Coronavirus Plan

Coronavirus Pandemic: Continuity of Operations Plan

Version 6 | Updated: May 9, 2020 | Started: March 3, 2020

View the PDF Version  (Previous Version)

Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Appendix D

OBJECTIVE: Since the threat to an organization’s continuity of operations is high during a pandemic outbreak; it is important for the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) to have a Coronavirus Continuity of Operations plan in place to ensure we can carry out our essential functions and services. While we may be forced to suspend some operations due to the severity of a pandemic outbreak, an effective Continuity of Operations Plan can assist us in our efforts to remain operational, with the emphasis of maintaining our mission.

  1. The plan objectives include:
  • Reduce the spread of disease among staff and customers.
  • Protect people at higher risk for complications. This includes staff and customers.
  • Maintain essential business operations.
  • Minimize financial impact on staff that could result from office and school closures.
  • Minimize stress of rent payments and evictions among our portfolio and tenant-based customers, and support our landlord partners.
  • Provide crisis management supports for our customers.
  • Where possible, coordinate food services on our sites for students and elderly customers who would have otherwise accessed food at schools or senior centers.
  • Comply with directives from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and civil authorities.

 

  1. We have identified the following essential operations:
  • Payroll
  • Pay Rent to Landlords
  • ID Cards
  • VO Initial Inspections: PM
  • Initial Inspections: RA
  • Leasing PM
  • Unit Turns
  • Payment of Contractors
  • Wage Interviews
  • PM Move Ins
  • Emergency Work Orders
  • Urgent Work Orders
  • Sanitizing common areas in high rise buildings
  • Trash pickup
  • Human Resources
  • Mail Processing at 902
  • EOC Staffing and Communications
  • Interims
  • Accounts Payable
  • Rent Collection
  • Public Reception/ Phone Answering from 8 am to 4 pm Monday-Friday
  • IT Support
  • Open Door Support
  • Security/Tenant Support at Portfolios
  • CSE Crisis Management

As more information develops about the Coronavirus emergency and more restrictions are placed on (or removed from) the general population, Tacoma Housing Authority’s list of essential functions may change and the list of designated “essential” staff may change.

  1. Current Plan, completed actions, pending actions

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic will require the Tacoma Housing Authority to be flexible and to move quickly. To help us do that, the Tacoma Housing Authority Board, on March 18, 2020, passed emergency resolution No. 2020-3-18(1) stating: “Tacoma Housing Executive Director (or designee) is authorized to take any or all of the following emergency actions as may, in his judgment, be needed to protect Agency operations and the health, safety and well-being of agency employees, clients, vendors and the public as a whole.” This authorization will be useful throughout this plan. 

 

The Plan is divided into five (5) sections: staff, customers, properties, funding, and “other” actions.

 

Topic

Completed & Pending Actions

  1. Staff
  1.  

Assess Workplace Exposure and Risk

  • Identify potential employee health risks

We have identified the following exposure risks to our staff and customers:

  • Public visitors in lobbies, computer labs, and community rooms;
  • Inspections of occupied units;
  • Work orders in occupied units;
  • Case management visits to tenant apartments;
  • One-on-one appointments with customers;
  • Working in close proximity to co-workers;
  • In-person meeting with external partners;
  • In-person meetings, in general;
  • Cleaning bathrooms, common spaces and THA buildings;
  • Visits to the office from children who attend school and daycare centers;
  • Interactions with vulnerable populations.
  1.  

Review Workplace Policies

 

 

 

 

                                                                        

We have reviewed internal, State and Federal policies as they relate to:

  • Sick leave.
  • Union contracts as they relate to out-of-class work before and during a pandemic.
  • We implemented the new federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act
  1.  

