Today, the Biden Administration is announcing new actions to help protect vulnerable tenants and landlords, including steps the Treasury Department is taking to strengthen existing guidance and implement new policies to ensure that state and local grantees can further accelerate Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) to aid the struggling landlords and renters most at risk of eviction.
For months, the Administration has worked to speed up state and local grantees’ delivery of ERA and help keep American families stably housed. As the President has made clear, no state or locality should delay distributing resources that have been provided by Congress to meet families’ critical needs and prevent the tragedy of unnecessary eviction.
Most notably, today Treasury is providing even more explicit permission for grantees to utilize self-attestation without further documentation in order to speed the delivery of assistance to households in need during the public health emergency. In addition to the enhancements of the Emergency Rental Assistance program, the Administration continues to take an all of government approach to protect families at-risk of eviction. Today, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Affairs (VA) are taking additional action to protect and support vulnerable renter households.
Additionally, the Treasury Department is releasing new data on ERA spending in July. Last month, 341,000 households received rental and utilities assistance, up from 293,000 in June and 157,000 in May. State and local agencies have provided approximately one million assistance payments to benefit households at-risk of eviction, and have spent more than $5.1 billion in ERA funding. Treasury data also show that ERA is reaching the lowest income tenants – over 60 percent of the households served earn no more than 30 percent of area median income.
Treasury Announces New Guidance to Encourage States and Localities to Expedite Relief, Including Through Efficient Self-Attestation
The Biden Administration continues to work with and listen to rental assistance administrators, tenant advocates, landlords, and other stakeholders to prevent evictions and provide the clearest possible guidance to state and local programs to improve the speed and effectiveness with which they deliver assistance to tenants, landlords, and utility providers.
Today, Treasury is further clarifying existing policies and taking the following new steps to ensure that state and local grantees can further accelerate emergency rental assistance to families at-risk of eviction.
- 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 use of self-attestation for documenting household eligibility clearly speeds up the processing of applications for rental assistance. Treasury is providing even greater clarity and specificity with regard to the use of self-attestation and is encouraging grantees to simplify application processes to use self-attestation when other forms of documentation are not immediately available.
- During the public health emergency, state and local ERA programs may rely on self-attestation alone to document household income eligibility when documentation is not available. During the period of the public health emergency, in order to rapidly provide assistance, 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 provide an advance on expected assistance to landlords and utility providers. To speed assistance, Treasury 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. These changes balance the need to assist households served by larger landlords and utilities while also protecting taxpayers.
- State and local grantees may enter into partnership 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 non-profit 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 payments to landlords who take on tenants who face 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 rental payment required as a condition for entering into a lease with a “hard-to-house” household that would not otherwise qualify under a pre-existing 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 collections, Treasury 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.
These policies are meant to accelerate assistance to the thousands of applicants who are in the pipeline in many state and local programs, on top of those who have already received aid through the end of July. Treasury and the Department of Justice are also working to encourage states and localities to put in place additional protections against evictions, including for tenants whose applications are awaiting review.
This new guidance builds on the work Treasury has already done to make clear through past guidance on May 7 and June 24 and via presentations by Treasury and White House officials that grantees have significant flexibility to award ERA funds quickly by using simplified forms and allowing for self-attestation. This previous guidance has helped to unlock faster, more streamlined assistance, including, for example, cutting wait times before assistance must be offered to tenants with non-responsive landlords and allowing aid to flow directly to tenants at the point of application; outlining approaches for helping families who are currently unhoused or transitioning to new living situations; establishing options for bulk payments to landlords or utility providers servicing large numbers of eligible tenants; and offering the use of self-attestation and fact-based proxies to reduce burdens in supporting determinations of eligibility. Building on promising practices like those previously highlighted by Treasury, many grantees have made significant strides in successfully getting assistance to families most in need.
Continuing an All-of-Government Approach to Prevent Evictions
The Biden Administration continues to take actions to accelerate aid to renters and landlords, and ensure available support quickly reaches families in need. In addition to today’s announced enhancements of the Emergency Rental Assistance program, Departments across the Administration are taking further action to protect families at-risk of eviction, including:
- Preventing evictions for non-payment in USDA multifamily properties. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will collaborate with the owners of 400,000 rental units in USDA-backed multifamily properties to mitigate all pending evictions. Additionally, USDA is:
- Offering additional support to property owners waiting to access available ERA resources by allowing them access to reserves for operating shortfalls;
- Providing financial incentives to property management agents that tap ERA to clear arrearages;
- Continuing to leverage field staff to perform outreach to local leaders and public housing authorities.
- Ensuring tenants in public housing and properties with project-based rental assistance facing eviction for non-payment of rent have a fair chance to receive emergency rent relief. HUD will act to require public housing authorities and owners participating in HUD’s project-based rental assistance program to provide tenants facing eviction for non-payment of rent with additional time and other protections to allow them the opportunity to secure ERA help that may stave off eviction entirely. For the duration of the presidentially-declared national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD will extend the time its programmatic regulations require before a tenant is required to vacate a unit once a notice of eviction for non-payment has been issued from 14 days to 30 days, consistent with CARES Act protections. Additionally, in order to initiate eviction, HUD may require additional steps of covered landlords.
- Increasing rental support to at-risk veterans and their families. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will expand its Supportive Services to Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which provides supplemental rental assistance to very low-income Veteran households, from 7 states and the District of Columbia, to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the District of Columbia.
- Continuing to spread awareness of available assistance through federal programs. Following up from the July 28th call to action on ERA that reached tens of millions of households, government agencies continue to leverage their networks to spread the word about rental assistance. For example, HHS has distributed letters to health centers, grantees, and networks through its Bureau of Primary Health Care, Administration of Children and Families, and Administration for Community Living. In the coming weeks, HHS will send an additional letter to child welfare leaders to facilitate participation in ERA and will remind Medicare Advantage plans that rental support is a permissible benefit for certain enrollees.
Today’s announcements build on the all-of-government approach taken by the Biden Administration to help keep families in their homes. In addition to previous policy announcements on May 7 and June 24th, this work includes White House-led summits in June and July focused on encouraging local action and collaboration to prevent evictions and a July 28 call to action that resulted in commitments from companies, non-profits, and government agencies to help alert families to the availability of emergency rental assistance. On August 11, Attorney General Merrick Garland met with over 35 chief justices of state supreme courts to emphasize eviction diversion strategies and highlight the Associate Attorney General’s June letter outlining steps that state courts could take to raise awareness of emergency rental assistance and to implement eviction diversion strategies in their jurisdictions. On August 17, Administration officials from the White House, and Departments of Labor, Treasury, Justice, and Health and Human Services, plus the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, met with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss eviction diversion strategies and best practices for the swift delivery of emergency rental assistance funds.