COVID BILL AND EVICTION MORATORIUM EXTENSION

On Sunday December 27, 2020, President Trump signed bills to provide COVID relief totaling $908 billion. The Bipartisan State and Local Support and Small Business Protections Act provides $160 billion for state and local fiscal relief, and the Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act provides $748 billion in other assistance. This includes:

  • A one-month extension of the federal eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

This post is a merging of information from fact sheets produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Economic Progress Institute, as well as other sources.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR RESIDENTS SEEKING HOUSING STABILITY

FEDERAL EVICTION MORATORIUM

The first of note is the CDC’s eviction moratorium is extended through January 31, 2021. The eviction moratorium covers nonpayment for households under certain income criteria. Renters can stay in their homes while state and local governments work quickly to distribute aid to households in need.

Moratorium FAQ

EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE

$25 billion for emergency rental assistance would be funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The local mechanism for distributing these funds in Rhode Island has not been established yet.

Eligibility

The proposed legislation requires cities and states to prioritize households most at risk of eviction in the coming months. Funds must be used for households below 80% of area median income (AMI), with a preference for those below 50% AMI. You can find the AMI for regions in Rhode Island here. Income determination would be based on the monthly income the household is receiving at the time of application. Under the bill, households are eligible for emergency rental assistance funds if one or more individuals:

  1. Has qualified for unemployment benefits or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due to or during the pandemic;

Rental assistance provided through the CRF would not be regarded as income or considered when determining eligibility for federal benefits or federally-assisted programs.

Role for Landlords

The proposed legislation allows landlords and property owners to aid tenants in applying for assistance. If landlords apply for assistance on behalf of their tenant, the tenant must co-sign the application, the landlord must provide the tenant documentation of the application, and the payments must be used to pay the tenant’s rental obligations.

Financial Assistance

The U.S. government is about to send checks — or direct deposits — to most Americans to help people survive financially this winter until coronavirus vaccines are more widely available. There will be a one-time payment, “the stimulus check,” with the following details:

  • $600 for each adult and child under age 17 (for households with income up to $75,000/$150,000 for a couple)

MORE AT IRS.GOV

Unemployment Insurance

The U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment insurance programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

  • Additional unemployment benefit of $300/week from December 26, 2020 through March 14, 2021

Am I Eligible?

Each state sets its own unemployment insurance benefits eligibility guidelines, but you usually qualify if you:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.

MORE AT RI DLT

Nutrition

Latest COVID Relief Bill Provides Increased Access and funding to SNAP.

  • SNAP benefits are increased by 15%. (Individual: $204 to $234; household of 2: $374 to $430; household of 3: $535 to $615; household of 4: $680 to $782).

MORE AT RI DHS

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR GOVERNMENTS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Allocation

Of the total amount, Each state would receive a minimum of $200 million. The bulk of the funds will be distributed to states and cities with populations of 200,000 or more. Additionally $500 million is allocated to U.S. territories and $800 million to tribal communities.

Uses of Funds

At least 90% of the funds must be used to provide financial assistance, including back and forward rent and utility payments for up to 18 months. Recipients would be able to use the remainder of funds (up to 10%) to provide housing stability services, such as case management, eviction prevention, and rehousing services. Not more than 10% of the amount paid to grantees may be used for administrative costs to provide financial assistance and housing stability services, including data collection and reporting requirements.

Under the legislation, cities and states can make payments directly to landlords or utility companies on behalf of renters. If a landlord refuses to accept the rental assistance, cities and states can give assistance directly to the renter, who can then make payments to the landlord or utility provider.

Deadlines

Any funds not obligated by October 1, 2022 may be used to provide affordable housing to very low-income or extremely low-income families. Prior to using unobligated funds this way, state and local governments would have to submit a plan for approval by the Treasury Secretary.

Reporting Requirements

The bill requires the Treasury Department to report quarterly on how each state, local, tribal, and territorial government is using emergency rental assistance funds. Each report must include how much assistance the state and local government received, the amount disbursed to households, the number of households served, the acceptance rate for applicants, the types of assistance provided to each eligible household, the average number of monthly payments that households receive, and outcomes for eligible households at the end of the assistance period. The data collected must be disaggregated by income level and the gender, race, and ethnicity of the primary applicant in the household, provided by zip code. Under the bill, the Treasury Secretary can make full, unredacted data available for statistical research.

COVID Relief Fund

In addition to providing $160 billion in state and local fiscal relief, the bipartisan bill extends the deadline for funds provided by Congress in the CARES Act through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). If enacted, the deadline would be extended from December 30, 2020 to December 31, 2021. Many states and localities have used CRF resources to provide emergency rental assistance during the pandemic.

SOURCES

NLIHC FACT SHEET

ECONOMIC PROGRESS INSTITUTE

Homes RI is a coalition of organizations working together to increase the supply of safe, healthy and affordable homes throughout Rhode Island.