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Apartment Industry Sees Stable Payments, Labor Shortages and Preventative Innovations

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Screenshot of Rick Haughey and Sarah Yaussi from the webinar

May 21, 2020 — Apartment communities face unique challenges in coping with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a webinar hosted Wednesday by Broadband Communities.

In spite of the economic havoc caused by the pandemic, rent payments have remained stable, according to Caitlin Walter, vice president of research at the National Multifamily Housing Council. Data aggregated from the five most popular lease management platforms indicate that 87.7 percent of tenants completed their payments in May 2020, compared to 89.8 percent in May 2019.

However, Walter warned against a false sense of confidence, pointing out that a large portion of survey takers also responded that they had doubts that they would be able to make future payments.

The construction of U.S. apartments has also seen serious delays. According to the NMHC, 280,000 buildings need to be built per year to keep up with demand, and finishing construction projects takes an average of 18 months. Over 70 percent of pre-COVID construction projects have experienced delays due to the virus.

Chris Acker, vice president of Lennar Multifamily Communities, said that many construction companies have demonstrated creativity by using photographs and videos of construction sites to make decisions that would be unsafe to make on site due to the risk of infection.

Acker said that he and his employees have coordinated builds via “lots of Webexes, team meetings, and telephone calls.”

The apartment industry has seen labor shortages during the outbreak, Acker said, ostensibly because “employees were too nervous to show up to the job or employees … actually got sick.”

But in spite of the shortages, many Americans have been unsuccessful in looking for work, with the current unemployment rate being the worst since the Great Depression. “The unemployment benefits seem to be helping folks pay their bills,” said Walter, “but we don’t know how that’s gonna last.”

There have been other surprising developments in the apartment industry’s adaptation to COVID.

Rick Haughey, vice president of Industry Technology Initiatives, commented on technicians’ ingenious implementation of foot-activated buttons on elevators for use by construction workers.

Such preventative adaptations may very well expand in use from builders to residents. “No one wants to touch anything any longer,” said Linda Willey, director of Ancillary Services at S&P 400 Company Camden Property Trust.

The demand for smart security technology, such as gates that open without touch or keys that don’t require physical contact, has skyrocketed, she added.

Willey also discussed a usage spike in her internet provider partners’ “drop-off model,” wherein service providers deliver do-it-yourself kits to their clients.

At the outset of the pandemic, Camden also successfully urged its partnered providers to add complimentary premium channels, educational resources and more.

“It’s during these times that you see what people are really made of,” Willey said.

Health

Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows

‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.

While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.

“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.

The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.

Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.

“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.

Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”

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Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Has Benefits, But Also Challenges That Must Be Rectified: Experts

The technology needs to be examined to ensure it doesn’t create inequities in healthcare, panel hears.

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Screenshot of the Atlantic event in late June

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2022 – While the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare has been lauded by some, experts said at an Atlantic event late last month they are concerned that inaccurate data can also hamper progress in the field.

Artificial intelligence has been used widely across the medical field to analyze relationships between medical providers and patients to improve equality of care, including providing patient risk identification, diagnostics, drug discovery and development, transcribing medical documents, and remotely treating patients.

Carol Horowitz, founder of the Mt. Sinai Institute of Health and Equity Research, argued that while AI plays a substantial role in diagnosing health problems at earlier stages, diagnosing patients more quickly, providing second opinions in diagnoses, enhancing scheduling abilities, stimulating hospital workflow, and finding drug availability for a patient as in dermatology, therapeutics, or population health, it’s not a golden ticket.

She reasoned that it “can reflect and really exaggerate inequities in our system,” negatively affecting healthcare equity among patients.

She stated that AI tools have led to inaccurate measurements in data that have proved harmful to individuals’ health. Horowitz shared the example of faulty AI technology during March 2020 meant to allow individuals to self-monitor their own oxygen levels as a precautionary method to the COVID-19 pandemic but led to inaccurate pulse readings for those with darker skin, and inaccurate data gathering, resulting in delayed treatment for many in need.

Michael Crawford, associate dean for strategy of outreach and innovation at Howard University, added that if these certain mismeasurements and flaws in the technology are not addressed, “AI could increase disparities in health care.”

Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said when it comes to assessing AI technology innovation for the future, there are both cost and benefits, but we must find “where can we move forward in ways that don’t harm human society but that maximize human benefits.”

As we grapple with how to implement this technology, “we must do science and technology policy that always has equity at the center” for future innovation, said Nelson.

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States Lagging on Bills to Implement 988 Suicide Hotline Mandate as Deadline Approaches

As of June 7, 20 states have passed legislation to implement the 988 suicide hotline mandate, according to FCC data.

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Screenshot from the FCBA event on June 8

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2022 – Only 20 out of the 35 states that have introduced legislation for a new suicide hotline have made the legislation law as of June 7, according to information from the Federal Communications Commission, as the July 16 implementation deadline nears.

States are required to implement the infrastructure and the funding for a 988 number that will go to the National Suicide Hotline, but only four states have passed bills to finance it, Emily Caditz, attorney advisor of the Wireline Competition Bureau under the FCC, said at a Federal Communication Bar Association event last week. Those states – Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington – fund the implementation from fees on cellphone lines.

James Wright, chief of crisis center operations at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, suggested that “key partnerships between state and local governments” will be necessary to help states meet this deadline.

Laura Evans, director of national and state policy at Vibrant Emotional Health, said this funding will “make sure we have robust capacity for the anticipated 9-12 million contacts we expect to come in that first year.”

The commission ordered the adoption of the nationwide line nearly two years ago, on July 16, 2020.

According to the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, “988 is designated as the universal telephone number within the United States for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operated through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”

“America’s suicide rate is at its highest since World War II,” said former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at an FCC event in December of 2019. “A simple three-digit code for a suicide hotline can reduce the mental stigma surrounding mental health and ultimately save lives.

Caditz said the implementation of text messaging “is especially popular with groups that are at heightened risk of suicide or mental health crises, including teenagers and young adults and individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or speech disabled.”

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