In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced this legislation to create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance program to help families and individuals make rent and pay utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic:
“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.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Danny Heck (D-WA) adds:
“Millions of Americans are facing new financial uncertainty, through no fault of their own. 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.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, says:
“This [COVID-19] 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. 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.”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition supports this legislation. Its president and CEO, Diane Yentel, says:
“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. 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.”
Joel Ratner, President and CEO of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, says this legislation responds to the current challenges brought about by COVID-19:
“This bill is deeply responsive to the current situation. We know that many vulnerable residents in urban and suburban and even rural places who are renters have lost their jobs. Many of those who are unemployed are renters who are being forced to make difficult decisions. Without action as proposed in this bill many of these renters will be evicted. We should expect that this will result in a wave of evictions and homelessness that we are deeply unprepared for. In addition the repercussions of this tsunami of evictions will destroy places that are already fragile. The negative impacts for these places and these people will be massive. Only by taking strong action can this cycle of social destruction be avoided.”
However, critics point out that while this bill would authorize the creation of a $100 billion housing fund, it wouldn’t provide the appropriations to actually fund it, so Congress would subsequently need to enact other legislation providing the funding.
This legislation has been reported to the House with the support of nine Democratic House cosponsors. This legislation is supported by a range of housing, state and local government, child advocacy, faith, health care, women’s, civil rights, disability rights, and social welfare organizations. These include the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Low Income Housing Coalition, Up for Growth, National League of Cities, US Conference of Mayors.
Of Note: Housing is the single largest expense for most American families. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, a quarter of the United States’ 44 million renters spent more than half of their incomes on housing.
According to the Urban Institute, it would cost approximately $96 billion to help an estimated 17.6 million rental households that need rental assistance due to COVID-19’s economic impacts for six months.
To date, the federal government has sent an additional $3 billion to cities and states to help with housing issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Pew Charitable Trusts reports that local governments still don’t have enough money to help all who need financial help during the pandemic.
The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), which included $100 billion for rental assistance, passed the Democrat-controlled House on May 15, 2020. However, it has yet to receive a vote in the Senate and is unlikely to pass that chamber, given Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) opposition to the bill.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / numbeos)