What to Look for in a Partner for a Successful ERA Program

successful ERA program

While it appears the United States economy is finally beginning the long road to recovery, the personal financial impact on millions around the country continues to grow. After millions of Americans lost work during nationwide lockdowns, rental debt and eviction worries have begun to skyrocket, leaving a growing number of people with deep housing insecurity. Affordable housing has long been an issue in America and the effects of the pandemic have propelled the crisis into uncharted waters. Fortunately, the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program was created to provide funding for households that have had difficulties paying their rent and utilities. As a PHA, you want to roll out a successful ERA program. But, how do you go about making that happen?

The ERA has two programs, ERA1, with a provision of up to $25 billion in funds, and ERA2, providing up to $21.55 billion. The first was enacted in December of 2020, as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, while the second was enacted in March of 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. In both programs, funds are given to states, Indian tribes, local governments, and U.S. territories, who are then responsible for using the funds as assistance to eligible households in their rental and utility needs. 

In order for eligible people to obtain funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, they need to apply through their state or local governing entity. As the Public Housing Authority in your area, and if qualified, you will work directly with ERA funds, helping people in your community obtain the money they need. 

The US Treasury has created a streamlined process for the completion and submission of applications. Using an electronic portal, potentially eligible individuals can review the requirements for eligibility and apply for the ERA2. 

Rolling Out a Successful ERA Program

You’ll want to ensure a seamless and successful ERA program rollout in your PHA. The best way to do that is with top software that gives you the tools you need for success. While you may already use PHA software, you might want to make a change for the ERA program. Using the right software will help you create an effective ERA rollout in your community. 

Here’s what you want to consider when choosing your new PHA software:

Length of time in the PHA industry

Choose a software provider who has been around for a decent length of time, assisting with PHA processes, organization, and more. Opting for new software is risky; lacking experience, not having time to work out the kinks, and few people to provide feedback on it. With PHA software, it’s not the time to experiment with the newest. Pick a tried and true software that’s been around for a decent length of time. 

Proven track record

Along with longevity, you will want to find software that has a proven track record of success. Check references and testimonials to find out if certain software is known to provide the right results. If reviews aren’t overwhelmingly positive, or the software hasn’t been around long enough to gain them, you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

Used for traditional housing

When finding a PHA software that works cohesively with the ERA Program, you also want to make sure that it can be used for traditional housing as well. While the ERA rollout is a current consideration, eventually you’ll need that software to circle back to more traditional housing needs. Don’t get caught making the change to a one-function software. 

Finding a PHA Software Vendor

When you talk with vendors, you’ll need to ask questions in order to gain clarity on the most essential issues. One of the most important questions to ask vendors is if they are big enough to take on the rollout of the ERA Program. 

Traditional PHA software will have a number of features such as customer care, data conversion, financial and management consulting, as well as other professional services that help Public Housing Authorities streamline their processes and serve their communities. With the addition of the ERA Program, PHA software will include these features as well as additional features applicable to the program. You will want to make sure that any vendor you talk with can confidently say they’re ready to take it on. 

As you partner with a vendor to use a PHA software for the ERA Program, there are a few things you’ll need to look out for:

  • Is the platform ready to go? 
  • Does it have effective reporting?
  • Will it be able to be deployed quickly? 

Finding the right PHA software and implementing it quickly should be a top priority. As you work to get help to those hurting in your community, you need great software that will meet your needs and provide effective assistance to your rollout of the ERA Program. 

It’s time to build back your community, help your residents, and breathe life back into your area’s housing. A great PHA software can help you do just that. 

EXPLORE EMPHASYS AS YOUR PHA SOFTWARE VENDOR.

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FAQ: Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Emergency Rental Assistance Program

As we begin to recover from a global pandemic, many across the nation are still facing rental debt and eviction filings. The Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program is offering help for those who cannot pay their rent and utilities. ERA1 and ERA2 provide billions in funds directly to the states, U.S. territories, local governments, and Indian tribes.

