Together with the second allocation of Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA), the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the White House published on May 7 new guidance and a summary with major program improvements to ensure critical resources reach the lowest-income and most marginalized people. These much-needed improvements are a significant achievement for low-income renters and their allies.
NLIHC notified the Biden administration in March about emerging and troubling roadblocks in ERA programs. The analysis was based on NLIHC’s ongoing tracking of state and local emergency rental assistance programs, feedback from our partners including renters and program administrators, and findings from collaborative research conducted by NLIHC, the Housing Initiative at Penn, and NYU Furman Center. We urged the administration to take immediate action to keep renters stably housed during the pandemic. Since then, NLIHC has been in sustained conversation with the administration to discuss each challenge and needed improvements.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, White House Senior Advisor Gene Sperling, Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice, and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge – and their teams – heard our concerns and acted quickly to make major improvements to ERA program implementation!
The improved FAQ includes these and other NLIHC recommendations:
- Direct-to-Tenant Assistance: For the first time, programs will be required to offer assistance directly to renters if landlords choose not to participate, ensuring renters do not lose their homes when landlords act in bad faith. The guidance cuts in half the time programs must wait to provide assistance directly to renters after landlords refuse to participate, and programs are now able to offer assistance to renters without first conducting outreach to landlords.
- Self-Attestation: The new guidance strongly discourages ERA programs from establishing burdensome documentation requirements that would make it more difficult for the lowest-income and most marginalized renters to receive aid, and it allows alternative ways to verify eligibility. High documentation barriers prevent renters – often those with the greatest needs – from receiving assistance.
- Prioritizing Households with the Greatest Needs: ERA programs must report on how they will meet the statutory requirement to prioritize households with the lowest incomes. This requirement enforces greater accountability to help ensure state and local governments serve those households most at risk of eviction.
- Federally Assisted Households: The new guidance prohibits ERA programs from denying assistance to federally assisted households, noting that failure to do so may violate civil rights laws. Individuals living in federally assisted housing typically have extremely low incomes and are particularly vulnerable to losing their homes.
While most of these improvements apply specifically to the second allocation of ERA funds, the White House and Treasury Department make clear what they consider necessary for ERA programs to serve renters most in need and to avoid violating civil rights laws. It is clearly best for administrators to apply this guidance to their full ERA program funded by both rounds one and two.
NLIHC created a side-by-side comparison of previous guidance on several roadblocks in ERA programs, NLIHC’s recommendations on how to overcome these challenges, and how the Treasury and White House revised guidance addresses each issue.
Gene Sperling, senior advisor to President Biden and White House American Rescue Plan coordinator, will join today’s (5/10) national call at 1 pm ET to discuss these improvements. Register for the call at: https://bit.ly/3nWxMqw
Join NLIHC, the National League of Cities (NLC), and Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment on May 12 at 1 pm ET for a more in-depth discussion with key leaders from the Biden administration, elected officials, and policy experts about the new Treasury guidance and examples of how states and cities have incorporated best practices into their ERA programs to ensure funds reach the households who need it most. Register for the webinar at: https://bit.ly/3eoJLtE
Read the White House and Treasury Department’s Fact Sheet: The Biden-Harris Administration Announces Enhanced Efforts to Prevent Evictions and Provide Emergency Assistance to Renters at: https://bit.ly/3uxsIvd
Read Treasury’s revised ERA FAQ document at: https://bit.ly/3bc1P8t
NLIHC’s side-by-side comparison is available at: https://bit.ly/3vPFK7D