Talks on the next COVID-19 relief package have stalled as Senate and House members have gone home to wait for word from their leadership regarding if and when consensus will be reached.
Significant differences remain on both the size and scope of the package – with Republicans seeking a $1 Trillion package and Democrats pushing for a $3+ trillion package.
NMHC is continuing to push for direct financial assistance for renters who are impacted by COVID-19, while making the point that a prolonged eviction moratorium is unsustainable. And critically, a moratorium without rental assistance does nothing to address a renter’s underlying financial distress and creates the conditions for significant instability within the housing sector.
The major sticking points for the next relief package continue to be the overall size and scope of the package, state and local aid and the amount for an enhanced federal unemployment benefit extension. Specifically, Democrats want to keep the $600 federal unemployment benefit — which expired July 31 — extended into next year. But Republicans argue that that $600 has been a disincentive to work.
As reported in Politico, the White House offered to extend federal unemployment benefits to $400 a week until December, but reportedly Democrats rejected that offer in demanding it doesn’t go far enough to help those in the hardest hit and high-cost states.
On state and local funding, Democrats are pushing for $1 trillion in aid to address significant shortfalls and prevent mass layoffs of public workers but Republicans have pointed to a recent Treasury report that shows states have only used three-quarters of the funds provided in previous relief packages. Many states have countered that they have already budgeted and programmed the funds and need additional federal assistance.
The President has threatened to issue as many as four Executive Orders if negotiations with Congressional leaders do not show progress today. The proposed orders would reinstitute the now-expired federal eviction moratorium, resume enhanced federal unemployment payments for a short time period, extend a suspension of student loan payments and defer collection of federal payroll taxes. Questions have been raised about the legality of the President taking such steps and it is likely that the Orders would be subject to legal challenges.
As it is a top priority for the industry, we are hopeful the eviction moratorium Order would avoid several significant industry concerns. Instead of the elongated and blanket moratorium proposed in the House-passed HEROES bill, the Administration proposal appears to contemplate an extension of the CARES Act eviction moratorium that applied only to government backed loans. NMHC is continuing to reach out to Administration officials expressing opposition to a prolonged moratorium. Instead, we are urging that they invest in robust renter assistance.
Should a moratorium move forward, we have highlighted the importance that any extension be short in duration and directly tied to COVID-related hardship. If unable to tie the eviction protection specifically to demonstrated COVID-19 financial hardship, at the very least, it should require the resident to notify their housing provider – thus establishing a dialog between the resident and the property owner or manager. Lastly, we are urging that the eviction moratorium protection be tied to rental assistance so that housing providers can continue to meet their financial obligations.
NMHC and our allies continue to press for direct financial assistance to renters who are impacted by COVID-19 and make the point that an eviction moratorium without such assistance is unworkable and sets up an untenable situation for both the renter and the rental property owner.
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