Advocacy Update

Forrest Wall March 2021Written By Forrest Wall, CAE, Vice President Government Affairs And Industry Relations

Rental Assistance Funds Finally Flow

On March 9th, Governor Whitmer signed legislation appropriating over $282 million in rental assistance funding from the federal stimulus approved in December. As you may recall, the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, included $25 billion for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). Michigan’s allocation of this relief package amounted to $622 million. Although the legislature did not include the full $622 million in this bill, the initial appropriation gets assistance flowing into the system. The appropriation is broken into two parts: Over $220 million in direct renter assistance and over $62 million for administration of the program. With the funding now in place, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) has instituted the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program to deliver the assistance. MSHDA and its local partners – made up of Housing Assessment and Resource Agencies (HARAs) as well as nonprofits – began accepting applications in mid-March. The distribution network will follow the previous Eviction Diversion Program (EDP), which concluded at the end of 2020. However, eligibility and requirements under CERA differ from the EDP in a number of ways because EDP was established and funded by the State of Michigan, while CERA is funded by the federal government. Renters must be under 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), have a COVID related financial hardship, and be at-risk of homelessness or housing instability. The period of rental assistance (both future and arrears) is based on an AMI scale, and utility assistance is included. The federal law stipulates that Michigan must obligate at least 65% (so $405 million) of the available funds by September 30, 2021, or unobligated funds could be recalled by the Department of Treasury.

Legislation Proposed to Limit Evictions
A bill introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives would further restrict evictions as a result of the pandemic. House Bill 4181, introduced in February, would amend the Revised Judicature Act to prohibit property owners from evicting residents or sending a notice to quit until 60 days after the termination of the COVID-19 emergency orders. The legislation also prohibits courts from the following: accepting a filing for summons or complaint; entering an order or judgment for a plaintiff for possession; issuing a writ of restitution or order of eviction; denying a stay of a writ of restitution or order for eviction or a continuation of a summary proceeding; or scheduling a court event. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary where AAM is opposing it.

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