Washington, DC – On June 23, 2021, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rob Portman (R-OH), along with Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Todd Young (R-IN), reintroduced the Eviction Crisis Act, which creates new tools to help end the nation’s continuing eviction epidemic. Among various other promising provisions, the legislation includes the creation of an Emergency Assistance Fund to test, evaluate, and expand proven interventions to help low-income households facing housing instability due to an unexpected economic shock. This policy solution was developed and championed by the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, which worked closely with the bill’s sponsors. The reintroduction of this legislation marks a significant milestone for the campaign in advancing its policy agenda.
The Emergency Assistance Fund is a permanent program – funded at $3 billion annually – to help stabilize households experiencing an economic shock before it causes instability and homelessness, which often require more prolonged, extensive, and expensive housing assistance. The Emergency Assistance Fund is a grant program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), with input from the Departments of Treasury, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA). Eligible grantees include state, local, tribal and territorial governments, and initial funding eligibility would be based on the number of extremely low-income renter households experiencing severe housing cost-burdens or overcrowding, a jurisdiction’s unemployment rate, prior performance of the grantee, geographic diversity, and other factors.
The funds must be used to provide direct financial assistance to help households overcome a short-term crisis that directly impacts their housing stability. Up to 25% of funds can be used to providing housing stability-related services, such as case management, rehousing services, services to connect households to other public supports, some housing counseling-related services, and referrals to other services for behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues. The bill also requires a rigorous evaluation of the program’s effectiveness at preventing housing instability, and lessons learned from these evaluations will be incorporated into the program design.
Most families in poverty who rent spend at least half of their incomes on housing, leaving virtually no margin for an unexpected expense. Broken-down cars, unreimbursed medical bills, or temporary declines of income can quickly send vulnerable households down the spiral of housing instability, eviction, and even homelessness. If enacted, the Emergency Assistance Fund could provide a blueprint for helping millions of low-income households that live on the edge of what they can afford.
Leading national organizations from the housing, education, health, civil rights, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, criminal justice, child welfare, and faith-based sectors have come together through the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign to advocate for more robust and equitable federal housing policies such as those included in the Eviction Crisis Act.
WHAT THE CAMPAIGN’S LEADERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE EVICTION CRISIS ACT
“Improving housing stability is not just about keeping people in their homes, but it’s also about providing them with the foundation they need for success in many other areas of life. Stable, affordable homes are linked with better educational outcomes, better health outcomes across the lifespan, greater food security, upward economic mobility, and reduced costs to the taxpayer.” – Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign
“I applaud Senators Michael Bennet and Rob Portman for their leadership in introducing legislation to create new, permanent tools to help end America’s ongoing eviction epidemic, which most severely impacts the lowest-income and most marginalized households. If enacted, the Eviction Crisis Act would create a new Emergency Assistance Fund – a policy solution developed and advanced by NLIHC’s Opportunity Starts at Home campaign – to extend an emergency cushion to families in crisis. Together with the legislation’s new data collection and outreach initiatives, the bill would help low-income renters avert the downward spiral of housing instability and homelessness. I urge Congress to quickly pass this bill.” – Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition
“Every day, people become homeless who not long ago had a stable home, but whose lives and housing were disrupted by an economic crisis that a small amount of money could have fixed. Thanks to Senators Bennet and Portman for this legislation that would make such help available, preventing housing instability and homelessness and improving the lives of struggling Americans.” – Nan Roman, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness
“America’s cities, towns, and villages are on the front lines of the affordable housing crisis, and local leaders are eager to support bold solutions like the Eviction Crisis Act of 2021. This legislation would give local governments an opportunity to address a host of social and economic challenges at the root level, including by providing resources to mitigate housing instability and limit costly evictions. The National League of Cities commends Senators Bennet and Portman for introducing this bill; and for their ongoing bipartisan leadership, which is so sorely needed today.” – Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director of the National League of Cities
“The National Education Association applauds Senators Bennet and Portman for their re-introduction of the Eviction Crisis Act. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how essential housing is – especially for our students. This bill assists families facing desperate circumstances and will provide students with stable homes as we look to rebuild our communities.” – Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association
“Eviction from one’s home is a horrible trauma – from the decimation of a family’s shelter to the destruction of its financial security. The NAACP salutes and supports the efforts of Senators Bennet and Portman to thoughtfully and effectively address this serious, and sadly continuing problem. The provisions of this legislation which create an Emergency Assistance Fund to help extremely low-income American families facing eviction is an incredibly important tool in our arsenal to fight the scourge of homelessness. The Emergency Assistance Fund, as envisioned by this legislation, is perhaps one of the best examples of a ‘safety net’ that I can think of that the government can, and should, pursue for all Americans during the hardest economic times in their lives.” – Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, households around the nation have experienced unprecedented threats to not only their health, but also to their food, housing, and economic security–with harms disproportionately affecting Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color. The Emergency Assistance Fund is a smart investment in our nation’s families. The Fund will not only keep a family housed, but also increase a family’s food security by stabilizing the situation and avoiding the multiple harms to nutrition, health, and well-being emanating from an eviction and hunger.” – Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center
“On behalf of the members of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the nation’s largest professional social work organization, I want to offer my full support for the passage of the Eviction Crisis Act. I also thank Senators Bennet and Portman for joining in a bipartisan collaboration to address one of the country’s most important social problems. Social workers, as direct providers of services to indigent and low-income families, are all too aware of how financial distress can create a housing crisis which often leads to homelessness. The Emergency Assistance Fund will help state and local governments to develop innovative programs that will lead to housing stability for low-income families. You can be assured that NASW will join with other Opportunities Start at Home partners to help get this bill passed.”– Dr. Angelo McClain, CEO of the National Association of Social Workers
“The Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) enthusiastically endorses the Eviction Crisis Act and the creation of the Emergency Assistance Fund designed to prevent unnecessary evictions. Evictions were down in 2020, but with the moratorium expiring at the end of June, we fear there could be a spike in evictions this summer. Evictions are not only the result of – but also a cause of – deeper poverty eventually leading to increases in homelessness. Once we’re out of pandemic crisis mode, this legislation will have a lasting impact on the everyday crises facing the lowest income Americans. We appreciate the leadership of Ohio’s own Sen. Rob Portman working together to tackle this stubborn problem.” – Bill Faith, Executive Director of COHHIO and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign
“We appreciate Senator Bennet’s advocacy on behalf of low-income renters who face substantial challenges in obtaining equitable treatment by some landlords and courts. The best way to prevent homelessness and the enormous stress it puts on our emergency response systems is to keep people safely housed. This bill demonstrates that Senator Bennet knows we need investments across the housing spectrum in order to resolve the nation’s homelessness crisis.” – John Parvensky, President and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and state partner of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign
Read the press release from Senator Bennet here.
Read the fact sheet.
Send a letter to your federal elected officials urging them to support the Eviction Crisis Act here.