Adjust essential operations, where possible, to mitigate workplace exposures and risks

  • Our Emergency Operations team will monitor Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, CDC, World Health Organization, State of Washington Department of Health, and King County Health Department updates, directive and Coronavirus statistics daily and adjust plans in response to this information.
  • We have closed all of our offices to the public starting Friday, March 13;
  • All community rooms and computer labs have been closed;
  • All non-essential meetings have been cancelled or moved to a virtual meeting space;
  • All essential meetings will be held virtually or, when held in person, in meeting spaces that allow for a six-foot distance between participants.
  1.  

Apply Infection Control Measures:

We will create a constant culture of wellness.

We have and will continue to do the following:

  • Placed Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) posters and material at each entrance of THA offices and emailed them to all staff.  This material encourages staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette and hand hygiene
  • Provided soap, water, and alcohol-based hand rubs in multiple locations and routinely refill.
  • Placed hand sanitizer (60% Alcohol), sanitizing wipes, and facial tissue at all front desk areas, meeting rooms, and employee work areas.
  • Placed/supplied hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and facial tissue are stocked in all Fastenal machines.
  • Instructed employees to clean hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or by washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Ensured that sick leave policies are in place.
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces at least daily during the work week.
  • Ensured Tour maintenance and inspection staff have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and are trained accordingly when performing daily functions of their job class that may require such equipment.
  • All maintenance staff are trained on bloodborne pathogens.
  • Encourage staff to disclose a positive Coronavirus test result for themselves, family or close social circle
  • Require and recommend PPE for all staff, including facemasks, effective May 6, 2020 (See Appendix B)
  1.  

Prepare for Social Distancing and Accommodate Personal Challenges as a Result of the Pandemic:

Social distancing is an intervention to increase the physical distance between people and in an effort to decrease the spread of disease. the Health Departments asks all organizations:

 

● to consider what policies and procedures they can implement to accomplish working remote.

 

● prepare for employee absences resulting from personal illness, caring for ill family members, and dismissal of early childhood programs and K-12 schools. 

 

● be ready to adapt business practices to maintain critical operations.

 

Effective March 13th, operations have been scaled back to essential operations, which are shown on the list on page 1 of this document. This was necessary to protect staff and begin implementing telework and staggered shift plans.

 

Effective March 19th, we directed that:

  • All non-essential staff will work remotely;
  • We will equip all essential staff with work-from-home equipment where possible.
  • We will schedule all essential staff that need to work onsite in staggered shifts to promote social distancing.
  • We are working to equip all administrative staff with the ability to telework.
  • We have implemented staggered staffing and increased distance between work spaces to allow for social distancing within our staff teams.

 

Staff resources about working remote are on our website. We did this so that staff can easily access them offsite: www.tacomahousing.net/coronavirus-info-for-staff

 

  1.  

Plan to Separate Sick Employees and Employees Confirmed with Coronavirus:

 

 

1. We will separate the following staff from others and send them home:

  • employees who report to work having a fever or an acute respiratory illness upon arrival to work;
  • who become sick during the workday;
  • employees that have recently returned from international travel in “high risk” areas;
  • employees who self-report a recent exposure to someone with Coronavirus symptoms or diagnosis.
  • Employees will be asked to stay home until they feel better, if applicable, and have completed a virtual assessment: www.multicare.org/virtualcare
  • We will continue to sanitize the buildings where the sick employee(s) worked.

2. We have ensured that:

  • All managers and employees are aware of Tacoma Housing Authority policies and the expectation that sick employees stay home;
  • All managers have been reminded to send sick employees home.

 

3. If an employee is confirmed to have Coronavirus, we will:

  • Close the office building(s) they’ve worked in for 72 hours;
  • Hire a 3rd party vendor to sanitize the office(s);
  • Advise all employees that have been in the building that they have been exposed and ask that they follow TPCHD guidelines related to "close exposure;"
  • Work closely with TPCHD on any further action items.
  1.  

Encourage Personal Preparedness:

We encouraged employees to take standard steps to prepare for staying at home if needed.

