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Congress passes new stimulus package with housing assistance

On Monday, December 21, Congress passed a Covid-19 emergency relief bill that includes $25 billion in rental assistance and extends the CDC eviction moratorium! This assistance will help provide desperately needed financial help to renters in Vermont and across the nation.

Here’s the short version of what we know right now on rental assistance:

  1. Each state will receive a minimum of $200 million. Vermont will likely receive this small state minimum. Click here to see estimated state/territory allocations.

  2. At least 90 percent of the funds must be used to provide financial assistance, which can include back and forward rent payments as well as utilities and other housing expenses.

  3. Up to 10 percent of the funds can be used to provide case management and other services to help keep people stably housed.

  4. Funds must be used for households below 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and must be prioritized to households below 50 percent of AMI or who have been unemployed for 90 days. Income at the time of application will be used to determine eligibility.

  5. Deadline: Funds are available through December 31, 2021.

And other housing provisions in the bill:

  1. The CDC’s eviction moratorium is extended for one month through January 31, 2021. This does not affect Vermont as we have a stronger eviction moratorium, which currently runs until February 15, but is good news for struggling renters across the rest of the nation.

  2. The bill extends the deadline for spending of Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to December 31, 2021. This will allow Vermont to ensure more continuity from the many CARES Act-funded housing programs.

  3. It establishes a permanent floor for the 4% tax credit in the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), making it easier to secure financing for affordable housing developments.

On Monday, Dec. 21, Congressman Peter Welch hosted a Zoom Q&A with Vermont Housing Council about the bill; watch the Q&A here.

And here’s a few more federal updates:

Congress also passes omnibus FY21 package with final allocations to HUD and USDA

Along with the new stimulus package, Congress passed a final FY21 spending bill, which rejects the Trump administration’s push to slash funding for federal housing programs. It allocates the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) $49.6 billion, more than $12.4 billion above the president’s original request, and $561 million above enacted levels in FY20. According to the NLIHC, this is enough to renew all existing contracts provided through Housing Choice Vouchers ($25.77 billion) and Project-Based Rental Assistance ($13.465 billion), as well as provide level funding or moderate increases for all programs.

See the NLIHC’s full analysis and updated budget chart for more details, including information on funding for USDA housing programs. See also Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy’s statement on the bill, as well as a full summary of the appropriations bill provided by Sen. Leahy’s office.

FEMA extends Public Assistance for non-congregate emergency shelters

FEMA will 

extend approval of Public Assistance for non-congregate emergency sheltering, making it more feasible for states and localities to open and maintain shelters in more Covid-safe environments such as hotel rooms, motels, and dorms. Read the memo from FEMA here.

We hope more states will be able to follow Vermont in prioritizing vulnerable unhoused folks in our pandemic response. Funding non-congregate shelter options (motels) for unhoused Vermonters has been public health success and gives us a chance to help folks into permanent housing.

Above: Champlain Housing Trust purchased the Ho Hum Motel to be used as an isolation and quarantine motel for those experiencing homelessness. 

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