The U.S. Department of the Treasury released on August 25 updated frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program in order to support state and local governments in expediting the distribution of ERA to households in need. The revised FAQ provides further clarity and recommendations meant to accelerate ERA distribution, including by providing more explicit permission for ERA grantees to rely on self-attestations without further documentation. Treasury also released on August 25 updated ERA spending data through July 31 (see related article in this issue of Memo). The Biden administration also announced additional steps it will take to help protect and support renter households.
Based on NLIHC’s ongoing tracking and analysis of state and local ERA programs, including nearly 500 programs funded through Treasury’s ERA program, NLIHC has continued to identify needed policy changes to ensure ERA is distributed efficiently, effectively, and equitably. Most recently, NLIHC sent a letter on July 12 to the Biden administration outlining immediate actions federal, state, and local governments must take to prevent a historic wave of housing instability this summer and fall. Treasury responded to NLIHC’s concerns about ERA programs’ reliance on burdensome documentation and lengthy application processes by issuing revised guidance in February, May, and June. As a result, Treasury has: revised guidance, streamlining ERA documentation requirements, enacted additional policy changes to accelerate ERA distribution, published examples of simplified eligibility forms, and reiterated its call for ERA grantees to speed the delivery of aid by eliminating undue documentation burdens (see Memo, 3/1, 5/10, 6/28, 8/9). Treasury’s August 25 updated guidance provides even greater clarity and specificity concerning the use of self-attestation.
Under the new guidance:
- Self-Attestation: Treasury reiterates that self-attestation can and should be used regarding every aspect of a household’s eligibility for ERA, including financial hardship, the risk of homelessness or housing instability, and income. State and local ERA programs may rely on self-attestation alone regarding income eligibility when documentation is unavailable. See NLIHC’s fact sheet for more information on simplifying application processes by relying on self-attestation.
- Advance Assistance: State and local grantees may deliver advance assistance to landlords and utility providers based on estimated eligible arrears. Treasury established guidelines for providing a portion of estimated bulk payments to landlords and utility providers in anticipation of application and documentation requirements being satisfied within six months.
- Partnership with Nonprofits to Deliver Advance Assistance: State and local grantees may partner with nonprofit organizations to provide advance assistance to households at risk of eviction while their ERA applications are being processed. A grantee must receive all required application and eligibility documentation within six months.
- Additional Rent Payments: State and local grantees may provide additional rent payments to landlords that enter into leases with tenants facing significant barriers to securing housing, including those who have been evicted, experienced homelessness, aged out of foster care, or were convicted of a criminal offense or released from incarceration in the past year.
- Past Arrears at Previous Addresses: To remove barriers a household may face in obtaining new housing, ERA grantees may – at a tenant’s request – provide assistance to cover past rent and utility arrears at the tenant’s previous address. As a condition for receiving payment, Treasury strongly encourages grantees to require the landlord or utility provider to agree not to pursue any further collection efforts, ensure that any credit reports confirm the matter’s resolution, and notify the tenant that payment has been received and there will be no further collection efforts.
- “Rent bonds:” A tenant’s costs associated with obtaining a hearing or appealing an eviction may be covered with ERA as an eligible “other expense.”
Building on the Biden administration’s all-of-government approach to prevent evictions, the White House released a fact sheet announcing new actions the administration will take to help protect tenants and landlords, including:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will work with owners of USDA-backed multifamily properties to mitigate pending evictions, including by: allowing property owners waiting for ERA resources to access reserves for operating shortfalls, providing financial incentives to property managers that use ERA to address arrears, and conducting outreach about ERA to local leaders and public housing agencies (PHAs).
- HUD will ensure tenants in public housing and project-based rental assistance properties first have the opportunity to access ERA before facing eviction. HUD will extend the eviction notice period from 14 to 30 days during the COVID national emergency period, consistent with CARES Act protections.
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will expand rental support to at-risk veterans and their families from just seven states to all 50 states and the U.S. territories.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies will leverage their networks to spread awareness about ERA, following up on the Biden administration’s July 28th call to action.
Read Treasury’s revised ERA FAQ at: https://bit.ly/3sOFu8w
Read Treasury’s press release at: https://bit.ly/3jlvdOe
Read the White House statement, “Biden Administration Take Additional Steps to Prevent Evictions as the Delivery of Emergency Rental Assistance Continues to Increase,” at: https://bit.ly/3gy8oVq