Last week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released the second allocation of emergency rental assistance (ERA) funds and published new guidance aimed at removing barriers for the lowest income households. Treasury issues the following changes:

  1. Direct-to-Tenant Assistance – New guidance requires programs to offer direct-to-tenant assistance when landlords refuse to participate. It allows programs to offer direct-to-tenant assistance first and immediately so they do not have to go through landlords at all. Previously Treasury did not encourage or require a direct-to-tenant option. It also cuts in half the time to determine if a landlord is participating to 7 days if contacted by mail and 5 days if contacted by phone, text, or email.
  2. Documentation Requirements – New guidance strongly encourages programs to avoid establishing burdensome documentation requirements as opposed to simply allowing self-certification.
  3. Prioritization of Neediest Households – New guidance requires programs to report how they will achieve prioritization requirements
  4. Exclusion of Federally Assisted Households – New guidance prohibits programs from denying assistance to eligible households because they live in federally assisted housing, noting that denying them on this basis may violate civil rights laws.
  5. Renter Protections – New guidance prohibits eviction of renters for nonpayment while ERA payments are being processed.

For more detail on the changes from Treasury please see NLIHC’s factsheet, here.

Some of the new guidance conflicts with New York’s Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program of 2021. This program will have to be updated to reflect the time allowed for landlord response, and to allow for direct-to-tenant assistance. Further, the state may have to reconsider language regarding tenants of federally subsidized housing who are currently eligible only if funds remain after all others are served. We do not know how these changes will impact rollout of the program but will continue to monitor this issue.