Additional Coronavirus Updates – February 16, 2021

Updated NLIHC Resources

National Updates


Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and 28 of her Senate colleagues sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on February 3 urging the Treasury Department to publish specific procedures addressing how people experiencing homelessness can access the stimulus payments provided in the latest coronavirus relief package.

Department of Treasury

Treasury released a list of emergency rental assistance (ERA) program payments to states and eligible units of local governments.


A USA Today analysis found that Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) will overwhelmingly benefit white Americans living in less populated states, even though most Americans affected by the pandemic and economic recession live in the most populated states. “A more precise formula would better target resources to communities with the greatest needs if it were based on the number of cost-burdened and low-income renters," said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel.

CityLab reports on the growing number of eviction filings in the U.S. and the many renters who are falling through the cracks of federal, state, and local eviction protections. “Generally speaking, the CDC moratorium is doing what it was intended to do. But there are many shortcomings in the order and an alarming number of evictions despite the moratorium,” said NLIHC’s Diane Yentel. “We have been calling on Biden and CDC Director Walensky to not only extend the moratorium, but to strengthen and improve and enforce it.”

Vice examines the shortcomings of the federal eviction moratorium that have allowed landlords to continue evicting tenants, noting that NLIHC and over 2,000 organizations are calling on the Biden administration to extend, strengthen, and enforce the moratorium. NLIHC’s Diane Yentel notes that while the moratorium is generally doing what it was intended to do, there are an “alarming number of evictions” occurring despite the order.

Medical Xpress discusses new research that finds eviction and utility shut-off moratoriums reduce COVID-19 infection rates and COVID-related deaths. NLIHC’s Diane Yentel highlights the inextricable link between housing and health and the critical need for long-term investments in affordable housing.

The New York Times examines the pandemic’s toll on housing, noting that COVID-19 has exacerbated our country’s existing affordable housing crisis. Low-income tenants are doubling up with others, accruing debt, and falling behind on bills to remain housed. These financial scars will linger long after mass vaccinations.

An op-ed in the Hill urges Congress and the White House to include a $44 billion affordable housing conversion initiative in the next COVID relief bill. With a sharp infusion of federal funds, tens of thousands of hotels and other distressed commercial properties can be converted into permanent affordable housing.

Reuters reports that tenant unions and anti-eviction activist groups across the country have seen their memberships explode during the pandemic. The article discusses how a months-long campaign by KC Tenants culminated in the delay of 854 evictions in Jackson County in January.

A Marketplace-Edison Research Poll examining sleeplessness found that 35% of Americans surveyed were losing sleep over their financial situations, specifically pandemic-related issues such as missed rent or mortgage payments, layoffs, and income loss. Lower-income individuals consistently get less sleep than those with higher incomes. The pandemic is magnifying existing disparities, contributing to more sleeplessness, particularly in lower-income neighborhoods where people often live in overcrowded housing.

State and Local News


Beginning on February 23, renters and landlords in twelve Arizona counties will be able to apply for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program using an online portal. Several large counties and cities, including Maricopa County, Pima County, and Yuma County, are receiving rental assistance funds directly from the federal government.


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that three hotels the city had been renting under Project Roomkey will remain open until the end of September, but he stopped short of authorizing a major expansion of the hotel program. The three hotels total about 1,200 beds and were set to close either at the end of this month or next month. The city is working with California and FEMA to see it could receive Project Roomkey funds upfront.

Tenant advocates are urging the Fresno City Council to adopt a “right to counsel” program for renters facing eviction. Evidence from cities with similar programs suggests a right to counsel is critical in keeping renters housed. The California Judicial Council predicts that as many as 240,000 evictions could be processed this year statewide, making right to counsel programs even more critical.

ABC News reports that U.S. District Judge David Carter presided over a hearing in a lawsuit seeking solutions for the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles at a shelter in the heart of the city’s Skid Row. The lawsuit was filed by the LA Alliance for Human Rights, a group of business owners, residents, and community leaders, who allege that local officials have not done enough to address homelessness.

In Orange County, 825 individuals who are homeless have contracted COVID-19, with 625 of those being shelter residents. The conditions at congregate shelters underscore the need for timely housing options for individuals experiencing homelessness. The county has purchased two hotel and motel sites through Project Homekey that will provide 132 units of non-congregate sheltering.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously on February 2 to immediately halt rent increases for residents living in rent-controlled mobile homes and apartments through June 30. Renters must prove to their landlord they are facing hardship by submitting a declaration before the next scheduled annual rent increase. More than 37,000 Santa Clara County households owe a combined $173.5 million in back rent.


