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GHHI’s Response to COVID-19

Policy Recommendations


With the passage of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other legislation and policies undertaken for COVID-19 emergency response, federal funding is being deployed to combat the unprecedented health crisis. As federal, state, and local governments meet this urgent call, GHHI has compiled a framework to assist policymakers in addressing the economic, health, and racial equity gaps caused by unhealthy housing that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

To learn more about our policy recommendations, see our list of actions below and download the full document here.

Federal Stimulus Package

The next COVID economic relief/stimulus package should include $23.8B in funding directed to local government, community-based organizations, and non-profits to address housing conditions that enable safe social distancing and contribute directly to long-term health and stability in their communities. This includes funding a holistic model to address the true scale of the health, safety, and energy needs in housing, targeted to areas with high rates of COVID infection and racial disparities related to COVID, as well as high rates of housing-related health conditions.

$23.8B to address housing conditions that contribute directly to long-term health and stability

  • $100M in support for platforms to provide a suite of virtual in-home health and safety services
  • $750M for injury prevention measures in 200,000 homes to prevent costly catastrophic fall injuries among older adults.
  • $7B for Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) energy-efficiency upgrades to 1.4 million homes
  • $1B in funding for emergency roof repairs to at least 60,000 homes
  • $2.4B to improve indoor air quality in over 375,000 homes
  • $12.5B to remediate lead hazards in approximately 1,000,000 homes

Emergency utility support to families and guarantee no utility shutoffs

  • $5B for emergency relief for a moratorium on water shutoffs for residential households. 
  • $17B for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • $7B for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) for energy efficiency improvements for low-income households and the creation of clean energy jobs. 
  • $2.3B for DOE’s Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program to develop, promote, implement, and manage energy efficiency and conservation projects and create new jobs. 

Address toxic pollution

  • $522M for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to enforce environmental laws; $100M for a new program under it called the Office of Cumulative Impacts to make policy recommendations on how to mitigate legacy pollution as well as recommend and enforce civil and criminal legal actions. 
  • $100M for reinstating the Office of Environmental Justice at the EPA to administer grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and other majority minority serving academic institutions with environmental and public health programs, and nonprofits working in environmental justice communities. 
  • $20B for EPA’s Superfund and Brownfield programs with funding set aside for workforce training and renewable energy development. 
  • Pass the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fee Extension Act of 2019 to clean up legacy mine sites that have been abandoned. 
  • Pass the Reclaim Act to accelerate the clean-up of abandoned coal mines while creating jobs in areas hard-hit by the decline of the coal industry. 
  • Pass the Environmental Cleanup Infrastructure Act to fund cleanup of orphan Superfund Sites, abandoned coal mines, defense and former atomic energy sites. 

Recognize the human right to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water and wastewater services for all

  • Reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving (CWSRD) Loan Fund and funding it at the levels in H.R. 1497 the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act. 
  • Increase funding for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to $2 billion and require states to use twenty percent of their capitalization grant to provide grants, negative interest loans, and forgiveness of principal for small and disadvantaged communities. 
  • Address lead in drinking water by passing several provisions:
    • S.1583 – Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019
    • S. 2087- Get the Lead Out of Assisted Housing Act of 2019
    • S. 2086- National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence Act of 2019;
    • S. 1613- CLEARR Drinking Water Act of 2019. 

Create economic opportunity for all

  • $5B to bring people of color and low-income people into new environmental careers across four programs:
    1. The EPA Brownfields Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grants program
    2. The Environmental Health Sciences Environmental Career Worker Training program
    3. WIOA investments directed at water sector employment training and low-income youth
    4. Set aside one percent of any new water infrastructure investments to develop people of color workers and firms to participate in water infrastructure development. 
  • $100M for EPA’s Diesel Emission Reduction Grant program
  • $500M for the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Low or No Emission Vehicle Program. 


Federal Policies

GHHI urges federal policymakers to advance critical policies to strengthen healthy housing in response to COVID-19 using the following mechanisms.

