Administration Releases New Guidance for Emergency Rental Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of the Treasury released guidelines and a new FAQ to help states and communities quickly distribute more than $25 billion in emergency rental assistance to renters in need. The revised FAQ directly addresses the significant flaws in the guidance issued by the previous administration. Pennsylvania’s rental assistance program, whose administration has been moved to the state Department of Human Services, is expected to be ready to begin processing that aid mid-March. The following counties and municipalities received federal funds directly, and are setting up their own programs: Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Westmoreland and York.
The previous rental assistance program, administered by the Pa. Housing Finance Agency, was plagued by cumbersome guidelines that created barriers that prevented eligible renters and landlords from being able to access the money before the program expired in the fall. Some $95 million in unused funds meant for emergency assistance was instead used to balance the state’s budget.
Under the updated FAQ:
- Renters may self-attest to meeting most eligibility criteria, including income, housing stability, and the amount of back rent owed, provided that certain safeguards are met. This will help reduce the burden on program administrators and renters when applying for assistance.
- The timeframe is shortened from 21 days to as little as 10 days before assistance can be provided directly to tenants in cases when landlords refuse to participate in the program.
- Assistance can cover home internet costs needed for distance learning, telework, and telehealth, helping to keep families connected to school, work, and healthcare.
- Some of the funds may be used to provide legal assistance to renters facing eviction under certain conditions.
- Programs can provide up to 10% of funds for stability services, correcting an error made in the Trump-era guidance previously issued.