State and local governments have made over 1.4 million Emergency Rental Assistance payments to households and distributed $7.7 billion since January
The state and local government grantees of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) increased the number of households served to more than 420,000 last month, up from 340,000 in July. Over $2.3 billion in rental assistance was distributed in August, which represents roughly three times the amount spent in May. While many jurisdictions have more work to do to meet the urgent demand for this relief in their communities, grantees saw significant growth in August —particularly among state and local agencies that adopted the Treasury’s recommended best practices.
Through August 31, state and local ERA programs have distributed more than 1.4 million payments to households, totaling more than $7.7 billion to support the housing stability of vulnerable renters. For context, the most recent Census Pulse survey suggests that approximately 3 million households expressed concern about imminent eviction. Of all these households, Census Pulse data also indicates that those with the lowest incomes are the most likely to be at risk of eviction. Of all households reporting that they are behind on rent, two-thirds of them earn less than $35,000 per year. Previous Treasury data has demonstrated that ERA funds are reaching these tenants, with more than 60 percent of households served having extremely low income (falling at or below 30 percent of area median income).
When the Emergency Rental Assistance Program launched earlier this year, there was little state and local infrastructure to deliver emergency rental assistance— most rental assistance grantees needed to start programs virtually from scratch. Nonetheless, many programs have proven an ability to accelerate aid effectively, with 119 state and local agencies having expended more than half of their first rental assistance funding allocation (ERA1).
While there is still more work to do, this improvement is the result of many months of collaboration between Treasury, the White House, and state and local governments to increase the distribution of assistance to renters and landlords in need. The Administration continues its all-out effort to encourage grantees to avoid or reduce unduly burdensome documentation requirements for verifying income, provide assistance directly to tenants when landlords are not cooperative, and protect renters from eviction after payments are made on their behalf. Last month, Treasury issued further policy clarity and recommendations meant to accelerate assistance, including clarifying that self-attestation can be used in documenting each aspect of a household’s eligibility for ERA.
Today, Treasury is releasing new program design tools to help grantees serve more eligible households. In a partnership with the U.S. Digital Service, these new tools highlight strong application processes being used on the ground by grantees and incorporate feedback from ERA applicants as well as best practices on accessibility, usability, and consideration of community needs. For example, these materials are informed by practices like language for the self-attestation of COVID-19 financial impact from Oklahoma’s program and the incorporation of fact-based proxies for pre-eligibility checks such as those used in Alaska, California, and Connecticut. With thousands of applications in the pipeline for ERA according to public dashboards, the Administration is also continuing its call for states and localities to put measures in place ensuring no one is evicted before they have the chance to apply for rental assistance and to ensure no eviction moves forward until that application has been processed.
While Treasury recognizes that many state and local governments faced a difficult task in building the assistance infrastructure needed to get ERA funds to eligible households quickly, the progress seen in recent months by a diverse range of states and localities covering different types of regions and populations shows that it can be done effectively. As required by the ERA1 statute, by the end of September Treasury will begin the process of identifying and reallocating excess funds. This process will make it possible for the highest-performing jurisdictions, many of which also serve the highest-need areas, to access additional resources so they can continue serving tenants and landlords in their communities. Today, Deputy Secretary Adeyemo is sending a letter to all grantees providing further insight into how Treasury intends to approach the reallocation process. Treasury anticipates implementing the reallocation process over a period of time with escalating consequences if a state or locality fails to demonstrate progress in using its ERA1 funds. Treasury will share detailed reallocation guidance, including the threshold for fund recapture, in the coming days.
Key Findings from the August Monthly Report
I. State and local government programs are increasing assistance
State and local governments have been increasing their spending as they have put in place the infrastructure to be able to serve the large numbers of eligible renters and landlords in their jurisdictions. While many of these jurisdictions lagged behind during the first quarter of the year, their funding distributions have taken off in recent months.
For example, New Jersey, which disbursed no funding in the first quarter, had spent 78% of its ERA1 allocation by the end of August, up from just 37% of its ERA1 allocation a month earlier. As a result, the state more than doubled the number of households served in the month of August compared to July. New Jersey has adopted Treasury’s flexibilities on self-attestation, while also standing up a strong eviction diversion program infrastructure, including incorporating the ERA program into its eviction court system. The state has also engaged in efforts to provide accessible support options to eligible households such as door-to-door efforts in low-income areas and the integration of ERA promotion into vaccine outreach efforts.
On the local level, the City of Nashville and Davidson County, which run a joint ERA program, had also spent 78% of its ERA1 allocation at the end of August by rapidly increasing its distribution of funds over the summer. Spending in August was 130% more than spending in June, and they reported using Treasury’s recommended application flexibilities by allowing the use of self-attestation and direct payments to tenants. This has allowed Nashville/Davidson County to move more applications through their system—in July and August, they served more than four times as many households as in May and June.
Other major jurisdictions, such as New York State, the City of Los Angeles, and Miami-Dade County, have seen similarly large increases in spending. Taken together, these three jurisdictions assisted nearly 27,000 households and spent more than $347 million in August, compared to a collective $800,000 in May. This progress by these and other major jurisdictions was an important factor in the overall growth in rental assistance expenditures to over $2.3 billion in the month of August, with assistance to more than 420,000 households across the country.
II. Many of the states and localities who saw the most growth have recently adopted Treasury’s guidance and flexibilities
Treasury has provided considerable technical assistance to help jurisdictions adopt rental assistance best practices, including many flexibilities that allow grantees to accept self-certification from applicants that are not able to provide documentation about their income and other eligibility criteria. Many of the states and localities who are employing these flexibilities to allow applicants to more easily complete their applications have seen significant growth in their ability to quickly get funds into the hands of eligible tenants and landlords in order to prevent evictions.
For example, North Carolina has created a streamlined application process, incorporating fact-based proxies based on geographic census tract information and increased adoption of self-attestation in order to lower application barriers. At the same time, North Carolina’s program has a robust compliance team and an outside vendor supporting their internal audit procedures to guard against instances of fraud. Landlords must sign an agreement stipulating that ERA funds will be applied to rental arrears and, if applicable, future rent. Landlords who accept these funds must also agree that they will not evict that tenant for the term of the period covered by the assistance plus 60 days. The state also ensures that the landlord is not receiving any other rent or utility relief for that period, which helps increase trust in the system. North Carolina spent more than $200 million of its ERA1 funds over the course of July and August; the state was approaching the halfway point of their ERA1 allocation by the end of August.
Similarly, Gwinnett County, GA took advantage of updated guidance provided by Treasury in recent months to help them get rental assistance dollars out into the community. The county has incorporated self-attestation and proxies for income based on census tracts and enrollment in local benefits programs (SNAP, WIC, and other programs) into its application process. Additionally, the process allows applicants to identify other potential areas of need (such as food, medical assistance, and substance abuse support) within the application so that the applicant can be connected to a specific organization providing relevant services in that area.
In addition, Albuquerque, NM program administrators have partnered with the state to roll out their ERA program. Program administrators have noted that the fact-specific proxy has been a powerful tool in providing rental assistance to high-need tenants, especially when paired with bulk assistance to utility companies and landlords. Program administrators have also engaged in data checks against the applicants’ participation in other human services programs to expedite applications, which allows them to simplify the documentation process for the majority of their applicants. The program has also engaged with state tax officials to verify applicant and landlord identities on the backend, which helps to increase the integrity of the system without additional burden on the applicant. After spending $0 in the first quarter of the year, Albuquerque has expended two thirds of their allocation at the end of August.