong date was corrected. HUD’s first instructions to applicants included a due date that did not exist, Thursday, November 1, 2009; the correction was issued in a manner that few applicants actually knew about it. As the AHA completed its application it complied with the HUD deadline to the best of its ability and only found out about the revised deadline when their application was denied. HUD can easily fix the issue by reversing their denial and taking another look at AHA’s application. If reexamined, AHA is likely to be awarded the grant as it has been for years which will in turn help residents find work and ensure that the community is run in an efficient and responsible manner.

The full text of Schumer, Gillibrand and Tonko’s letter is below:   

The Honorable Shaun Donovan
Secretary
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, DC   20410

 

Dear Secretary Donovan,

I write to urge your swift resolution of an issue of great concern to the Amsterdam Housing Authority (AHA). The Amsterdam Housing Authority is a high-performing public housing authority located in my district. It provides 265 public housing units and 342 Section 8 units to needy and deserving elderly and families. I strongly support their mission and commend them for their excellent public service.

The AHA has successfully operated a Housing Choice Voucher Family Self Sufficiency (FSS) Program for many years. Unfortunately, they were recently denied Fiscal Year 2009 administrative fee funding for their FSS program coordinator’s salary. This denial is unfair and carries devastating consequences. The anticipated $46,000 annual grant would provide the entire salary for one of the authority’s three Section 8 program staff. This valuable staff person provides important and much needed services depended upon by 45 families striving to improve their lives and the lives of their children.

The denial letter states that the AHA could not be considered for funding because the application was not received before the deadline date of Monday, November 2, 2009.  However, Notice PIH 2009-40 (HA), issued on September 29, 2009, states a submission date of no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, 2009.  No such date exists. Therefore, the AHA interpreted the deadline to be the first Thursday in November (November 5) and did indeed meet such deadline.

Your staff has indicated that the deadline date error was recognized internally and the electronic version was altered to reflect a new date of Monday, November 2, 2009. However, a technical correction was not issued and a revised Notice was not announced. Had such proper procedure been followed, the Amsterdam Housing Authority would have noted the revised date and most certainly complied with such date. The AHA’s long-term participation in the program would have ensured them the funding. Given your Department’s error in this process, I would strongly urge you to revisit the denial decision and provide the funding vital to the continuation of the Family Self Sufficiency Program at the Amsterdam Housing Authority.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charles. E Schumer     Kirsten Gillibrand   Paul Tonko

                                                                                                                                                             United States Senator  United States Senator U.S. Congressman