Legislation to Expand Rental Assistance Introduced

This week, Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020 in the U.S. House. This legislation would allow Americans to access short-term rental assistance to withstand the COVID-19 crisis. This bill is supported by 133 House cosponsors including Representative Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. This legislation was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee.

The legislation would establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program to provide $100 billion to help Americans pay their rent and stay in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. This program is based on the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, an existing program that supports emergency short-term rental assistance. By supporting tenants struggling to pay rent, this legislation also supports rental property owners of all sizes, and economic recovery as Americans withstand the COVID-19 crisis.

Housing remains the single largest expense for American families, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed renters to the threat of housing instability and eviction. According to the Urban Institute, it would cost approximately $96 billion to assist an estimated 17.6 million renter households needing rental assistance due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 for 6 months. By using the existing ESG program’s infrastructure, Rep. Heck’s legislation would work to facilitate the efficient and effective distribution of funds in order to ensure Americans receive needed rental assistance during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Millions of Americans are facing new financial uncertainty, through no fault of their own,” said Congressman Heck. “This bill will help tenants pay their rent, without placing the burden on landlords, many of whom are relying on payments from renters to pay their mortgages. It is vital to our recovery and to the wellbeing of Americans that we do everything we can to keep people in their homes. I will continue working with Chair Waters, Ranking Member Brown, and congressional leadership to ensure we quickly get rent relief to Americans.”

“This pandemic is yet another painful reminder of just how vulnerable millions of workers are to a single setback – whether it is losing your job, a broken-down car, or just being late on rent,” said Senator Brown. “Congress must act now to keep families in their homes. That’s why I am introducing the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020 to ensure that renters remain safely and affordably housed during and after this crisis.”

“This legislation would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund to help struggling renters across the nation as well as mom and pop landlords relying on rental payments for their retirement,” said Chairwoman Waters. “We must take immediate action to prevent the COVID-19 crisis from turning into a national eviction crisis. It is absolutely essential for the next COVID-19 relief package to include this bill.” 

“Even before the coronavirus, 11 million renters – including 8 million of America’s lowest-income seniors, people with disabilities, low-wage workers and other individuals – were paying at least half of their limited incomes to keep a roof over their heads, leaving them one financial crisis away from eviction and, in worst cases, homelessness. For many, this pandemic is that financial crisis,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Lost jobs and lost wages – combined with rents that were unaffordable even before coronavirus – leaves millions of people struggling to figure out how to make rent and scared of being evicted during a public health emergency. In this moment when our collective health depends on our ability to stay home, it’s never been more obvious that housing is healthcare. Congress should be doing everything they can to keep people stably housed during and after this public health emergency by implementing a national moratorium on evictions and providing at least $100 billion in rental assistance.”

“Direct financial assistance for the millions of Americans struggling to pay rent is needed now more than ever,” said Mike Kingsella, Executive Director of Up for Growth Action. “We applaud Senator Brown and Congressman Heck for their continued leadership on behalf of the families worried about their ability to balance rent payments with protecting their health and wellbeing during a global pandemic – particularly the millions of Americans who were already rent-burdened or housing insecure. Up for Growth Action and our members across the country encourage Congress to include rental assistance in any future COVID-19 relief package.”

Congressman Heck co-chairs the New Democrat Coalition’s Housing Task Force, which released the report Missing Millions of Homes in the summer of 2018. Since then, Rep. Heck has been fighting for legislation to alleviate the national housing crisis and increase affordability. In the past year he has introduced the Emergency Rental Assistance Act (H.R. 6314), the Yes In My Backyard Act (H.R. 4351), the Tribal Access to Homeless Assistance Act (H.R. 4029), a reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (H.R. 5319), and the Fulfilling the Promise of the Housing Trust Fund Act (H.R. 5599). He also cosponsored the Build More Housing Near Transit Act (H.R. 4307) and the Veteran HOUSE Act (H.R. 2398), both introduced by Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52).

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