Two days after ordering the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority to "cease and desist" awarding a new contract to manage the agency's voucher program, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reversed course and told the authority it can move ahead.

Housing Authority Executive Director Wayne Woods said he was notified Thursday that the federal agency had finally approved the local authority's contracting policy, which it followed earlier this month in selecting a new company to run the voucher program.

The program provides federal funds to help nearly 5,000 low-income families pay the rent on apartments.

"It was a good day today," Woods said. "We are just looking forward to moving on." 

The cease and desist order, which was delivered in a curt email on Tuesday, threw a wrench into the agency's operations just as many felt it had taken a step in the right direction.

The Aug. 9 vote to award the contract to Nan McKay & Associates was unanimous, a rare moment of consensus on a board known for its dramatic blowups. Nan McKay's proposal scored the highest out of four submissions for the contract, according to a selection committee's score sheets.

But HUD intervened this week, informing the local authority that its contracting policy was still under review. The notice came as a shock to some. Board attorney Jacques Molaison sent a lengthy email to the federal agency, noting that the authority had revised its policy based on HUD feedback.

On Thursday, HUD notified the authority that its procurement policy passed muster.  

The authority said it will begin an intense transition period in order to have the new voucher administrator in place by Oct. 1, the first day of the contract.

The agency's longtime contractor to run the voucher program, Louisiana Housing Development Corp., has said it won't work beyond its contract expiration date of Sept. 30.

"We are 44 days out now, and we are pushing it," Woods said. "It would have been almost impossible if the cease and desist had lasted a few more weeks."

Calls and emails to HUD officials were not returned.

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.