Building an Effective Infrastructure

MODULE 6.2: Relationship of FSS Programs to the PHA or Owner

PHAs and owners must decide how the FSS program will operate within the agency or organization and relate to other programs that the agency administers.

In particular, PHAs and owners should consider the following:

  • Whether to develop their own FSS program, develop an FSS program jointly, or build off an existing FSS program
  • Whether to hire FSS program coordinators to administer the FSS program, to contract these tasks to a third party organization, or to hire a contractor to train their existing staff to administer the FSS program
  • To what extent FSS program staff will take on additional responsibilities for the agency, such as conducting annual and interim reexaminations for FSS participants
  • How to build support for the FSS program within their agency and the broader community

Third-Party FSS Program Coordination

PHAs and owners may choose to not administer the program directly and instead contract with a third party to administer some or all of the FSS program.

The following types of organizations administer FSS programs:

  • Public housing agencies and owners operating their own FSS program
  • Nonprofit organizations serving low-income families
  • For-profit property management or service coordination providers
  • Individual contractors who have experience with FSS programs

PHAs and owners can contract out for the administration of the entire FSS program, including the administration of the escrow account, for case management/coaching services only, or for specific programs and services such as job placement.

This video discusses the benefits of public-private partnerships for FSS.

FSS © 2017 | U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Leveraging Case Management/Coaching Services

FSS programs may be able to obtain case management or coaching services for FSS participants for free or minimal cost through partners or by using volunteers or interns.

Partner-Provided Case Management Services
Many FSS partners serve many of the same clients and already provide case management services for which FSS participants may be eligible. These organizations may be willing to devote some of their case management/coaching resources to the FSS participants as part of a joint effort, helping FSS programs serve larger caseloads effectively.

Some aspects of case management for FSS participants may be available through:

  • Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Agencies
  • Early Head Start programs
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Employment and Training Programs
  • Asset-building nonprofits

College and Graduate School Interns and Federal Work-Study students
Some FSS programs also use federal work-study students or other college or graduate students to perform administrative tasks, make phone calls, research community resources, and other tasks to support the work of the FSS coordinators. Students who are working toward degrees in social work or related fields are good candidates to work as interns or through the Federal Work-Study program.

Volunteer Case Managers

The FSS program shown in this video uses volunteer case managers as mentors for FSS participants.

Many volunteer mentors are FSS graduates themselves. Volunteer mentors are assigned to families who are less likely to experience crisis -smaller families where the head of household has at least a high school degree.

Regardless of whether supplemental staff are volunteers or staff from an outside agency, volunteers and interns will need training and ongoing supervision by the FSS program manager or coordinator.

Although program partners can provide some aspects of case management to FSS program participants, the PHA's or owner’s FSS program coordinator(s) must always take ultimate responsibility for the success of each FSS family.

FSS Coordinator Responsibilities Within the Administrating Agency

As a general rule, funds provided by HUD through the FSS Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) may not be used to pay for routine public housing or Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program functions. However, HUD provides for a limited exception in cases where the exercise of additional duties enhances the effectiveness of the FSS program.

Some FSS programs find that it is beneficial for FSS program coordinators to also conduct annual and interim income reexaminations for their FSS participants so that they are aware of any changes in income and have direct access to resident data. Other FSS programs prefer that FSS coordinators focus solely on administering the FSS program so they have time to handle larger caseloads of FSS participants or in order to provide more intensive assistance.

The FSS coordinator NOFA describes the circumstances under which FSS coordinators may take on other roles within the PHA:

Funds under this FSS NOFA may not be used for performance of routine PH or HCV program functions. However, an FSS coordinator may perform some PH or HCV functions, such as annual reexaminations for FSS participants, if it enhances the effectiveness of the FSS program. This provision is to be employed only to the extent that these functions enhance, and do not interfere with, the FSS Coordinators’ ability to fully fulfill the role of the FSS Program Coordinator as his or her primary work. FSS Coordinator positions MUST NOT be used to balance or fill in for gaps in traditional staffing. Performance of routine HCV and/or PH functions for non-FSS families does not enhance the effectiveness of the FSS program and is therefore an ineligible use of FSS funds.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Public and Indian Housing
Family Self-Sufficiency Program
Funding Opportunity Number: FR-6000-N-04
Page 26, IV Application and Submission Information, F4b. Funding Restrictions.

