Treasury Adds 7 Policies to Expedite ERA Distribution
The Treasury Department recently released updated Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) spending data through July 31. So far, state and local programs have spent more than $5.1 billion to support the housing stability of vulnerable renters out of the $25 billion allocated under the first round of ERA. In July alone, $1.68 billion in ERA funding was spent.
The good news is that the assistance in July helped more than 340,000 households. This was a roughly 15 percent increase in households served compared to June, and more than double the number of households served in May. And the latest data also demonstrates that ERA funds reached the lowest income tenants, with more than 60 percent of households served falling at or below 30 percent of area median income.
However, the data shows that 16 states have spent less than 5 percent of their allocation by the end of July, and fewer than half of the households who have applied for ERA have been served through the program. By June 30, 2.3 million households had applied for ERA, but by the end of the month, only 984,352 had received assistance.
The Treasury Department has acknowledged that the biggest challenges many state and local government programs continue to face in getting assistance to renters and landlords is application processing delays. As a result, the Treasury Department has announced seven additional policies meant to accelerate assistance to those in the pipeline in addition to those who have yet to apply.
- Self-attestation can be used in documenting each aspect of a household’s eligibility for ERA, including with respect to: (a) financial hardship; (b) the risk of homelessness or housing instability; and (c) income. The Treasury Department is encouraging grantees to simplify application processes to use self-attestation when other forms of documentation are not immediately available.
- State and local ERA programs may rely on self-attestation alone to document household income eligibility when documentation isn’t available during the public health emergency. Treasury is clarifying that grantees may rely solely on a self-attestation of income when applicants are unable to provide other documentation of their income.
- State and local grantees may advance assistance to landlords and utility providers based on estimated eligible arrears. The Treasury Department is establishing guidelines for providing a portion of estimated bulk payments to landlords and utility providers in anticipation of the full satisfaction of application and documentation requirements.
- State and local grantees may enter into partnerships with nonprofits to deliver advance assistance to households at risk of eviction while their applications are still being processed. Where an expedited payment could reasonably be viewed as necessary to prevent an eviction that may occur under a grantee’s standard application process, Treasury is establishing guidelines for state and local programs to engage with nonprofit organizations able and willing to take on the financial risk of advancing assistance prior to an application being fully processed to speed aid to at-risk households.
- Grantees may make additional rent payments to landlords that take on tenants facing major barriers to securing a lease, including those who have been evicted or experienced homelessness in the past year. State and local ERA programs may make an additional payment required as a condition for entering into a lease with a “hard-to-house” household that would not otherwise qualify under a preexisting and lawful screening or occupancy policy.
- Past arrears at previous addresses may be covered. To remove barriers a household may face in accessing new housing if they have outstanding debt in collection, Treasury’s guidance makes clear that state and local grantees may, at an eligible tenant’s request, provide assistance to cover remaining rental or utility arrears at a previous address.
- A tenant’s costs associated with obtaining a hearing or appealing an order of eviction may be covered with ERA funds as an eligible “other expense.” Many states and localities require tenant payments of rent to a court on behalf of the landlord (often referred to as “rent bonds”) as a condition for a tenant to have the opportunity to defend herself in court before being evicted. New guidance makes clear that rent bonds are an eligible ERA expense.