CARH'S BROADCAST EMAIL - Legislative Update

March 15, 2021

CARH Broadcast Email—Legislative Update

March 11, 2021

$1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill Passes Congress, President Biden Signs into Law

 



On March 10, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 220-211 narrowly passed the Senate-amended H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan  (ARP) Act of 2021. This legislation, totaling $1.9 trillion, is the third coronavirus-aid bill that has passed Congress since the pandemic began early last year. President Biden signed the bill into law this afternoon.

Almost $6 trillion has been allocated in the three pieces of legislation to fight the pandemic as well as help individuals and companies recover from the economic impact. This latest legislation is also intended to help achieve other priorities of the Biden Administration and Congress. ARP includes provisions on aid to state and local governments, hard-hit industries and communities, tax changes affecting individuals and businesses, and other provisions. It was also enacted as part of Congress’ Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget, making it subject to reconciliation procedures in the Senate.

In its annual budget resolution, Congress sets total spending, revenues, the surplus or deficit, and the public debt. The budget may also include reconciliation instructions. These instructions direct one or more committees to recommend changes to existing law to achieve specified changes in spending, revenues, deficits, and/or the debt limit. Reconciliation bills have special status in the Senate and cannot be filibustered and only need a simple majority to pass. When H.R. 1319 was originally passed by the House of Representatives, it contained a provision that would have increased the minimum wage to $15.00. The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that the minimum wage provision could not be considered under the reconciliation process and the provision was removed prior to passage the Senate. The bill was then sent back to the House for concurrence. Other changes were also made during consideration by the Senate, i.e., additional monies for the Department of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program.

Holland and Knight, CARH’s outside legislative representative through Tom Reynolds, has prepared a detailed summary of the key provisions in the ARP. As with any comprehensive legislation, there will no doubt be some uncertainties and inconsistencies with bill language. Congress will, as they have in the past, need to make adjustments to those provisions later in the year.

The ARP signed into law today contains several provisions of interest to CARH members. The provisions include the following:

  1. Rental Assistance – United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development:

    An additional $100 million for Rural Development’s (RD) Section 521 Rental Assistance (RA) program. These additional funds are to be used for residents in properties who do not currently receive RA and have had a loss of income. CARH believes that all non-RA residents should be helped during these trying economic times and that the figure should have been closer to $300 million. Since the previous two coronavirus bills did not contain additional RA for current non-RA residents, we believe this is a step in the right direction and hope that Congress, as they begin consideration of the FY 2022 budget, will allocate additional monies for RA. In terms of distribution of these funds, the national RD office is in the process of developing procedures and CARH will inform our members as soon as those procedures are in place.
     
  2. Emergency Rental Assistance – Department of Treasury

    $21.55 billion in ERA will be available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and administered by the Department of the Treasury for the purpose of helping residents impacted by the pandemic pay rent. Of this total, $2.5 billion will be distributed to high-need communities and will be distributed based on the number of very low-income renter households paying more than 50 percent of income on rent or living in substandard or overcrowded conditions, rental market costs, and employment trends. The first 40 percent of funds must be paid to grantees within 60 days of enactment. When a grantee has obligated not less than 75 percent of funds already dispersed, the Treasury Secretary may provide additional disbursements of the grantee's allocation.

    Under the bill, households are eligible for ERA funds if one or more individuals: 1) has qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship during or due, directly or indirectly, to the pandemic; 2) can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and 3) has a household income below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). States and localities must prioritize households below 50 percent of AMI or those who are unemployed and have been unemployed for 90 days; states and localities can provide additional prioritization of funds.

    Funds must be used to provide financial assistance, including back rent and current or future rent and utility payments, and other housing expenses. Assistance can be provided for 18 months. Not more than 10 percent of funds may be used to provide case management and other services intended to help keep households stably housed, and not more than 15 percent of funds paid to a state or local government can be used for administrative costs.

    After March 31, 2022, the Treasury Secretary may recapture excess funds not obligated by a state or locality and reallocate and repay these dollars to eligible grantees who, at the time of such reallocation, have obligated at least 50 percent of the amount originally allocated and have met other criteria; funds not obligated may be used to provide affordable housing to very low-income households, so long as the grantee has obligated at least 75 percent of its total allocation, and funds provided under this bill are available until Sept. 30, 2025.

    CARH owners can click here to access information on the program originally authorized in Public Law 116-260 as well as the programs of various states and grantees. The bill extends the deadline to spend the initial $25 billion tranche of funding provided by Congress in December 2020 from December 31, 2021 to September 30, 2022. ERA is a grant program through states and local governments and owners are encouraged to contact their states as soon as possible. Some agencies have already set up websites for applications and others will be in the coming days and weeks.
     
  3. Emergency Housing Vouchers – Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Provides $5 billion for housing vouchers that must be used to provide and renew emergency vouchers, to cover administrative costs and to adjust for public housing agencies that would under normal circumstances be required to terminate rental assistance due to a significant increase in voucher per unit costs. Funds are to remain available until September 30, 2030.

    Under the bill, households are eligible for emergency vouchers if they: 1) are or are at risk of experiencing homelessness; 2) are fleeing or attempting to flee domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual assault, or human trafficking; or 3) are recently homeless and rental assistance will prevent the family's homelessness or having a high risk of housing instability. Public housing agencies will be notified of the number of vouchers allocated to them within 60 days, with vouchers to be distributed by a formula that includes capacity and ensures geographic diversity. The Secretary may revoke and redistribute any unleased vouchers after a reasonable time.
     
  4. $1,400 Stimulus Checks and More

    The bill provides for $1,400 stimulus checks for single filers, which rises to $2,800 for joint filers and an extra $1,400 for each dependent for taxpayers, phasing out about $75,000 adjusted gross income for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers.

    The bill also expands Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to more Section 501(c) organizations but still contains restrictions, including based on the kind of business precluded under 13 CFR 120.110. The point of the change in the legislation signed into law today was to generally not preclude nonprofit entities from receiving monies from the PPP program, due to their nonprofit status. But certain restrictions do apply such as the nonprofit cannot employ more than 500 employees per location, and there are restrictions based on lobbying spending as well.

    The bill directs the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make $5 billion of remaining funds for supplement grants to severely impacted organizations (having fewer than 10 employees and experiencing a 50% or more economic loss). The bill provides $7.25 billion in PPP funding and $15 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants.

    The legislation extends enhanced unemployment insurance until September 6. 2021, including the extra $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. It also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers, and others who would otherwise not regularly qualify for unemployment insurance. Finally, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for those who exhaust state benefits will be extended from 24 weeks to 53 weeks.

In addition to proposing a budget for FY 2022, the Biden Administration will likely now turn to crafting an infrastructure bill. It is important that rural housing be included in such efforts. CARH has, for the last several years, been part of the Rebuild Rural Coalition, which has advocated for infrastructure spending in rural America. Housing is, and continues to be, an integral part of that discussion.

If you have any questions, please contact CARH at carh@carh.org or 703-837-9001.

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