We have assembled a list of questions to help navigate the ERA programs and links to help your PHA find the information it needs. And don’t forget – Emphasys Software has the tools and expertise to assist PHAs in administering the ERA Programs. 

FAQ’s on the Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Who is eligible to receive ERA assistance and how is eligibility documented?

Grantees are only able to use the ERA funds to offer financial assistance to eligible households. Eligible households must have to pay rent, have qualified for unemployment benefits, or have experienced a reduction in income, incurred significant costs, or faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The household must be at or below 80% of the area’s median income. Lastly, at least one member of the household must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability.

How does an applicant prove they qualify for unemployment benefits, experienced income reduction, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak?

The grantee can depend on a written attestation by the applicant or relevant documents proving their qualification under unemployment benefits. As it is difficult to determine that financial hardships are caused by the pandemic, Treasury encourages grantees to rely on the self-certification of the applicants.

How can a grantee determine that a household member is at risk of homelessness or housing instability?

Documents including past due utility notices, rent notices, or eviction notices can assist a grantee in determining their eligibility under this requirement.

How do applicants qualify under the income criteria?

Income eligibility is based on the total household income for 2020 or the household monthly income determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. This income-eligibility must be reviewed every three months during the duration of the assistance. Documentation to determine income includes a written attestation from the applicant or employer, pay stubs, W-2s, wage statements, tax filings, and bank statements.

How does a grantee document an applicant’s residence and the amount of rent owed?

Grantees need to acquire the applicant’s current lease, utility bill listing that residential unit, an attestation by the landlord, and bank statements showing a pattern of paying rent.

How are “utilities and home energy costs” defined and documented?

These separate charges are related to the occupancy of a rental unit, including electricity, gas, water, sewer, trash, and other energy costs. These should be documented by a bill, invoice, or evidence of payment. Those costs covered by the landlord will also be treated as rent.

Is it required that beneficiaries have rental arrears?

No, the ERA program permits enrollment for prospective benefits. But all rental arrears must be taken care of first before prospective rent payments for ERA1. ERA2 does not require this.  

Is there a limit on the number of months of financial assistance that can be received?

Yes, ERA1 provides up to 12 months of assistance, plus three months if needed to ensure housing stability. ERA2 must not exceed 18 months of rental assistance when combined with financial assistance under ERA1.

Does the ERA require that the household have been in the current rental home when the COVID-19 pandemic began?

No, there is no requirement regarding the length of tenure in the unit.

As the ERA1 does not allow duplicates of any other federally funded rental assistance program, are tenants of federally subsidized housing, Low Income Housing, Public Housing, or Indian Housing Block Grant assisted properties eligible for the program?

Yes, if ERA1 funds are not applied to costs that will be, or have been, reimbursed under other federal assistance.

May grantees assist households for which they are the landlord?

Yes, if the grantees comply with all provisions of the statute.

Are homeowners eligible to receive ERA assistance for mortgage, utility, or energy costs?

No. The ERA program applies to an eligible household in which applicants are required to pay rent.  Homeowners may be eligible for assistance through the Homeowner Assistance Fund, established by the Treasury under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

May Treasury ever recoup ERA funds from a grantee?

Treasury may recoup ERA funds if the grantee has not complied with the limitation on the use of the funds.

May rental assistance be provided to temporarily displaced applicants living in hotels or motels?

Yes, the cost of a hotel or motel occupied by an eligible household may be covered using ERA assistance under “other expenses related to housing”. This is if they have been displaced from their primary residence or do not have a primary residence.

For more information about Emphasys Software’s technology designed to help your PHA administer the Emergency Rental Assistance Programs, please visit the Emphasys ERA Program site.

General information about the Emergency Rental Assistance Programs can be found on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website. 

