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Congress Passes Stimulus with Rental Assistance

Posted By: Eric Garduño Advocacy News , Coronavirus (COVID-19) , COVID Rental Assistance ,

On Monday, December 21, 2020, the U.S. House and Senate passed a new Coronavirus Stimulus bill as part of its FY2021 Appropriations.  At the time of writing this post, it is expected the President will sign the package into law.  The Stimulus bill includes $25 billion for rental assistance programs and includes a number of provisions that guide how this funding is to be used.  Below is our summary of the provisions most important to our industry.  You can read the text of the rental assistance portion of the Stimulus bill here.  You can also learn more about what else is in the bill from NAA's recent post. and their summary of the appropriations and stimulus bill.  

  • $25B is appropriated for rental relief; $1.2B of this amount will go to rental relief for US territories and Native American tribes.
  • Funds will be distributed to States, and cities with a population of 200,000 or more.  [Note: for BAAA’s territory, the only cities that meet this population threshold is Tampa and St. Petersburg.  We can presume the State will receive all other funds coming to our region and distribute them directly to counties.  As of now, it is not clear how quickly cities and states will receive this funding.]
  • Funds can be used to cover rent/rent arrears and utilities/utility arrears, and other purposes deemed by the Secretary of Treasury.  Assistance shall not cover more than 12 months except in limited circumstances.  Assistance can cover up to 3 months of prospective rent.  Prospective rent may not be provided unless the household also received assistance for rent in arrears.
  • Assistance payments shall be made to the landlord, unless the landlord doesn’t accept the payments, in which case payments can be made to the household.  The household shall get documentation of the payments made on their behalf.
  • To be considered a household eligible for rental assistance, the household must satisfy each of the following three criteria:
    1. One or more persons in the household
      • qualified for unemployment or
      • has testified in writing that they experienced a reduction in income/incurred significant costs/experience other financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
    2. One or more persons in the household
      • Has received past due rent/utility notice of notice of eviction
      • Demonstrate unsafe/unhealthy living conditions, or
      • Demonstrate other evidence that they are at risk of homelessness as determined by city/county providing the assistance.
    3. Household income must be at or below 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Prioritization of assistance shall go to:
    • Households at or below 50% AMI.
    • Households with 1 or more individuals who are unemployed at time of application and who have been unemployed for the last 90 days.
  •  AMI can be based on either the household’s 1) total income for the 2020 calendar year or 2) monthly income at time of application.  [Note: This provision seems to require cities and counties must choose one or the other approach in determining household income.  We will want to encourage jurisdictions to adopt the latter approach since it may be difficult for households to demonstrate income for 2020 unless they file a 2020 tax return.]
  • Landlords may assist renters in applying for rental assistance.
  • Landlords may apply for assistance on behalf of a renter, but must comply with the following:
    • The landlord must obtain the signature of the tenant on the application for assistance (can be done electronically).
    • The landlord must provide documentation of the application to the tenant.
    • Payments received by the landlord must be used to satisfy the tenant’s rental obligations.

[Note: Landlords should keep in mind that in addition to the above requirements, we should presume they will also be required to submit all documentation required of households, including whatever the jurisdiction may require to prove household AMI, i.e., tenant’s tax return.]

  •  Assistance provided to households shall not be regarded as income or used in determining other benefits. 
  • The CDC eviction moratorium/order was extended through January 31, 2021.