 

We emailed staff on March 18th and posted to social media information about personal preparedness steps like:

  • Store a two-week supply of water and food;
  • Make sure to have enough prescription drugs at home.
  • Keep non-prescription drugs and other health supplies on hand. Get copies of electronic health records from the doctor, hospital, or pharmacy.
  • Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would like to be cared for if they got sick, and what's needed to care for them at home.
  1.  

Plan to keep employees in paid status to mitigate financial stress during uncertain times.

The health and wellbeing of our staff is a top priority. Closely correlated to health and wellbeing is financial/income security. We will take actions within our authority to allow staff to continue to be paid even while operational functions are scaled back and uncertain.

 

We placed all full-time employees, regardless of salary/hourly, represented/non-represented status, in full regular paid status regardless of hours worked from March 14, 2020 through April 17, 2020. This allows us to significantly reduce onsite operations and reduce the schedules of staff in an effort to achieve basic customer service and social distancing without worrying about whether staff have adequate worked hours or accrued paid leave to result in a full paycheck. It also gave us time to re-organize to allow staff to resume full work schedules in ways that are safe.
Effective April 18, 2020, we implemented the Families First Leave options and regular use of leave for all employees. THA will only use paid administrative leave when the employee’s supervisor is unable to schedule a full-time employee for 40 hours per week of work.

For April 17, 2020 through May 8, 2020, we implemented flexible rules to allow employees to cash out accrued vacation time
 

  1.  

Prepare for operations under a Shelter-in-Place directive from the government:

Effective March 25, 2020 through May 31, 2020, the State of Washington has placed in effect a Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order that is similar to a Shelter-in-Place directive.  We have determined that, under this order, the Tacoma Housing Authority is an essential business and exempt from this order.  Accordingly, staff essential to THA’s business are themselves exempt. Staff who report to work will still be governed by state and THA expectations for social distancing and other precautions.

We will continue to fulfill our essential functions. During Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order, we will only ask the staff responsible for these functions, or their backup, to report to our offices/sites as required. All other staff will be asked to complete work from home. The type and amount of work will be determined by the supervisor and may include work in support of the EOC.

 

Should we need to reduce essential functions, we will be prepared to modify the list of essential functions. This reduced list of functions will still include:

  • Payroll;
  • Pay rent to landlords;
  • Issue Key cards to new tenants and/or replace any lost cards;
  • Initial Inspections: Rental Assistance;
  • Emergency and Urgent Work Orders;
  • Crisis Management for Tenants (virtually)
  • Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Staffing and Communications;
  • Accounts Payable
  • Rent collection
  • Return Urgent Phone Calls
  • Process Mail
  • Lease enforcement related to health and safety
  • Payment of vendors/contractors
  1. Customers, Clients and Partners
  1.  

Prepare for Tenants and Landlords to be Challenged About Rent Payments

Employed Residents and Rental Assistance Participants will be hit by the closure of schools, restaurants, bars, and other service businesses. They will have trouble paying rent.  This will also be a challenge for the landlords of rental assistance participants. We need to plan to ease the stress of the uncertainty of income and rent over the next several months.

Residents on fixed-incomes will also experience a financial impacts due to increased expenses that have resulted from few social services being offered.
 

We are developing a proposal to allow for a more lenient hardship and interim rent adjustment policies. Beginning March 25th, we will ask clients to start reporting any financial hardships they are experiencing due to the pandemic. Based on the information received, we will reduce tenant rent payments through a Coronavirus-specific hardship rent policy.  We have also made it easy for clients to request these adjustments by reducing the paperwork we usually require, e.g, allowing self-certification of income loss.

We will also communicate with our landlord partners about what we are considering.

We will coordinate our response with the rental assistance programs that the City of Tacoma is developing with its newly enhanced federal and state money.

We suspended until August 1, 2020 the expiration of all time limits on the duration of THA’s rental assistance.

  1.  

