On August 25, the U.S. Treasury Department (Treasury) updated their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program. The program, which is administered by Treasury, provides direct funding to states and eligible units of local government to assist families struggling to make rental and utility payments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Counties with populations above 200,000 are eligible to receive direct ERA payments, while those under the population threshold may receive a suballocation from their state. With these revised FAQs, Treasury continues to encourage state and local grantees to expedite the delivery of rental assistance under the program.
The updated FAQs also come at a critical time for the ERA program and for the counties across the country who are working diligently to ensure that their residents remain stably housed through the pandemic and beyond. On August 26, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium, putting millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes. Halting the CDC’s eviction moratorium is likely to increase demand for emergency rental assistance, putting more pressure on state and local grantees. The revised FAQs provide additional flexibilities that will make it easier for counties to deliver assistance under the program to those who need it most.
Additionally, the revised FAQs come a little over a month before Treasury will begin to recoup unspent ERA1 funds. Beginning September 30, the Department will recapture excess unobligated funds and reallocate them to grantees that have obligated at least 65 percent of their ERA1 funds. The updated FAQs may help counties that have had difficulty obligating their funds to get more money out the door.
The updated FAQs are intended to help state and local grantees expedite the delivery of rental assistance under the ERA program through several different strategies:
- Self-Attestation: The updated FAQs provide explicit permission to grantees to rely on applicant self-attestation to document eligibility with regard to financial hardship, the risk of homelessness or housing instability and income.
- Estimated Arrears: To speed up payments to households served by larger landlords and utilities, the updated FAQs allow state and local grantees to pay some of an estimated bulk payment to a landlord or utility provider while application and documentation requirements are still being reviewed.
- Advance Assistance: To help at-risk tenants, the updated FAQs allow grantees to partner with nonprofits to provide advance payments to households at risk of eviction while their applications are under review.
- “Hard-to-House” Households: The updated FAQs allow grantees to make additional payments to landlords that agree to enter into a lease with a tenant that normally wouldn’t qualify under a legal pre-existing screening or occupancy policy.
- Past Arrears: To help households facing obstacles to securing new housing, the updated FAQs allow grantees to provide assistance to cover rental or utility arrears at a previous address.
- Eviction Prevention: The updated FAQs now define costs associated with obtaining a hearing or appealing an order of eviction as an eligible “other expense.”
NACo will continue to work with Treasury and other housing stakeholders to advocate for county priorities as the Department continues to provide assistance for both renters and homeowners. NACo has also established a federal Emergency Rental Assistance program resource hub, a COVID-19 Recovery Clearinghouse and a breakdown of funding provided in the American Rescue Plan Act, which counties can utilize to navigate the funding and assistance available to them as they work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic at the local level.
- NACo Blog: Treasury issues addendum to Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) reporting guidance
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Rental Assistance Finder tool