House Passes $1.9 Trillion American Rescue Plan; President Signed It into Law
Correction: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect date for when the emergency vouchers end. The correct end date for when a PHA may not reissue any emergency vouchers is Sept. 30, 2023. This article was also updated to show that the President signed the bill on Thursday, March 11.
Congress approved more than $30 billion in additional housing and rent relief today as part of a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to provide additional support for the on-going pandemic.
A top priority of President Biden for his first 100 days in office, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) includes the first major expansion of voucher availability in years, targeting $5 billion in one-time use vouchers to at-risk populations. It also provides an additional $21.55 billion in emergency rental assistance.
The President signed the bill on Thursday and addressed Americans during a prime-time speech that evening.
The package was passed using budget reconciliation, a procedural mechanism that allowed the legislation to be approved by a simple majority in the Senate, as opposed to the 60-vote threshold legislation typically must meet. It was passed largely along party lines.
NAHRO members were critical to the inclusion of housing programs in the American Rescue Plan and met with lawmakers last week in support of housing and community development programs as part of NAHRO’s Virtual Hill Day. NAHRO thanks its members for continuing to be a strong voice for housing.
NAHRO’s Legislator of the Year Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and former Legislator of the Year Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) were particularly integral in ensuring that housing resources were included in the bill. NAHRO thanks them and their staff for their dedication to keeping Americans housed throughout the pandemic.
“The American Rescue Plan provides our nation with much-needed resources to help continue to weather the pandemic-induced economic storm. We note in particular the $5 billion in new funding for emergency housing vouchers, which will allow housing agencies nationwide to work with local partners and landlords to provide shelter to homeless individuals, survivors of domestic violence, and those at high risk of homelessness,” NAHRO CEO Adrianne Todman said. “We are also thankful for the inclusion of $21.55 billion in emergency housing and rental assistance, which will help more people who are facing housing insecurity.”
Updated Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The American Rescue Plan contains $21.55 billion for emergency rental assistance that will be administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. These funds expand the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) that was created in the fiscal year 2021 omnibus appropriations in December 2020. These funds will be distributed to states and local jurisdictions with at least 200,000 people. The grantee, tenant eligibility, and eligible uses remain very similar. A new eligibility group is established for high-need grantees.
The $21.55 billion in funding is broken down as follows:
- $18.712 billion for state and local emergency rental assistance;
- $305 million for Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa;
- $30 million for program administration by the Treasury;
- $3 million for program oversight by the Inspector General; and
- $2.5 billion for high-need grantee payments.
The high-need grantees funds are for state and local jurisdictions with very-low income (below 50% of Area Median income (AMI)) renters that are paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent or living in substandard or overcrowded conditions since February 2020.
Eligible households continue to be defined as a household with at least one member that is obligated to pay rent on a residential dwelling, qualifies for unemployment benefits or experiences a reduction in household income due to COVID-19, is at-risk or experiencing homelessness, and is a low-income (below 80% of AMI) family.
Additional and updated information on the Emergency Rental Assistance programs can be found on NAHRO’s ERAP page.
Emergency Housing Vouchers
The American Rescue Plan allocates $5 billion for FY 2021 that can be used for the following:
- New emergency vouchers;
- Renewals of emergency vouchers;
- Administrative fees for emergency vouchers and other eligible expenses “to prevent, prepare, and respond to coronavirus to facilitate the leasing of the emergency vouchers, such as security deposit assistance and other costs related to retention and support of participating owners” or
- Adjustments to the calendar year 2021 section 8 renewal funding allocation for PHAs that experience a higher per-unit-cost (PUC) or that “despite taking reasonable cost-savings measures, would . . . be required to terminate rental assistance for families” (i.e., PHAs that experience shortfall)
Individuals that qualify for these emergency vouchers include people who are homeless, people who are at risk of homelessness, people who are fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking, or people who are recently homeless and for whom providing rental assistance will prevent the family’s homelessness or have a high-risk of housing instability.
The Department will notify PHAs of the number of emergency vouchers they will be provided within 60 days of passage of the act. The vouchers will be allocated according to a formula that includes PHA capacity and ensures geographic diversity (including rural areas) among agencies with voucher programs. If a PHA fails to utilize the vouchers within a reasonable period of time, HUD may recapture and redistribute any unleased vouchers and associated administrative fees to other PHAs according to the formula.
Any provision of any statute or regulation (except those related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment) used to administer these funds shall be waived upon a finding that the waivers or alternative requirements are necessary to expedite the use of the funds.
After Sept. 30, 2023, a PHA may not reissue any emergency vouchers when a family’s assistance ends.
Technical Assistance and Other Costs
The Department may not use more than $20 million of the amounts made available for the costs of HUD administering and overseeing the program, including information technology, financial reporting, and other costs. The Department may not use more than $10 million without competition to make new awards or increase prior awards to existing technical assistance providers to provide an immediate increase in capacity building and technical assistance to PHAs.
Implementation by Notice
These provisions may be implemented by HUD by notice.
Emergency Assistance for Rural Housing
The Act includes $100 million for emergency assistance for rural housing through Sept. 30, 2022. The funds are available for grants in lieu of debt forgiveness or payments for eligible households for temporary adjustment of income losses for residents of housing financed or assisted under USDA Section 514, 515, or 516.
Homeless Assistance and Supportive Services Program
The Act includes $5 billion for homeless assistance and supportive services. Funding can be used to provide tenant based rental assistance; develop and support of affordable housing; provide support services to qualified individuals or families that are not already receiving supportive services; or acquire and develop non-congregate shelter units, all or a portion of which may be converted to permanent affordable housing, be used as emergency shelter, be converted to permanent housing or remain as non-congregate shelter units. Eligible families include those experiencing or at risk of homelessness, fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking, or veterans and families that include veteran family members that meet the preceding criteria. Organizations that receive funding may use up to 15% for administrative costs and up to 5% for operating costs.
The Act also includes $100 million for housing counseling. Funds should be targeted to minority and low-income populations facing housing instability or provided to housing counseling services in neighborhoods that have high concentrations of minority and low-income populations.