New research from NLIHC, the Housing Initiative at Penn (HIP), and the NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy provides an initial analysis of key program-design features of the Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs based on a survey of 64 program administrators. Surveyed programs have adopted self-attestation and direct-to-tenant assistance at higher rates than programs in NLIHC’s Treasury ERA dashboard, which is based on readily available public information. In addition, program administrators identified staff capacity and technology as key challenges to program implementation, despite most programs’ use of the full 10% allocation for administrative costs as well as efforts to add staff and bolster technology and infrastructure.
The survey took place in April 2021 and includes responses from 64 program administrators of early ERA programs. Many Treasury ERA programs were launched after the survey took place; among the programs that participated, many had launched recently. Thus, the report focuses on program design features rather than outcomes and compares key features to NLIHC’s ERA program-tracking database as well as results from the three organizations’ previous survey in the fall of 2020.
Programs in the survey commonly required tenants to provide income documentation for income, COVID-19-related financial hardship, and housing instability, as well as a current lease and government issued identification. Programs commonly required landlords to provide a W-9, a current lease, and a commitment not to evict the participating tenant. Programs can reduce documentation burden by allowing for self-attestation for select eligibility criteria. Of programs that responded to questions on self-attestation, 100% of programs reported that they permitted self-attestation of COVID-19 hardship; 75% reported that they permitted self-attestation of income. Programs in the survey had higher rates of self-attestation compared to data gathered in NLIHC’s ERA database. Of the 59 programs in the survey sample with a direct match in NLIHC’s database, 31 (53%) responded on the survey that self-attestation is allowed for one or more items but were not coded as allowing self-attestation in the database. Similarly, of the programs in the survey sample with a direct match in the database, 18 (31%) responded on the survey that direct-to-tenant assistance was an option but were coded in the database as having “unknown” policies on direct-to-tenant assistance. These findings suggest that programs need to be more transparent and communicative about their policies and the circumstances under which self-attestation and direct-to-tenant assistance are available.
Program administrators identified staff capacity and technology as key challenges to program implementation, despite most programs’ use of the full 10% allocation for administrative costs as well as efforts to add staff and bolster technology and infrastructure. Program administrators also cited lack of tenant and landlord responsiveness as common challenges. More than half of program administrators indicated they aimed to advance racial equity in their programs. Of programs aiming to advance racial equity, all targeted outreach to disadvantaged groups and communities. Other common strategies programs used to advance racial equity included collecting racial and ethnic data to inform program structure, providing additional application support to disadvantaged applicants, and reducing barriers that racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to face.
NLIHC, HIP, and the Furman Center will administer two additional rounds of surveys to better understand how programs adapt and change and how different program features translate to outcomes.
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