With eviction risk growing and federal rental assistance slow to disburse by local governments, the U.S. Treasury has issued new guidance relaxing certain requirements for processing.
"With our economy already on edge we need to make federal help get to those who need it, and rental assistance to landlords for tenants in arrears or who are struggling to pay rent is critical for us to prevent homelessness from becoming an even bigger problem in our community," Congressman Michael San Nicolas.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides $25 billion in federal money poured into states and cities to help renters unable to make payments amid the pandemic.
The U.S. Treasury, however, reported on Wednesday that about 89 percent of federal rental assistance approved by Congress during the Covid-19 pandemic remains unspent.
"Now we will remove barriers to processing for local agencies so that they can get the money out faster, and we encourage our people to take full advantage of this support," San Nicolas said.
New Treasury guidelines include:
1) 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 regarding 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.
2) 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 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.
3) State and local grantees may advance assistance to landlords and utility providers based on estimated eligible arrears. 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 with the need to protect taxpayers.
4) 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 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.
5) 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 pre-existing and lawful screening or
6) 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.
7) 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. The new guidance makes clear that rent bonds are an eligible ERA expense.