Weatherization and energy efficiency programs (DOE)

  • Carbon monoxide detector installation: Immediately require installation of working CO detectors and smoke alarms within safety guidelines, at a cost of $8M.
  • Window replacement under WAP: DOE should allow WAP to use available funds to replace leaded windows with lead-free Energy Star windows and account for the benefits of replacing leaded windows in the Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR). 
  • LIHEAP home assessment: Require the receipt of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to trigger an environmental health and energy home assessment.   
  • Increase allowable WAP funding for health and safety measures: Expand the eligible dollars for health and safety repairs under WAP to 20% or more to support the sustainability of energy measures. 

Department of Housing and Urban Development, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HUD, CDC)

  • Title X requirements for lead assessments and testing: Revise Title X to mandate that that lead risk assessments and testing be performed in pre-1978 properties in paint, soil, and water prior to sale of any property not previously determined to be lead free under the Lead Paint Disclosure Law and expand eligible HUD grantees to include nonprofit organizations. 
  • Secondary lead poisoning preventionRequire that any state or local government receiving CDC or HUD lead poisoning prevention funding provide secondary lead poisoning prevention services.
  • Homeowner tax creditAdopt a Federal Lead Safe Income Tax Credit for homeowners performing lead hazard control for paint, water, and soil for up to $10,000 per household. 
  • Affordable financing for qualifying property owners: Create a low or no interest loan program broadly accessible to property owners with lower credit ratings and less access to traditional sources of capital.
  • Asthma-friendly housing maintenance standardsEstablish a required asthma friendly standard for public and federally assisted housing maintenance standards and provide opportunities for a resident led Community Health Worker program at each project site. 

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)

  • Lead remediation as a Medicaid covered serviceInclude lead hazard remediation as an eligible Medicaid-covered service in the homes of children and pregnant women identified with blood lead levels at or above the CDC reference level, and for primary prevention of elevated blood lead levels.  
  • Environmental assessment as a Medicaid covered serviceInclude environmental assessment of homes as a covered benefit for all Medicaid recipients with asthma or other respiratory conditions that could be impacted by the home environment. 
  • Fall prevention measures under MedicareInclude fall prevention remediation measures such as installing grab bars as an allowable use of Medicare funds for any at risk Medicare recipient. 

Other federal policy

  • Community benefit expenses to cover healthy housing expensesThe Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Form 990, Schedule H, should specify remediation of home-based lead paint, water, and soil hazards, the reduction of environmental asthma triggers in the home and home-based fall prevention measures as eligible and encourages expenditures in Financial Assistance and Certain Other Community Benefits at cost. 
  • CDBG scope of servicesDetermine asthma trigger reduction, such as mold remediation and IPM to be an allowable use of CDBG funds. 
  • Require lead inspections and service line replacement in federal home and mortgage programsThe Federal Housing Finance Agency, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and its Federal Housing Administration, the US Department of Agriculture, and the Veterans Administration should require the following:
    • Lead inspection
    • Lead hazard remediation and certification of lead safety, including addressing lead-based paint and soil hazards
    • Full lead service line replacement on all federally owned homes and homes with federally supported or insured mortgages. 


State and Local Policies

State and local policymakers manage federal programs and have their own budgets to draw from to carry out healthy housing programs. They can leverage policies to build housing resilience in response to COVID-19.

Increase allowable WAP funding for health and safety measures

  • Negotiate with DOE higher rates of spending on health and safety measures that could prevent hospitalizations due to issues like asthma, lead poisoning, or falls. Health and safety spending is currently capped at 15%.

Establish trust funds dedicated to remediation of poor housing quality

  • Funds can be financially selfsufficient through registration fees and enforcement (e.g. lead poisoning prevention fund supported by rental registry and certification program).

Support for virtual home assessment and visiting

  • Support state and local healthy housing programs in adopting virtual platforms and service delivery models for remote home assessment and video-enabled home visiting.

Strengthen healthy housing workforce capacity

  • Strengthen healthy housing workforce capacity through policies for new contractor recruitment, job-bundling for contracting efficiency, establishing pre-approved contractor poolstraining subsidies for new contractors, and integrating workforce with non-traditional contractor backgrounds.

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