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Waters on Expediting Emergency Rental Assistance to Renters and Landlords: Our Work Is Not Done

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee hearing entitled, “Protecting Renters During the Pandemic: Reviewing Reforms to Expedite Emergency Rental Assistance to Renters and Landlords.”

From the very beginning of this pandemic, I have sounded the alarm about the urgent need for congressional action to avert a massive spike in our national eviction crisis. As Chairwoman of this Committee, I understand the devastating impacts evictions have on families, and I also understand how much landlords, particularly small mom and pop landlords, are struggling because of unpaid rent. I also recognize that evictions increase the spread of COVID and have the potential to seriously set back our national economic recovery. That is why I have worked around the clock on this issue.  

I’m reminded as I’ve worked on this issue that we have extended the moratorium —   between the Congress of the United States and CDC — six times. Thankfully, due to the hard work of this Committee, in 2020, Congress passed $25 billion in emergency rental assistance and provided an extension of the federal eviction moratorium. Several months later, under the leadership of President Biden, Democrats passed an additional $21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

But our work is not done. I am very concerned about data showing that state and local governments have only used 11 percent of the $46.6 billion in emergency rental assistance funds that are available. There is no question that the funds are not reaching landlords and renters quickly or widely enough.

In addition, the Supreme Court’s action along partisan lines to lift the CDC’s eviction moratorium puts millions at risk of eviction even as the Delta variant causes a deadly resurgence of the virus.

That is why I have introduced new legislation, the “Expediting Assistance to Renters and Landlords Act of 2021,” which is designed to make sure that individuals and families are not put out of their homes while this virus continues to harm communities across the country.

This bill would allow landlords to apply directly for back rent they are owed, even if a renter is unresponsive, as long as the landlord provides notice and meets other conditions, including a requirement that tenants may not be evicted for at least 120 days — and that the landlords would be paid for those 120 days following the first request for assistance.

The legislation would also require grantees receiving emergency rental assistance funds to accept self-attestations from tenants, and to provide funds directly to tenants when the landlord is unresponsive or refuses to participate.  

The legislation also gears up outreach. Working very closely with the Treasury, we’ve come up with many ways by which to modify these applications. So, the legislation again also gears up outreach to increase public awareness of the availability of emergency rental assistance funds, providing funding for mailings, radio, TV, and internet ads, and ensures grantees have the resources and help to get the funds out the door.  

These steps and others in the bill will cut down barriers preventing the robust rental assistance funding that Congress has provided from reaching renters.  

Today, we will also discuss legislation Ranking Member McHenry has introduced regarding rental assistance. While I have some serious concerns with the Ranking Member’s bill, I believe that we are aligned in our goal to expedite assistance to those in need, so I want to work with him, and I am hopeful that we can work together, and this can be a bipartisan bill.

I look forward to discussing both bills with our panel of experts today.

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