Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) has been extraordinarily successful in helping millions of people avoid housing loss during the COVID-19 crisis, while also ensuring income to landlords.

The Department of Treasury announced in March that $30 billion of the $46.5 billion in ERA funds available has been expended to date. Of these expenditures 4.7 million payments have been made with most of the funds assisting households with incomes below 50 percent of area median income (AMI), and 60 percent to Black and Latino households. Two-thirds of households assisted are headed by single female head of households, reflecting the population at risk of eviction.

ERA resources are being depleted quickly and effectively. It also appears that the funds are doing what was intended and fending off a feared “eviction tsunami,” although the danger continues. Rising rental costs far exceed people’s income and federal investments in affordable housing consistently fall far short of the need. This essentially bakes in housing instability for millions. Housing instability will also continue to disparately impact Black, Indigenous and People of Color absent significant investment of federal resources and commitment to advancing equity.

As a temporary measure, ERA does little to address the long-term systemic ramifications of under-investment in affordable housing. However, it can (and does!) prevent homelessness and can help people experiencing homelessness reconnect to housing. Ensuring ERA is as effective as possible in ending homelessness requires reaching those at greatest risk.

ERA resources remain to assist them and forging partnerships between agencies administering ERA and nonprofit and governmental agencies serving highly vulnerable households will help achieve this. The crafting of such partnerships may be particularly important for grantees that have been slow to spend allocated funds and may face future rounds of reallocation.

Opportunities for Partnership Still Remain

Emergency Rental Assistance has been allocated in two separate tranches (ERA-1 and ERA-2) and on two different timelines. Despite clear progress in getting resources to needy households, significant ERA funds remain available to assist at-risk households and people experiencing homelessness.

Treasury has, and will continue to, recapture funds from grantees that are not meeting spending targets to assist vulnerable households. Those funds will be reallocated to other jurisdictions that have both high demand for additional funding and the capacity to administer it. Grantees, including state governments that were slow to spend ERA1 funds, can prevent future recapture of ERA2 funds by instituting new strategic partnerships to get resources to those who need it the most. This was recommended in instructions to grantees included in Treasury’s updated reallocation guidance: Grantees are encouraged to partner with local nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies to expedite the obligation process and delivery of assistance to eligible households.

Read the full article about Emergency Rental Assistance by Sharon McDonald at National Alliance to End Homelessness.