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Overview of Housing and Homeless Provisions in the HEROES Act

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released on May 12 the HEROES Act. The $3 trillion bill proposes almost $200 billion in additional funding for housing and homelessness programs to help communities respond to the coronavirus crisis. For more details, see NLIHC’s updated budget chart.

Thanks to all of your advocacy and the support of our congressional champions, the proposal includes all of our top priorities, including $100 billion in emergency rental assistance through the “Emergency Rental Assistance Act and Rental Market Stabilization Act,” an additional $11.5 billion to prevent and respond to outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness, and a national, uniform moratorium on evictions for all renters. The bill also includes funding for 100,000 new emergency housing vouchers, $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, more than $300 million for rural rental assistance, and additional funding for public housing and other HUD housing providers to help cover increased costs and adjust rental assistance for households with decreased incomes.

This proposal is an important step forward, but we have a lot more work to do! NLIHC urges advocates to continue contacting their members of Congress and asking them to support these critical resources in a final relief package. Below is a full analysis of the housing provisions in the bill and information on how to take action.

Emergency Rental Assistance

The HEROES Act includes a $100 billion emergency rental assistance proposal known as the “Emergency Rental Assistance Act and Rental Market Stabilization Act.” The emergency rental assistance bill was recently introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Denny Heck (D-WA), along with 135 House cosponsors and 29 Senate cosponsors. NLIHC strongly supports this legislation and urges Congress to include it in any coronavirus relief package. For more details on the legislation, see NLIHC’s factsheet. Find a list of current cosponsors here. Show your support for the Emergency Rental Assistance Act by signing your organization onto this letter and sharing it widely with your networks.

Under the bill, emergency rental assistance would be distributed through McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program. This funding could be used for short- and medium-term rental assistance and rent-related costs, including utility payments, rent and utility arrears, arrear fees, and security and utility deposits.

At least 40% of the appropriated funding would have to be used to assist individuals or families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness with incomes less than 30% of area median income (AMI). At least 70% of the funding would have to be used to serve individuals or families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness earning less than 50% of AMI. Recipients would be able to use the remainder of the funds to serve individuals or households earning up to 80% who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness. Recipients can use funding to assist households earning up to 120% of AMI in some circumstances.

Two percent of funds are set aside for Tribal nations, including a requirement that 0.3% of funds are set aside for Native Hawaiians and a requirement that 0.3% of funds are set aside for Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Emergency Solutions Grants

The bill includes $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding to respond to and prevent outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness.

Experts at the University of Pennsylvania, University of California Los Angeles, and Boston University estimated that a total of $15.5 billion is needed to allow shelters to practice social distancing and to address the needs of those homeless individuals who are unsheltered. Congress provided $4 billion of this amount in the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).” The House Democratic proposal includes the remaining $11.5 billion in the needed ESG funds.

Of the total amount provided, $4 billion would be distributed under the existing ESG formula within 30 days, and remaining funding would be distributed using a formula developed by the HUD secretary based on an area’s risk of coronavirus transmission, number of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness, and economic and housing market conditions.

In addition to the homeless prevention and response services ESG is typically used for, the bill authorizes funding to be used to provide training and hazard pay for staff; to reimburse costs related to preventing, preparing for, or responding to coronavirus; and to provide hotel or motel vouchers for people experiencing homelessness. The bill waives federal habitability and environmental review standards in assisted shelters, unless they are determined to be necessary to prevent and mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The usual cap on emergency shelter activities does not apply to these funds.

The bill also proposes waiving the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for fiscal year 2020 for the Continuum of Care program under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. The HUD secretary would be allowed to waive or specify alternative requirements for regulations, except for those related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, prohibition on prerequisites, minimum data reporting, and the environment. None of the funding, however, could be used to require individuals receiving assistance to receive treatment or perform prerequisite activities in order to receive housing, shelter, or other services.

Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium

The HEROES Act would replace the current 120-day moratorium enacted in the CARES Act for renters in federally assisted properties with a new 12-month moratorium on non-payment evictions from substantially all rental housing. Landlords would also have to provide a 30-day notice of eviction to tenants after the moratorium expires.

Similarly, homeowners whose covered mortgage became 60-days delinquent between March 13, 2020 and the date of the bill’s enactment and who have not already received forbearance would be automatically granted a 60-day forbearance. Homeowners can request a 120-day initial extension, which can be expanded to up to 360 days, if the borrower is experiencing financial hardship.

Multifamily housing property owners who receive forbearance may not charge tenants late fees or penalties and may not report negative information to credit rating agencies. Renters living in these properties may not be evicted for nonpayment of rent.

New Emergency Vouchers

The bill includes $1 billion for the first year funding of 100,000 new emergency housing vouchers targeted to people who are homeless, at-risk of homelessness, or fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The funds would be allocated to public housing agencies (PHAs) based on a formula that considers the agencies’ capacity to use the vouchers quickly, as well as geographical need based on coronavirus risk, numbers of people experiencing homelessness, and other economic or housing market conditions. These vouchers would be “sunsetting,” meaning that they could not be reissued when the original household no longer needs the assistance.

Homeowner Assistance Fund

The HEROES Act would provide a $75 billion Homeowner Assistance Fund to provide homeowners with assistance to cover mortgage payments, property taxes, utility payments, or other resources to help them stay in their homes. Funds would be distributed through state housing finance agencies, which would be required to develop and submit a plan for administering the funding.