HUD/HHS Work Together to Provide Greater Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

HUD/HHS Work Together to Provide Greater Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

HUD/HHS Work Together to Provide Greater Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The efforts to increase access to COVID-19 vaccine options are underway, with a joint effort between the US Health and Human Services and the US Housing and Urban Development. The agencies are partnering up in an attempt at assisting communities that have been disproportionately affected by aspects related to COVID-19. This includes households obtaining assistance from HUD, as well as people in the midst of homelessness.

HUD/HHS Work Together to Provide Greater Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

As the HUD/HHS work together to provide greater access to COVID-19 vaccines, the partnership will leverage the COVID-19 vaccine program as a way to reach thousands of public housing properties, multi-family housing properties, and homeless shelters across the country. Through the collaboration, COVID-19 resource access will be increased in these at-risk communities in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus and assist in the well-being of families and individuals. Increased resources include readily available vaccinations and COVID-19 tests. 

While vaccination numbers continue to steadily increase, it is among the most vulnerable and at-risk populations that numbers remain low. Disabled individuals, senior citizens, minority and marginalized households, low-income families, and the homeless are the types of groups served by the HUD. By partnering together, the HUD and HHS will be able to expand these groups’ access to complete COVID-19 care and prevention.

This is a combined effort to further the purposes of the Biden administration, as it works to create a cohesive and effective COVID-19 response. As the efforts to vaccinate all Americans continue, the HUD/HHS partnership targets the vulnerable communities that could otherwise be left out. 

As a part of the effort, community health centers are being asked to reach out to the groups and grant recipients associated with the HUD. These groups include public housing authorities, single and multi-family owners, homeless providers, and more. 

As a public housing authority, you will be able to work together with your community health center to craft a seamless strategy for the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19. An effective strategy will include vaccination, testing, and treatments. 

With many Americans, including those in vulnerable communities, distrustful of the COVID-19 vaccine, part of a comprehensive strategy will include a cultural and educational approach to vaccine effectiveness and safety.

You may be asked to facilitate COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in your communities by providing registration and scheduling, as well as running on-site vaccination clinics in your housing development. 

Work with your community health center to determine how you can best serve your public housing sites and communities in this combined HUD/HHS COVID-19 response. Assisting in testing and vaccination is a huge step in the fight against COVID-19. If you need help with the organization, implementation, or related needs around software, reach out any time to a member of our team.

National Fair Housing Month | Public Housing News

National Fair Housing Month

April is National Fair Housing Month— a month to commemorate the passing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, expanding on previous acts to prohibit discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of a house based on race, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or family status. Title VIII of the Act is known as the Fair Housing Act. The act furthers the beliefs of Civil Rights icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The theme for National Fair Housing Month 2021 is Fair Housing: More than Just Words. This year’s theme reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to advance housing equity and the importance of raising awareness about our right as Americans to fair housing.

HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said, “Fair Housing Month is a time to recommit to our nation’s obligation to ensure that everyone has equal access to safe, affordable housing. Unfortunately, housing discrimination still exists, from individuals and families being denied a place to call home because of the color of their skin or where they come from, to landlords refusing to allow persons with disabilities to keep assistance animals, to individuals being denied a place to live because of who they love.”

Fudge continued by saying that fair housing is more important than ever during these times of unprecedented crisis. 

Every April, HUD is joined by local communities, fair housing advocates and organizations nationwide to commemorate Fair Housing Month by hosting activities to highlight HUD’s fair housing enforcement efforts, enhance public awareness of fair housing rights, and emphasize the need to end housing discrimination.

Fair Housing Month is a reminder that the principle of fair housing is not just in terms of state and federal law, but it is also a fundamental human right. America is made up of people of all races, classes, backgrounds, religions, and abilities, and our housing system should reflect that.

Ways to Commemorate Fair Housing Month

We’re proud to partner with so many incredible PHA’s that are working to make housing fairer every day. If you’re looking for a software vendor to better support you in these efforts, schedule a free consultation today!