As prepared for delivery
Gene, thank you for the introduction and for all the work that you and many others on the line have done to help coordinate the implementation of the American Rescue Plan – and in particular the Emergency Rental Assistance Program – and your close work with Treasury.
When President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law in March 2021, this country faced the prospect of a nationwide eviction crisis that was poised to disproportionately affect our nation’s most vulnerable communities.
To alleviate this crisis, the Biden-Harris Administration expanded the Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help struggling renters and landlords. At the time, there had never before been a playbook or the infrastructure for distributing this kind of assistance at a national scale.
Through our implementation of this program, we made a series of decisions designed to direct this assistance to renters in need as efficiently as possible with an eye towards building long-term eviction prevention infrastructure that you have heard about today.
Sixteen months later, the program has served millions of renters in need, with a significant portion of funds being used to champion new and innovative approaches to eviction prevention—some of which you have just heard in the last panel.
Not only did this essential relief get out to people in time to prevent the tsunami eviction many feared would occur after the federal moratorium lifted, data shows these funds reached the lowest income renters and renters of color.
In 2021, 80% of funding reached very low-income households, and 40% of all primary applicants receiving assistance self-identified as Black and more than 20% self-identified as Latino. And Princeton University’s Eviction Lab found that millions of renters avoided the threat of eviction last year and that at the same time, low-income and majority-Black neighborhoods that typically see a disproportionate share of eviction cases experienced the largest absolute reduction in filings.
This outcome was not an accident. It came as a result of measures that we took together – Treasury, the White House, and grantees and advocates from across the country – to make sure that rental assistance got into the hands of those who needed it, and those who might otherwise have faced the devastating consequences of eviction.
Treasury has heard countless stories of programs going the extra mile to both proactively reach households most at risk of housing stability and avoid administrative pitfalls that might otherwise push them out of the process. In March, I was in Memphis, meeting the folks who took an innovative approach to community engagement in their ERA program, including working with a local nonprofit organization to provide legal services to tenants facing evictions and enlisting law school faculty and student volunteers.
These examples of infrastructure development are not limited to urban areas. Many ERA programs that also serve rural areas have developed new infrastructure to reach tenants and landlords in more remote communities. For example, states like North Dakota and Wyoming have taken more “hands on” approaches reaching and supporting “mom and pop” landlords within rural communities. Grantees have reported that these extra efforts have helped build trust in harder to reach areas and supported broader success of the programs.
With the remainder of ERA funds, the Treasury encourages communities to consider continued investment in eviction prevention systems that can result in long-term change. Many communities can, for instance, take advantage of the recently announced flexibility to use the last 25% of ERA2 funds to further enrich eviction prevention and housing stability services after October 1, 2022. We have also encouraged grantees to use a portion of their American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to further these efforts—and we have seen this infrastructure continue to grow. As of March 31, we have seen in Treasury data $12.9 billion dedicated to meet housing needs, including many communities using funds to support housing stability and eviction prevention services.
Now is the time to build on the legacy of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program through long-term changes in eviction prevention and housing stability programs. I have appreciated hearing about the innovative work being undertaken by today’s panelists and look forward to hearing about these developments in the future.