NLIHC Hosts Conversation between Federal Partners and ERASE Cohort

NLIHC hosted a January 6 conversation between NLIHC’s End Rental Arrears to Stop Evictions (ERASE) state and local partners cohort and key federal government officials. The aims of the convening were to: 1) allow federal partners to hear from cohort members on early work and recommendations to assist emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs in being visible, accessible, and preventive of displacement; 2) provide an opportunity for federal partners to share their vision for ERA moving forward; and 3) provide the cohort an opportunity to ask questions of the administration that will inform their work moving forward.

The ERASE cohort consists of 38 state and local nonprofit partners working in their states and local communities to ensure that ERA are visible, accessible, and preventive of evictions and that ERA reaches renters and small landlords with the greatest need for assistance, especially Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and other marginalized people and communities. Participants from the federal government represented a variety of offices and agencies, including the White House, the Treasury Department, HUD, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, all of which are working in their organizational capacity to ensure that the historic aid enacted by Congress reaches low-income and marginalized renters.

The session began with opening remarks from NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel and Senior Advisor to the President Gene Sperling on the successes of the ERA program, the importance of nonprofit partners’ advocacy in ensuring the efficient and equitable distribution of funds, and the challenges that organizations and the federal government continue to face in ensuring that ERA programs reach renters and landlords with the greatest need.

Following their remarks, Sarah Gallagher, senior director of the ERASE project, discussed the ERASE Framework and its three key areas that that NLIHC is encouraging partners to focus in on throughout the country’s more than 500 emergency rental assistance programs:

  1. Visible: Conduct equitable and robust marketing and outreach efforts to ensure that all landlords and low-income renters know about the ERA program and how to access it in their communities.
  2. Accessible: Support access to and disbursement of financial support to landlords and tenants by ensuring an accessible, streamlined, and low-barrier ERA application process. 
  3. Preventive: Prevent housing displacement by creating formal partnerships with state and/or local courts to support eviction prevention and eviction diversion in coordination with ERA. 

Ms. Gallagher then introduced members of the ERASE cohort to discuss their work in their states and local communities, successes and challenges they have observed in their communities, and recommendations on how the federal government can improve the ERA program. ERASE cohort members from Alabama, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington DC, and Texas presented on the following topics:

  • Engagement of Trusted Community Based Organizations for Outreach and Marketing: Maritza Crossen, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA)
  • Enlisting Housing Navigation Services to Assist with Applications: Lee Patterson, Richland Library 
  • Burdensome Documentation Requirements & the Need for Program Flexibilities: Chi-Hyun Kim, Housing Alliance Pennsylvania
  • Accessing ERA Program Data to Support Equity: Erin Hahn, Texas Housers
  • Ensuring Landlords Adhere to ERA Related Tenant Protections: Jay Williams, Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama
  • Courts and ERA Working Together to Prevent Evictions: Susan Jacob, Housing Counseling Services, Inc. of DC
  • Accessing Eviction Data to Support Tenant Protections, Eviction Prevention, and Diversion: Erin Kemple, Connecticut Fair Housing Center

Following the presentations, Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy Erika Poethig shared the White House’s vision for emergency rental assistance and how the administration is taking an all-of-government approach to prevent evictions and end homelessness going forward. The session ended with a questions-and-answers period, during which federal partners and ERASE cohort members had an opportunity to ask questions to one another. Themes from this discussion included the continued need for housing stability services, the importance of communities being able to access ERA program improvement plans, overcoming common myths that hinder the implementation of self-attestation, the need for more granular and real time ERA data, and ways the federal government can support community-based organizations in conducting outreach to low-income and marginalized renters on their jurisdictions’ ERA programs.

NLIHC thanks all our partners in the ERASE cohort and in the administration for joining us for this productive conversation between our nonprofit and federal government partners. We will continue this collaboration in the future to develop long-term solutions to housing insecurity and homelessness.