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Emergency Rental Assistance Guidance for States


  • Millions of people are struggling to pay their rent and utility bills due to the pandemic.
  • The Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides $25 billion to states and localities for this purpose.
  • Abt worked with the National Council of State Housing Agencies to develop guidance to help inform states’ implementation of the program.
The Challenge

Congress appropriated $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program, which provides assistance with rent and utilities to households that have lost income or experienced other financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to assist households in need and reduce the risk of evictions, states and localities will need to quickly launch rental assistance programs using this funding; additionally, funds that are not expended or allocated by states by September 2021 will be returned to the Treasury Department.  

The Approach

Working with the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA), Abt reviewed eight ERA programs launched in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Virginia). We also interviewed program staff to learn how well the programs worked. Abt then developed guidance to help states understand the options available to them as they launch new or modified programs under the ERA Program. The time-sensitive nature of the ERA funding requires states to move quickly to launch programs.

The Results

Abt developed a guidance document to help states rapidly set up emergency rental assistance programs, from the initial design of programs to reviewing applications and coordinating activities with local partners and governments. While the guidance was developed specifically for state administrators of ERA programs, many of the recommendations also apply to cities, tribal governments, and other localities that may establish ERA programs. The guidance document will be updated once the Treasury Department issues expected clarifications.