On April 2, 2021, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that $400 million in new federal funding for the Eviction Diversion Initiative to increase emergency rental and utility assistance to low-income renters. The additional funding, and the flexibility created by federal regulations, will allow the Department of Housing and Community Development to expand aid to more households, provide deeper and longer-term assistance to households, and help households with utility payments.
The new Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds will:
- Expand Income Eligibility – households making up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) will be eligible for funding (RAFT has an eligibility threshold of 50% AMI).
- Longer-term Assistance – households may be eligible for up to 12 months of rental arrears (plus an extra 3 months of stipends for future rent if funding allows and need is demonstrated), as well as overdue utilities arrears up to $1,500. All rent and utility arrears must have been accrued after 3/13/20. Currently, RAFT and ERMA can provide up to $10,000 per household for rental arrearages or stipends.
- Prioritization of funds for those most at risk, including those making less than 50% AMI and those unemployed for 90 days or more.
In addition, DHCD, in partnership with MassHousing and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, will launch a new program to allow qualified owners of income-restricted units, as well as Local Housing Authorities, to apply for help directly on behalf of all of their income-eligible residents with past-due rent. The Subsidized Housing Emergency Rental Assistance (SHERA) program will expedite relief for eligible tenants while also allowing administering agencies to concentrate on applications from non-subsidized tenants in need of assistance.
Federal resources will also be made available to families who are eligible for Emergency Assistance (EA) Shelter, by coupling ERAP rental assistance benefits with the existing HomeBASE benefit and housing services. This will help those who owe arrears and are at risk of becoming unhoused, and also those who are exiting EA shelter and transitioning into permanent housing. The Administration is also pursuing two pilot initiatives: the first will allow municipalities to provide targeted outreach and hands-on ERAP application support to communities with demonstrated need and hard-to-reach populations, and the second provides targeted outreach strategies to small landlords about the availability of ERAP and other state financial assistance programs.