Third Time’s The Charm? Treasury Updates Rental Assistance Guidance

Posted By: Jon Lowder Blog ,

The National Apartment Association sent out the following analysis of the US Treasury Departments updated guidance to state and local administrators of Emergency Rental Assistance Programs:

On August 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of Treasury (USDT) released its third edition of guidance to help state and local administrators improve their rental assistance programs and accelerate distribution of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program grants. While a number of the changes to the guidance are beneficial to the industry, additional changes are needed to ensure that grantees distribute federal rental assistance expeditiously to housing providers and their residents. According to recent USDT reporting, states and localities have only distributed 11% of the $46.5 billion in available funds.

As a direct result of the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) advocacy, the new guidance explicitly permits self-attestation to be used in documenting each aspect of a household’s eligibility for ERA, permits state and local ERA programs to rely on self-attestation alone to document household income eligibility when documentation is not available during the public health emergency and makes clear that state and local grantees may—at an eligible resident’s request—provide assistance to cover remaining rental or utility arrears at a previous address.

Additionally, the updated guidance will enable state and local grantees to provide advance assistance to housing and utility providers based on estimated eligible arrears, as well as permit grantees to make additional rent payments to housing providers that take on residents facing major barriers to securing a lease, including those who have been evicted or experienced homelessness in the past year. To learn more about the newly minted guidance, please visit the USDT’s website.

The revised USDT guidance is welcome news as some of these recommendations align with the real estate industry’s program reform priorities (see our August 18 letter to Congress and Administration officials). However, we continue to urge additional program enhancements in our advocacy that would increase positive outcomes for both participating housing providers and renters, including:

  • Align ERAP and the CDC Eviction Order’s income requirements for renters to close the gap in eligibility;
  • Require state and local grantees to facilitate bulk processing of applications and payments;
  • Direct grantees to allow housing providers to apply on behalf of residents and establish a safe harbor for the presumption of renter eligibility when residents refuse to engage in the application process;
  • Allow ERAP to reimburse rental property owners for rent arrears even if the renter moves out or terminates their tenancy early and prohibit program requirements that force housing providers to return payments in these cases;
  • Clarify that renter eligibility is not contingent on having a COVID-19 diagnosis; and
  • Prohibit grantees from imposing program requirements or proscriptions unrelated to payment of outstanding or future rental assistance.

NAA continues its advocacy efforts with Congress and the Administration to ensure that rental assistance programs continue to be executed in an efficient and effective manner. If you have any questions regarding rental assistance, please contact Jodie Applewhite at japplewhite@naahq.org.