On Tuesday, February 23, the Treasury Department released updated FAQs for states and municipalities (“grantees”) reflecting the Biden Administration’s guidelines for structuring Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs, clearing the way for states to being administering rental assistance to renters and housing providers. The ERA fund was created by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package, which appropriated $25 billion for rental relief. The funds were distributed by the Treasury Department to states and municipalities that applied for them; each state received at least $200 million, with more available based on population. The states are now charged with creating programs to disburse the relief funds to renters and housing providers to assist renters who have been financially impacted by COVID-19 pay their rent and relieve the financial burden on housing providers caused by the CDC eviction moratorium.
These FAQs give states the information they need to begin administering their programs and releasing funds, which they have been waiting to finalize to ensure compliance with federal guidelines. Some of the most relevant points for housing providers and tenants are:
- “Eligible households” must have at least one person who:
- Qualifies for unemployment OR has experienced a reduction in household income/incurred significant costs/experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19;
- Is at risk of homelessness or housing instability;
- Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI).
- Applications for rental assistance may be submitted by either an eligible household or by the housing provider on behalf of an eligible household.
- Applicants can self-certify that they meet many of the requirements at the time of application, and income may be determined based on either the total income for the year 2020 or the monthly income at the time of application.
- Assistance can only be applied for three months at a time (not including rental arrears), totaling up to 12 months.
- Grantees may provide an additional 3 months of assistance (beyond the 12 months) if they determine it is necessary for the household.
- Rental arrears payments are to be prioritized (though it does not require that they be fully paid before applying to prospective rent).
- Tenants that receive housing subsidies are eligible for rental assistance to cover any portion of rent and utilities that the tenant pays themselves.
- Housing providers can accept direct payments on behalf of tenants, but must confirm their cooperation with the state program; outreach to the housing provider to confirm this by the states will be considered complete if one of the following conditions is met:
- A request to the housing provider sent by mail, which the housing provider has 14-calendar days to respond to (from date of mailing);
- At least three attempts by phone, text or email over a 10 calendar-day period to the housing provider; or
- The housing provider confirms in writing that they do not wish to participate.
The Treasury has stated that further guidance is forthcoming, which will provide more details on these requirements. Congress is currently considering a budget reconciliation bill which appropriates an additional $20.25 billion for rental relief. NAR will continue to advocate for rental relief fund amounts which accurately track the length of the CDC eviction moratorium, maximum flexibility for renters and housing providers when applying for these funds, and an efficient system for disbursing the funds.
National Council of State Housing Agencies: Emergency Rental Assistance Resource Page (with state-by-state information)