Plan to Offer Moratorium Evictions for Non-Payment

On March 18th, Governor Inslee placed a 30-day statewide moratorium that prohibits issuing or serving:

  • Notice for non-payment of rent;
  • 20 Day notice to terminate unless tenants actions are endangering the health and safety of tenants and other individuals; and
  • Judicial action

On April 16, 2020 Governor Inslee issued another statewide moratorium further limiting termination and rent increase notices to residential and commercial tenants. This included disallowing increases in rent through June 4, 2020.

For both our residential and commercial tenants, we will not issue notices for non-payment of rent in the months of April, May and June. We will waive late fees for the months of April through June.

Through June 2020, we will not issue any notices for non-payment of rent nor any 20-day notices to terminate unless tenants’ actions are endangering the health and safety of other tenants and individuals. We will also not file any rent-related judicial actions in the month of April through June 2020.

No later than March 25th, we will:

  • Post notice of this change to our website and social media accounts;
  • Include notice in rent statements that go out to all tenants;
  • Include notice of the new State requirements in all Housing Assistance Payments to landlords.

Effective April 16, 2020, we will not increase the tenant portion of rent while the governor’s moratorium is in effect. Rent increase notices that were sent prior to April 16, will remain effective for the date stated on the notice.

Additionally, we will allow for repayment plans for unpaid rents amongst our commercial tenants

  1.  

Coordinate Resources to Come On Site

We will attempt to coordinate on-site resources as we learn of population-level challenges. To date the widespread challenge that has been identified is food resources for our elderly/disabled clients and students home due to school closures. We expect that if households run out of toilet paper, they will use other material that will damage building pipes.

 

Arranging these deliveries can serve several purposes:

●  It can equip tenants with necessities that may otherwise be hard for them to get;

●  It can keep them out of the stores to reduce the chance that they will get or give infection;

●  It can save them money;

●  The deliveries can relieve a tenant’s isolation and loneliness.

●  If we can buy these meals from local restaurants, the purchases can help them survive their loss of business.

We are coordinating with the City of Tacoma and Pierce County to work with a local organization to deliver food to all seven elderly/disabled high rise buildings in our portfolio.

We are also working with Korean Women’s Association to reach out to our tenants in elderly/disabled buildings to find out medication needs and help them get refills by mail.

We will work to identify how to get residents needed toiletries and other items.  We shop for bulk purchases.

We are partnering with KCTC to provide meals to students at Salishan, Hillside Terrace and Bergerson Terrace. Walk through lunch pick up will happen on each site three day per week beginning March 23rd.

Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) has implemented a ‘Meals on Wheels’ program that will bus food to children beginning March 23rd. We have published the bus stops to our social media. TPS are calling all children this week to check in on their needs and let them know of the bus stops.

We have produced a document further outlining how we will serve our customers during this time. It has been incorporated as Attachment C to this document.
 

  1.  

Communication About Other Offsite Resources

 

 

We continue to compile a list of available resources and host them on our website at: www.tacomahousing.net/coronavirus-resources

 

We will include a link to this website in our communication with tenants and Rental Assistance Participants. We will also post this information to our social media accounts.

  1.  

Communication About Coronavirus

 

We communicate regularly with staff, clients, customers, and partners about our response to the COVID pandemic in the following ways.

 

