ERA Programs Increase Flexibilities

NLIHC has been closely tracking Treasury Department Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs since programs began in February 2021. Between April and September 1, some administrators have made changes to their programs, including adopting self-attestation and direct-to-tenant payments. Despite improvements in some programs, many programs have not yet adopted these important strategies. As of September 1, NLIHC has identified 495 rental assistance programs funded through the $25 billion appropriated for the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance program under the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act (ERA1). Though most ERA1 programs have been open for months, administrators continue to make modifications to adhere to federal guidance and adopt allowable flexibilities to improve program implementation.

A total of 740 states, localities, Tribal governments, and territories received direct allocations for the ERA1 program. At least 495 programs are currently active, including 50 state programs, 292 local programs, 148 Tribal government programs, four U.S. territory programs, and the District of Columbia. These programs represent 98% of the $25 billion allocated in the first round of funding.

Since ERA1 programs began opening in February 2021, administrators have made changes to their programs. Two critical changes involve self-attestation for some eligibility criteria and direct-to-tenant payments. As of late April, 27% of ERA programs explicitly allowed for self-attestation for some eligibility criteria instead of asking for documentation. By September 1, that number had increased to 57%. Similarly, as of late April, only 15% of programs allowed for payments to be made directly to tenants. That number has nearly doubled to 28%. These changes are likely due to both advocacy efforts and recent federal guidance that strongly encourages programs to allow self-attestation and encourages ERA programs to provide direct-to-tenant assistance. Though some programs have improved, many programs have not explicitly adopted these flexible approaches. More programs must implement these critical measures to ensure the resources help the most marginalized tenants.

With the end of the federal eviction moratorium, programs should use all flexibilities provided in the Treasury Department’s guidance to assist those who are at risk of or who have already experienced eviction or displacement. Programs can help renter households with other housing-related expenses, such as relocation assistance, hotel and motel stays, and late fees. As of September 1, 53% programs explicitly offered coverage for other housing expenses. Of those programs covering other housing expenses, 44% provide relocation expenses.

NLIHC is beginning to track programs funded with the $21.55 billion appropriated by the American Rescue Plan Act (ERA2). Some programs are beginning to use ERA2 funds either concurrently with ERA1 funds or because they have fully distributed the first tranche of funding. As more programs begin to use ERA2 funds, NLIHC will monitor important programmatic changes, including requiring programs to offer direct-to-tenant assistance when landlords refuse to participate in the program, prohibiting the eviction of renters for nonpayment while ERA payments are being made, and allowing up to 18 months of assistance.

To learn more about ERA programs, NLIHC’s searchable database and rental assistance resources are available here, with new programs added to the database frequently. NLIHC also regularly updates an ERA Dashboard and ERA Resource Hub to monitor program implementation and facilitate resource sharing across programs.