Across the nation, COVID-19 has exacerbated the dual challenges of housing affordability and homelessness. As states address these issues, there are new federal resources available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and proposed American Jobs Plan that states can deploy efficiently and equitably.
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) is launching its Second Health and Housing Institute. The goal of the institute is to help states break down inter-agency silos and strengthen services and supports to help low-income and vulnerable populations become and remain successfully housed. Permanent supportive housing programs require affordable housing and housing-related services financed by Medicaid. Importantly, the new institute will focus on state deployment and execution of newly available federal resources.
With the passage of ARPA and the proposed American Jobs Plan, the following are new programs, policy, and funding opportunities:
Eviction Prevention and Affordable Housing:
- In late March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky extended the temporary halt in residential evictions until June 30, 2021. Under the eviction moratorium, individuals must declare their inability to pay rent due to the loss of income or employment to avoid eviction.
- ARPA allocated $21.5 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). ERAP funds will be released by early May 2021 to support eligible households in which one or more individuals are experiencing unemployment or housing instability. Financial assistance is limited to 18 months.
- $100 million in grants to organizations approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provide housing counseling services to households experiencing housing instability. Housing counseling includes information on renting, mortgage defaults, foreclosures, and credit issues.
- $5 billion allocated in ARPA for emergency housing vouchers. Vouchers serve as emergency rental assistance and voucher renewals for people experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, experiencing housing instability, or fleeing intimate partner violence.
Supportive Housing and Homelessness Assistance:
- $5 billion in federal funding to states for the Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Program. This funding will be distributed to states to acquire and develop properties for supportive housing programs, tenant-based rental assistance, and supportive services, including housing counseling and homeless prevention services. Funding can also be used for the supportive housing workforce and service providers.
Home- and Community-Based Services:
- President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan includes $400 billion to strengthen home- and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities. This funding will also raise wages for home health care workers and support the Money Follows the Person program to provide services for individuals in communities rather than nursing homes. Both home-and community-based services and the Money Follows the Person program are essential components of supportive housing.
These newly available resources provide states with opportunities to support, expand, and develop programs for those experiencing homelessness, housing instability, and populations that benefit from supportive housing. States will play an important role in determining how resources are distributed equitably to communities that have historically been denied federal housing resources and those most in need. In addition, some funding will go directly to local governments, public housing authorities and HUD-approved nonprofits. States can work collaboratively with these partners on shared agendas around housing stability and homelessness to strengthen health outcomes.
Acknowledgement: This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number U2MOA394670100, National Organizations of State and Local Officials. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the US government. The author would also like to thank the Corporation for Supportive Housing for their analysis of the American Rescue Plan Act.