Through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the Act), Congress agreed on an additional COVID-19 relief package. Key provisions of the Act include a temporary extension of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium until March 31, 2021, as well as the establishment of a new Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). The US Department of the Treasury is responsible for the federal administration, monitoring, and oversight of the $25 billion ERAP. State and local governments (Grantees) are responsible for administering the program at the household level. The ERAP provides payments to assist low-income households impacted by COVID-19 with rent and utility/home energy costs. Households are limited to a maximum of 15 months of assistance if determined necessary by the administering state/local government. Funds received by the Grantee may be subject to recapture by the Treasury if not obligated by September 30, 2021 and will remain available for expenditure through December 31, 2021.
Eligible recipients include any of the following:
Households with incomes no more than 80% of area median income (AMI) and meeting the following conditions:
Qualified for unemployment benefits
Experienced a reduction in household income
Incurred significant costs
Experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to the COVID-19 pandemic
One or more individuals in the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability, which may include:
A past-due utility/rent notice or an eviction notice
Unsafe or unhealthy living conditions
Any other evidence of such risk as determined by the grantee
Eligibility Note 1) Treasury instructs that priority be given to households with incomes of no more than 50% AMI and to households in which at least one member is unemployed and has been for 90 days or more.
Eligibility Note 2) Landlords may apply on behalf of tenants who meet the eligibility requirements.
Eligibility Note 3) Grantees must monitor for duplication of benefits and ensure that households receiving assistance under this program do not receive funding under any other federally funded rental assistance program.
Eligible expenses include any of the following:
Utility and home energy costs
Utility and home energy arrears
Other expenses related to housing incurred directly or indirectly due to the pandemic
Administration of funds (maximum 10% of total grantee allocation)
Grantees must report on the following information:
Number of eligible households that receive assistance
Acceptance rate of applicants for assistance
Type of assistance provided to each household
Average amount of funding provided per household
Incomes of eligible households by income tier (less than or equal to 30% of AMI, between 30%-50% of AMI, between 50%-80% of AMI)
Average number of monthly rental/utility payments that each household received
Emergency Rental Assistance Program Design — Key Considerations
The program should have an open, rolling application period with established priorities escalated to the top of the list.
The program should have an initial opening with a defined period to accept applications.
The closing date may be extended, or the waiting list may be reopened based on amounts obligated.
Households with income less than 50% of AMI (established by program eligibility criteria).
Households who are in arrears and the owner has NOT filed for eviction to avoid displacement of those households.
Households who are in arrears and the owner has filed for eviction; to avoid eviction.
Households with one or more individuals who are unemployed as of the date of application, and have not been employed for the 90-day period preceding such date (established by program eligibility criteria).
To the extent that it is administratively feasible, recipients must require documentation of COVID impact. However, recipients may consider permitting households to self-certify how they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic (only if other documentation is not available) to expedite the disbursement of funds.
Funding & Eligibility
Households over 80% of AMI should be referred for assistance with Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) (if CRF dollars are still available) since these households are ineligible for the ERAP program but may still need assistance.
Grantees should make payments directly to the landlord or utility provider on behalf of the eligible household unless the landlord or provider does not agree to accept the payment.
Grantees must thoroughly document outreach efforts to landlords and utility providers. Outreach will be considered complete if a recipient sends a written request by certified mail or attempts three times to contact by phone or email over a 21-calendar-day period.
Maximum of arrears should be 12 months, limited to after March 13, 2020.
Households are eligible for three months of future rental stipend but must be certified every three months.
Maximum rental stipend may not exceed 15 months (established by program eligibility criteria).
Households qualifying under monthly income rules should be asked to provide one document per income source, dated within 60 days, as proof of income.
Households qualifying based on 2020 annual income should be asked for a copy of the IRS Form 1040, or calculate annual income based on Housing and Urban Development rules in 24 CFR 5.609.
Income should only be used to establish eligibility for the program and not to determine the award amount.
Landlords must provide a W-9 and owner agreement:
To streamline landlord participation in the program, instead of having landlords sign an agreement per household, they may sign a single document to encompass their commitments and obligations for all households who are eligible to receive assistance under the program.
Duplication of benefits, or duplicate application.
Misrepresentation of information (i.e., fraud).
Unable to establish eligible citizenship status.
Key Considerations to Avoid
Avoid having a lottery system because applicant prioritization may be more challenging.
Avoid awarding funds based on income. Income should only be used to establish eligibility.
Avoid requiring applications to be submitted online only. Grantees should accept phone or paper applications for individuals without access to a computer or internet.