Cori Bush introduces legislation aimed at expanding access to emergency rental assistance funds

Cori Bush introduces legislation aimed at expanding access to emergency rental assistance funds
© Greg Nash

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has introduced legislation that would allow people to apply for emergency rental assistance at public spaces, such as schools, libraries and transit systems, in an effort to expand access to the funds.

“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,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Bush’s office said the bill, dubbed the Emergency Rental Assistance Program Improvement Act of 2021, would instruct the Treasury Department to “provide guidance and funding to the state and local agencies” to distribute the funds using the “access points.” 

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Under the legislation, people would also be able to apply for the assistance at public housing agencies, state departments of motor vehicles, courts that handle eviction-related matters and the United States Postal Service. 

Various reports released in recent weeks have estimated that hundreds of thousands of households are facing eviction in the months ahead following the recent lapse of the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium.

Last month, an eviction moratorium, which was enacted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the previous administration and later extended under President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE, was struck down by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling.

The ruling came after the high court handed down a similar decision blocking the order in June. At the time, Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRepublicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Why isn't Harris leading the charge against the Texas abortion law? MORE said such a move would require an act of Congress.

As lawmakers have struggled to unite on a path forward on the issue, several have put pressure on state and local governments that have been slow to distribute the millions in federal rental aid they’ve been provided to help those in need.  

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Data released by the Treasury Department less than a month ago found only 11 percent of federal rental aid had been provided to tenants, landlords or utility companies so far. 

In a previous interview, Abby Boshart, a policy coordinator in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said the task to distribute the aid has been “really difficult” for local governments. 

“It's important to highlight that these local actors have really done tremendous work to develop these programs,” she said. “This funding didn't come through HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development], or housing authorities, who typically distribute rental assistance and have experience doing so.”

Bush said in a statement on Monday that 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.”

Bush told The Hill in an interview last week that she is also working on legislation that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to implement eviction moratoriums.