Community , Government

ON Housing department issues three-month forgiveness plan

The Osage Nation Housing Department has issued a Rent and Mortgage Payment Forgiveness plan during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The plan will forgive rental payments for Senior Housing tenants and homeownership payments for those participating in the Homebuyer program for the next three months.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to Osage Nation Housing Department established policies and procedures, I Geoffrey M. Standing Bear, Principal Chief of the Osage Nation, hereby declare three (3) months of homebuyer payments and senior housing rent to be universally forgiven effective immediately,” said Standing Bear on April 6.

According to the three-page policy, a March 30 guidance published by HUD’s Office of Native American Programs discussed the forgiveness of the payments in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance specifically states permission for forgiveness:

“Tribes and TDHEs are encouraged to provide any rent relief and loss mitigation to any eligible families that cannot make rent or homebuyer payments at this time … Tribes and TDHEs have the ability to forgive rent payments in accordance with their adopted policies …” according to the ON policy.

The housing department will mail information to all participants of the two programs detailing the forgiveness and how it applies. The Nation’s accounting department will also cease all auto payment deductions from ON employees’ paychecks who participate in the programs.

“Senior Housing is one of the greatest priorities for the Osage Nation,” said James Weigant, ON Housing Department director. “Care of our elders is a precious duty.”

HUD Funding

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $200 million in Indian Housing Block Grants to tribes and their housing entities to help in their response to COVID-19.

The Osage Nation received $396,041.

Indian Housing Block Grants primarily benefit low-income Native American families. The amount of each grant is based on a formula that considers local needs and housing units under management by the tribe, according to a HUD news release. Eligible activities for the funds include housing development, operation and maintenance, modernization of existing housing, housing services to eligible families and individuals, housing management services, crime prevention and safety activities, and model activities that provide creative approaches to solving affordable housing problems in Indian Country.