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Abt to Help HUD Investigate Policy Implications of COVID Emergency Rental Assistance

Rockville, Md.  –  To offset the risk of housing instability during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Treasury deployed the multi-billion-dollar Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), providing unprecedented funding to help low- and middle-income families pay their rent and utilities and avoid eviction. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has contracted three separate research teams—Abt Global, Princeton and Rutgers Universities, and the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California-Berkeley—to evaluate how ERAP affected housing stability. Evidence from Abt’s study will not only help policymakers understand what impact ERAP had but also will inform future rental assistance programs, including those implemented outside the context of an emergency.

The study team will take a multi-faceted look at ERAP’s rapid response and various approaches to implementation across localities and states. Researchers will analyze how Treasury and hundreds of state and local grantees deployed ERAP funding, including which programs were more or less effective at assisting households in need, and the extent to which ERAP assistance was equitably disbursed to BIPOC households.  
“For researchers, having data over time for a large federal investment that established hundreds of programs across the country—each of which was designed and implemented differently according to state or local policy decisions—is about as exciting as it gets,” said Abt’s project director Stephen Whitlow. 

Abt will conduct county-level analysis, exploring ERAP’s effects by race and ethnicity, and the specific policy choices (e.g., applicant prioritization) that contribute to ERAP’s impacts. For example, some programs preferred to make rental payments only to landlords, while others enabled direct-to-tenant payments; this study will provide an opportunity to determine whether direct aid in this context is more or less effective, a question that’s been raised in the ongoing guaranteed income/universal basic income policy conversation

“The novelty and rigor of this research will enable the results to inform how we can do more to bolster housing stability,” said Jill Khadduri, preeminent housing and homelessness expert and Principal Associate at Abt. 

“We’re looking at varied implementations of ERAP, in communities of varied characteristics, and varied policy decisions by program administrators that may have affected how quickly and how much assistance was provided to eligible households,” added Whitlow. “Coming out of this, we will hopefully have some insightful recommendations that will improve rental assistance policy and practice in the future.”

Results are expected in the fall of 2024.

About Abt Global
Abt Global is a global research and consulting firm that combines data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people's lives. We partner with clients and communities to advance equity and innovation—from creating scalable digital solutions and combatting infectious disease, to mitigating climate change and evaluating programs for measurable social impact—and more.

Contact: Eric Tischler
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