March 23, 2020

Kilmer, Heck Introduce Bill to Provide Rental Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis

Emergency legislation would substantially expand existing short-term rental assistance for Americans impacted by COVID-19.

Tacoma, WA – Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Denny Heck (WA-10) introduced H.R. 6314, the Emergency Rental Assistance Act of 2020. This legislation would increase short-term rental assistance for most Americans by significantly expanding the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program.

H.R. 6314 would provide $100 billion to ESG for short-term rental assistance. This funding would be given out to states in two chunks: $50 billion over the first 60 days, then $50 billion over the following 60 days targeted toward individuals with the greatest need. This legislation would also expand who can receive these funds by allowing those at 80% of area median income (AMI) to receive ESG, a significant increase from current law. Finally, while the bill would require localities to report on use of these funds, the reporting requirements would be significantly more flexible for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, including the allowance of virtual public hearings.

 “Even before COVID-19, too many people in our region and across the state have struggled to keep up with the cost of housing. Now, ongoing efforts to combat and contain COVID-19 are making it difficult for folks to keep up economically – including on rent,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Today, Rep. Heck and I are introducing new legislation to substantially expand rental assistance and ensure folks in our region can get the help they need, as quickly as possible.”

“Housing is the single largest expense for most American families,” said Rep. Heck. “By a longshot. Right now, those same families are facing job loss, struggling with child care, and dealing with other unprecedented financial burdens stemming from the global COVID-19 crisis – and many are unable to make next month’s rent. We have to get meaningful help to them as soon as we possibly can. Using the ESG program to provide more rental assistance is something we can do right now.”

Since 2011, ESG funds have been used for short- or medium-term rental. These funds are distributed through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program formula, where states and localities apply for ESG through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Hundreds of states and localities receive these funds each year, which they allocate to eligible local government entities, nonprofits, public housing authorities, and local redevelopment authorities. These organizations distribute the grant money to individuals and families.