Activities that an FSS coordinator may take on at an agency under this limited exception include:

  • Conducting annual or interim reexaminations for FSS participants
  • Providing Homeownership Coordination services for FSS participants (if certified as a HUD Homeownership Counselor)
  • Participating in termination hearings and court proceedings for FSS participants
  • Processing or beginning paperwork for moves or portability to another PHA for FSS participants

Regardless of how a PHA program allocates the responsibilities associated with FSS participants among PHA staff, there needs to be a way for coordinators and housing specialists to routinely communicate about participants and their actions.

PHAs and Owners Could:

  • Establish a reporting system so that FSS coordinators are informed whenever an update on an FSS participant is submitted to HUD
  • Allow FSS coordinators read-only access to tenant records so they can check data to ensure it is accurate and consistent

Ideally, FSS program coordinators should be informed any time an FSS participant:

  • Reports an increase or a decrease in income
  • Changes employment status
  • Has a change in housing composition
  • Is moving or planning to move
  • Is porting out of the HCV program to another jurisdiction
  • Is changing from one housing program to another
  • Has reached the point where they are paying all rent to owner (zero Housing Assistance Payment (HAP))

Advocating for FSS Within Your Agency

 

As FSS program coordinators, you may need to educate your agency or organization about the FSS program and why the program is good for residents and the organization.

Some PHA and owner leaders may not see self-sufficiency programs as an essential part of their agency’s priorities or understand how the provision of services can affect how much a resident pays in rent.

In addition, some PHA leadership/owners may see their agency’s role as only providing housing and may not understand the benefit of and relationship to self-sufficiency programs like FSS.

This video discusses the importance of educating both the PHA or owner and external partners about the benefits of the FSS program.

Building Internal Support for FSS Programs

Providing performance reports about FSS families to the Board and senior management at least annually can help build internal support for the FSS program. PHAs and owners can create an FSS report that highlights specific achievements of the program.

  View Sample Performance Report

  • Inviting the executive director, senior management, and board members to FSS events such as graduation and annual celebrations.
  • Inviting FSS participants or graduates to meet with PHA or owner organizations' Executive Director or appear at Board meetings.
  • Developing educational tools on the FSS program. For example, a worksheet or FAQ to explain how the escrow works would be especially beneficial to senior management.

    It is particularly important to ensure that senior management understands that HUD’s funding rules are designed to ensure PHAs and owners are “made whole” for FSS escrow deposits so that they do not lose money as a result of participating in FSS. Indeed, to the extent that FSS graduates choose to stay in subsidized housing, even after increasing their earnings, the FSS program can lead to reductions in per-unit subsidy levels that allow more families to be served.

Performance Reports can include:

  • Number of participants and length of participation
  • Change in income by year of participation in FSS
  • Number of people employed, changes in employment
  • Accomplishment of Individual Training and Services Plan goals including high school and post-secondary degrees and certificates, completion of training programs
  • Average escrow account balances
  • Graduates and average escrow account at graduation (and planned use of escrow if known)
  • Program exits due to income above 80% AMI

This video offers some suggestions on how to conduct outreach about the FSS program to senior PHA and owner leadership.

Advocating for FSS Within Your Community

PHAs and owners can also promote and advocate for their FSS programs within their communities:

  • Issuing a press release when they receive FSS coordinator grant funding or post the funding announcement to their website. FSS programs can release this information to local governments, service providers, and the press.
  • Seeking opportunities for FSS graduates or current participants to share their stories at local, state, and federal events.
  • Seeking opportunities for FSS participants to participate in face-to-face meetings with elected officials or their staff, at conferences, and on TV/radio shows that address the issues of disadvantaged and low-income families.
  • Inviting local news outlets to cover their FSS graduations or other events or programs or seek out a journalist to write a feature story of a successful FSS family.

The FSS program in this video describes how they use the graduation ceremony as an opportunity to recognize their graduates and their partners, as well as advocate for the program by involving the media, elected officials, and funders.

The more people can hear real stories from low-income FSS participants who are working hard to improve their families’ lives and those of future generations, the broader the public’s and elected officials’ understanding becomes at all levels of community and government.

Please complete this quiz before you proceed to the next module. To take the quiz, use the arrow keys or click the correct answer choice. If you answer incorrectly, you will be able to try again until you select the correct response.
Scores will not be recorded.

1. For which residents can an FSS coordinator take on housing specialist duties (including conducting annual and interim reexaminations) at a property?

A - For all residents of the property regardless of whether they are participating in the FSS program.Incorrect.FSS coordinators can only take on housing specialist duties for FSS participants and not all residents of the property.B - For FSS participants only.Correct!FSS coordinators can take on some housing specialist roles for FSS participants only.  FSS coordinators can only take on additional roles in the agency if it enhances the FSS program.

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