GROUPS ASK GOVERNOR FOR HELP AS ECONOMIC TOLL OF COVID-19 CAUSES HARDSHIP FOR LOUISIANA RENTERS
AN ESTIMATED $250 – $500 MILLION NEEDED TO KEEP RENTERS IN THEIR HOMES THROUGH THE END OF THE YEAR
Tuesday, June 2, 2020 – HousingLOUISIANA and the Louisiana Association of Affordable Housing Providers (LAAHP), which together represent a diverse group of affordable housing advocates including nonprofit developers, for-profit developers, community development organizations, homeless providers, property management companies and other entities are asking Governor John Bel Edwards to identify funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund for rental assistance funding through the end of 2020. It is estimated that a range of $250-$500 million will be needed to keep Louisiana renters in their homes through the end of this year. Specifically, the group is asking the Governor set aside funding from various sources, including the Coronavirus Relief Fund, Community Development Block Grants, and Emergency Solutions Grants, to assist renters unable to pay rent due to Covid-19.
The estimated rental need is based on Enterprise Community Partners’ analysis of economic forecasts from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the unemployment assistance currently available to households (see attachment). Many unemployed renter households will be facing extreme difficulty when the $600/week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance support ends in July. There are also workers with sharp income losses who will not be eligible for unemployment assistance because the limited income they are taking in disqualifies them from the program. With the state eviction moratorium set to be lifted this week on June 5th, time is of the essence to provide an emergency fund for renters who are not able to access the assistance they need to stay in their homes. According to last week’s Census Pulse Survey, 35 percent of Louisiana adults reported that they had “no confidence” or “slight confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent.
We offer these recommendations to meet the need for rental assistance:
1) Set aside a portion of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for rental assistance. The CRF is the only funding source large enough to meet the substantial need renter households face through the end of 2020. The Department of the Treasury issued guidance that rental assistance is an eligible use for the Coronavirus Relief Fund. We would also ask that any CRF funding allocated to other programs that are not obligated or expended by September 20, 2020, be dedicated to creating a state-operated housing voucher program to provide rental assistance.
2) Create a rental assistance program using Community Development Block Grants. Combine Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars with the $31 million in CDBG-CV the statehas been allocated and the upcoming final CDBG-CV allocation, and use the CARESAct-granted flexibility to re-program the $23 million FY2020 CDBG allocation and anyremaining FY2019 CDBG funds to support the creation of a rental assistance program.The program would cover the gap between what renter households can afford to paybased on income and assistance received, and their rent costs up to a certain need-basedset amount.
3) Request the Louisiana Congressional Delegation support a federal appropriation for rental assistance and other housing needs. The CARES Act did not provide enoughfunding for households to meet their housing needs. More funding is needed to meet theneeds outlined above, including extended unemployment benefits and dedicated rentalassistance and housing operating funding. Federal rental relief proposals have includedadditional funding for the HOME Program and the Emergency Solutions Grants program.We ask that you communicate with the Congressional Delegation regarding the state’sdire need for rental and other housing resources.
In our letter to the Governor, we urge him to adhere to these recommendations because ensuring the financial solvency of renters and rental property owners is not just important for keeping families safely housed, but it is also imperative to Louisiana’s economy and safety.