At least 60% of funding would be targeted to homeowners below 80% of AMI. The allocation formula would include the number of unemployment claims in each state relative to the national number, with a minimum of $250 million for each state.

To help serve territories, $200 million would be dispersed based on population to Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Additionally, 5% of funds would be reserved for Native Tribes, and 0.3% would be set aside for Native Hawaiians.

Additional Funding for HUD and USDA Programs

Tenant Based Rental Assistance

The bill provides $4 billion for tenant-based rental assistance to help public housing agencies (PHAs) maintain normal operations and take other necessary actions to respond to coronavirus. Of this amount, $500 million could be used for administrative expenses. The remaining $2.5 billion would be used to adjust renewal funding for public housing agencies that experience a significant increase in voucher per-unit costs and would otherwise need to terminate rental assistance for families due to the lack of funds. The remaining $1 billion would be provided for the first year funding of incremental rental voucher assistance for individuals and families experiencing homeless, at risk of homelessness, or survivors of domestic abuse (more details above in the section on “New Emergency Vouchers”).

This funding would have the same conditions as the resources included in the CARES Act.

Project-Based Rental Assistance

The bill provides $750 million for project-based rental assistance to maintain normal operations and to take any other necessary actions during the period that the program is impacted by coronavirus. This funding would have the same conditions and authority established in the CARES Act.

Public Housing

The bill provides $2 billion for the public housing operating fund to maintain normal operations and to take any other necessary actions to respond to the coronavirus.

These funds would have the same conditions and flexibilities as those provided in the CARES Act.

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Congress provides $5 billion for CDBG to cities and states. The majority of the funding would be allocated within 30 days based on the FY20 formula, although up to $100 million could be used for new or increased awards for existing technical assistance providers. The bill also proposes extending the 3-month limitation on using CDBG for emergency rental assistance to 121 months. Conditions and flexibilities included in the CARES Act would apply.

Housing for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

The proposal would provide $15 million for HOPWA to address operations, rental assistance, and other actions to prepare for and respond to coronavirus.

The funding would be provided via the formula used in FY20 and would have the same conditions as the resources included in the CARES Act.

Other HUD Programs

The bill provides $500 million for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly, including $300 million for one-time grants for service coordinators, and $200 million for Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities. The proposal also includes $100 million for housing counseling assistance.

A total of $14 million is provided for fair housing activities, including $4 million for the Fair Housing Organization Initiative grants and $10 million for Education and Outreach, both through the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.

USDA Rural Housing Programs

The HEROES Act would authorize $309 million for some USDA housing programs, including $284 million for Section 521 rental assistance. The remainder ($25 million) would provide rural housing vouchers to low-income households, including those not currently receiving rental assistance, in properties financed by Section 515 loans that were either pre-paid after September 30, 2005 or matured after September 30, 2019. Because the bill only authorizes this funding, Congress would still need to appropriate that funding in order for communities to access it.

FEMA Programs

The HEROES Act would direct FEMA to provide full reimbursement to states, local governments, territories, and tribes for Public Assistance (PA) emergency protective measures, including non-congregate sheltering for people experiencing homelessness and other people living in congregate settings, including people with disabilities. Currently eligible entities are only reimbursed at 75% federal cost share. In addition, the bill also allows FEMA to provide PA funds in advance where failure to do so would prevent the state or locality from carrying out an eligible activity.

The bill also clarifies that funding is to be made available under FEMA’s Disaster Legal Assistance, Disaster Case Management, and Crisis Counseling Program nationwide. The bill additionally directs FEMA’s Individual and Household Program to provide financial assistance for pandemic-related funeral expenses.

Tribal Housing

The HEROES Act includes $100 million through the Bureau of Indian Affairs for tribes to address housing improvements. In addition to the set-asides for emergency rental assistance and the homeowner assistance fund mentioned above, the bill provides $20 billion for tribal governments through the State Fiscal Relief Fund.

Additional Resources

The proposal also includes $540 billion for a State Fiscal Relief Fund and $375 billion for a Local Fiscal Relief Fund to help state, local, territorial, and tribal governments mitigate lost revenues and other fiscal constraints resulting from the public health crisis.

The bill also includes $10 billion for Small Business Administration Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, which can help provide assistance for some housing providers.

Take Action

Contact your representative TODAY and urge them to pass these critically needed housing and homelessness provisions!

Then, take 3 more actions to ensure that housing and homelessness resources are a top priority for the next coronavirus relief package:

  1. Tweet thanks to Speaker Pelosi, Chair Maxine Waters, Chair David Price, Representative Denny Heck and all original cosponsors of the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act for prioritizing #RentReliefNow and homeless assistance funding in the House bill.
  2. Ask your senators and representative to cosponsor the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act. Over 170 members of Congress are cosponsoring these bills, but we need more to get it enacted! Is your member of Congress an original cosponsors? If so, thank them! If not, urge them to cosponsor TODAY! Contact your members of Congress using NLIHC’s Legislative Action Center. Learn more about the bill here.
  3. Show your support for the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act by signing your organization onto this letter and sharing it widely with your networks. National, state, and local organizations and government officials are encouraged to sign on!