Over the last few weeks, multiple states have made significant program changes to increase the efficiency of their programs. When programs course-correct and integrate flexibilities, they can greatly increase the funding they are able to provide to assist tenants and landlords in need. For example, two of the largest states with high numbers of low-income renters, New York and California, along with three smaller states, South Carolina, Connecticut, and Arkansas, have made significant changes to their programs, resulting in greater distribution of emergency rental assistance.
Distribution of ERA funds began slowly in New York due to challenges with the application process, but the state has since streamlined the application and is re-directing state employees to the program to increase capacity and accelerate processing. Governor Hochul also announced the state will invest an additional $1 million in marketing and outreach efforts to raise awareness about the program. As a direct result of these changes, New York State spent nearly $300 million in ERA in August alone, and as of last week had obligated 100% of the state’s ERA 1 allocation. However, $924 million of these funds are yet to be disbursed as they wait for landlord participation and documentation.
In California, after a slow start, the ERA program is currently disbursing over $100 million in assistance each month. Major changes to the program included increasing the amount of rent paid from 80% to 100% in order to make both tenants and landlords whole as well as partnering with several community-based organizations across the state to offer culturally/linguistically responsive outreach and support. These changes have allowed California to increase its spending, with 35% of the state’s ERA 1 allocation obligated or paid.
Though the state of South Carolina has only spent 7.2% of its total funds, the state recently made significant program changes that have already resulted in a quick uptick in funding distribution. In particular, SC Housing reduced paperwork requirements, expanded outreach efforts, and increased the use of self-attestation in the application process. SC Housing also opted into using a fact-specific proxy so that renters in 196 low-income ZIP codes will no longer have to provide burdensome income documentation. Lastly, the state added additional staff members to provide in-person and telephone support.
The Connecticut ERA program, UniteCT, now covers 100% of rental arrears, where it previously covered only a portion of arrears. Landlords are no longer asked to forgive any portion of the rent to participate in the program, a move likely to increase landlord participation. The state has also incorporated categorical eligibility and established fact-specific proxies where households in HUD-designated Qualified Census Tracts are automatically income eligible for ERA. Connecticut has obligated more than 48% of its ERA 1 funding.
The Arkansas Rent Relief Program, which struggled with landlord buy-in, now includes a direct-to-tenant option if landlords do not submit required information within 10 days. The program will also now prioritize applications for tenants who have received eviction notices. And the program has significantly increased staffing to speed up application processing times and added a case-management team.
NLIHC is tracking spending progress in real-time on our ERA spending tracker. For up-to-date information on ERA spending, visit: https://nlihc.org/era-dashboard