  • View Appendix A for a complete list of signage throughout our properties. (In PDF)
  • Post TPCHD infographics at every managed property of ours in a variety of high visibility areas and in a variety of languages;
  • Post TPCHD infographics on each apartment door that houses a high risk population. E.g. senior/disabled buildings;
  • Advise our third-party managers to communicate similarly at their properties;
  • Post tips and links to social media sites;
  • Update tenants and voucher holders with regular updates about operation changes that affect them, eviction prevention, social distancing, personal preparedness, and TPCHD prevention measures such as handwashing;
  • Communicate with landlords and partners by email, phone, and letters about eviction prevention and resources for landlords, tenants and voucher holders;
  • Communicate with investors, lenders, elected officials, and other partners about our Coronavirus pandemic response;
  • Update staff daily, via email, about social distancing, flexible leave, exposure, prevention measures, supplies, telework procedures, and operational status;
  • Maintain a webpage that communicates our Coronavirus pandemic plan, TPCHD tips and links, resources, and FAQ’s;
  • Maintain proactive phone, email, and written communication with tenants, clients, landlords, and others for the purposes of answering questions, helping with resources, well-being checks so people can remain housed and safe;
  • Post notices on office doors about how they can reach staff for services by phone and email during regular business hours.
  1.  

Prepare for how we will respond if a tenant is confirme

Should we become aware that a tenant is displaying symptoms of Coronavirus, we will:

  • Notify the Emergency Operation Committee Commander;
  • Contact the tenant and ask the following questions:
    • Do you feel well? Are you experiencing any of these symptoms: shortness of breath, cough, fever?   
    • Have you seen a doctor?   
    • If the answer is NO ask:  
  • Do you need support? 
  • Multicare is offering free e-visits for people who show symptoms of coronavirus. Offer to send them the link to the Multicare Virtual screening or offer to help them complete it over the phone. https://www.multicare.org/virtualcare/
    • o If the answer is YES:
      • Did the doc test for COVID?
      • Are you following doctor’s orders?  
      • Do you need support? 
  • If we can’t confirm that a person is not displaying symptoms and/or refuses to share information with us, we will ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Should we become aware that a tenant in a high-rise building has been tested for Coronavirus because they have shown symptoms of the virus, we will:

  • Hire a 3rd party sanitization vendor to complete a thorough cleaning of the building;
  • Let staff and vendors in those buildings know and ask that they not enter the building until a full 3rd party sanitization has occurred; 
  • Notify the tenants in the building that we do not know of a positive test but they will be seeing a 3rd party vendor as an extra precaution.
  • Remind all THA staff and tenants in that building of social distancing recommendations. 

If we get notified by TPCHD a tenant has a confirmed case of Coronavirus. We will:

  • Follow the instructions of the TPCHD investigative team.
     
  1.  

Limit Staff Entry into Apartments

Maintenance staff and inspectors will not enter any apartment except in an urgency or an emergency.  Staff will be trained as follows before entering even on those occasions:

  • To ask the appropriate questions of the occupant to allow for an assessment of risk.
  • In the event of a risk of COVID-19 infected occupant, the staff person will not enter without appropriate personal protective equipment.

Also, see below of required and recommended use of PPE.

  1.  

Addressing Isolation and Stress of Residents

We should expect that our clients will suffer from isolation and stress during the pandemic. Our senior and disabled clients may be more likely to suffer this.

We will attempt to ease this distress.

Our case workers are in regular communication with THA’s residents and connecting them to resources, as needed. 

       2.

Limit Social Visiting

Effective March 25, 2020 through May 31, 2020, the State of Washington has placed in effect a Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order that is similar to a Shelter-in-Place directive.  Residents in our seven high rise buildings are vulnerable to neighbors disregarding this order and inviting in visitors.

We will attempt to limit unnecessary visits.

Effective April 18 through May 8, we had security guards monitoring the entrances of the seven high rise buildings from 7 PM to 3 AM every night. Security will discourage visiting by anyone not exempted by the Stay Home order. 

Effective May 9 through May 31, or until the Stay Home Order is lifted, we will work directly with our security company and resident council to decide where to scale down security based on past security reports and building activity.

The full detail on these restrictions can be found in Appendix D of this document.

  1. Properties
  1.  

Maintain Sanitary Common Spaces in our Residential Properties

Effective March 13th, all community rooms and computer labs were closed in our residential buildings. We also discontinued meeting with tenants in our offices located in residential buildings.