The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will begin leasing apartments at a 139 micro-apartment complex to house individuals experiencing homelessness. The complex is a former Quality Inn & Suites, which the Coalition purchased for $8.4 million and converted into the micro-apartment complex in record time.


Orange County commissioners approved a revision to the county’s rental assistance program that will increase the amount of money available from $4,000 to $10,000 per household. The county received $33.4 million in federal rental assistance, which enabled the boost in funding. The program is scheduled to launch on March 1.


Fulton County is developing its plan to distribute the $18 million in rental assistance it has received from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The county plans to launch the rent relief program on March 1. DeKalb County will launch its $21 million rent relief program on Friday, February 12.


The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) received a federal funding allocation of $2.4 million for rental assistance. The DHHL COVID-19 relief program began accepting applications on Monday, February 8.


Indiana housing advocates are protesting a bill that could increase evictions. The Indiana General Assembly is set to vote on February 8 to override Governor Eric Holcomb’s veto of Senate Bill 148. The bill would prevent individual cities from taking action on landlord and tenant matters, including expedited evictions and rental property regulations. Housing advocates, including Prosperity Indiana, believe the bill is a public health threat, noting that it is more important than ever for families to have access to safe and affordable housing.

There are bipartisan concerns that an Indiana bill that would allow landlords to apply for the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance program on behalf of their tenants could prevent renters from receiving aid. A woman facing eviction whose landlord denied rental assistance through the  Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority says the proposed bill puts “the power in the landlords hands yet again.”


New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced an expansion of the city’s rental assistance program. New Orleans received a direct initial allocation of $11.6 million from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the city is expecting an additional $14 million from the state of Louisiana for rental assistance. The program will go live on February 15 and will begin taking applications through its NOLA Ready website in person or over the phone.


According to MaineHousing, about 2,000 applications for the state’s rent relief program that were filed before the program ended December 31 are still being processed. A report from the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC) found that Mainers are falling behind on their rent payments, burning through their savings, and skipping bills to stay housed. “The big thing that seems to (be) happening is the pressure is really building – more people are falling behind and they’re hanging on by their fingernails,” said MAHC Director Greg Payne.


The Washington Post reports that as of December 31, Americans owed their gas and electric utilities an estimated $32 billion. In the Washington region, residents most at risk of utility shut-offs are in Maryland, which began allowing them as of November 15.

An op-ed in Baltimore Brew outlines why Baltimore should purchase the motels and hotels currently being used for shelter and transform them into community land trusts. Hennepin County, Minnesota, and Lake Champlain, Vermont are using public funds to transform hotels and motels into permanent affordable housing.

Members of Housing our Neighbors are calling on Baltimore officials to extend and expand current hotel contracts to allow the city time to develop a permanent housing plan. Despite the executive order directing FEMA to provide 100% reimbursement for non-congregate shelters, city officials still plan to return individuals to group shelters as soon as March.


Cambridge city councilors passed a proposal to rent non-congregate housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. Housing advocates distributed flyers to more than 1,200 households urging residents to give public comment in support of non-congregate shelters.


Nevada lawmakers approved an allocation of $124 million in federal rental assistance funds. These funds are expected to benefit up to 20,000 households in the state, according to an estimate from the Nevada Housing Division.

New Jersey

Hamilton Township’s Department of Community and Economic Development has secured more than $650,000 of its federal Community Development Block Grant - CARES (CDBG-CV) funds to provide utility, rent, or mortgage payments.

North Carolina

On February 4, Governor Roy Cooper and the General Assembly weighed in on how to deploy the more than $4 billion in federal relief money allocated to North Carolina through the December 2020 COVID-19 relief package. Governor Cooper released his emergency supplemental budget recommendations and the General Assembly passed legislation (S.B. 36/H.B. 42) outlining how legislators would like to deploy the latest rent relief resources.

Guilford County launched an emergency rental and utility assistance program on February 8. The program is funded through $7.2 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury Funds. The county approved an additional $747,000 for the County Emergency Rental and Utilities Assistance Program, bringing the total to $8 million.


Despite the federal eviction moratorium, Eviction Lab data indicate that over 160 people are evicted across Ohio each day. The moratorium’s protections are not automatic, and many Ohio renters are unaware of the steps they must take to be protected.


