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Elba Housing Authority adapts to pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Laurie Chapman, executive director of the Elba Housing Authority, and her staff found themselves in a new normal.

“We went from working 40 hours a week in the office to only doing 20 hours,” Chapman said. The shift was made to limit the number of people in the office at any given time.

Chapman explained that the housing authority staff is working hard to follow CDC guidelines. One of those changes was using a transactional drop box to conduct most business.

She said this was difficult to adjust to as they were used to residents coming into the office to hang out.  Now, this is limited because all business is conducted through a glass window with limited interaction.

Currently, six people work for the Elba Housing Authority with Chapman, who has been executive director for three years. Before assuming that position, Chapman served on the board of commissioners for the EHA.

Housing Authority employee Steven Tolver, who works with security and inspections, said he misses interacting with tenants he describes as “extended family.” Three weeks ago, when Tolver was allowed to return to his regular duties, he found circumstances far from normal as he has to wear a mask and gloves when interacting with residents.

Chapman said they are working hard to take precautions that ensure the safety of residents. In March, the Housing Authority received funds through the CARES Act, including $65,000 for public housing and about $13,000 for Section 8.

She explained they were able to use these funds to purchase personal protection equipment, sanitize units, switch some services online and update computers. She anticipates more money will be available in the fall to assist with public housing.

Housing is often something many take for granted. However, some people do not have access to adequate affordable housing. In Elba, the Housing Authority is there for them, Chapman said. The Elba Housing Authority works to make sure public housing is available to those who need extra support.

According to, their mission “is to provide and develop quality affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families while promoting self-sufficiency and neighborhood revitalization.”

The Elba Housing Authority provides two different types of assistance, public housing and Section 8 housing vouchers. According to, the EHA has 125 public housing units and offers 119 Section 8 vouchers.

The difference between the two programs is that one is government-owned housing while the other provides a voucher that can be used to pay a landlord. Applicants for housing assistance must meet certain income qualifications and go through a vetting process that requires screenings and an interview.