Effective March 23rd, we will assess lobby and gathering areas in our properties to make adjustments to discourage congregating. At a minimum we will post signs at elevators and benches to discourage congregating.

We are installing temporary fencing to make play structures inaccessible, with explanatory signage. 

We posted signs on benches limiting their use to one person at a time. 
We posted signs on elevators limiting them to two person per ride.

We will continue to monitor Pierce County policies related to playgrounds and parks and apply any restrictions within our portfolio, if necessary. We are ordering the supplies now should we need them.

  1.  

Continue to Make our Properties Safe and Sanitary for Residents

While Tacoma and the nation is in a state of heightened social distancing to curb Coronavirus, we still have an obligation to maintain the health and safety of our residents.

 

Elevators, hallways, and entrances will continue to be used in our high-rise buildings. In these buildings, we will regularly sanitize all high touch areas twice daily during weekdays. Our maintenance crew will thoroughly address each common area and sanitize areas such as but not limited to door handles, elevator buttons, handrails, counter tops, and common area bathrooms. This sanitization will be in addition to our normal schedule of janitorial work in these locations.

  1.  

Continue to Make our Properties Safe and Sanitary for Residents

While Tacoma and the nation is in a state of heightened social distancing to curb Coronavirus, we still have an obligation to maintain the health and safety of our residents.

We scaled back our essential operations but commit to the following:

  • Continue to complete emergency work orders;
  • Continue to have 3rd party security patrol our properties on a regular schedule;
  • Enforce the terms of our lease as they pertain to violations of the health and safety of other residents.
  1. Funding
  1.  

Search for funding for Coronavirus related expenditures

We have not budgeted for the costs associated with this crisis. We will search for funds to reimburse the agency for its costs.

 

We created a code CV19 in the “Type” dimension in our financial system. As much as possible, we will code all coronavirus expenses, included payroll to this code.

 

These expenses could include:

  • Staff paid for unworked time under administrative leave;
  • Staff time dedicated to COVID response, both Administrative and Maintenance.
  • Costs of sanitation supplies;
  • Computer and phone supplies to accommodate teleworking;
  • Cost of lost rent and additional HAP paid to account for tenant loss of income;
  • Cost of third-party contract for sanitizing, if necessary;
  • Additional security costs
  • Any future costs to bring additional supportive services into the agency.
  1.  

Review Insurance Coverage

Some of our losses and expenses may be covered by our insurance policies.

Potential sources of funding include:

  • City of Tacoma
  • Pierce County
  • State of Washington
  • HUD
  • FEMA
  • Other federal resources
  • Private donors
     

  1. Other
  1.  

Holding Open Public Meetings While in Emergency Status

While in this emergency status, we might still need to hold regular meetings that are subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, Chap. 42.30 RCW. We will comply with these requirements while practicing safe practices as provided by the TPCHD.

On March 24, 2020, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation BY the Governor 20-28 order allowing public entities to hold meetings remotely and waive the requirement to provide in-person settings. 

  • All Board meetings will be by conference call. We will provide notice of the ways the public can call into these meetings in accordance with State requirements.
  1.  

Housing Under Construction

We have three buildings (two at Arlington Drive and The Rise on 19th) of affordable housing under construction that is scheduled to be completed in 2020. Our financing sources for this construction impose deadlines for getting them built and occupied. This is especially the case for Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing and the governing federal rules.  Missing those deadlines will mean THA loses financing.

 

  • The City of Tacoma has confirmed that the construction activity, including architects, engineers, inspectors and others necessary for the construction are exempt from the Governor’s Stay Home-Stay Healthy Order because it fits within the Governor’s list of essential services.
  • We are communicating with the general contractors at these sites to ask that they continue working.
  • We are communicating with our investors and lenders and reviewing our financing contracts seeking any necessary flexibility.
  • We are participating in discussions with federal authorities and Congress seeking any necessary regulatory or legislative flexibility.