HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (Multifamily), which oversees contracts with private owners of HUD-assisted properties, issued its 11th update to “Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” on July 29. The latest version primarily updates to September 30 or December 31 dates in the previous Q&A. This Memo article highlights two updated Q&As and one new Q&A. Most significantly, eight Q&As are added at the end that address the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program.
Two Key Updated Q&As and One New Q&A
Under the category “CARES Act and Additional Resources Available for Response,” subcategory “Household Stimulus Payments, Other Income, and Unemployment Compensation,” Q5 (page 12) recognizes that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program was reauthorized by the FY21 appropriations act, but at a reduced amount of $300 per week (down from $600 per week) and extended by the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” (ARP). FPUC benefits are available through the week ending on or before September 26, 2021. HUD has determined that FPUC benefits must not be considered annual income.
However, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program assistance must be considered annual income. PEUC is an extension of regular unemployment insurance and has been extended to reflect the actual number of weeks of unemployment ending on or before September 26, 2021.
Q7 (bottom of page 12) is new. It states that Multifamily owners/agents must exclude from the calculation of a household’s income, the extra $300 per month provided as a child tax credit authorized by ARP. The child tax credit is available from July 2021 through December 2021.
Under the category “Policy and Operations,” subcategory “Staffing and Building Operations,” Q34 (page 32) is updated to add that when local rules and health conditions allow re-opening of community rooms, the community rooms must be made available to tenant organizations and for related purposes without further restrictions.
Key ERA-Related Q&As (starting on page 57)
Q1 clarifies that Multifamily owners/agents may accept funds from the ERA program for rental arrearages and some utility arrearages for Multifamily-assisted families. Consistent with the Treasury FAQs, Question 15, Multifamily-assisted families that have accumulated a rent or utility arrearage and are at risk of experiencing homelessness are eligible for assistance from the ERA program, provided ERA funds are not applied to costs that have been or will be reimbursed under any other federal assistance.
Q1 reminds owner/agents that if a family experiences a decrease in income, they can request the owner/agent to adjust their tenant payment so that they pay rent proportionate to their current income. Before an owner/agent accepts ERA funds, Multifamily advises them to complete any pending reexaminations, and as a best practice to ensure no duplication of assistance, apply any changes to rent retroactive to the first of the month following the change in income occurred.
Q2 states that an owner/agent cannot accept ERA funds or other rental assistance funds from a third-party for prospective rent payments for Multifamily tenants. However, prospective rent payments paid directly to an owner/agent by a third-party could be allowable if a landlord determines that a family cannot and will not be able to pay minimum rent. If a family requests a financial hardship exemption, an owner/agent must suspend the minimum rent requirement beginning the month following a family's request for a hardship exemption until the owner/agent determines whether there is a qualifying financial hardship. If the owner/agent determines that a qualifying financial hardship exists, the owner/agent must not impose the minimum rent during the 90-day period beginning the month following the date of the family's request for a hardship exemption.
Q3 indicates that if a tenant receives rental assistance funds directly from ERA or another program and uses it to pay their rent, the owner/agent may accept the payment. The owner/agent does not need to verify the source of funds before accepting payment from a tenant.
Q4 informs owners/agents that the FY21 appropriations act has a provision stating that any assistance a household receives must not be regarded as income and must not be regarded as a resource for the purposes of determining eligibility for benefits or assistance or for determining the amount or extent of benefits under any federal, state, or local program.
Q5 addresses sharing tenant information to verify that a household receiving ERA is not receiving other government assistance to cover the same costs. Owners/agents can shar a household’s information only if the household consents. To determine whether a tenant is participating in a rental assistance program, Treasury advised in its ERA program FAQs Question 15 that grantees administering ERA funds “may rely on an attestation from the applicant regarding nonduplication with other government assistance in providing assistance to a household.” For example, tenants may be asked if they receive rental assistance from HUD or live in a Multifamily property. If so, ERA program grantees may ask for a copy of a lease or verification of the amount owed in arrearage. An owner/agent may provide this information if a tenant consents. Treasury guidance allows grantees to use federal benefit programs to verify income in place of requiring documentation. When tenants have agreed to share data, Multifamily encourages owners/agents to do this as well.
Q6 discusses further discusses preventing duplication of benefits. Among the many provisions, Q6 cites Treasury FAQ 15 making it clear that a tenant may “self-attest” that ERA assistance does not duplicate other government assistance. Multifamily encourages owner/agents to communicate with tenants about ERA assistance and suggests owner/agents to apply for ERA assistance for their tenants.
“Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)” is at: https://bit.ly/3yfIJaW
Treasury’s “Emergency Rental Assistance Frequently Asked Questions” (updated June 24, 2021) is at: https://bit.ly/3ykM8FK
More information about Project-Based Rental Assistance is on page 4-64 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.