What is the emergency assistance program? Who qualifies for the program?
The Emergency Assistance Program was passed into law as a part of the American Rescue Plan and helps households across the US avoid eviction.
As household incomes plummeted around the country in March 2020, many feared they would be evicted. To support families, the federal government implemented an eviction moratorium and passed billions of dollars in funding to provide assistance to renters and landlords.
One of these programs is Emergency Rental Assistance Program which is administered by the US Treasury Department. More than $46 billion dollars have been approved by Congress for states, tribes and territories that allow grantees "to provide assistance to eligible households through existing or newly created rental assistance programs."
In early January, the Treasury Department reported that states have supported around 665,000 households through the distribution of around $2.9 billion. However, housing security remains a threat to housing security around the country. Last week, the Eviction Lab, found that almost 9,000 households had an the legal paperwork for an eviction submitted, in just the six states they track.
What programs exist to support renters?
In December 2020, Congress passed a spending bill that allocated around $25 billion to establish the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program 1. This program is required to spend at least ninety percent of funds on "direct financial assistance, including rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs, utilities and home energy costs arrears, and other expenses related to housing." The remaining ten percent of funds can be allocated for programs aimed at services that related to housing stability over the longer term.
These funds are set to expire by 30 September 2022.
The second round of funding passed in March 2021 through the American Rescue Plan set aside $2.5 billion for grantees based "on the number of very low-income renter households paying more than 50 percent of income on rent or living in substandard or overcrowded conditions, rental market costs, and change in employment since February 2020." The remainder, which amounted for more around $18 billion, will be spent the same way the majority of ERA1 funds were allocated.
Who is eligible to receive funds?
For ERA1, those eligible must meet some requirements.
Households where at least one member "qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due, directly or indirectly, to the COVID-19 outbreak" are eligible.
The second requirement covers those who who live in a a household where "one or more individuals within the household can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability." Lastly, a household may qualify if the total income is "at or below 80 percent of area median income."
The requirements are similar for ERA2, the only difference is that rather than having income based on the median in the area, a household must fall under the category of "a low-income family" as defined by section 3(b) of the United States Housing Act of 1937.
To find funding in your area, you can visit this portal hosted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that has the list of all state, territorial, and tribal entities tasked with distributing funds. The information is broken down by counties to help those access the relevant agency in their locality more quickly. It is important to check with what documents and information will need to be provided to verify the claim. Some states like Georgia, require a copy of the lease by shown by a tenant when making a claim, whereas Colorado allows for any document that shows you live at that residence to be provided.
Some areas have reported that they are out of funds
In New York, the office administering the payments said that any application submitted after 21 September 2021, "will be reviewed and paid in those areas of the State where the jurisdiction’s allocation is not fully exhausted." For those in the state that are in serious need of funds to cover basic needs, they should contact their local social services office who may be able to find other sources of money.
Oregon, New Jersey, and Texas have also run out of funds and some have stopped accepting applications as they too have run out of money.