Bipartisan Bill Includes Campaign’s Proposal for Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced on December 12, the “Eviction Crisis Act,” which would create new tools to help end the nation’s continuing eviction epidemic. The bill would improve data collection to better understand the national eviction crisis, and it would expand support for efforts that reduce preventable evictions and limit the devastation to families when eviction is unavoidable. Among various promising provisions, the bill would create an Emergency Assistance Fund to provide direct financial assistance and stability services to help the lowest income households overcome an unforeseen economic shock (e.g., broken-down car, unreimbursed medical bill, etc.) that threatens their housing stability. This policy solution was developed and championed by the multi-sector Opportunity Starts at Home affordable homes campaign, which worked closely with the bill’s sponsors.

The “Eviction Crisis Act” would: create a national database to standardize data and track evictions to better inform policy decisions; establish a Federal Advisory Committee on Eviction Research; allocate funding for a comprehensive evictions study; provide funding for state and local governments that expand the use of landlord-tenant community courts; express support for substantial funding increases for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal services to low-income people; improve information on tenant screening reports; and establish an Emergency Assistance Fund.

The Emergency Assistance Fund is structured as a competitive grant program administered by HUD, with input from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). Grants would be awarded to states and local governments to establish crisis assistance programs to prevent extremely low-income households from experiencing housing instability, including an imminent risk of eviction or homelessness, by providing short-term financial assistance and housing stabilization services. At least three-fourths of the dollars must be used to provide direct financial assistance and up to one-fourth can be used to provide wrap-around services, such as counseling. The bill also requires a rigorous evaluation of the program’s effectiveness in preventing housing instability.

“I applaud Senators Michael Bennet and Rob Portman for their leadership in introducing legislation to create new tools to help end America’s ongoing eviction epidemic, which most severely impacts the lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other individuals,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of NLIHC. “If enacted, the ‘Eviction Crisis Act’ would create a new Emergency Assistance Fund – a policy solution developed and advanced by NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign – to extend an emergency cushion to families in crisis. Together with the legislation’s new data collection and outreach initiatives, the bill would help low-income renters avert the downward spiral of housing instability and homelessness. I urge Congress to quickly pass this bill.”

On the day the bill was introduced, the New York Times published an article about the bill and the rationale behind it. “For all of the intractable problems of poverty and affordable housing driving the nation’s eviction crisis, a little intervention could help many people,” wrote Emily Badger, reporter for the New York Times. “And politicians in Washington increasingly have such ideas in mind: court translators, more legal aid, mediation – even emergency rent assistance.” 

Please help us spread the word about the “Eviction Crisis Act” and urge your networks to send the campaign’s letter of support to their senators.

The campaign’s press release, featuring quotes from ten of its multi-sector partners, is at:

The campaign’s fact sheet about the “Emergency Assistance Fund” is at:

The bill text is at:

A press release from Senators Bennet and Portman is at:

More information is on Senator Bennet’s website at:

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