Democrats Want $100 Billion for Rental Assistance in Next Virus Relief Package

May 11, 2020 Updated: May 11, 2020

Top Democrats in the House and Senate introduced legislation to appropriate $100 billion for a Rental Assistance Program so renters can retain their housing during and after pandemic.

United States Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services; and Congressman Denny Heck (D-Wash.) announced the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020 on May 10.

“Congress must act now to keep families in their homes,” said Brown. “That’s why I am introducing the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act of 2020 to ensure that renters remain safely and affordably housed during and after this crisis.”

The $100 billion would fund the Emergency Rental Assistance program and enable families and individuals pay their rent and utility bills. The program would direct money to communities, states, and tribes through a pre-existing interim federal rental assistance program to allowing rapid distribution of funds.

“Stable housing is a basic need for Americans struggling under the weight of this public health emergency,” said Warren. “I’m glad to partner with my colleagues on a bill to help families and individuals in Massachusetts and across the country pay their rent, utility bills, and remain stably housed during and after this devastating pandemic.”

Waters said she wants to avoid a “national eviction crisis,” saying that the legislation “would create a $100 billion emergency rental assistance fund to help struggling renters across the nation as well as mom and pop landlords relying on rental payments for their retirement.”

The previous coronavirus relief package enabled the Federal Housing Administration (FDA) to implement forbearance programs for renters.

In response to the pandemic national emergency, the FDA has permitted borrowers to enter into forbearance, in which they can stop or reduce their monthly payment for six months, with the ability to extend the forbearance an additional six months.

According to the Housing and Urban Development website, “FHA does not require lump sum repayment at the end of the forbearance, and has developed the COVID-19 Standalone Partial Claim to assist with repayment.”

In an effort to help the economy recover the lawmakers want to put money into stabilizing rental markets. According to the lawmakers, the bill was championed because millions of families are facing financial uncertainty through no fault of their own.

“This bill will help tenants pay their rent, without placing the burden on landlords, many of whom are relying on payments from renters to pay their mortgages,” Congressman Heck said. “It is vital to our recovery and to the wellbeing of Americans that we do everything we can to keep people in their homes.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent in April, 2020. “The number of unemployed persons who reported being on temporary layoff increased about ten-fold to 18.1 million in April. The number of permanent job losers increased by 544,000 to 2.0 million.”

The legislation has been endorsed by a diverse array of women’s, civil rights, disability rights, social welfare, housing, state and local government, faith, health care, and child advocacy organizations.