Around the State
Latest Round of Federal Emergency Rental Relief Moving at State Level
Last Thursday (2/4) Governor Cooper and the General Assembly both weighed in on how to deploy the more than $4 billion in federal relief money allocated to North Carolina through the year-end omnibus relief and stimulus package signed into law in late December 2020. Governor Cooper released his emergency supplemental budget recommendations outlining how the monies should be deployed. Meanwhile the General Assembly passed legislation (S.B. 36/ H.B. 42) outlining how legislators would like to deploy the latest COVID-19 relief resources.
Both the Governor and the General Assembly recommend deploying the state’s $546 million in emergency rental assistance to immediately provide that assistance, as opposed to using it for other purposes. The moves are a welcome sign that “help is on the way.” The Governor’s proposal does not specifically state what agency should administer the program, however, he lauded the HOPE Program for its work thus far to distribute over $100 million in rental and utility assistance thus far. State Budget Director Charlie Perusse said that their intention with the Governor’s proposal is that the $546 million be utilized to re-open the HOPE Program to new applicants. The HOPE Program is administered by NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency (NCORR).
The General Assembly’s COVID-19 relief bill assigns the $546 million in rental assistance to NCORR and the Office of State Budget & Management (OSBM), and presumably would funnel into the HOPE Program allowing it to re-open as well.
Governor Cooper’s COVID-19 budget differs from the General Assembly in that it also recommends using $695 million of the state’s “Rainy Day” fund (unreserved state General Fund balance) to provide additional COVID-19 related relief such as hazard pay, teacher bonuses, and increasing the state’s unemployment benefits. On Wednesday 2/10, Governor Cooper signed the GA’s COVID-19 relief bill, agreeing that resources are needed. It is unclear if the General Assembly will take up Cooper’s recommendation for using the state’s cash reserves.
As for timing of when the HOPE Program could open under either proposal, Perusse says the state is awaiting additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department outlining the requirements for this latest round of funding. See below for more details on the Treasury Department guidance.
Treasury Releases Final List of Rental Assistance Allocations
Monday (2/8) the U.S. Treasury Department released the final list of jurisdictions that will be receiving Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds that were enacted in the year-end COVID-19 relief package. The list confirms that North Carolina will be receiving $546 million for statewide use, with approximately $156 million going to individual cities and counties across the state.
The table below outlines which NC localities were eligible and certified to receive funds:
|Buncombe County||$7.9 M|
|Cabarrus County||$6.5 M|
|Charlotte City||$ 26.7 M|
|Cumberland County||$3.7 M|
|Durham County||$1.2 M|
|Durham City||$8.4 M|
|Fayetteville City||$6.4 M|
|Forsyth County||$4.1 M|
|Gaston County||$6.8 M|
|Greensboro City||$8.9 M|
|Guilford County||$7.3 M|
|Johnston County||$6.3 M|
|Mecklenburg County||$6.8 M|
|New Hanover County||$7.1 M|
|Raleigh City||$14.3 M|
|Union County||$7.2 M|
|Wake County||$19.3 M|
|Winston-Salem City||$7.5 M|
|Allocation to the state||$ 546.5 M|
Some local governments have begun making announcements regarding the availability of rental assistance programs. Greensboro and Guilford County reopened their rental assistance programs and began taking new applications on February 8. The state will announce the details for applying for the state’s rental assistance funds once the U.S. Treasury Department releases updated guidance. In mid-January, before the inauguration of the current President, the Treasury Department released an FAQ guidance document that left housing finance agencies, local governments, and advocates confused because the text contradicted the enacting legislation or was unclear.
Update on Next COVID-19 Relief Bill
Last week the House & Senate passed budget resolutions kicking off the budget reconciliation process. Budget reconciliation is a process by which Congress can pass budget revisions with only a simple majority in the Senate. By passing budget resolutions, Congress has set the top-line dollar amounts for the next COVID-19 relief package totaling $1.9 trillion, the same amount proposed by President Joseph Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
The next step for individual committees in the House to prepare spending bills which will then be combined into one large legislative package. Most housing related resources will be originating in the House Financial Services Committee. On Friday, the House Financial Services Committee announced a spending proposal which includes over $40 billion in resources to help renters, homeowners, and people experiencing homelessness. The proposal includes the following:
- $25 billion for emergency rental assistance:
- $19 billion (Treasury ERAP, same program as most recent rental assistance)
- $750 million for tribal entities (NAHASDA)
- $100 million for use in rural areas (USDA Rural Development)
- $5 billion for emergency Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV)
- $100 million for housing counseling (NeighborWorks)
- $ 5 billion for addressing short- and long-term needs for people experiencing homelessness (distributed via HOME Program formula)
- $9.9 billion in mortgage assistance (Homeowner Assistance Fund)
- $39 million for rural homeownership assistance (USDA home loans)
An additional $5 billion in utility payment assistance is expected to be proposed by the Education & Labor Committee.
House committees are expected to markup their bills this week with the goal of passing them on to the House Budget Committee by the end of the week, who will then combine them into a larger spending package. A full vote before the House could occur by the week of February 22.
At this time, changes are still possible. For this reason, the Coalition continues to ask housing stakeholders to continue to contact NC’s delegation, urging them to ensure that housing resources are included in the next relief package. Take action here and Tell Congress NC Needs Housing Relief.
Treasury Department Rental Assistance Guidance
The U.S. Treasury Department is expected to release a revised FAQ guidance document soon. Last week, the Treasury Department confirmed that they would be releasing a revised guidance document on the use of Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds. The previously released FAQ document created more questions than it answered and national advocates, housing finance agencies, and local governments called on the new Treasury Secretary to direct staff to issue new guidance to help clarify numerous issues, such as documentation requirements, how the statewide portion should be distributed geographically, and duplication of benefits. The Coalition continues to monitor the situation and will share information when the new guidance is released.
Confirmation of HUD Secretary-Designate Marcia Fudge Moves Forward
The nomination of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as HUD Secretary continues to move forward. Last week the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee approved her nomination. Committee Chairperson Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to bring the confirmation to a full vote as soon as possible. A full vote could come as early as this week, depending on how the impeachment trial progresses. Fudge’s remarks during this first confirmation hearing can be read here. During the hearing Fudge laid out her vision for HUD and its role in creating more equitable housing policies and programs.
Reports & Resources
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – How HUD Can Address the Crisis of Housing & Climate Change
Enterprise Community Partners – Rural Housing, Race, and Persistent Poverty
Community Change – A New Deal on Housing Justice