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Congresswoman Cori Bush Introduces Legislation to Expand Access to Emergency Rental Assistance Funds

September 13, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), introduced legislation to improve and expand access to emergency rental assistance by allowing individuals to apply for funds at public schools, libraries, transit systems, housing authorities, the United States Postal Service, and other public entities. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Improvement Act of 2021 would direct the Department of Treasury to provide guidance and funding to the state and local agencies responsible for distributing funds so they may set up these access points. Earlier this year, the Congresswoman helped secure $21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance funding through the American Rescue Plan  — bringing the total ERAP funds to $46.5 billion. So far, only 11 percent of funds or $5.1 billion, has been distributed to those facing eviction. 

“It is our duty as lawmakers to ensure the 11 million households currently at risk of eviction can safely remain in their homes for the duration of this deadly global pandemic,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “The Supreme Court’s failure to protect these individuals and families has only increased the urgency with which Congress must act to get emergency rental assistance to those who need it most. The Emergency Rental Assistance Program Improvement Act will help make these funds more accessible by allowing individuals and families to apply for assistance at places that are central to their communities — schools, libraries, the post office, among others. As someone who has been evicted and unhoused, I know the trauma these families are facing. This crisis demands compassionate solutions and I urge my colleagues to consider the humanity of our neighbors who could soon find themselves without a home unless drastic action is taken.” 

The ERAP Improvement Act of 2021 will:

  • Direct the Department of Treasury to provide guidance to state and local agencies to expand access to the emergency rental assistance application in the following public places within 30 days of the legislation being enacted:
    • K-12 public schools,
    • public libraries,  
    • public housing agencies,
    • public transit systems,
    • courts that handle eviction matters,
    • state departments of motor vehicles,
    • the US Postal Service, and
    • federal, state, and local social service providers.
  • Encourage ERA distributors to collaborate with these public entities to store, distribute, and assist with individual applications.
  • Allow up to 15 percent of ERA-1 funds available from the Consolidated Appropriations Act to be used for increasing administrative capacity for the following activities, up from the current 10 percent cap:
    • training staff or other designated institutional representatives; 
    • maintaining both physical and electronic copies of the application;
    • establishing communication methods between grantees, public entities, and individual households;
    • developing community outreach materials, programs, and initiatives; and
    • collecting and storing data on-site or via third parties.

As someone who was previously unhoused, Congresswoman Bush has fought tirelessly to keep people in their homes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • In March, Congresswoman Bush helped pass the American Rescue Plan which provided approximately $21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance funds. 
  • On May 18, Congresswoman Bush led nearly 30 members of Congress in sending a letter to the CDC calling on the agency to strengthen and extend the moratorium on evictions. 
  • In June, the Congresswoman led a group of more than 40 lawmakers in sending a letter urging the Biden administration to extend and strengthen the eviction moratorium, which the administration extended through July 31st.
  • On July 28, Congresswoman Bush introduced the Unhoused Bill of Rights, a resolution calling on Congress to permanently end the housing crisis by 2025. 
  • On July 30, the Congresswoman sent a Dear Colleague to the Democratic caucus urging Members to remain in Washington and vote in favor of legislation to extend the federal eviction moratorium.
  • On July 31, ahead of the moratorium expiration deadline, the Congresswoman and several of her colleagues sent a letter reiterating their ongoing calls for President Biden and the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium.  
  • From July 30 to August 3, the Congresswoman led an action on the steps of the U.S. Capitoland worked with Democratic colleagues to successfully secure a new eviction moratorium from the Biden Administration.
  • On August 27, Congresswoman Bush denounced the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the eviction moratorium and led more than 60 of her House colleagues in sending a letter to Congressional leadership, urging them to advance legislation for a new moratorium.
  • On September 13, Congresswoman Bush’s provisions within the ERAP Improvement Act will be marked up by the House Committee on Financial Services as part of Chairwoman Waters’ larger package of reforms to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, H.R. 5196.

For full text of the bill, click here.
For a one pager on the bill,
click here.

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Congresswoman Cori Bush sits on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, serves as the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip, and proudly represents St. Louis as a politivist in the halls of the United States Congress.