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Officials with the Pittsfield Housing Authority said they were unable to accept an additional 15 emergency housing vouchers because of limited staff and resources. The vouchers are part of a federal coronavirus relief program developed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

PITTSFIELD — Some Berkshire County residents will still receive federal emergency housing vouchers even though Pittsfield Public Housing Authority declined to participate in the program.

The Pittsfield Public Housing Authority was the only housing authority in the county that was offered the vouchers, which are intended to serve people experiencing some of the greatest housing needs during the pandemic.

When the housing authority declined the 15 vouchers they were offered due to a lack of capacity, local providers worried that residents in the county would miss out on the aid program.

But representatives of Three County Continuum of Care, the other group responsible for facilitating the federal program locally, said that they’ll make sure that a portion of the vouchers they receive from the state will go back to the county.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in June that it would use $1.1 billion allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan to distribute 70,000 emergency housing vouchers to people experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness or fleeing violence.

Like Section 8 vouchers, the emergency vouchers allow a tenant to pay 30 to 40 percent of their monthly adjusted gross income to their landlord and have the rest of the rent for a “moderately priced” rental unit covered by the local housing authority.

As part of the new program, HUD tasked local continuums of care — the regional body that coordinates housing and funding specifically for people experiencing homelessness — to identifying potential voucher recipients and connect them with public housing authorities who would receive and distribute the vouchers.

The vouchers were divvied up between 696 housing authorities across the country in May. Pittsfield Public Housing Authority was offered 15 emergency vouchers but declined the vouchers, citing a lack of staff and time to administer the new program.

The Pittsfield Housing Authority was one of 71 housing authorities in the country and the only housing authority in the state that turned down offered vouchers.

Housing Authority officials cited a lack of staff and resources as the impetus for their decision during the organization’s board of commissioners meeting last month.

Representatives from the Three County Continuum of Care — the local body that coordinates housing and funding for people experiencing homelessness in Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties — said that they fully expected the Pittsfield Housing Authority to accept the vouchers.

“I know that [the housing authority] expressed some questions and said that they needed to follow up internally before making a final decision,” Brooke Murphy the Homeless Services and Billing manager for Three County Continuum of Care said. “But I think I was under the impression that they were going to be accepting.”

There were only two weeks between when housing authorities learned about the voucher packages and the deadline to accept or decline the vouchers. HUD reallocated all of the declined vouchers a little more than a week later after the initial deadline.

Murphy said that Pittsfield’s vouchers were turned over to the Department of Housing and Community Development. When the continuum of care learned this, they quickly reached out to the department.

“We reached out to some of our contacts at DHCD just to flag the situation,” Murphy said. “And to make it clear that we wanted to make sure that individuals and families in Berkshire County would in some way receive this service.”

The DHCD is currently in charge of distributing 917 vouchers throughout the state. Murphy said that the continuum of care has been told that they will be given an additional 36 vouchers to distribute throughout their service area. She said the group will be sure that qualified recipients in Berkshire County will get some of the additional vouchers.

“We didn’t want Berkshire County to miss out on this unprecedented resource,” Murphy said.

She said that she expects all of the vouchers to be distributed over the next several weeks or month.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6149.