CDC Extends Eviction Moratorium, Treasury Updates ERA FAQs
Despite a slow start, the rate of ERA spending is increasing.
On June 25, the Biden administration announced that it will extend through July 31 the federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Extending the eviction moratorium until the end of July gives state and local governments more time to distribute more than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA) to those most in need.
Thus far, data from the Treasury Department is showing that emergency rental assistance spending has been slow but accelerating. Only $1.5 billion of the $25 billion allocated in the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act had been paid out through May 31. The Treasury data show that between January and March 2021, 627,767 applications were submitted to ERA programs, but only 14 percent of those households were served during the same period. States, whose allocations account for approximately $18 billion of the $25 billion, showed particularly slow progress, spending 4 percent of available funds as of May 31.
Despite the slow spending, the data shows some positive trends. The overall rate of spending appears to be increasing. Together, the programs spent 1 percent of the $25 billion between January and March, 2 percent of that total in April, and 3 percent of the total in May. The trend indicates that program spending may further increase as programs ramp up infrastructure and staffing and make modifications to increase program efficiency.
The Biden administration is making a concerted government-wide effort to stem evictions and ensure ERA is provided efficiently, effectively, and equitably to keep families safely housed and bolster the administration’s efforts to contain COVID-19. The Treasury Department has released an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for the ERA program and fact sheet. Here are the highlights of the new Treasury guidance.
Partnerships with Courts
To prevent evictions for nonpayment of rent, the new guidance strongly encourages grantees to partner with courts to actively prevent evictions and develop eviction diversion programs. The FAQs state grantees should consider:
- Providing information to judges, magistrates, court clerks, and other relevant court officials about the availability of assistance under ERA programs and housing stability services;
- Working with eviction courts to provide information about assistance under ERA programs to tenants and landlords as early in the adjudication process as possible; and
- Engaging providers of legal services and other housing stability services to assist households against which an eviction action for nonpayment of rent has been filed.
Access to ERA for the Homeless
The Treasury Department updated its FAQs to clarify how ERA assistance may be used to support an eligible household moving to a new home. Before moving into a new residence, a tenant may not yet have a rental obligation, as required by the statutes.
In these cases, Treasury encourages grantees to provide otherwise eligible households with an official document specifying the amount of financial assistance under ERA programs that the grantee will pay a landlord on behalf of the household (such as for a security deposit or rent) if the landlord and the household enter into a qualifying lease of at least six months. Such documentation may expire after a certain period, such as 60 to 120 days after the issuance date. Treasury encourages grantees to work with providers of housing stability services to help these households identify housing that meets their needs.
Equal Access for All Households
To promote greater access to assistance for all eligible households, the FAQ says grantees should address barriers that potentially eligible households may experience in accessing ERA programs. This includes providing program documents in multiple languages and conducting targeted outreach to populations with disproportionately high levels of unemployment or housing instability or that are low income. Grantees should also provide, either directly or through partner organizations, culturally and linguistically relevant outreach and housing stability services to ensure access to assistance for all eligible households.
Grantee Coordination to Reduce Delays
The Treasury Department encourages grantees providing services with overlapping or neighboring areas to collaborate to develop consistent or complementary ERA program policies. This will avoid unnecessary confusion among tenants and landlords regarding assistance. Treasury also encourages grantees to reduce burdens for entities seeking assistance from multiple grantees across different jurisdictions, including utility providers and landlords with properties in multiple jurisdictions.
Streamlined Payments to Utilities and Landlords
The FAQs say grantees may obtain information in bulk from utility providers and landlords with multiple units regarding the eligibility of multiple tenants and make bundled assistance payments for the benefit of multiple tenants in a single payment to a utility provider or landlord.
The FAQ say grantees may establish prudent information-sharing arrangements with utility providers and landlords for determining household eligibility. Grantees may also establish reasonable procedures for combining the assistance provided for multiple households into a single “bulk” payment made to a utility or landlord. Grantees should ensure that any such arrangements comply with applicable privacy requirements; include appropriate safeguards to ensure payments are made only for eligible households; and are documented in records satisfying the grantee’s reporting requirements, including, for example, the amount of assistance paid for each household.