An Oklahoma House committee approved a bill on February 10 that would prevent courts from halting evictions, even during a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. House Bill 1564 says courts have no discretion to extend the terms of a lease. Several supporters of HB1564 on the House Business and Commerce Committee said that anyone who needed rental assistance was able to apply for it. Housing Solutions Executive Director Becky Gligo, however, says thousands of tenants applied for millions of dollars in rental assistance late last year, but there were instances where landlords rejected the funds or took it and then evicted tenants anyway.


Oregon tenants collectively owe between $249 million and $378 million in unpaid rent as of January 2021. According to a study by Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative, Oregon might be forced to spend between $1 billion and $3.3 billion to respond to mass evictions when the moratorium lifts.


The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that landlords are more than twice as likely to file for evictions against Black renters in Philadelphia than against white renters. Based on the pre-pandemic trend, Black renters are more likely to be evicted when pandemic eviction moratoriums are lifted.

Governor Wolf on February 5 signed Senate Bill 109, legislation directing the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to administer the new Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance program. Many of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania’s recommendations were part of the legislation.

The Pitt News Editorial Board writes about the need for Pennsylvania to provide equitable rent relief.


The Tennessee Housing Development Agency is currently awaiting further guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury to launch the state’s roughly $458 million rental assistance program. The program is estimated to help 25,000 households.

Shelby County approved $8.5 million in federal funding for rental assistance. The Memphis Tenants Union is calling on elected officials to provide more rental assistance and enact a ban on evictions and utility shut-offs.


Texas Governor Greg Abbott on February 9 announced that the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) has launched the Texas Rent Relief Program – the first statewide rent and utility assistance program. TDHCA will begin accepting applications for the $1 billion program on Monday, February 15.

Houston officials are planning to pursue a “grace period” ordinance that would block evictions in the city through the end of March. Mayor Sylvester Turner said he wants to ensure renters are protected while the city and county work to develop a $159 million rent relief program.


Utah County is considering splitting from the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance program and launching its own program that would reduce application barriers and provide flexibility on the application requirements. The state received $147 million for the Utah Rent Relief program, and Utah County received about $19.2 million for rental assistance.


Washington state lawmakers are scrambling to pass relief to avoid mass evictions when the state’s eviction moratorium expires on March 31. In addition to providing financial assistance, some Democratic lawmakers are proposing an informal package of bills that would freeze rent hikes, require housing providers to have a “just cause” to evict, guarantee a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction, and prevent rental debt from making it more difficult to obtain housing in the future.

Washington, DC

Through a new program, DC Water aims to help low-income renters whose water bills are reflected in their monthly rent. The DC Water Cares program will provide discounts to landlords who would then pass along at least 90% of that to qualifying tenants’ rent.


Despite the federal eviction moratorium, Wisconsin renters are falling through the cracks of the protections and being forced from their homes during the pandemic.


Governor Mark Gordon issued an executive order allowing the Wyoming Department of Family Services to begin preparing its distribution plan for the state’s $200 million emergency rental assistance program. “The need for this program cannot be understated, but it requires significant work to run it effectively and that’s what begins now,” said Governor Gordon. Wyoming 2-1-1 reports a 280% increase in calls for rental assistance in 2020.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Interim Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Implementation – Updated February 2, 2021

Department of Housing and Urban Development

CDC Eviction Moratorium: FAQs for HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing – Updated February 5, 2021

COVID-19 Homeless System Response: Hotel/Motel Acquisitions for Permanent Housing

COVID-19 Flexible Subsidy Pool Fundamentals: Essentials and How to Get Started

COVID-19 Homeless System Response: Approach to Winter Planning – Plan A [Projected Need], Plan B [Marginal Surge], and Plan C [Substantial Surge]

Weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Update for Homeless Service Providers – February 5, 2021

Department of Treasury

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Payments to States and Eligible Units of Local Government

Corporation for Supportive Housing

Key Considerations for State and Local Jurisdictions Exploring Hotel/Motel Acquisitions as a Housing Strategy for People Exiting COVID-19 Shelters

The Road Ahead: Putting the Pieces Together for Hotel and Real Estate Conversion to Housing

National Health Care for the Homeless Council

COVID-19 & the HCH Community | January 2021 Issue Brief: Consumer Perspectives of the COVID-19 Vaccine