FAQ: 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.