Assistance for Residents in the American Relief Plan

By: Lauren Orr
Dallas, Texas

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There are four sections in the American Relief Plan, or Bill 1319, that became law March 11, 2021, that are related to rental assistance, emergency housing vouchers, housing counseling, and homelessness assistance and supportive services programs. 


Section 3201: Emergency Rental Assistance

This section of the bill details how the funding included in the bill for emergency rental assistance will be allocated, paid, and used; these funds are available until September 30, 2027. The Secretary of the Treasure will reserve $305,000,000 for making payments to Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa and $30,000,000 for emergency rental assistance programs and technical assistance for renters in the United States. 

This aid will be allocated to eligible state and local governments, with not less than 40% of the total payment allocation being paid within 60 days of the Relief Plan becoming law. The subsequent payments will be paid after it has been established that the grantees have obligated not less than 75% of the funds to the correct assistance programs.  

The funds allocated in this section can be used in the following ways: 

  • To provide financial assistance to eligible households including rent, rental arrears, utilities and home energy costs and/or arrears, and other expenses related to housing defined by the Secretary. 

  • To fund housing stability services, such as case management, to help keep persons stably housed. No more than 10% of the funds can be used in this manner. 
  • To fund administrative costs related to providing financial assistance, housing stability services, and other affordable rental housing and eviction prevention activities. No more than 15% of the funds can be used for administrative costs. 

Any funds left over can be used to fund affordable renting housing and prevention purposes serving very low-income families starting October 1, 2022, if not less than 75% of the funds have been used in accordance with the rest of the terms in this section of the bill.


Section 3202: Emergency Housing Vouchers

This section details how $5,000,000,000 is to remain available for incremental emergency vouchers, voucher renewals, administration fees, and other eligible expenses to prevent, prepare, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate the leasing of emergency vouchers until September 30, 2030. 

To qualify for emergency housing vouchers, individuals or families must be homeless, at risk of homelessness, victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking, recently homeless, and/or at high risk of housing instability. The emergency rental assistance vouchers will be tenant-based rental assistance under the US Housing Act of 1937

Public housing agencies will be notified by the Secretary of the Treasury of the number of emergency housing vouchers that will be given to the agency no later than 60 days after the enactment of the bill. This will be done in accordance with a formula that includes public housing agency capacity and ensure geographic diversity among the agencies who administer the Housing Choice Voucher Program. 

A procedure will be established in accordance with the aforementioned formula for agencies to accept or decline the emergency housing vouchers they are allocated. If an agency fails to lease its vouchers within a reasonable period of time, the Secretary can revoke their unleased vouchers and funds and redistribute them to other agencies.


Section 3204: Housing Counseling

In this section of the bill, $100,000,000 is appropriated for grants to housing counseling intermediaries approved by HUD, state housing finance agencies, and Neighborworks organizations that will remain available until September 30, 2025. Out of these funds, not less than 40% of the funds will be given to counseling organizations that target minority and low-income populations facing housing instability and that provide services in neighborhoods with high concentrations of minority and low-income populations.


Section 3205: Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Programs

In this final section concerning housing and rental assistance, $5,000,000,000 is given to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development that will remain available until September 30, 2025, for the following activities: 

  • Tenant-based rental assistance. 
  • The development and support of affordable housing under the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act. 
  • Supportive services for qualifying individuals not already receiving support such as activities listed in Section 401(29) of the McKinney-Vento Housing Assistance Act, housing and counseling services, and homelessness prevention services.  
  • The acquisition and development on non-congregate shelter units that may be converted to permanent affordable housing, be used as emergency shelter, be converted into permanent housing, and remain as non-congregate shelter units. 

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