Concerns of Drug Use in Homes Grows for HAF Inspectors
By Joe Morey
Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) Inspector, Jim Dennis, came before the LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) at their ARPA Projects weekly meeting on Tuesday, March 8th, to give an update on his current activities inspecting the homes of 231 applicants to the fund.
Dennis said of the 231 applicants, he has gone into 71 homes to date, but concern is growing for Dennis and his crew about homes that have had levels of drug use in them.
Lorene Weilgot, ARPA Coordinator, asked the TGB to come up with a policy to protect their workers. She said even the slightest amount of fentanyl can kill someone.
“When someone is arrested for drug use we have concerns about what they were doing in the home,” Weilgot stated. She also explained that they can do meth tests but fentanyl doesn’t get picked up by those tests.
In this latest update, the budget for the HAF has increased to well over $6 million in total funding at $30,000 per 231 applicants, but Dennis told the TGB that many of the homeowners they have worked with so far have taken good care of their homes and are not asking for the whole amount.
Dennis also told the TGB that his workers won’t go into homes where there are animals. His crew is requesting that any animals be removed from the home when the scheduled work time is to be performed or they won’t come to do the work. All members of the TGB supported this request.
The TGB approved the Homeowner Assistance Fund to assist tribal members living on the LCO reservation back in October of 2021. Originally, $2.1 million is funded by the United States Treasury as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the TGB approved matching that amount to create a $4.2 million dollar fund, but since that time, the program has been very popular and far more tribal member homeowners have applied.
According to ARPA, the HAF was established to mitigate financial hardships associated with the coronavirus pandemic by providing funds to eligible entities for the purpose of preventing homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacements of homeowners experiencing financial hardship after January 21, 2020, through qualified expenses related to mortgages and housing.
According to Kelly Nayquonabe, the HAF Coordinator, they are tackling many small needs of the homeowners right now, but they have a couple of projects that went right up to the $30,000 mark.
Brian Bisonette, also of the ARPA program, said HAF is only meant to make sure tribal members have a good, safe living environment and is not meant to enhance their home or increase the asset.
“Under the HAF policy, the request has to be reasonable,” Weilgot explained. She added examples include roof repairs as a good request but a new garage would be refused.