On February 22, the U.S. Treasury published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the $25 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), approved in the COVID-19 relief package signed into law December 27. This comes after Treasury released an initial FAQ on January 19.
Prior to the release of the most recent FAQ, NMHC led a real estate stakeholder coalition letter asking for clarification and guidance on a number of key issues for the industry and are pleased Treasury incorporated several industry recommendations into the updated FAQ.
The FAQ outlines criteria for both prospective rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs. Specifically, the FAQ:
- Clarifies that the ERAP program can be used to cover rental payments and arrears beginning after March 13, 2020.
- Allows residents to self-attest as to their eligibility for the program, rather than requiring burdensome paperwork. Specifically, the FAQ reads, “... given the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, grantees may be flexible as to the particular form of documentation they require, including by permitting photocopies or digital photographs of documents, e-mails, or attestations from employers, landlords, caseworkers, or others with knowledge of the household’s circumstances. Grantees must require all applications for assistance to include an attestation from the applicant that all information included is correct and complete."
- Shortens the time periods for owners to determine if they will not accept direct payments from the grantee. The time period is shortened from 21-calendar-days for mailing to 14-calendar-days after mailing and allowing a 10-calendar-day period if utilizing phone, text or email.
- Provides guidance on what other activities qualify as “other expenses related to housing.” Specifically:
- the FAQ includes internet service provided to the rental unit, relocation expenses, rental fees, and reasonable accrued late fees within this category;
- clarifies that ERAP funds can be used for “utilities and home energy costs” and “utilities and home energy costs arrears”; and
- defines terms and how those costs should be documented.
- Clarifies how applicant income should be documented and verified.
- Outlines the types of data and documentation grantees should collect in order to comply with Treasury reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
- Clarifies requirement for applicants who occupy federally subsidized or mixed-use properties (such as LIHTC) and for applicants receiving rental assistance other than ERA (such as Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing or Project Based Housing).
The revised FAQs supersede any previous FAQs. The Treasury Department will be working to develop full program guidance as quickly as possible. In addition, we expect the Treasury Department to co-host a webinar with the Department of Housing and Urban Development about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the week ahead. Once the information is released, we will provide further details. For additional information on Rental Assistance, please click here to access resources from the Treasury Department. NMHC has also compiled the Treasury Department’s FAQs into an easily navigable webpage. Access this NMHC resource here.
NMHC will continue to communicate with the Treasury on changes and additional clarifications that should be made to ensure that the program can be executed in an efficient and timely manner.
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