Updates on Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance Programs

NLIHC tracks all emergency rental assistance programs, analyzes in-depth information on each program, and shares best practices to ensure funds are equitably distributed to support individuals and families impacted by the pandemic. As of April 21, 2021, NLIHC identified nearly 900 state and local emergency rental assistance programs that were created or expanded in response to COVID-19 and subsequent economic fallout. Of these, 250 are funded through the $25 billion appropriated for the Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program under the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act. An initial summary of program characteristics and key challenges faced by ERA administrators is provided here.

A total of 433 state and local jurisdictions, 252 Tribal governments, and five territories received direct allocations for the Treasury ERA program. At least 220 Treasury ERA programs are currently accepting applications, representing 40 states, 132 counties, 45 cities, and three Tribal Government programs. An additional 15 programs have already closed due to an overwhelming number of applications received. Taken together, these programs represent over 65% of all state and local grantees that received Treasury ERA funds and approximately $18 billion that is currently being utilized for emergency rental assistance across the country.

Approximately 73% of the programs help tenants with both rental arrears and future payments, with nearly 70% providing over 12 months of rental assistance to help stabilize vulnerable. Excessive documentation requirements for tenants were a significant challenge for previous “CARES Act”-funded programs, resulting in incomplete applications and likely slowing administrators down in processing applications. Both the statute and current guidance affirm that self-attestation is adequate documentation for showing COVID-related hardship in the Treasury ERA program. The guidance additionally allows for the use of self-attestation for showing housing instability, income, and, in cases where tenants lack formal leases, rental obligation with alternative proof of residency. Yet, only 27% of ERA programs explicitly allow self-attestation as an alternative to source documentation. Program administrators may feel that the Treasury guidance limits the use of self-attestation only in extenuating circumstances, and they therefore maintain tedious documentation requirements in anticipation of audits in the future. Most programs require some proof of income and demonstrable housing instability either through proof of rent/utility debt owed or active eviction filings; commonly preferred documentation includes W2s, federal tax returns, or paystubs, with 60% of programs requiring a formal lease.

In addition to tenant-based eligibility criteria, 60% of the programs also require some form of landlord concessions. Frequently required concessions include completed W9 forms, additional documentation like detailed rental ledgers, and eviction restrictions on receiving assistance. Since ERA funds are primarily paid to landlords, landlord participation is critical to keeping renters stably housed. Several program administrators have reported difficulties in engaging landlords in programs, but very few ERA programs offer direct-to-tenant options if landlords refuse to participate: only 17% of the programs explicitly offer this flexibility while one in five programs explicitly refuse to pay tenants directly. Renters with landlords who refuse to participate are thereby unable to receive critical assistance needed to remain in their homes.

As programs open each week, NLIHC continues to monitor these trends and share best practices that advance equitable distribution of rental assistance funds. A new report published by NLIHC and the Center for Law and Social Policy outlines how emergency rental assistance programs can better prioritize renters most impacted by COVID-19 and at greatest risk of housing instability.

NLIHC’s rental assistance resources are available here, with new programs added to the database multiple times each week.